Keith and Liz Fetches were left heartbroken when their three springer spaniels were stolen in an overnight raid on their East Yorkshire home in February - and the chances of all three of the trained gundogs being returned safe and well seemed remote.
Yet thanks to an incredible social media campaign to find Keedy, Jazz and Robbie and a hunt that has spanned the length of the country, the improbable has happened.
Last week Keedy was brought back home to the village of Thornholme, near Driffield, after he was taken to a vet in Canterbury, Kent, by someone who had bought him online. A scan of his microchip revealed his true ownership.
The charity Dogs Lost had already spotted suspicious adverts for Keedy, the youngest of the trio, on a pet sales website which were later deleted.
He was welcomed home by Robbie and Jazz, who had already been found days after being snatched from their secure kennels, having been taken to Lancashire. Robbie was handed in to a vet in Wigan and Jazz was purchased in Preston by a man who saw the Facebook appeal and contacted family friend Jo Milnes.
The Fetches and Jo feared the worse after the dogs were taken from the garden of the rural bungalow, believing that the older two could end up being used in dog fights and two-year-old Keedy for breeding.
Retired lorry driver Keith, 82, and his wife worried that the dogs' health problems also made a happy ending unlikely due to their reduced breeding value - elderly Robbie, 14, is blind in one eye and partially deaf, while Jazz, nine, is on daily medication and even Keedy, the only one of the three who was still a working gundog, had a broken tooth. Yet all three were returned unharmed.
Jo, who lives on a neighbouring farm and co-ordinated the social media appeal, has described the public response to the dogs being taken as 'phenomenal' and has also thanked the vets who scanned Keedy and Robbie for microchips.
"The police haven't made any arrests yet, but they're doing a lot of background work with Pets4Homes, the site where Keedy was listed for sale. The man who bought Keedy was innocent and very upset as well, as he thought he'd bought a dog for life for his family.
"Robbie was only missing for around four days before he was found abandoned on the streets - they must have realised he was blind and struggling and of little value. Jazz was handed in by a man who'd bought her from a man in the street."
However, Keedy's ordeal was longer, and Jo suspects he had been passed around various criminal groups and used for breeding before being put up for sale.
"It was obvious he'd been running with other dogs, as he was wolfing his food down when we got him back and was a lot leaner - like he'd had to fight for food. Keedy is young and fit, and we think he'd been passed around for breeding for the puppy market."
She believes the theft was the work of experienced criminals, as both she and the Fetches live off a quiet farm track away from the main road through Thornholme.
"The kennels can't be seen from the road, and the dogs are only ever walked on farmland, never on public roads. We think they were watched, and two strange vehicles were seen on the track a few days before they were taken.
"From the moment I posted the social media appeal, the response was just phenomenal and it went countrywide. It meant we could target areas where there had been sightings - we hit Lancashire really hard after Robbie and Jazz were found there."
The Fetches have now installed new security measures, including CCTV and alarms, on both the kennels and their bungalow.
"Keith hasn't stopped smiling since they came home. We're so thankful to the vet in Canterbury who scanned Keedy - it's not the law to scan for a chip and I wish it was. The database flagged up that he was stolen, and there are probably a lot of stolen dogs who have ended up in loving homes but which aren't their real homes. If vets scanned every newly registered dog that isn't a puppy, a lot more stolen pets could be found."
Sergeant Jenna Jones from Humberside Police's rural crime team said: “Following the police report in February and our initial social media appeal within two weeks, two of the springers, Robbie and Jazz, were located in Wigan and Preston close to the Manchester border with Lancashire.
“Having located two of the three spaniels, the team continued to explore lines of enquire whilst providing regular updates to family in a bid to locate the remaining missing spaniel, Keedy.
“On May 17 we were made aware of a springer spaniel for sale in Ashford, Kent. Following further enquiries, an additional social media appeal and cross-border working with Kent Police, Keedy was handed into a vets in Canterbury on May 19.
“I’d like to thank member of the public for assisting us in helping locate and return the three spaniels to their family.
“Our investigation is still ongoing, and the team are continuing to explore a number of lines of enquiry surrounding the theft of the three spaniels.
“If you have any information that you believe could assist us with our investigation please contact us on our non-emergency number 101 quoting log 76 of 12 February or you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111.
“We are fortunate that crimes of this type remain rare in our area but understand incidents of this nature will cause dog owners some concern and would ask for people to take some basic crime prevention measure to protect their own dogs.
“Report any suspicious activity to the police, if you see people checking out properties please call us to report your concerns.
“If your dog is kennelled outside please ensure these are secure and locked and install CCTV to monitor your property if at all possible.
“If you are out with your dog please keep your dog under full and proper control, in sight and avoid leaving your pet tied up in a public place and outside shops."