Stolen dog home for Christmas after two-year search

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Trisha Joseph and springer spaniel BelleImage source, Trisha Joseph
Image caption,
Reunited: Trisha Joseph and springer spaniel Belle

A woman has been reunited with her dog two years after she was stolen in Powys.

Trisha Joseph said she "never gave up" after an epic online hunt to trace her six-year-old springer spaniel Belle.

She had joined more than 500 Facebook groups to spread the word and pictures of her dog in the hope someone would recognise her.

It finally paid off on Friday - when keen-eyed viewers spotted Belle being put up for sale 75 miles away.

"My phone just went mental, and messages online," said Trisha, who lives in Defynnog.

Belle was being sold by an 18-year-old in Worcester who had kept her for the last six months.

He was shocked to find out the spaniel had been stolen - and insisted she went back to her rightful owners.

"He was a hero," said Trisha, who works as a gardener.

"We were obviously worried he might have just gone to ground and disappeared with Belle when he found out she was stolen - but he didn't.

"He told us: 'She's yours - come and get her'."

Image source, Trisha Joseph
Image caption,
Belle is back home after two years

Ms Joseph's sister drove her to meet Belle's latest owner - armed with a microchip scanner and the dog's written records.

"As soon as we arrived we knew it was her," she said.

"She recognised me and had a good sniff around."

A scan revealed it was indeed Belle.

Returning home, Belle was "wagging with her whole body", said Trisha.

"She knew exactly where she was," she added.

No more so than when Belle was able to meet Trisha's partner and her trainer, Wyn Price.

"It was crazy... she was wagging, saying 'this is you - and I love you'," said Trisha.

"I still can't believe it - it's just mental."

Image source, Trisha Joseph
Image caption,
Belle is delighted to be back, says Trisha

Belle's owners believe she was clearly targeted by thieves when she was stolen, as she was a successful working gun dog, which meant she was worth hundreds of pounds, even more as a breeding dog.

The thieves forced locks on the barn where Belle had been kept while her owners were out, and stole her along with Patterdale terrier Hollie, who was found 90 miles away a few days later.

"It was horrible - it was the end of the world when it happened," said Trisha.

"But you never give up hope - I never stopped trying to find her."

Now back home, her owners said it was the best Christmas present ever.

"It's as if she hadn't been away. She's in and out of the house like she used to be," added Trisha.

"Having her back - everything is complete."