A family’s stolen dog has been returned after Simon Cowell offered a £10,000 reward to get the pooch home.
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The nine-month-old border terrier, Morse, was snatched in December - leaving owner Richard Latter, 40, and his family devastated.
His son Edward Latter, three, was so upset he even wrote a heart-wrenching letter to Santa asking for Morse’s return.
The nine-month-old dog was found on Friday night, 20 miles from the family home in Marden, Kent, after a huge social media campaign prompted pop mogul Cowell to pledge the massive reward.
Morse had been groomed after the theft and the family were initially unsure it was the right dog.
But a check of his microchip revealed he was indeed the family pet - leaving little Edward ‘over the moon’.
Richard said: Ed told us ‘I can’t believe I have my best friend back. I know it’s not Christmas anymore but this is the best present ever.’
Richard said: “We got a call from a lady saying that they had picked this dog up running down the road outside their house and he was all dirty, wet and cold and covered in mud.
“They took him in and gave a bath and some food because they are dog people too.
“Then they started doing a bit of research online trying to Google lost border terriers.
“They had not heard of our campaign or anything, but they discovered us and she gave me a ring.”
Richard said he and his partner, Amanda Hopkins, were hesitant when they visited the woman after several unsuccessful tip-offs about Morse.
He added: “He didn’t come to us or react to his name and he’d been clipped and groomed so looked quite different, although all his mannerisms were the same.
“We were still trying not to be excited and trying to convince ourselves it’s not Morse.
“We went and took him to the vets and they checked him.
“Within a couple of seconds they checked him again to make sure and said yes, it’s Morse.
“Me and Amanda broke down in tears and the receptionists started crying too.
“Edward is over the moon, he’s really excited to have Morse back.
“He knew it was Morse immediately before we did.
“When we picked him up he walked in and said ‘oh, it’s Morse’ and when we took him to the car, he said ‘is Morse coming home with us?’
“He had been groomed and his coat had been clipped and so he was actually a lot more presentable than when he went missing.”
The appeal to bring Morse home had gathered thousands of shares online since it was launched following his disappearance on December 13.
Richard said: “It’s incredible, just the moral support we’ve had from people who’ve been out looking and wishing us well.
“If we didn’t have people texting us we probably would have lost hope weeks ago.”