Family gets missing dog back after four years
A DOG has been reunited with its owners – four years after he was stolen from their home.
Cotton, a Staffordshire bull terrier, was taken from Joanna Martin's previous home in Miltons Close, Hartcliffe, on October 25, 2008, after she had gone out to visit her mum nearby.
But she never gave up hope that one day she would be reunited with her "little boy".
And now her daughters Kira, 12, and Katie, six – who is just three weeks younger than Cotton – are making up for lost time with their pet.
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Ms Martin, 31, was still checking that shops kept up posters of her missing dog as recently as last year, and continued to check for details of dogs for sale with similar descriptions.
Then a friend who used to occasionally walk Cotton spotted a dog for sale through social networking site Facebook and showed it to Ms Martin, of Knowle.
She arranged to view the dog, and contacted the police to inform them of her intentions.
Officers met Ms Martin at the property and went in, arresting a woman in her early 20s for handling stolen goods.
Ms Martin, a full-time mum, said that Cotton had always been a part of the family.
"Cotton is just three weeks older than my middle daughter Katie, who took it hardest when he was away – they were always with each other," she said. "He was my baby boy – after having girls, he was one of the kids. He used to sulk if Katie had sweets and he didn't."
So when he was taken the whole family felt the loss.
"I got the impression they were looking to steal the dog because there were lots of items they could have taken and they didn't," Ms Martin said.
"Cotton is a very unusual-looking Staffordshire bull terrier and I had many offers to buy him because of his unusual patterning.
"I had just popped to my mum's house the other side of Hartcliffe and was out for about an hour. It was not very long at all.
"He was quite a good guard dog and we used to leave the back door unlocked.
"My first thought when I got home was that he had escaped as there were no signs of a burglary or anything."
Despite having been missing for almost four years Ms Martin did not stop checking for Cotton, even visiting the dogs' home regularly searching for him.
"I never wanted to give up hope. I would check that shops still had posters up – they wanted to take them down after a year but I would say how dogs are sometimes found after two years," she said. "He even had his own Facebook page."
When she first saw the picture of her dog online after almost four years, Ms Martin knew straight away that it was Cotton.
"When I saw his picture I burst into tears, I couldn't believe it after all this time," she said.
"I rang up as a potential customer to buy him and asked all the questions about how old he was and all that. When I found him I said I wasn't going to go home without him."
She went straight over to the address and police officers were already there waiting for her.
"They were fantastic," Ms Martin said. "They came out and asked me for any identifiable marks he had and I explained that there was a scar across his left leg (pictured above) from where another dog had attacked him. If it wasn't for that scar I don't know if we'd have got him."
When she returned home with Cotton on Wednesday night friends and family were already there to welcome him home.
Despite Cotton now being back with the family Ms Martin said that he is still not quite the dog he was before.
"He is showing signs of abuse unfortunately. He's cowering. Otherwise he seems to have settled in quite well and he gets excitable when we get in and looks for the girls.
"Katie hasn't left his side."
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they arrested a woman in her early 20s on suspicion of handling stolen goods and that investigations are ongoing.
PC John Shaddick said: "I'm delighted to have assisted in Cotton being reunited with his loving owners. There was no doubt that he also shared my delight from his reaction on seeing the family.
"To assist in returning a loved pet to its rightful home and go some way to making a bad situation better was a real heart-warming experience.
"I just hope that Cotton can now enjoy being pampered and the family can make up for lost time. They all look very happy together."