A dog described as a “little miracle” has been returned to its owner - three years after going missing.
Staffordshire bull terrier Dolce was just a puppy on Mother’s Day 2013, when she jumped out of the back of a car and ran off, leaving her owner Victoria Hilden, who lived in Faversham at the time, heartbroken.
But almost three years down the line, mother-of-one Victoria, now 27, says she felt her legs buckle when she received a phone call from a warden claiming they had Dolce.
She said this week: “When I first saw Dolce at just six weeks old, I knew I wanted her straight away. She was tiny, I used to carry her around in a little bag.
“From a puppy she would be in bed with me, when I got in the bath she would lie on the bath mat, and I wouldn’t leave her on her own unless I had a babysitter.
“The day she went missing, a friend was looking after her and when the boot was opened in Lyminge, she jumped out and ran off.
“We looked everywhere, speaking to everyone, going in the pubs and asking everyone, but there was nothing.”
Former Abbey School pupil Victoria and her family went back the next day and plastered the village with posters, as well as making the police, council and dog wardens aware.
Months went by with no word and Victoria, who moved from Faversham to Drake’s Close in Upchurch last year, began losing hope… but she says she always knew Dolce would return.
Last week, Victoria had the all-important call from an Ashford Borough Council dog warden.
She said: “I’ve never stopped looking for her. I knew deep in my heart that she would come back to me one way or another.
“I was just sitting at home watching the television when the phone rang. Usually I don’t answer withheld numbers, but I answered it straight away and someone said they were from the council and had my dog. I stood up and my legs buckled from underneath me.
“I was shaking, crying, my heart was going and I was pacing up and down.”
“I’ve never stopped looking for her. I knew deep in my heart that she would come back to me one way or another" - Victoria Hilden
The microchip had let the warden access Victoria’s contact details and Dolce was then taken to kennels in case anyone else came forward to claim her.
Victoria became worried, concerned that someone else could take her again and her anxiety was heightened when her sister spotted a missing dog post… with a picture of Dolce.
Victoria said: “The Facebook post said the dog had been missing during the night and there was a family hoping to get her back. But the picture was of my dog Dolce.
“It was so lucky but once I was put in touch with the family and explained the situation, they understood and did everything they could to get her back to me.
“It turned out that somewhere along the line, someone had sold the dog to this family.
“They had one of Dolce’s puppies so they were happy and they had looked after Dolce so well. They wrote a letter to the council so that she didn’t have to stay in the kennels any longer and could come home with me.”
Just before Christmas, Victoria was thinking of getting a new dog for her two-year-old son Nelson, but she believes it is fate that Dolce came back into her life.
Victoria describes Dolce as her “little miracle”.
She said: “She recognised me straight away. She was jumping up, kissing my face. It’s like she hasn’t changed at all.
“It’s not like she had never left, because I missed her madly, but she’s still the same dog.
“A lot of people don’t bother with the microchip but this is a prime example that people should.
“I want to let other people know who have missing dogs that there is always hope. Don’t ever give up hope. I knew she was going to come back - I just didn’t realise it would take this long.”