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Published: 09:30, 14 January 2018
A Marden family have begun 2018 in the best possible way after their stolen pet dog was returned.
The story of nine-month-old border terrier, Morse, who was snatched from outside a home on Pattenden Lane on December 13 touched the nation after three-year-old toddler Edward Latter sent a tear-jerking letter to Santa asking to have his dog back.
It even sparked X Factor mogul Simon Cowell into offering a £10,000 reward for Morse's safe return.
Now, a month after he was taken, Morse is back home with his family after being found by postman Anthony Simmons and mum-of-two Michelle Holt some 20 miles away in Meopham, near Gravesend.
Edward's father Richard Latter, 40, said: "We couldn't quite believe it. We got a phone call from a lady on Friday evening who said she'd seen a dog running down the road, so looked online for lost border terriers and had seen our name come up.
"She sent a photo through and when we received it, me and my partner Amanda just stopped and looked at each other and said 'that really looks like Morse'."
The dog was reportedly first spotted by Mr Simmons, 63, of Alanbrooke, Gravesend, who was delivering a parcel to Mrs Holt on Whitepost Lane.
"I carry dog biscuits on my round in case you come across a nasty one and tried to offer him one but he didn't want to know," he said.
"He was so cold and wet, but I couldn't take him to the vet myself, so we took him into [Mrs Holt's] home."
Mrs Holt, 41, said she regularly sees dogs wandering down the country lane but with their owners usually chasing after them from behind.
“I thought it was unusual because he didn’t have a collar on,” she said.
“He was just sat there shivering. He stank and was completely covered in mud, I couldn’t even tell what breed he was, he was such a mess.
“So we took him inside and put him in the bath and by the time I’d dried him it seemed immediately like he was at home.
“When my daughter came home later that evening Morse was on the sofa cuddling her, like he was part of the family.”
Mrs Holt eventually found the online adverts appealing for help in locating Morse and got in touch with Mr Latter.
When he arrived to pick him up, however, he wasn't entirely sure it was his family's beloved pet.
"He didn't come to us or react to him name and he'd been clipped and groomed so looked quite different, although all his mannerisms were the same," Mr Latter said.
"Within seconds they told us it was Morse and we just broke down in tears" - Richard Latter
On Saturday morning, he took the dog to a vet in Cranbrook to get the chip read and confirmed.
Mr Latter said: "Within seconds they told us it was Morse and we just broke down in tears. The receptionists behind the desk started crying, too. Edward was over the moon, he really was. I think he knew straight away it was Morse."
Thousands took to social media throughout December and January to hunt for the hound, and Mr Latter said the family had been overwhelmed by the response.
"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."
Morse has slept almost entirely since his return home but once their tired dog has some energy back, the Latter family intend to make up for lost time.
"We have lots of Christmas presents he didn't get to open and if we think he is up to it, we're going to take him for a run on the beach at Rye or Camber Sands. We're just so happy to have him home."
Meanwhile, Mrs Holt says she has not heard from TV star Mr Cowell with regards to the £10,000 reward.
“I’m just happy Morse is back with his family,” she said.
“It must have been awful for them all not knowing what had happened.”
More by this authorTom Pyman