A stolen puppy was reunited with its owner after a Good Samaritan set up a sting operation.
Nine-week-old Staffordshire bull terrier Roxi was snatched from outside a house in Inverness.
An appeal was issued to the public to try to track her down – but it was an animal lover 65 miles away in Fort William who came to the rescue.
Brian Tolmie made the connection between owner Anna Straube’s online pleas for help and pictures of the young dog for sale.
He posed as a buyer to confront seller William Cochrane, who had tried to swap the puppy – and a bike – for a car being sold by Mr Tolmie’s friend.
Cochrane appeared from custody at Inverness Sheriff Court yesterday and admitted resetting the stolen dog.
Fiscal depute Ruaraidh MacAllister told the court that Roxi was taken within minutes of being let out in the back garden of the family home in the Highland capital’s Dalneigh area on May 18.
He said: “Given its size, there was no way it could have escaped itself. Then someone heard that someone was trying to sell a nine-week-old Staffordshire bull terrier puppy on Facebook.
“He got the phone number of the person selling it and asked for a picture of the animal to be sent to him. He then forwarded it to the owner, who identified the puppy.”
Mr MacAllister said that on May 20 a meet was arranged at the Tomnahurich Swing Bridge over the Caledonian Canal in Inverness
Mr MacAllister said that Cochrane, 29, of 30 Kenneth Place, Smithton, turned up with the dog, and Ms Straube was then contacted.
“When the owner went to the location, the puppy ran towards it, having recognised its owner. Cochrane was then restrained until the police arrived and he was arrested.”
Cochrane also appeared on a charge of stealing a bicycle from Inverness city centre in May, which he admitted. CCTV showed him taking the bike.
Ms Straube, 29, a bingo hall assistant said last night: “I was distraught when Roxi went missing, so were my daughters, eight-year-old Kayla, and Sofia, aged three, as she quickly became part of the family.
“It was terrible when I found out that the two people who had taken the dog had been out helping me look for Roxi – we had been out for two days and I was starting to think she had gone for good.
“When Brian went to meet them, my partner at the time hid round the corner and I burst into tears when they called me and told me they had her back.”
She added: “People were saying to me ‘oh, she’s only a dog’, but Roxi is much more than that and is very much part of the family, she sits outside when the girls are having a bath and they were really missing her.
“As far as I am concerned she is priceless, I cannot put a value on her and, although they were trying to sell her for £300, even that was a bargain as her mum and dad are both pedigree.
“I posted lots of pictures on social network sites, including one set up specifically for lost dogs, and Brian noticed one of my appeals and got in touch.
“Kayla and Sofia were so pleased to get her back, and so was I. We are all so grateful for what Brian did for us.”
Sheriff David Sutherland deferred sentence on Cochrane until October 31.