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Ryan Watt said he was tipped off his dog, named Wolf, had been taken on New Year's Eve and was possibly in Canterbury.
When police failed to act on the information for two days, he went and investigated himself.
He left Kingston at 11am on Sunday and travelled seven hours to Loburn, near Rangiora.
As darkness fell, he drove to the entrance of the property where he suspected his pet was and saw several dogs.
''And Wolfy was right in the middle of them,'' Mr Watt said.
He said he retrieved Wolf. Roxanne Dadswell - the woman he had been tipped off about - took all the other dogs inside.
Mr Watt drove a short distance away and called police. Saying he feared for his dog's safety, he left before police arrived and headed back to Kingston, arriving at 3.45am yesterday. His daughter Willow (1) and wife Kirsteen were ''absolutely delighted'' to wake and find Wolf home, he said.
He suspected Ms Dadswell had taken the dog after he heard she had ''checked out'' of the Kingston crib she had rented near his home at 4.30am - a day earlier than planned.
''That is what raised suspicion,'' Mr Watt said.
Ms Dadswell said last night she understood that taking Wolf was illegal and not the right thing for her and her partner to have done.
''This is the first time we have ever done something like this. I am disturbed by what we witnessed [in Kingston] and couldn't just leave such a beautiful-natured boy in such an unloving, uncaring environment.''
She groomed the dog, let it run free, let it sleep inside and fed it well, she said.
''He was having the life that every dog deserves.''
She had never seen him wag his tail the three days she was in Kingston.
''We watched in amazement as his owner and his children walked past him many times within petting range of the dog and ignored him completely. We watched it continuously pace the same track over and over.
''When they did finally come to take him for a 20 to 30-minute walk it was robotic - they simply unclipped his chain, clipped on his lead and turned and walked. There was no pat for him or any love shown.''
Mr Watt earlier said the dog was a much-loved and well-cared-for family member. He took two months off work to train Wolf when he was a puppy, he said.
Senior Sergeant Malcolm Johnston, of Rangiora, said police had been trying to find Ms Dadswell since yesterday morning in relation to the alleged dog theft.
''It is looking likely she will be facing some charges.''
Police went to the Loburn lifestyle block after Mr Watt called police on Sunday but when police arrived, Mr Watt had left, Snr Sgt Johnston said.
Police could not charge Ms Dadswell because Mr Watt had not made a formal statement.
Mr Watt said he would make a formal statement at the Queenstown Police Station today.
Snr Sgt Johnston said anyone with concerns about the welfare of an animal should contact the SPCA and not ''take the law into their own hands'' by taking an animal.