Stolen golden retriever that went missing three weeks ago finally reunited with family

Family went to extreme measures to get dog back

LAKELAND, Fla. - The golden retriever named Sophie that went missing three weeks ago in Lakeland is now back home with its family.

Sophie's story captivated the community after her owners went to great lengths to find their beloved dog, by putting up a billboard, posting hundreds of flyers, and even hiring a search and rescue team.

It turns out the dog wasn't lost, it was stolen.

"This dog was picked up and taken and was not going to come back home. It was basically finders keepers," said Blane Fox, a family friend of the McFarland's, who own the dog.

After we took action with a story that aired last week on ABC Action News, the family got dozens of tips -- one of them leading to a woman who lives nearby.

Attorneys and detectives got involved and on Thursday, all parties reached an agreement: the family would not press charges or publicly embarrass the lady if she just turned Sophie over.

That's all they ever wanted.

"Finally the folks who had the dog made the correct decision to give the dog back," said Peter McFarland.

Leading up to their happy reunion, there have been plenty of letdowns.

Peter and Blane showed up at several homes thinking they found Sophie, only to find a similar golden retriever.

But this time it was for real.

The two families arrived at Companion Animal Hospital, which facilitated the reunion. With our camera rolling, the vet brought Sophie out and both families erupted in cheers.

They finally got their dog back.

The family said the community's overwhelming support along with the great work from the Lakeland Police Department is what allowed them to get Sophie back.

"The community has been incredible for this," McFarland said.

On Friday morning, Peter plans to stand on the side of the road near his home in Lakeland where he's stood each day for the last three weeks holding a "lost dog" sign.

Only this time Sophie will be sitting beside him, with a sign that reads "found."

"If the little pieces didn't add up, there's no way this dog was coming home," Blane said.

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