A young autistic man is celebrating tonight after his pet dog - who was feared stolen - turned up on the side of a road.
Toby, a three-year-old cross between a Bernese Montain Dog and Beagle, had been missing from his Limerick home since Sunday.
He had undergone training to the value of €15,000, and has been a loyal companion to Peter Meskell - a twenty-one-year-old man with autism - for the last three years.
"This is absolutely fantastic news," John Linehan of Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland told independent.ie. "It seems there was a phone call made to say that Toby was on the side of the road in Castleconnell at about 5pm this evening.
"I think the media coverage over the past couple of days may have aroused the conscience of those who took him."
Mr Meskell's family had earlier appealed for the dog's safe return.
"Peter loved Toby because if he was in any way antsy or irritated, Toby would just lie up against him and help calm him down." said mum Nicola Meskell.
"He would follow Peter up the stairs and sit outside his bed every night. He would sit there religiously until the morning," she added.
Soon after joining the Meskell family, Toby was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease, and has since been on steroid painkillers to help him deal with pain.
"He found it very hard to walk. It would be very unusual for him to just wander off," Nicola said.
Nuala Geraghty, a trainer with Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, said dogs like Toby have a huge impact on their owners.
While all the Meskell family had been "devastated," at Toby's loss, Toby had taken it particularly hard, Mr Linehan said.
"Peter does really need the dog - it's a lifeline for him. That's why it's such good news that he is back. The family is overjoyed."