MYSTERY surrounds how two missing dogs escaped from a car trailer and were eventually relocated running along the road -- 60km away from their starting point -- by their frazzled owners.
Katie and Seamus Fleming, from Milltown, Dublin, were distraught when they discovered the dogs had escaped -- as one of them shares a huge bond with their special needs son, Patrick.
The couple, who have been reunited with the dogs, had left Castleisland, Co Kerry, on Sunday and were driving back to Dublin. It wasn't until they were near Moneygall, Co Offaly, 172km later, when other motorists brought the empty trailer to their attention.
Ms Fleming explained that the golden retriever, 'Taylor', provides a lifeline to their 11-year-old son Patrick, who has Down syndrome and does not speak.
"My son can't verbalise but the dog understands him. They have their own method of communication. It's an amazing bond. It was vital we got Taylor back," she said.
The couple believed the dogs could be dead after they pulled off the road and discovered, to their horror, that the trailer was empty.
"There was no way we expected them to be alive -- let alone be found together. We had no hope... I was panicking about how I was going to tell Patrick. I don't know how he'd have coped," Ms Fleming said.
She contacted her sister Nancy, who lives in Kerry, who in turn contacted local radio station Limerick's Live 95FM, to make an on-air appeal on Les Dineen's show. The family contacted Garda Cathy Healy in Askeaton, Co Limerick, who put the appeal out on Twitter.
A couple spotted the dogs and contacted gardai who held Taylor and his adopted sister Pixie Belle until the Flemings arrived.
"We don't normally do missing dogs but considering the dog was so important to the boy's wellbeing, I put out the appeal during the show," said Mr Dineen.
"It was a long shot. Then I started getting text messages from people saying they had spotted the dogs running near Newcastle West. I rang Nancy back and she was delighted. She wanted to give me a reward. I said the only reward was knowing the boy would be reunited with his dog."