A treasured family pet has been reunited with his owner - and his favourite meal of sausages - after an online appeal went viral.

Bugzy the cocker spaniel, who has epilepsy, escaped on April 13 through a gate that decorators had left open at his owner’s home.

He was last seen in a layby on the A616 between Ompton and Kneesall being lifted into a van.

The story had a happy ending after the man who picked him up saw the appeal and handed Bugzy back.

The two-year-old was fed her favourite sausages on the morning of her return by delighted owner Davina Thorne.

Davina, from Kneesall, was the victim of online trolling during her search.

There were false claims Bugzy was dead or had been found and was being tortured.

She also hateful messages and false news by phone.

It was so bad Davina had to remove her phone number from her appeals.

Some of the calls have been referred to the police.

There was also, however, a huge amount of goodwill from hundreds of people who shared her online posts appealing for information.

Posts by lost pet charities such as Dogs Lost and Dog Tag were also shared, as was the Advertiser’s appeal to find Bugzy, while many reacted to posters put up by Davina and others.

Bugzy was handed back to her in the carpark of Tesco at Ollerton, and Davina thanked all those who helped with the search.

Davina, who never gave up hope, said: “I genuinely believe that it was the online community that got Bugzy back to me.

“Everyone came out in force and without them Bugzy wouldn’t be home with me now.

“I’ve been through horrors with the hoax calls.

“People said Bugzy was dead in their garden, that they were torturing him and he would be cut up into pieces.

“I think I knew they were hoax calls but they still tormented me. Bugzy is my best pal.

“I don’t know how anyone could be that horrible.”

Davina paid tribute to the work of Dogs Lost and Dog Tag and said she planned to hold a fundraising event for them.

She said their help was invaluable as Bugzy disappeared over the Easter weekend when council dog wardens, veterinary practices and microchip companies were not necessarily at work.

She thanked Jayne Hayes of Dogs Lost who put her own phone number on the appeals so she was dealing with the hoax callers rather than Davina.

Davina said Bugzy was returned in good health and in good condition and that the man who found him said he had fallen in love with him too.

She said Bugzy had not left her side since his return.

“I keep having to touch him just to know it’s real,” she said.

“I’m ecstatic to have him home. I can’t thank everyone enough, including the Advertiser and its readers.

"And to the trolls, I would say get a life. I still hope nothing like that happens to you if you ever need strangers to help you find someone or something."