Blind Chinese man's guide dog returned with apology note
"PLEASE forgive us," read a note that was found attached to the neck of Qiaoqiao, a female black Labrador retriever, when it was released back to its blind owner in Beijing on Monday evening, two days after it was stolen, reported the Chinese media.
The senders of the note also told Tian Fengbo, 47 - Qiaoqiao's owner who operates a chain of massage outlets in the Chinese capital - that they had experienced huge social pressure since the theft and expressed regret over the act, reported Beijing Youth Daily.
The abduction of Qiaoqiao, which disappeared into a passing van when it was having its daily unleashed walk near Mr Tian's house under the watch of his assistant, had attracted widespread online condemnation in China.
The local media went to town on the theft, most of them adding accounts about how Mr Tian had developed a strong bond with his seeing-eye pet since it was given to him by the state-owned Dalian Guide Dog Training Base six years ago.
The police also announced that an intense investigation was launched to recover the seven-year-old dog for Mr Tian, who himself made an impassioned plea for its return.
Then, on Monday evening when a search party was about to leave his house to look for Qiaoqiao, it was spotted running back home from farmland some distance away.
"When it reached its master, Qiaoqiao stood on its hind legs and grabbed his with its fore legs while continuously making a whining sound," said an apprentice of Mr Tian.
The Dalian Guard Dog Training Base told Beijing Youth Daily that it spends about 150,000 yuan (S$32,250) and considerable time to train a dog to become a competent guide to blind people.
The Beijing Morning Post, which was told by an expert that there were only about 100 professionally trained guide dogs in China, estimated Qiaoqiao to be worth 300,000 yuan.
Meanwhile, Han Xiao, a Beijing-based lawyer, told Beijing News that the release of Qiaoqiao would not exonerate the stealers from the charge of theft as the act is seen as the return of a "stolen good".
The police also appealed to the stealers to surrender themselves, promising lenient treatment if they do so soon.
Dog stealing is common in China, with those of pedigree breeds being sold as priced pets and the rest usually ending up on dining tables.