After five years and thousands of false alarms, the mother-of-two had almost given up hope. Picture: YouTube

London - His muzzle has greyed and his legs stiffened in the five years they have been apart.

But Nicola Phillips was in no doubt the cocker spaniel wagging its tail before her was her long-lost pet Scampi.

She had launched a tireless social media campaign to find him after the beloved family dog was stolen from his home in Radstock, Somerset, in August 2013 when he was seven.

After five years and thousands of false alarms, the mother-of-two had almost given up hope.

But then she was sent a video of a stray pedigree found wandering 140 miles (about 225km) away in Islington, North London. "I couldn’t believe it at first said Phillips, 35.

"But there was no mistaking the spots on his nose, the curved white line between his eyes and his zig-zag walk. It was him."

Two days later, Phillips drove to be reunited with Scampi at an animal shelter and take him home to partner Trevor Wilkins, 46, and children Tegan, 14, and Cole, 11.

"We had been sent thousands of pictures of dogs over the years through the Facebook page I set up but it had never come to anything," she said.

The video was taken by Coco Bing, who had found Scampi, and was sent on by Nora Holman, one of 4 000 members of the page Help Bring Scampi Home.

Phillips, a compliance administrator, said: "We didn’t want to get too carried away but now I’ve seen him in the flesh there is no doubt.

"It felt like I’d never see his silly little face again, never have him home, and you all but give up. I just can’t believe he’s here. I’m so grateful." 

She believes the dog, which was not fitted with a microchip, was stolen for breeding as the padlock had been ripped from his kennel and there had been a spate of pedigree dog thefts in the area.

Animal welfare officers in Islington told her he may have had a stroke and been abandoned by his captors as they feared large medical bills. "He’s 12 now and has been apart from us for the equivalent of 35 dog years," said Phillips.

"He’s gone a bit deaf and his back legs are going but other than that he looks to have been fairly well looked after."

Three years after Scampi was taken, Phillips added a cockerpoo named Boo to the family. "He’s got a little sister to meet, there is so much we need to catch up on," she said.