Andy Smith, 45, lost two stone in weight after his husky Murphy was taken when they were out for a walk just before Christmas in 2014.
After a tireless search, the forklift truck driver was renuited with his beloved pet and his dedication to helping other owners to trace their stolen animals has seen him handed an award.
Andy, from Lidget Green, will be presented with a special honour by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Westminster after setting up the Murphy’s Army campaign.
When Murphy disappeared, Andy started a Facebook page to raise awareness of the theft, and the case was taken up his then-MP, George Galloway. He was even mentioned in the Commons by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The distress of losing his pet caused Andy to lose his job, as the search for Murphy and the constant need to monitor messages meant his concentration dropped. Three months later, Murphy was traced in Manchester and returned to his owner.
He launched Get Murphy Home to educate the public on how to reduce their risk of falling victim to dog theft and how to track down a missing animal.
Philip Mansbridge from IFAW said:
“Andy’s amazing efforts to publicise Murphy’s theft and galvanise the public to help him find his beloved dog touched many people. It is fantastic he is continuing to build on this and help others in a similar predicament. Andy and Murphy are a great example of the bond between people and animals. Andy is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Animal Campaigner of the Year Award.”
“When Murphy went missing, complete panic set in. I was so desperate to get him back and was in a terrible state worrying about him. Seeing him settled and happy back at home is amazing. I feel honoured and flattered to be getting this IFAW award.
“I’m just a bloke who lost his dog and was determined to bring him home. I do my best now to help others who are going through what I did. I don’t know how they cope; I just do my little bit and hope it gets results and also opens people’s eyes about the safety of their dogs.”
Andy now works with a team of 16 volunteers who help administer the Murphy’s Army Facebook pages. He is looking to expand the operation around the UK and is fundraising to open his own dog rescue kennels.
He will receive his award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards event, hosted by Baroness Gale and presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie at the House of Lords on October 18.