Judging by the way Cookie, the 2-year-old Bichon-Shih Tzu, ran around the Lafkas family's Merrick front yard Sunday, it was hard to believe that just days ago, his owners and police thought they were hunting for a pilfered pooch.
Freshly fluffed from a trip to the dog groomer, Cookie licked 11-year-old Christina Lafkas' face Sunday while John Lafkas, 8, played with his fluffy, black-and- white, wagging tail.
It was all a much more joyous scene than on July 29, when the family discovered that jewelry, a flat-screen television and designer handbags weren't the only valuables missing from their home. Cookie was gone, too.
"That was the worst," said Patty Lafkas, Christina and John's mother, of the moment when the family realized Cookie couldn't be found. "My daughter was beside herself."
Because Cookie was expensive -- the Lafkases said they paid $1,000 for him in February 2011 -- they were certain burglars with an eye on cashing in on Cookie for some fast bucks snatched him along with a cellphone, iPad and video game system. The burglars entered the home between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. through a basement window, police said.
Three days later, Nassau police were back at the Lafkases' home. The officers didn't come with the merchandise, but they did have something more important: Cookie. He was shaking and barely made a sound, but otherwise was fine, family members said.
Police wouldn't say what led them to Cookie beyond that he was returned after they got a phone call. The investigation into the burglary and the circumstances behind Cookie's disappearance are ongoing, police said. Christina said she was so upset while Cookie was gone that she couldn't eat. But now Cookie's back, gnawing his toy: a damp and chewed SpongeBob SquarePants character.
"He likes to play," Christina said.
Christina's father, Gus Lafkas, said getting Cookie home, no matter how, was the important thing.
"We're happy he's back," Gus Lafkas said. "Who knows where he was?"