A former BBC journalist has paid tribute to his beloved pet dog who has died aged 15 a few months after going viral online when she was stolen.
Rory Cellan-Jones started a Twitter campaign after Cabbage the collie cross went missing when her dog walker’s van was stolen in west London in November.
She and five other dogs were recovered along with the abandoned van after their ordeal in Acton.
Cellan-Jones, 63, said Cabbage was “a very integral part of the family”.
“She was lovely, a very gentle dog,” he told the PA news agency.
“I was never a kid who grew up with dogs, so Cabbage was the first dog I’d owned and I surprised myself by how strong the bond was,” he said.
Cabbage had a bout of gastroenteritis a few weeks ago and had spent some time in the “doggy hospital”.
“She was already quite frail, and she was struggling to get up, which is just not good… and we just thought she’s not got any quality of life, it was tragic,” Cellan-Jones explained.
Cellan-Jones shared a photo of Cabbage on Twitter on Saturday morning, writing: “For 14 years she was a lovely, energetic and really smart member of our family.
“It was time for her to go but we miss her so much.”
The post accrued more than 20,000 likes and Cabbage started to trend on UK Twitter.
Cabbage already had an online following before she was stolen because Cellan-Jones regularly documented their early morning walks with pictures posted to his feed.
“At the beginning of lockdown, actually posting a picture of a day was a kind of therapy for me, because the walk was the only thing that was allowed,” he explained.
“(I think) it kind of reminded (people) everything was OK with the world when they got up.”
On Friday morning Cellan-Jones shared a final picture, writing: “Home after a gentle stroll.”
He thanked his followers for their support, adding that the park on his daily walk this morning “felt empty”.
BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker and broadcaster Sophie Raworth offered their condolences.
“So sorry to hear that Rory,” Walker replied, while Raworth said she “loved Cabbage’s adventures”.
Cabbage went missing after her dog walker left his van’s engine running with the key in the ignition in west London and it was stolen.
Cellan-Jones quickly appealed to users online for any sightings, garnering thousands of likes and retweets.
“Something terrible has happened,” he wrote at the time.
“Our dog walker’s van with our dog Cabbage in it has been stolen while he was picking up another pet… Please look out for a black Ford Transit.”
After hearing the story, Ford’s press office got in touch to alert the dog walker that the van had a feature which enabled drivers to track the vehicle through an app.
“Ford would not have known about this before the age of social media,” Cellan-Jones said.
The van was located in Park Royal, around a mile-and-a-half from where four of the dogs were soon found, with the other two located the same evening.
More than 60,000 Twitter users celebrated Cabbage’s safe return by liking the former journalist’s celebratory tweet and photo of his dog back home.