Leicester

'Heartbroken' girl wants stolen therapy dog back for Christmas

Lottie with Chloe Image copyright Gemma Hopkins
Image caption Lottie is a therapy dog for Chloe, who has autism

An 11-year-old girl with autism has cried herself to sleep every night for a week after the theft of her dog, her family said.

Lottie, the three-year-old Dalmatian, was stolen from Chloe Hopkins' home in Peatling Parva on 1 December.

Her mother Gemma said the therapy dog was Chloe's "best friend" and helped to keep her calm.

She said the rare-breed dog could have been targeted by thieves using a drone to plan the burglary.

"Chloe and Lottie are inseparable. She helps Chloe calm down - she's her best friend," Mrs Hopkins said.

"She helps Chloe get through every day because she's got her best friend to come home to."

Image copyright Gemma Hopkins
Image caption Lottie was taken in the early hours of Sunday morning

Lottie was last seen in the early hours of Sunday morning when Mrs Hopkins went downstairs to feed her newborn baby.

By 07:30 GMT a bolt on an outhouse was broken and Lottie - who needs specialist food for a liver condition - was gone.

Image copyright Gemma Hopkins
Image caption Chloe told her mum all she wanted for Christmas was to get Lottie back

Mrs Hopkins said: "We've had problems getting her into school - she broke down in tears in the foyer and wanted her dog.

"She doesn't understand, with her autism; she thinks somebody hates her and that's why someone's taken her dog.

"I watch my daughter crumple and there's nothing I can do as a parent to stop her being in pain."

A few days before the burglary Mrs Hopkins saw a drone flying over her house - she suspects that may be connected to the burglary.

"I live in a very small village and I knew it wasn't any of my neighbours flying a drone.

"It was round the side of my house where I've got a gate, which they've actually gone through to get Lottie."

The family has offered a reward for Lottie's safe return.

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