A dog stolen in East Vancouver is back in the care of its rightful owners, but not before a dramatic few days that included an alleged thief demanding a ransom in exchange for the animal's safe return.

Luc, a 19-month-old Coton de Tulear, was taken from Tim and Lesley Spiegel's parked car around Main Street and East 15th Avenue Thursday evening.

The couple spent the next several days posting flyers and hoping for the best. The Thank DOG I Am Out rescue agency also helped them in their search.

As they closed in on the dog's location—a hotel on Cordova Street—they began receiving text messages from a man threatening to hurt Luc if they didn't pay him money.

"This dog needs medical ASAP," one message reads. "100 now and then email the rest."

Desperate to get their dog back, the Spiegels sent him a $100 gift card.

But the man wanted more: "You can do 500…and then 1500," another message said.

"I asked him, 'Did you take my dog?' and he said yes," Lesley told CTV News.

The couple found Luc on Sunday in the care of a woman the man left it with at the hotel and they stopped sending him money.

They had offered a $2,000 reward for anyone who would find the dog, which they gave to the original tipster.

Rewards may encourage thefts: rescue

Thank DOG I Am Out, however, said offering a reward can be a slippery slope.

"People are suggesting that it's encouraging people to steal the dogs, so it becomes a tricky situation and I think that's where the conversation is going now," said spokesperson Susan Patterson, adding that the agency has been involved is several similar incident in the past few weeks.

"It's just been in the last eight weeks that we've been involved in three returns. Two were stolen and one was a lost dog," she said.

Vancouver police said they have opened a file on Luc's theft.

As for the Spiegels, they're just happy to be reunited with their furry friend.

"I cried—tears of joy," Tim said.

With files from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure