By Tony Lopez

CALAVERAS COUNTY (CBS13) — A retired firefighter faced an unexpected emergency after his two dogs were stolen right off his property, but these are more than the family pets.

One was just days away from being certified as an emotional support dog to help this former first responder deal with the effects of trauma suffered on the job, but this traumatic event took an unexpected turn right in the middle of our interview.

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A quiet ranch off the beaten path in Calaveras County was a bit too quiet Wednesday afternoon. Kevin Johnson’s two best friends weren’t making a peep.

“So I went to call them and I never heard a response,” Johnson said.

It was strange for two rambunctious doggies: Hay Hay and Nina. Johnson considers them his emotional support. They help him deal with PTSD after spending more than three decades as a first responder.

“They mean the world. They’re just like our kids,” he said.

Johnson couldn’t respond quickly enough, though, to stop what happened at high noon:

“Then I heard a car speed off down the road,” he said.

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He thinks Hay Hay and Nina were stolen. He and his family looked everywhere.

“We got into cars. We went all through towns. We went through all the adjacent towns,” Johnson said.

A plea on social media was simply stated: “We just want our dogs back please.” And it sounded like this would be a story about a retired firefighter’s sudden loss and his unanswered quest.

But then, during our sit-down interview, his cell phone started to buzz. And faster than lightning strikes, Johnson bolted.

The rest plays out like a children’s book meets lost dog reality show kind of moment.

Gratitude and glee replaced gut-wrenching worry. One quick car ride and Hay Hay and Nina were back home.

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Johnson isn’t sure who took his dogs. All he cares about is that a neighbor who saw them did the right thing—even refusing the $500 reward, and simply enjoying this priceless outcome.