Dog owner EMILY CONNORS risked her life to save her beloved pet after it was stolen out of her Atlanta home and held for ran­som.

A day after Plato, a 7-year-old Maltese, was snatched in mid- August, the dastardly dognapper sent heartbroken Emily a terrify­ing photo of her pooch with a gun to its head and a note demanding $3,000!

Amazingly, not only did the gutsy makeup artist get her adorable dog back alive and unharmed, but she managed to bargain the gunman down to $1,000!

“It wasn’t the money that mattered to me,” Emily, 53, told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview. “I would have paid anything to get my little dog back. I couldn’t live without her, she’s family.

“But I was so mad when this creep started sending me text messages saying, ‘Where’s my money?’ And I’m thinking, ‘It’s not your money – it’s MINE!’”

The crook had crept into Em­ily’s home while she was out running an errand, ransacking the place and stealing electronic equipment worth thousands of dollars – and her dog.

“I didn’t care about anything else,” said Emily. “It was all re­placeable – except for my precious Plato!”

The thief terrorized her with horrifying text messages from an untraceable phone. He got her number from Plato’s tag and vowed to “hang the dog’s bloody body” on her door. He also threatened to tor­ture Plato before killing her. “I had terrible nightmares about it,” said Emily. “I kept wondering what this fiend would do to my little Plato.”

Emily says she grew impatient while police planned an elabo­rate stakeout and decided to take matters into her own hands. She agreed to meet the suspect – alone – outside her bank on busy Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta.

Emily says the guy – a man about 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds – walked up wearing a backpack with Plato inside.

“He acted like it was no big deal,” Emily recalled. “But I was shaking and my heart was beating wildly. I was determined that he hand the dog over before I gave him the money. He wanted me to give him the cash first.”

After a tense stand-off, the thief made a grab for the envelope of cash – just as Plato leaped from the backpack!

“I was so thrilled to see Plato again – I just clutched my little fur­ball to my chest, while the guy ran off down the street,” Emily said.

Atlanta police are still on the lookout for the lawbreaker and are taking the incident seriously.

And although she placed herself in terrible danger, Emily insists she’d do it again.

“I would do anything for my dog,” she said. “I love her.”