Police dog handler Pete Kinane reckons without a doubt his best canine mate saved his life by taking a stab to the lung during an arrest in dense Northland bush.
Police dog Gus, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, is well on the road to recovery and could be back on the beat in a month after his life hung in the balance last week.
The duo, who are trained to work as part of the Armed Offenders Squad, were called to track a man who had gone bush in Parakao, 40km west of Whangarei, last Wednesday.
Mr Kinane said they had caught up with the man and unfortunately he had stabbed Gus.
"He [Gus] was putting his life on the line to protect me ... he did his job.
"He's my best mate and it's an unbreakable bond."
As part of his recovery Gus was allowed to sleep in the bedroom on Tuesday but after being woken numerous times Mr Kinane said he was going to be back out in the dog kennel.
Gus was making a speedy recovery and if the canine crime fighter passed some fitness tests they could be back pounding the beat in four weeks.
During a press conference at the Whangarei police station yesterday Gus obediently sat on a table, keeping a close eye on his boss and suddenly becoming very interested at the sound of nearby police sirens.
"He's bounced back real well. The stab wound went between the tricep muscle, through the chest into the lung. It doesn't get a lot worse," Mr Kinane said.
The only clue to the life-threatening injury Gus sustained was a large section of shaved hair on his left side. The stab wound on his shoulder was visible, but healing cleanly.
Mr Kinane said the stitches would come out in in 10 to 14 days and after a vet visit and clearance he would be back on the job.
He was very grateful to everyone who had helped ensure Gus survived and the massive public support.
"In this job you don't deal with nice people so to get nice messages from the public is humbling. It's the motivation we need to get back on there every day and do our job."
Mr Kinane and a fellow officer got Gus out of the bush. They were then rushed to Mill Rd Vet Clinic in Whangarei where Gus was stabilised before being flown by police helicopter to Veterinary Specialist Group in Auckland. A team were on standby and started treating Gus immediately.
Following a special hearing in Whangarei Hospital last Thursday a 37-year-old man was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, attempting to kill a police dog, unlawfully taking a vehicle and assault with a weapon. He was remanded in custody.