Gazza's handler speaks about his 'pretty special' boy

Police dog Gazza with handler Josh Robertson, who has spoken about what a special dog he was. Photo / Facebook
Police dog Gazza with handler Josh Robertson, who has spoken about what a special dog he was. Photo / Facebook

The handler who cared for police dog Gazza has spoken out for the first time since his faithful crime-fighting companion was shot dead in the Porirua seige.

Police this afternoon released a statement from Constable Josh Robertson, who chased gunman Pita Tekira onto a Kokiri Cres property three weeks ago.

Investigators are still piecing together what happened next, but they said within a minute of entering the house, one officer had been injured jumping from a window and Gazza had been shot while blocking a gunshot that Mr Robertson thinks would otherwise have hit him.

The handler said he ran out of the house carrying Gazza and sought cover.

"I laid him down and he just died there," Mr Robertson said. "That was really hard, really tough."

The gunman barricaded himself in a house, where police found him dead the following morning despite the efforts of a negotiation team to bring him out safely.

Mr Robertson said he and his partner were trying to come to terms with their loss.
"You don't go home and turn the dog off, then turn him on again to go to work. He comes home and he's our mate. It's our lifestyle. He's not there and we miss him."

Mr Robertson said everyone who knew Gazza liked him. He was a focused, formidable police patrol dog who could "flip the switch" to become a playful, loving pooch at home or a charmer of small children on a school, kindy or Ronald McDonald House visit.

Gazza and Josh Robertson in action during filming for TV show Dog Squad.
Gazza and Josh Robertson in action during filming for TV show Dog Squad.

"He was pretty special. He was our boy. At home he was just a silly dog, not a tool for catching criminals. At home he was a big goober.

"All he wanted to do was carry his rugby ball round and be with us. He wanted our company and it was unconditional.

"He would sit at the front door looking into the house - his favourite thing was to try to creep in. When we shooed him out again he would 'accidentally' drop his rugby ball so he'd have an excuse to come in and get it. It was almost like he had a sense of humour, like 'I'm just joking with you'. He was a clever dog.

"Everyone who knew him really liked him. With offenders it was business, but in a comfortable setting he was just a lovely dog."

Mr Robertson has been overwhelmed by the support of police, the public and Police Minister Judith Collins, who paid him a visit.

"You realise how much what we do touches other people, especially with the dogs.

"The other handlers have gone above and beyond what I'd ever imagined. The welfare people have been really good. It's great to have police looking after us like this."

Gazza was farewelled at a private ceremony a week after the shooting. Photo /NZ Police
Gazza was farewelled at a private ceremony a week after the shooting. Photo /NZ Police

Gazza was farewelled at a private ceremony a week after the shooting.

Mr Robertson joined police in 2007 in Lower Hutt, and began fostering puppies to prepare for becoming a dog handler.

"I love policing and I love dogs - the combination of the two was the ultimate."

He teamed up with Gazza, the latest of six police dogs he has worked with, when the puppy was 8 weeks old. The pair began training in April 2013, when Gazza was about 10 months old, and graduated on December 13.

"It takes a bit longer than that usually but he was a good dog, an easy dog to train."

In their first year, Mr Robertson and Gazza caught 86 offenders - higher than the average of 50 - which the handler puts down to Gazza being an exceptional dog.

"From a pup he was driven to do everything at 100mph - but if you channelled it you could get him to do anything you wanted him to do, he was so eager to please."

Josh Robertson is looking forward to seeing Gazza again when he appears in upcoming episodes of Dog Squad. Photo / NZ Police
Josh Robertson is looking forward to seeing Gazza again when he appears in upcoming episodes of Dog Squad. Photo / NZ Police

Gazza first made the news last year, when an offender tried to choke him.

"We tracked for about 4km through properties, parks, streets. It started to rain quite heavily, which makes tracking harder. The dog didn't slow down the whole time. He knew exactly what he wanted, just doing his thing really.

"We saw a guy going through bush ahead of us at the end of the street. Gazza caught him, he tried to take the dog on, the dog won.

"It was really special that when the offender tried to take the dog on, and the dog's knackered after a 4km track, he still gave it his all."

Mr Robertson will continue working with police dogs.

He said because Gazza was a breeding dog, he hoped to work with one of Gazza's offspring.

"He was such a strong character I believe that will come through in his puppies."

Gazza was a few weeks short of his 4th birthday - "just coming into his prime".

He will be one of the stars of the as-yet unscreened new series of TV One's Dog Squad, which Mr Robertson said he was looking forward to watching.

"Sitting down with a couple of beers and watching him work again. He was beautiful to watch."

- NZ Herald

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