Tauranga Senior Constable Kayne Cording and his colleagues in the police dog section are in mourning after his crime-fighting partner Yoda died - but his legacy will live on.
Mr Cording and his boss, Sergeant Logan Marsh, said they were heartened by the fact that there were new recruits already in training and others waiting, including Mr Cording's newest sidekick 18-month old Mario, one of Yoda's grandsons.
"Yoda was getting on and due to general wear and tear a decision was made to put him down last week," said Mr Marsh, who heads Tauranga and Eastern Bay of Plenty Dog Section.
"For Yoda to serve until he was nine-and-half years old is pretty incredible."
Mr Marsh said police dogs were generally retired after seven years' service.
Yoda was described as a "wonder dog" when he arrived in Tauranga from Trentham Police Training centre as a 3-month-old in 2007 and took to his training like a duck to water.
"Yoda was special, he was one of our AOS [armed offender squad] dogs as well as a general service dog. He was a strong, fearless dog and served us and his community really well."
Mr Cording said Yoda always showed dogged determination in tracking offenders.
"He was 100 per cent reliable and very loyal. Yes, his death is very sad but I'd much rather focus on Yoda's legacy," he said.
Described as the "Hugh Hefner" of the dog world, Yoda contributed to the police dog breeding programme by siring 65 puppies, Mr Marsh said.
Six-year-old Isaac, one of Yoda's sons, is working in the Whakatane area and is the national police dog champion.
Next month Mr Cording and Mario head back to Trentham police training centre where Mario will be put through his final testing course. He expected Mario to pass muster.
"He's a really calm and focused dog. He's showing signs he'll make an excellent police dog."
Mr Marsh said, provided the newest recruits made the cut, it would take about 18 to 20 months before they became fully operational members of the police dog section.
His dog Turk, who turns 10 this Sunday, was retired from service this week, he said.
Turk was twice crowned national police dog champion.
Another Tauranga dog handler, Constable Mark Chapman, said his dog Veto, 13 months, whose mother hailed from the Netherlands, was expected to be fully operational by year end.
"Veto speaks Dutch and German," he quipped.
Mr Marsh said the Tauranga and Eastern Bay of Plenty dog section was entering an "exciting re-building phase", with three new recruits in foster care.
Seven-month-old Ezra had been assigned to Tauranga handler Senior Constable James Muir.
The other two recruits were a nameless four-month-old pup nicknamed "G-dog" which would be assigned to Tauranga and an 11-month-old pup who would go to Whakatane.
A three-and-half-week-old pup was also due to come to Tauranga and be placed in a foster home when it reached 8 weeks old.
Mr Marsh asked anyone with name suggestions starting with G or who knew of a building which could be used to train police dogs, to call him at the Tauranga police station.
Facts about the police dog section:
* All patrol dogs are German Shepherds.
* The typical foster period is 7-12 months.
* Training is based on a six-stage development and qualification process which begins as pups.
* Police dogs graduate at 18 months.
* Across the country there are at least 20 dog sections.
* Police dogs respond to more than 30,000 incidents nationwide each year.
- NZ Police
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