Just two weeks after graduating as a qualified dog handler Constable Josh Van Der Kwaak thought his canine companion was going to be bludgeoned to death by a knife-wielding offender.
Police dog Caesar was stabbed in the head twice, each time yelping in pain, but continued to help the officer in the early morning melee on the roof of a house on December 22, 2018.
"Caesar jumped to engage the male's arm. As he jumped the male has begun stabbing him in the head, brutally stabbing at least three times," Van Der Kwaak said.
"He was essentially trying to do his job ... each time he is met with a knife. At that stage it looked to me like Caesar was being bludgeoned to death. I could see the force behind the blows and I didn't know if he was going to bleed out on the roof and die."
The Kerikeri-based constable recounted the "terrifying" attack on Caesar at a rural property during the second day of the trial at the Whangārei District Court in which Adam Tipene, a 31-year-old forestry worker from Onerahi, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges including without lawful authority and without reasonable excuse intentionally wounded a police dog.
Tipene has also plead not guilty to charges of assaulting a police officer to avoid arrest while unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, failing to stop for police, entering a building in Parua Bay with intent to commit a crime with a knife, resisting a police officer, unlawfully taking a $18,000 vehicle, and dangerous driving.
He plead guilty to a charge of unlawful interference with a 2009 Kawasaki motorcycle.
Van Der Kwaak and Caesar had been involved in a track earlier that morning involving a police pursuit and a stolen car that Tipene was in.
The crown say Tipene was the driver but Tipene is too give evidence saying he was only a passenger in the vehicle.
The pursuit started in central Whangārei and ended on Owhiwa Rd, near Parua Bay when the car crashed off the road on a hair pin bend. The driver had fled and the canine unit had tracked through step terrain before losing the trail.
As the dog handler was going home about 6am he was alerted to a home invasion at a property on Owhiwa Rd.
Van Der Kwaak found the man at the house where a couple were house sitting and had been woken to the unknown male in the house demanding $50,000.
The woman had hidden in the bathroom and called police while her partner had gone with the male until the dog handler had arrived.
The officer found the man on the roof and issued a challenge to get on the ground or else the dog would be released.
The man did not surrender and actually approached the officer.
"He eyeballed me and issued his own challenge ... it sent shivers down my spine."
The dog was hoisted on the roof but the man stabbed the dog with a large kitchen knife he had taken from the house.
Holding the knife like a dagger he attacked the dog and managed to jump from the roof onto a garden retaining wall.
"Caesar was not in tip top shape and not doing as well as he should be. This guy is kicking him and there's blood coming out the dog's nose, blood coming out his mouth and there's big fleshy wounds on his head.
"I'm yelling at him [the offender] to stop resisting and he was just kicking the shit out of Caesar," Van Der Kwaak recalled.
While the police dog was injured "he was still in the game" and continued to help and was responsive to his handler's commands.
Van Der Kwaak pepper sprayed the man who was "going nuts" but it had little effect and the officer called on the man who was house sitting to help him.
"At this stage the stress is sky high. It's a violent struggle. It's getting pretty scary. The occupant of the house didn't hesitate, he was a life saver."
Together they managed to get control of the struggling man on the ground and then were helped by an off duty police officer who arrived at the house and had also been involved in the pursuit earlier in the night.
The man was handcuffed eventually and put in a police car.