Kai is one of those dogs that didn't enjoy an especially auspicious start to life, but he's well and truly come up smelling of roses, thanks to a kind-hearted Kaikohe family.

The cattle dog cross was about six weeks old when 7-year-old Devon Robinson and his family found him in Reed Park in Kaikohe. Emaciated, covered with fleas and severely infested with worms, not to mention covered in bubble gum, he wasn't doing so well. And no one seemed to want him.

Devon's mum Toni contacted the pound, the SPCA and the local vets but no one had reported him missing, so the family decided to take him in until his owner turned up.

"Sadly [for them] no one did, so we adopted him and loved him," Toni said. He was named Kai, short for Kaikohe.

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After six months the family decided their four-legged friend needed more than they could give him as a pet so they advertised him on TradeMe. He caught the eye of Janet Williams, from NZ Detector Dogs. She contacted the family, and a few days later Kai was assessed as a potential recruit.

He began his training as a drug dog in Albany yesterday, alongside another new recruit.

Toni said Devon was very sad to be losing his friend, but excited that he was going to become a drug dog.