Police dog Gus made a piece of history when he was officially acknowledged for his outstanding service to the Northland dog section and police.

He is the first canine crimefighter in the region to get such recognition.

The nearly all black german shepherd retired in May this year after a stellar seven-year career on the beat in Northland.

Gus, well known for his bite, made even Northland Police leader Superintendent Russell Le Prou rather reluctant to give the canine a congratulatory pat on the head yesterday during the award ceremony that also acknowledged the long service of officers from Whangarei and Dargaville.

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Instead of a bite Mr Le Prou was given a lick on the hand by Gus as the certificate of appreciation was passed to handler Senior Constable Peter Kinane.

Police dog Gus was acknowledged for his good work on the beat - pictured with handler Senior Constable Pete Kinane. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Police dog Gus was acknowledged for his good work on the beat - pictured with handler Senior Constable Pete Kinane. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Mr Le Prou said in human years Gus had worked up to 56 years which he described as "a hell of a career".

Gus tracked thousands of offenders, caught hundreds of criminals and recovered thousands of dollars in stolen property during his career.

But in October 2013 Gus' life hung in the balance after he was stabbed during a melee with a violent, knife-wielding offender.

Mr Kinane had to carry Gus out from a remote rough bush area. The dog had been stabbed just in behind the shoulder during the melee.

A quick stop at Mill Rd Vets followed by a helicopter dash to an Auckland vet clinic saw Gus operated on.

Four days later and he was back on his feet and six weeks down the track he was fighting fit and back on the beat.

Last year Gus became the first police dog in Northland to get a stab resistant vest - a vital piece of kit Mr Kinane had pushed for well before the stabbing occurred. Now all five police canines in the region are fitted with vests.

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Police dog Gus wears a new stab-proof vest made of kevlar. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Police dog Gus wears a new stab-proof vest made of kevlar. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Mr Kinane said Gus was the type of dog every handler wanted and at training courses there were many jealous looks from the other officers.

"He is a super star as far as dogs go. It's hard to get a dog like him."

It is a special relationship that develops between a handler and their dog. Together they have faced many extreme situations.

"He's never shied away from anything. He would go into a situation without a second thought if I ordered. He's given 100 per cent."

In retirement Gus has transitioned from chasing crims to stalking stags in dense bush seamlessly.

Mr Kinane, a keen hunter, said on the last trip into remote bush near Taupo during the roar Gus was the key to sniffing out two impressive Sika stags over a few days.

"He'll keep doing that until he finds it too hard to walk up the hills," Mr Kinane said.

Gus caught plenty of crims during his career. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Gus caught plenty of crims during his career. Photo / Michael Cunningham