A stray dog found in a park in Kaikohe has become a star drug detector. In fact Kai and another one-time stray, Monty, have shown such talent that NZ Detector Dog Services managing director Janet Wilson reckons they should be the "poster boys" for all unwanted dogs.
Kai, a cattle dog-cross was about six weeks old when 7-year-old Devon Robinson and his family found him in Reed Park. Emaciated, severely infested with worms, covered in fleas (and bubble gum), he soon became a beautiful dog, but found his way to Detector Dogs when the Robinsons decided that he needed more than they could give him.
He began his training on April and finished 10 days ago. The next day he was tested by two qualified assessors, and an independent assessor in a validation test, an international standard for drug detector dogs and the highest level achievable in New Zealand, where he scored 100 per cent.
"The test is made up of an odour recognition test and a 'comprehensive assessment,' where he was tested in several 'real life' operational scenarios," Ms Wilson said.
"Kai flew through the test, and made three operational 'finds' in his first week.
"I have to say that he is probably the best detector dog I have seen in my 19 years of detector dog handling and training. He's not even 12 months old yet, and will only get better - if that is possible. It still astounds me that such talented dogs are thrown out and are unwanted, while a lot of government agencies resort to buying dogs from overseas."
A second rescue dog, Monty, was an unwanted mongrel that arrived via the Ruapehu pound, saved by Animal Rescue Action Network (ARAN).
"He was too difficult to rehome, and was rapidly running out of choices," Ms Wilson said.
"I originally referred him to a couple of the government agencies, that didn't bother to even look at him, so we decided to take him on ourselves. Monty did his training with Kai, and passed on the same day with 100 per cent. He had a find on his first day of work, so is hot on the heels of Kai."
Both dogs would now live with their handler, Sarah Dyer, and go to work with her every day, screening work sites and keeping staff and companies safe from drug hazards.
"As a company we couldn't be prouder of these unwanted dogs reaching such a high level of achievement," she added.
"Kai and Monty should be the poster boys for all unwanted dogs, and certainly a lot of the government agencies should be rethinking where they source their dogs from and consider saving such valuable lives.
"We are also very grateful to the families and agencies that stick their necks out and open their hearts and homes to these dogs. It is because of families like the Robinsons and rescue organisations such as ARAN that these dogs are even given a half-chance at life. We aim to make them proud that they saved these dogs, and help them achieve something very special."