Police dog Dirk is a criminal's worst nightmare, but for Senior Constable Mike Warren, he's a top-notch crime fighting partner.

However, things came to an abrupt standstill for the Hawke's Bay partnership more than two weeks ago when it was discovered the four-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd had a tumour on his spine.

"We had finished a busy week and I knew he was pretty tired... He was just playing, chasing his ball on a day off and his back legs just gave in under him.

"I thought he might have just slipped on something but in the space of 12 hours, he went from being normal to not being able to stand up and walk properly."

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An MRI by the vets at Massey University saw him taken in for an operation. In the early days after his operation he was confined in ICU and had to have a catheter.

Still at Massey while he recovered, he has the "full attention of all the nursing staff" and has them "wrapped around his little finger".

Last week, he showed promising signs, regaining some movement in his back end. He also managed to stand up by himself on Thursday, albeit ever so "clumsily".

Dirk completed his first session of hydrotherapy; essentially a treadmill in an oversized fish tank, to get his muscles and then legs moving.

"These are all positive signs and the surgeon said he is confident that he will gain the ability to walk again after further rehabilitation and healing. As for returning to work as a operational police dog, that is still to early to speculate.

"He's showing his same dogged determination to get well as he shows on the street."

The saying, "a dog is a man's best friend" is no more evident than with the two, who have known each other since Dirk was fostered by Warren's son at eight weeks.

"If we can get him to full recovery and back operationally, if he gets back to just being a pet then we'll take that as well," Warren said.

"He's one of us. It's a bit like having a human in the same situation - pretty sad really when you see him in that state, you wish it on no one.

"He's a real character, he's like a four-and-a-half-year-old puppy when it comes to playing but when it's work time, another switch goes off and he's into work mode so that's the perfect trait for a police dog."

Dirk is a general purpose or front line police dog fit to tackle tracking, searching and criminal work if and when required.

"The team at Massey are amazing. He's getting the best of care so its live and hope and every day he gains something else."