Whangārei-based police dog Mist and handler Constable Elyse Lewis are New Zealand's top crimefighting canine duo.
Reporter Kristin Edge spends a night shift chasing crims with the champion combination and discovers what determination it takes to make it to the top.
Out of the darkness a man appears, his muddied and blood splattered face illuminated by torchlight.
He opted to run from a police dog and handler and go bush.
Not a good decision.
Especially when New Zealand's top canine team — Mist and handler Constable Elyse Lewis — are on the job.
With his hands handcuffed behind his back he's flanked by two police officers, who push through nikau fronds and punga ferns.
His bare feet splash through a creek, which is running fuller than normal thanks to torrential rain earlier in the night.
He has a dirty white T-shirt on and the bottom of his jeans are shredded.
Proffering up an excuse for his quick exit over a full wire fence into thick native Northland bush behind the house near Maungaturoto, he tells the officers he "just panicked".
However, it seems ever since he breached his parole release conditions nearly four months earlier he has always "panicked" and fled from police when they came calling.
But not tonight.
Only minutes earlier yelling reverberated around the steep bush-clad gully with Lewis warning the fleeing man to: "Stop. Police dog."
It turns out during the dark descent into the bush Lewis lost her footing and let go of Mist's lead.
But hot on the scent Mist got to the offender.
As Lewis catches up she comes across the man trying to strangle Mist with the lead, and push the dog's head under the creek water.
The arrival of Lewis is a momentary distraction that allows Mist to break free and get a better grip. With the help of second officer the man is handcuffed.
During the late night melee the man has received a dog bite to his forearm. It looks like Mist had the final say in this chase.
"That's why I do the job ... catching someone like that who has been avoiding police and is wanted for months. There would be no show of trying to find him out there without a dog. It's the pinnacle really," Lewis says with a satisfied smile on her face.
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Back at Whangārei station he is seen by St John Ambulance staff and taken to hospital for stitches.
Back at her specialist dog vehicle Lewis checks Mist over for any injuries.
Fortunately Mist is good to go for the next job that gets called in.
The arrest highlights the fact this is not a job for the faint hearted.
Charging into the unknown, chasing an offender, unaware if they have weapons.
"You end up being isolated quite a bit with just you and your dog and the offender. You never know how aggressive they are or what weapons they have on them," Lewis says.
"You're a team and you know if you get into trouble they will be there for you and vice-versa."
Two police dogs have been stabbed while on duty in Northland but lived and returned to the beat. But 24 police dogs have been killed in the line of duty in New Zealand.
Aged 32, Lewis, of Ngati Kahu and Ngati Whatua descent, already has 13 years of experience on the beat.
She spent nine years as a frontline officer in Whangārei before chasing her dream of becoming a dog handler and becoming operational in November 2015.
It was while doing a training course in preparation to join the police Lewis saw a poster of a police dog and handler on the wall.
"I had a love for dogs and animals. I thought working with dogs and catching crims would be a dream come true," laughs Lewis.
"As soon as I saw that poster I knew."
At 18 she headed off to Police College near Wellington.
She admits not being a "booksmart person", which meant while others were out enjoying weekends she was instead hitting the books and improving on what she describes as her "weak point".
"If I come across a weak point in myself I try and be stronger and improve," Lewis says.
It's a comment that gives an insight into the determination of this goal-driven woman.
The physical side of the training came easier to Lewis, who loved sport, playing a plethora of codes and reaching Northland representative level for netball and volleyball.
Last month Lewis created history by becoming the first female officer to win the national police patrol championships with her police dog Mist.
As the national champions, Lewis and Mist, who is 5 years old, won the prestigious Frank Riley Cup.
The duo showed their versatility over the three-day competition and were also awarded the Commissioner's Challenger Cup for obedience and the Monaghan Trophy for heelwork.
In their first national championship last year the Northland duo finished second.
"This was the pinnacle of my career," Lewis says.
"This has been a goal of mine since becoming operational. To come up against such experienced handlers and win is overwhelming, and a huge personal achievement for me."
She admits the competition pushed her way outside her comfort zones and she was extremely nervous waiting around for her turn.
In fact Lewis is a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to the being a woman in a traditionally male dominated section of the police.
Lewis is only the fifth female dog handler in the history of New Zealand police.
The duo became operational in November 2015, working in Dunedin before transferring back "home" to Whangārei where Lewis became the region's first female dog handler.
"Because there were no female role models in that work group, it was hard to believe I could do it. Dog handling and that job was perceived as a man's job and as a young person I doubted myself.
"I knew I had to learn basic policing firsthand face some high risk situations before I could look into being a dog handler. I knew I had to be confident working on my own on the front line and going to incidents on my own."
After eight years on the beat Lewis reckoned she had the confidence and skills to finally put her CV in for a dog handling position.
She applied and was accepted to be part of a selection day for the Wellington dog squad.
"I didn't know what to expect ... it really opened my eyes to what a dog handler needed to do."
It was a year before Lewis applied again.
"I went home and worked hard out on my physical strength and cardio. At work I asked for more jobs on my own and built up my confidence. I didn't want to go through the failure and embarrassment again. I think there was more pressure on me being a woman going into the selection day. I just wanted to make sure I was 100 per cent ready to prove I could do it."
There were still no positions in Northland so she applied for a job in Rotorua but missed out.
She applied and was chosen for a selection day in Christchurch, narrowly missing out on getting the job. But it was at that selection day a sergeant from Invercargill asked Lewis if she would like to apply for a job in Dunedin.
"I'd never been to Dunedin before," Lewis said.
After a gruelling selection process Lewis got the phone call telling her she would need to pack her bags and head south.
"It was the best thing I had ever heard and pretty exciting."
The next test came when she had to chose a pup that would eventually develop into a fine tuned police dog.
"There were two pups. The first one I threw a toy for him and he had no idea what to do. Next was Mist and she was completely the opposite. I threw the toy and she was like a rocket and brought it back to me and was in my face."
That first 15 minute meeting has developed into a champion partnership.
"We instantly bonded during training. I learned how to respect her and how far I could push her. I learnt she was sensitive to be growled at and had to be careful about the tone of voice I used but still be assertive. She knew I was the boss but she tested me though by trying to get away with things."
The combination moved North in February 2016 and in doing so became the region's first female dog handler.
Being a dog handler means being acutely aware of your surroundings, being quick to react and being able to read people.
Lewis reckons Mist can read people as quick as she can and reacts if she thinks an offender is going to have a go.
It is a special relationship that develops between a handler and their dog.
And it is that relationship that comes under the microscope at the police dog National championships.
Every move is scrutinised by judges.
"If you want to be put to the test and know where you stand this is the test.
"It's all around having control of your dog, making the right tactical decisions. It really puts you to the test with what we face with daily operations."
In their first crack at the title last year the duo collected the cup for obedience and finished in second place overall. The second place meant they represented New Zealand in a transtasman challenge against Aussie handlers.
In true Lewis fashion she went over the judges' score sheets and comments and found out areas she needed to work on.
Twelve months later after hours of training, plenty of successful catches on the beat and help from her fellow Northland dog handlers, Lewis and Mist proved they were the top combo in the country.
"It's a fine balance between training and the job and keeping her interested," Lewis says.
It is only a few weeks later, with the stress and pressure of the competition gone, that Lewis says she can reflect on her well deserved success.
And Lewis is humble about her achievements.
"Winning that is the highlight of my career. It was something I wanted to do but never thought I would make. But this competition exposes both of us to the unknown and only makes us better for working on the street and coming up against different scenarios.
"I don't want to get stale. I give myself a goal big or small to work towards, to keep me on my toes. I don't do it to reap rewards but for my own personal development. And putting yourself to the test and getting out of your comfort zone is the way to do that."
While creating history, Lewis is clear doing the job is not about being male or female, but about being good at the job.
"I see myself as part of the crew and I don't get treated any differently and that's what I strive to have happen. I want to be known for doing a good job and being capable. There is a lot of respect from my colleagues and I haven't come across one negative reaction."
Together the duo have caught plenty of fleeing offenders including a five hour track on an armed offenders squad callout which included running along 90 Mile Beach and crawling through logs in a forestry block.
It was a poster on the wall that sparked her career path.
So was it worth it?
"It's been everything and more ... I didn't realise how rewarding the job would be. I trust Mist and I trust that what I ask her to do she will do it.
"I love the job and I'm still learning. I don't think you can ever learn everything about policing."
And her advice for anyone pursuing their dreams?
"It might be cliche but if you have a goal be determined, have a crack at it. Do follow your dreams because you're never going to know what you can achieve until you have a go. There will be hard times but keep going."
It seems to have been a winning formula for Lewis.
And even the top brass have taken note with Inspector Todd Southall, national co-ordinator police dogs, making special note of Lewis' acheivement this year.
"Constable Lewis' win is not only very well deserved, it represents a true milestone in the history of the NZ Police Dog Section, and sends a strong message to any women aspiring to become dog handlers that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and train hard."