The paws are strong in the Waikato as the local dog patrol unit receives its tenth member: two-and-a-half-year-old German Shepard Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan, called Obi for short, and his handler Constable Zane Carlyon, of Hamilton, just graduated from the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre in Trentham, Upper Hutt, alongside seven other duos.
Carlyon worked on the frontline for four years including a stint in the Armed Offenders Squad and the Tactical Dog Team before joining the Dog Section.
Although Obi is his first dog, Carlyon said he had always been interested in becoming a dog handler.
“I was fortunate enough to work alongside an operational dog handler as part of the Tactical Dog Team for nine months. This was a great … insight into becoming a dog handler and when the opportunity came up for another handler in the Waikato, I jumped at it.”
The dynamic duo has been training together for most of this year which wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“It was challenging at times, especially when we were in the early days of getting to know each other, but it was also a very rewarding experience.
“It’s been awesome watching Obi grow and develop into an operational Police dog, [but] there’s still plenty of ongoing training for us moving forward.”
Carlyon said Obi was “high drive with loads of energy”.
“[He] doesn’t really have an off switch … He’ll do almost anything for his ball on a string and is keen to get to work when he gets out of his kennel or box in the Police wagon.”
Like any dog, Obi also loves the occasional pat and scratch.
Carlyon said he was now looking forward to getting out on the streets and putting “all that hard work and training into practice”.
“We’ve been put through many training scenarios during the last year, but nothing is quite like the real deal so I’m looking forward to getting Obi out there and getting the first few jobs under our belt together.”
Including Obi and Carlyon, there are now 10 handlers and dogs in the Waikato Police District, plus a Sergeant who manages them.
The new additions to the Waikato team graduated alongside Constable Cole Devenport and dog Lacey, Constable Mitch Wooding and dog Boris, Constable Alan Hogarth and dog Igar, Constable Joe Wright and dog Jaxon, Constable Christian Linder and dog Hadys, Constable Ryan Whitelock and dog Ozzie, as well as Constable Brendan Munster and dog Kyiv.
Devonport, Lacey, Wooding, Boris, Hogarth and Igar will be working in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, while Wright, Jaxon, Linder and Hadys will work in Whangārei, and Whitelock, Ozzie, Munster and Kyiv will work in Auckland.
National Police Dogs coordinator Inspector Todd Southall congratulated the teams on their work.
“These teams have worked very hard for this, and they will be real assets in their districts and the communities they serve.
”We are very lucky to have six new handlers … and two experienced ones to help lead the way. All our patrol dog teams play a vital role in the way we police some really volatile, dynamic situations on the frontline.”
Danielle Zollickhofer is a multimedia journalist based in Hamilton. She joined NZME in 2021 and is writing for the Waikato Herald.
Stay up to date with the Waikato Herald
Get the latest Waikato headlines straight to your inbox Monday to Saturday. Register for free today – click here and choose Local News.