Veteran dog handler Senior Constable Lyal Bayliss and his black labrador Luther graduated from the Trentham police dog training centre, ready for service back in Canterbury.
Luther is Bayliss' fifth operational police dog but his first narcotics detector dog after 18 years working with patrol dogs.
In 2009, Bayliss received a bronze merit award after he and his previous dog Duke caught an offender armed with a knife.
Then, in 2021, he got a gold merit award after arresting another armed offender, this time with his patrol dog Brock.
Luther also has a fine pedigree. He was the last dog handled by decorated Canterbury Senior Constable Bruce Lamb before he died in May while on a hunting trip in the Ashburton Lakes area.
One of Lamb's other dogs, Gage, tragically lost his life when he was shot protecting his handler in what should have been a routine drug search in Phillipstown, Christchurch, in 2010.
Lamb was shot in the face during the raid. But Gage - protecting his handler like he was trained to do - leapt to the rescue and took a bullet for him, allowing Lamb to escape with his life.
Bayliss had some advice for any would-be dog handlers - you need patience and perseverance.
“It takes time. It would pay to foster dogs, it will allow you to be with dogs, learn some things, understand the difference between a pet and a working dog.”
“Weeks away from home and hard training are put aside when the handlers receive their graduation certificates.”