Bravery award for canine hero
Police dog Gage 'did exactly what he had to do'JOELLE DALLY
He has already been hailed a canine hero for saving his master's life, and now the British agree.
Gage, the Christchurch police dog shot dead during a police callout that went wrong in Phillipstown, will posthumously receive a prestigious PDSA Gold Medal at a ceremony this month.
The medal, internationally regarded as the animal equivalent of the George Cross, is awarded for gallantry or devotion to duty by saving human life.
Gage's dog handler, Senior Constable Bruce Lamb, now calls the July 2010 Phillipstown shooting the incident where he "forgot to duck".
Lamb remembers the flash of the gun going off, then lying on the floor of the Buccleugh St house holding his shattered face.
He looked up to see Christopher Graham Smith pointing the gun at his head. Gage jumped over him and took the second bullet in the back.
"He was a magnificent animal. He did exactly what he had to do."
It was the start of a rough two years.
Lamb lost much of his jaw from the bullet's damage, then lost his Shirley house in the February 2011 quake.
Three years on, the dog section office at the Christchurch Police Station is still littered with Gage memorabilia.
The honour for Gage was a "nice surprise", Lamb said.
The german shepherd was always supposed to be Lamb's last "biting" dog, but it was "a shame" his duties ended so abruptly.
"I still don't like those images of him lying [shot] on the road."
Lamb's replacement, labrador Milo, does not have a biting bone in her body, he said.
Lamb still has a numb lower right lip and is awaiting cosmetic surgery on his neck from the bullet's damage, but four months ago he got new teeth - which was "nice".
Police Association bravery awards were given to Constable Mike Wardle and former constable Marty Stiles, who turned out to the bloody incident where Constable Mitch Alatalo was also shot in the leg.
But when it comes to the Gage-Lamb duo, the medals are reserved for the dog.
"All I did was get shot and run outside crying like a baby," Lamb jokes.
Gage will be the second New Zealand dog and the the 22rd internationally to receive the PDSA award.
George, a jack russell terrier of Taranaki, received the award posthumously in 2009 for saving children from attacking pitbulls.
- The Press
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