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Making impression for life

Carterton’s Merryn Hamilton with Sergeant Matt Fage and detector dog Tas. PHOTO/TEN ONE MAGAZINE

A chance meeting last year brought back some happy memories for Carterton’s Merryn Hamilton.

In 2007, Merryn was an 11-year-old patient in Wellington Hospital when she met up with a visiting patrol dog called Blade and his police handler, Constable Matt Fage.

At the Carterton Emergency Services Day late last year, Merryn – now studying to be a primary school teacher – recognised the by-then Senior Constable Fage, who was there with his current detector dog Tas, and bowled up and reintroduced herself.

“I was in the hospital for a burst appendix initially and then went back in a bit later on for some complications because I suffered an abscess from the surgery,” she said. “I think I was probably in Wellington Hospital in total for up to a month.

“I only have a few memories from being in the hospital, however my best memory was the police dog visit.

“I was thrilled because we didn’t have any pets at home [apart from goldfish] so hearing about what the police dogs did, their work stories and meeting them was pretty amazing.”

The visit that day was one of many organised by Constable Dean Gifford, of Lower Hutt. Along with Matt and Blade were Constable Ben O’Connor and patrol dog Utah and Constable Alf Sawyer with Asko.

Merryn remembers the visit had an impact on others too.

“One of the young boys in the ward was gravely ill during the police dog visit,” she said. “If I remember correctly, only the staff and close family were allowed in his room, but as the family knew he wasn’t very well they agreed to let the police dogs and officers come in – one of them was Matt and Blade.”

Merryn said the boy died only a few days after the visit.

“All the police officers were inspiring to me and such good role models while going through that difficult time,” she said. “I can only assume that the visit helped the young boy through his last days.”

After leaving hospital, Merryn attended an open day at the Royal New Zealand Police College with her family and met Matt and Blade again.

“If I am being honest I don’t remember anything from the open day except meeting Blade and Matt again.”

Blade was semi-retired at the time of the hospital visit and Merryn said she was saddened when she later heard he had died.

“Meeting Blade has inspired me to have a German Shepherd when I am a bit older,” she said. “I would really like to consider fostering – either looking after the puppies before they go into the police as a fosterer or maybe just having one as a family pet.”

Matt, who is soon to become a sergeant at the Dog Training Centre in Trentham, was thrilled that Merryn came up to him so they could get reacquainted.

“It’s the first time I’ve had anyone come up to me to say thank you for a hospital visit,” he said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened before. It’s so nice that Merryn remembered us – we obviously left an impression on her.”

Matt remembers the boy who later died.

“When the dogs came in, he had a smile on his face from ear to ear – apparently he had not smiled for weeks, he was so ill.”

Matt is a regular on hospital visits, along with many Dog Section and other Police colleagues.

“I find visiting kids in hospital a great morale boost for them,” he said. “I think it adds a little bit of light to some of the kids that are experiencing some very dark days.”

  • Originally published in the New Zealand Police’s Ten One Magazine.

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