VPD’s toughest canine cheated death twice before and after retirement

“He means the world to me.”

That’s how Sgt. Derrick Gibson describes his bond with ‘Teak’.

Teak is a legend within the ranks of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and at age 12, he hasn’t lost his fight. “He’s probably one of the toughest dogs we’ve ever had here,” said Gibson of his former canine partner.

Teak is living out his retirement with Gibson’s family after his six-year VPD career saw him nab some 300 suspects.

Teak while he was with the VPD.

VPD

Gibson will never forget Teak’s toughest arrest on Jan. 11, 2013.

“I’m getting emotional now. It’s still pretty hard to think of, your partner and your best friend has been hurt and might not make it.”

On that night, the pair was called to what should have been a routine armed robbery at a gas station in East Vancouver.

The suspect ran when Gibson threatened to send Teak. Teak gave chase and managed to take the 20-year-old down after about 50 metres.

ChangSha Night Net

That’s when Kyle Scott Martin began to attack Teak. At first, Gibson and his colleagues thought Teak was being punched.

“As myself and my cover officer got closer, we noticed he was being stabbed. He had a box cutter in his right hand.”

Despite being stabbed repeatedly and sustaining a gaping 25 centimetre stab wound, Teak never let go of his attacker.

“He didn’t stop. He fought through, did everything I asked of him until I released him from the suspect,” recalled Gibson, who said the stabbing only stopped when his partner tasered the suspect.

Bleeding from the neck, Teak was rushed to the vet for emergency surgery.

“The vet told me if it was a centimetre deeper or a centimetre longer it would have caught his jugular, so someone was watching out for him that day,” said Gibson.

Less than two days and two surgeries later, Teak was released to recover at home. His attacker, Kyle Scott Martin, would eventually receive a suspended sentence of two years probation for harming a service animal.

For his bravery in the line of duty, Teak retired from the force as the 2013 Purina Service Dog of the Year. That title was just one of many awards Teak received during his crime-fighting days, including the VPD Chief Constable’s Commendation and provincial meritorious service award he received for taking down a violent sex assault suspect in 2009.

Weeks into his long term recovery, Teak was dealt another blow. What the Gibsons at first thought to be either a complication from the anesthetic or a stomach blockage turned out to be a cancerous growth in his bowels. Some six months and six gruelling rounds of chemotherapy later, Teak had beat bowel cancer.

“He’s a three year cancer survivor now,” said a proud Gibson.

But Teak’s struggles weren’t over. In the summer of 2014, he was playing at the park when he planted his left front leg and spun on it. Amputation was recommended as veterinarians were unsure any surgery on the spiral fracture would withstand Teak’s athleticism.

“They figured if they put it back together just the way he is, he would have blown anything they did surgery wise. He’d just blow it apart within a week or so,” said Gibson.

More than two years later, Teak seems to be loving life on three legs. “It hasn’t stopped him, not at all. He still has the drive. I think he still thinks he has four legs,” said Gibson, who has a tattoo on his left arm that reads “Teak Strong”.

“When I look at it, I get motivated and strength from thinking about him and our partnership together.” Teak’s motto, if he had one, said Gibson, would be “Never give up. Always keep fighting. Never lose the will to live.”

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