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K-9 Jessie has been with the department since last October and is trained to detect various narcotics.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro Police Officer John Ganci and his K-9 partner Jessie sometimes train at the Hillsboro Police Departments west precinct.

There's a new police officer in town, and her name is K-9 Jessie.

The 2-year-old Belgian Malinois is the first female police dog in the Hillsboro Police Department's history. Originally from the Netherlands, the spunky pup is trained to detect odors exuding from cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

"We actually didn't know at first if she would work," recalled Hillsboro Police Officer John Ganci, who is Jessie's human partner on the force. He remembers meeting Jessie at the Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana, where she waited quietly in her kennel.

To Ganci's surprise, Jessie literally hit the ground running. The canine immediately showed off her hunting and play skills for the officers.

"Finding a good working female canine is very difficult because typically, a lot of breeders will keep the really good ones to breed them," said Ganci.

With the help of Officer David Bonn and Sgt. Anthony Cristofaro, Ganci brought Jessie home last October.

Bonn remembers Ganci and Jessie having an immediate connection.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro Police Officer John Ganci watches K-9 Jessie detect narcotics during training. The canine alerts Ganci once she finds the necessary odor.

"It became apparent that they would have a great bond when we first screened Jessie and she would lean against him," said Bonn. "They immediately showed affection towards each other."

He's also excited to have the first female canine join the Hillsboro Police Department.

"It is just a further reminder that police work is not specific to gender, and that includes our non-human counterparts," Bonn said. "Jessie is a valuable member of the ever-growing diversity of our city and police department."

Jessie is not only a great asset for finding dangerous drugs, but also to help strengthen the relationship between officers and the community, said Bonn.

"In situations where a community member or child is nervous around police, (canines) oftentimes can help bridge that gap," he said.

After arriving in Hillsboro, K-9 Jessie was certified by the Oregon Police Canine Association by mid-December, which allowed for Ganci and Jessie to hit the streets.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - K-9 Jessie is trained to detect odors exuding from cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. The 2-year-old Belgian malinois is the first female canine for the Hillsboro Police Department.

"The training doesn't stop," explained Ganci. "For the rest of her career, she will train. … This field is ever changing, and you want to keep your partner on-point with sniffing odors."

Ganci then pointed towards a plywood training wall with 17 holes, or points, where Jessie can try and sniff out her latest find.

Like any good training for dogs, police K-9 training is incentive-based. Jessie gets to play with her toy each time she can detect an odor.

Along with Jessie's new training skills, the quiet canine is also out of her shell. Ganci hand-fed the canine for a little over a month to build their bond.

"She is now a barker," he said with a laugh. "She's also a very jealous dog. When she sees her owner, or anybody else that she wants to pet her, petting other dogs, she lets them know it."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro Police K-9 Jessie receives a toy from officer David Bonn during a narcotics detection training. Jessie is the first female K-9 to join the department.

The Malinois has also gotten close with Ganci's children, which led to the family picking the name "Jessie" after the cowgirl character in the "Toy Story" movies, he explained.

"(The children) were pretty upset afterwards when I told him that they couldn't be petting her so much because I was trying to keep her training for work," he said.

His other dogs get jealous when they see Jessie getting in his patrol car, Ganci admitted, but he's happy to have Jessie by his side.

Describing her personality, Ganci pulled out a small photo of Jessie from his side pocket. The canine is seen sitting on a green lawn with a serious look.

"She looks like an attack dog," Ganci said, noting her body language. "However, she is not. "

There's more to the photograph that isn't seen, the officer explained.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - K-9 Jessie shows off her softer side while training. The playful pup can detect various narcotics with her keen sense of smell.

"There was a bunch of ducks there across the field from us, and she likes to chase those things," he said.

Ganci hopes other people realize there are more than just attack dogs working in law enforcement.

"Some people, when they see her, they think, 'Oh my gosh, she's scary,'" he said. "Then they get that second look and she comes in and hugs them and they're like, 'She's amazing.'"


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