MONTGOMERY COUNTY – After 10 years of service, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office announced the retirement of K-9 GAJ Tuesday night and introduced to the public the first female police dog used by the department — K-9 Ginger.
Chairman of the Montgomery County Legislature Michael Pepe, who represents District 7, presented K-9 GAJ’s handler with a plaque for his service and explained that his name is an acronym for the initials of deceased Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Allan Johnson, from the town of Amsterdam, who was killed in the line of duty in 1991 when his patrol car was run off the road.
“We’re so happy for the good work that K-9 GAJ did in the name of Gary A. Johnson,” Pepe said.
Sheriff Jeff Smith explained that the county sheriff’s K-9 unit is funded by private donations and Sgt. Jason Nares has been the county’s K-9 handler since 2001 and has completed work with two K-9s, K-9 Bear from 2001-2011 and K-9 GAJ from 2012 until Tuesday.
“K-9 GAJ has had a heck of a career,” Smith said. “He’s a little over 10 years old now and he’s had 251 drug searches, over 58 ‘tracks’, and if you do the math that’s roughly 25 drug searches per year and six tracks per year. That’s impressive when you think about the need for a K-9.”
Some of the other statistics attributed to K-9 GAJ’s ability to track down suspects and detect illegal drugs and other substances with his nose include 44 successful drug seizures, 33 assists to other police agencies, eight building searches, 18 area searches, 58 tracks, 34 instances of being called into work from off duty status, and 55 public demonstrations, interacting with over 4,000 people.
“Those interactions include people all the way from senior citizen groups, to preschoolers in a school setting,” Smith said. “Sgt. Jason Nares has been one of our longest-serving K-9 [officers], and he’s our certified maintenance trainer, so he helps provide maintenance training for the K-9 units in the city of Amsterdam, Gloversville and to our K-9s.”
Smith also lauded Undersheriff Carl Rust, who worked with the Amsterdam Police Department’s K-9 unit until his retirement from that agency. “So, I’m very confident our K-9 program is second to none in the area,” Smith said.
K-9 GAJ, who has a bit of grey fur visible around his muzzle, will live the remainder of his life with Nares’ family, as part of a legal agreement worked out with the county, Smith said. The German shepherd received a standing ovation from the county legislature at the meeting.
In February the Montgomery County Legislature passed a resolution authorizing the use of $9,950 in donations to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office to pay for the purchase, training and equipment for K-9 Ginger, also a German shepherd. During the meeting, officers rotated the two dogs to meet the legislature separately to avoid any difficulties between them interacting.
“That was the smart way of doing it,” Smith quipped. “We’ve lost pants legs, had occasional stitches here and there.”
Smith said K-9 Ginger was bought on International Women’s Day, March 8, and she is the first female dog the county has ever used for the K-9 program.
“She is three years old,” Smith said of the very energetic K-9 Ginger. “She’s an awesome dog, came with a little bit of training, which made the certification process a little quicker than normal.”
After a round of applause Pepe joked, “But can she help Gilligan get off the island?”