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His Dog Days Are Over

Gresham police dog to retire this month after nearly 10 years
by: Lauren Gold Nico, 11, has been working with the Gresham Police Department for 9 and a half years, and with Officer Jared McGowan since January 2004. Nico will retire this month.

Though he has assisted in more than 300 suspect captures in his nearly 10 years with the Gresham Police Department, when it comes down to it, Nico is just a dog.

'He never quiets down in the back of the car,' Nico's handler Officer Jared McGowan said. 'He is always barking.'

But that doesn't mean he's not successful on the job.

'I know he's always ready to work, and that's all I can ask,' McGowan said.

Nico, who is an 11 1/2 year old Czechoslovakian shepherd, will retire from the force this month. As one of only two dogs working with Gresham Police, he has been with Officer Jared McGowan since January 2004, and for two years before that was with Officer Don Gibson.

Nico is trained to focus on human odor. He can follow human tracks and discriminate against cross tracks. In addition, he can detect human scent on articles such as guns, clothing or knives. With these skills, he and McGowan are sent out on any case in which suspects are thought to have left on foot.

During his career, Nico assisted in capturing 318 suspects. With McGowan, he has accounted for 67 misdemeanor and 181 felony arrests, has helped recover $49,587 worth of stolen property and located 12 firearms.

Though McGowan has trouble finding a favorite moment from Nico's time with the force, he did cite a particular shooting at a 7-Eleven about two years ago that stood out.

'Basically, all we had was that (the suspect) ran in a certain direction,' McGowan said.

That night, Nico found a watch buried in the ground and a gun hidden in a paper sack behind a trailer, which led to a fingerprint extraction, identification and capture of the suspect within 36 hours of the incident.

'The most gratification I get is finding people I know nobody would have found if it wasn't for the dog,' McGowan said.

The partners' success does not come without hard work. The team has had to undergo more than 2,000 hours of training together, including a 400-hour initial base training and maintenance training every Wednesday night.

'Nobody else is able to work Nico,' McGowan said. 'We are specific to our partners. I am able to pick up on his behavior more than someone else would.'

With a career four to five years longer than most police dogs, Nico can now retire his badge and live out the rest of his days with someone from the department.

'They can just let him be a dog,' McGowan said. 'Let him enjoy his time at home and not have to always be obedient.'

The police department will hold a retirement party for Nico on Tuesday, July 26. McGowan will begin training a new dog on Aug. 15.

After working through pursuits, training and injuries for many years, it has come time for him to hand over the leash to a younger dog.

'He's slowing down. The last thing I want to do is break him,' McGowan said. 'Nico is a really good dog. He has worked hard for a lot of years.'