GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (Atlanta Now News at 10) – Gwinnett County’s newest officer is a K9 named Sika, whose special skills put her ahead of the pack.

Sika enjoyed lots of attention, including but not limited to belly rubs, at a press conference announcing her role with the Gwinnett County Police Department. The 16-month-old Hanoverian and Plott hound mix is unlike the department’s other K9s, which are trained to be aggressive and serve a dual purpose: apprehension and detection. She’s strictly a search dog.

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“Every dog has its good days and its bad days, but she’s been very successful,” said her handler, Sergeant Brandon Townley. She made her first “arrest” on Monday, tracking down Nicholas Rohrer, a hit and run suspect who was hiding in a chicken coup.

“These guys get their dogs and they go out in the woods and they go out after the worst of the worst,” said K9 Unit Supervisor Sergeant Brian Doan. It takes months of training before the handlers and their K9 partners are certified, and the training never stops. “We all know the dangers of this job, but it’s especially dangerous for a K9,” Doan said. “We don’t know what we’re going up against and we’re always at a disadvantage because these people are in an ambush position,” he added.

The unit had its share of challenges just before Sika arrived, including several instances of suspects shooting at officers and their K9s.

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K9 Kai was recently shot several times, and Atlanta Now’s Valencia Jones was there when officers celebrated his release from the hospital. Kai lost his leg, but not his spunk. “He acts like nothing’s going on, nothing’s missing. He’s just ready to rock and roll always,” said Corporal Aaron Carlyle, K9 Kai’s handler and a unit trainer. Kai now spends his days at home with his Carlyle family, being spoiled rotten.

K9 Sika will not only track criminals, she’ll track affection. She’s allowed to attend public events in the community. “She is very friendly. She hasn’t met a stranger yet through anything that she’s done. I’ve gotten her out for a couple of social events already,” Townley said.

The first line of Sika’s K9 resume is already written: always ready to work, play and plant kisses.

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GCPD’s K9s have tracked and helped officers catch 80 suspects so far this year. The department now has 10 K9s and works with other law enforcement agencies around the county, including the Duluth Police Department, which has four dog teams. Snellville police have two K9s, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office has four, Lilburn has one, and Lawrenceville has four K9s.