Goodbye Jessy. We will miss you....

Goodbye to Our Original Hero On Paws
by Kathy Garcia
Thanksgiving morning at 9:30 Officer Julie Schmidt said her final goodbyes to her long time partner, K-9 Jessy who had been battling cancer. Wednesday night Julie knew things were not going well for her friend. Jessy's back leg had again swollen, she was retaining fluid, & was in pain. In her heart, Julie knew the cancer was back.
Making that trip to the vet, she made that difficult decision, giving Jessy her final selfless gift. Julie whispered in Jessy's ear, reminiscing over all the bad guys they caught & drugs they found...about what a great police dog & true friend she was. Jessy wagged her tail one last time as she listened to Julie's voice, then she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Jessy passed with peace & dignity, free at last from her pain.
I received the call while on my way to my Dad's for Thanksgiving. My first thought was "What a terrible day to loose such a wonderful dog! How could any of us bear it?"
But then it dawned on me, what better day to say goodbye? As I searched my heart to find what I could be thankful for on this sad day I could almost feel that secret nudge from a malinois nose, our secret from Julie, that there were treats in my pockets for Jessy. (Really, Julie knew what we were up to & we would both suffer from that look, the roll of the eyes, & then Julie pretending nothing was going on)
But that angelic nudge by my pocket prompted me to reflect on many fond memories of Jessy. Along with my tears, I found my smile & knew that I am thankful this day, that a scrappy police dog with one flop ear that I called her boink ear came into my life seven years ago as well as the lives of my daughter & the 4-H Dog Club kids of KY. What a fabulous life this little dog had & what a positive impact she had on so many people!
Julie was not Jessy's first handler. Another officer had her before. But he was involved in several wrecks while on the job with Jessy. Jessy suffered severe injuries & after healing was not keen on working for him. She was returned to the K-9 Kennels she was purchased from. There Julie found her. The connection was instant. The little Malinois that hated riding in cars would jump in for Julie, ready for duty. They had a wonderful career together. Jessy captured & located numerous bad guys. She had countless drug finds. One summer when an elderly woman wandered away & became lost, Jessy was called in to help search, almost seven days after her disappearance. On that hot July 4th Jessy would not give in until she succeeded, bringing much needed closure to the woman's grateful family.
Julie & Jessy competed on several occasions in the Police K-9 Olympics in Muncie, IN. Their photo made the AP press as Julie finished the final part of the obstacle coarse which required her to carry Jessy over the finish line. This was quite a feat. Jessy had been spayed weeks before & Julie had injured her back while lifting Jessy onto the vet's table to have her staples removed.
I had the pleasure of going to their last K-9 Olympics. I promised Julie I would get some good photos of Jessy. I was allowed on the obstacle course, high on a hill the two would soon be charging up. As Jessy topped the steep hill with Julie huffing & puffing behind her, her eyes locked on mine. With a sloppy malinois grin I saw a twinkle in her eyes. I held my breath, praying she would not A) see me as a target...which I really wasn't too concerned over, or B) come give me one of her many biggest concern. But on she charged past me & down the hill to tackle that "bad guy in the bite suit"! He really was just asking for it after all. I realized her look was more along the lines of "get a load of this & make sure you get my good side!"
Jessy was long used to me & my camera. We met when my daughter started a project to buy bullet proof vests for police dogs. When Julie learned about Stephanie's 4-H project she contacted us, ready to help, knowing we would need a police dog to prove we were legit. Thus began our long collaboration with Stephanie's Heroes On Paws Project as well as our friendship.   
Over these past seven years I have lost track of the many early morning trips to the various TV stations to talk about the vest program, fund raisers, etc. We didn't miss a single one! With the help & support of Julie, K-9 Jessy, & the kids of the 4-H Dog Clubs, Stephanie & her project won many awards & gained National recognition. Jessy was there for every award to share it with Stephanie. One of my fondest memories was at the Bell Awards. I have a photo of Julie (not me this time!) feeding cheese cake off her fork to Jessy!
Jessy earned her own share of awards for her work including the Pet Groups United Police Dog Award of Excellence. She became a very popular dog, featured on the cover of Today's Woman Magazine, appearing in several issues of WOW Girlz Magazine, modeling the latest in police wear in a supply catalog, the list goes on.
Jessy always attended the numerous Heroes On Paws Fund Raisers put on by our 4-H Dog Club. She was a perfect ambassador for the police dept. I loved watching small kids walk up to her. With a grin she would accept their pats & hugs. I never tired of the awe on their little faces as they touched "a real live police dog". Always at the K-9 booth at the KY March Cluster, she handled herself with dignity & grace, bringing the support of the LKC to the K-9 Unit.
One of my fondest memories was one of our 4-H fund raisers early on. Stephanie's 4-H dog had passed away in Stephanie's arms the night before from AIHA. Not wanting to let down the police dogs, Stephanie insisted on attending the event. But Jessy knew something was wrong with Stephanie. That day she ignored Julie, sticking to Stephanie like glue, resting her head in her lap any time she sat down. Jessy helped Stephanie get through one of the hardest days of her young life. For that I will always be grateful. 
Social & friendly Jessy was, but on the many photo shoots I did with her, I saw the business end of her as well. This was one dog any perp in their right mind did not want to tangle with! She knew the difference between social events & work. I never tired of photographing her in action, then having her prance over to me for a hug & secret treat. I will always remain in awe of her.
My memories keep pouring in at random like a damn that has been breached. Each one brings tears along with smiles. My heart aches along with Julie's. We have been sending email memories back & forth.
With Jessy's phantom nudge I realize that her passing leaves us with much to be thankful for. She brought my young daughter into adulthood helping her grow into a confidant, strong young woman who loves her dogs & enjoys working with them. She has done the same for many of our 4-H youth. She has inspired us. As "poster dog" for Stephanie's Heroes On Paws, she has helped raise funds to assist countless fellow police K9s. And she has been a shining K-9 ambassador. A successful career Police dog.
She was our "bikini dog", loving to relax by Julie's pool. She was our "Supah Stah" famous K-9! She was our original Hero On Paws. For all of us who's lives she touched, we have much to be thankful for in that scrappy smiling police dog with the one boink ear.
Good speed to you K-9 Jessy. I know you will be there to greet us all when our time comes to join you on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.
Pet Groups United Fur Ball Winners. Stephanie won the Youth Award of Excellence, K-9 Jessy won the service Dog Award of Excellence. 2 of our 4-H dog received honorable mentions for Pet Therapy & for Hero Dog











Jessy during the Blessing of the Animals at one of our many Heroes On Paws Mutt Marches












Jefferson Co 4-H Dog Club Drill Team, State Winners for their Heroes On Paws Tribute Drill Routine.











Our last K-9 Olympics











The vest program earns the 4-H Community Pride Award.












Officer Julie Schmidt & K-9 Jessy














K-9 Jessy gives another interview to Susan Sweeny at one of our many 4-H fund raising booths for Heroes On Paws.














Story By:
Kathy Garcia
Louisville, KY

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