Using a police term, Colt had his "end of watch" in a place he was very familiar with.

The oldest of the Stow Police Department's three K-9s died Oct. 19 from complications of leukemia while in the police cruiser he rode around in with his handler and partner Sgt. Steve Miller. He was 8 and was the first Stow police K-9 to die while still on active duty.

"He will be missed," said Mayor Sara Kline. "He was a valued member of the department. He was so loved by Sgt, Miller and his family so I know they will miss him tremendously as well. It certainly leaves a hole in the city community and we will hopefully find a way to remember him and honor his memory."

Miller said Colt began showing signs that something was wrong just six days before his death.

"It started on the 13th," said Miller. "Initially, he had no energy. Didn't want to go up the steps. They found he had a fever and was dehydrated."

Miller said Colt was diagnosed with leukemia on Oct. 17. Over the following two days, Miller was scheduled to take part in K-9 training in Wapakoneta in west central Ohio. The training was for handlers only, but Miller took the terminally ill Colt to be with him and he died on the second day of the training.

Miller said that up until Oct. 13, Colt had seemed fine. His last day on patrol was Sept. 28. The next week, Miller and Colt went to Michigan for training and the week after that, Miller took part in SWAT training.

He said his previous dog, Knight, did not retire until he was 10, in 2010, and he hoped it would be the same with Colt.

"I was hoping to get a couple more years," said Miller. "It all depends on their physicals. How they are."

Police Chief Jeff Film said the department is looking at acquiring another dog (see story on Page 4).

On the job for

more than six years

Colt, a German Shepherd, was born in the Czech Republic on June 25, 2008, according to a biography provided by the department. He was bred to have a strong drive for work and when testing confirmed he possessed that trait, he was imported into the United States by Wapakoneta-based Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds, which specializes in training police K-9s. Colt was trained in narcotics detection, tracking, handler detection and evidence search. After he and Miller went through six weeks of training, they were certified through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers on April 16, 2010 and began working together. In all, Colt logged more than 1,000 hours of training and more than 400 deployments in his career. He has successfully located burglars in homes, tracking robbery and theft suspects and finding narcotics in vehicles and buildings.

"Colt not only gave back to the community by protecting it but was a big part of being a positive figure to the students in the Stow schools and those he came to meet in the community," says his biography. "Colt was always at Sgt. Miller's side with his bone in his mouth when they would go to the elementary schools and Sgt. Miller would read 'Officer Buckle and Gloria' or talk about safety to the students."

Colt was 'happy

go-lucky'

Miller said both Colt and Knight, who died in 2011, were sociable, but with a difference. Whereas Knight was trained to be sociable, Colt was born that way.

"He was the more social; happy go-lucky," said Miller. "He didn't mind being petted, playing around."

Miller, in fact, said because Colt was the first of the department's K-9s to be purchased through fund raising, he wanted an especially friendly dog.

"I knew he was going to do a lot of publicity stuff," said Miller.

In an Oct. 24 email, City Council Vice President Matt Riehl recalled the fund-raising drive.

"In addition to being a fantastic officer, Colt held a very special place in the hearts of our citizens," wrote Riehl. "Shortly after the Great Recession, K-9 Knight retired and we were informed that the city didn't have the funds to purchase and train a new K-9. Rather than go without, a group of us got together and created the Stow K-9 Donation Fund. Events were held, T-shirts were made, and the dollars started coming in. Residents, businesses, students, community organizations and even people from outside of Stow and Summit County chipped in to help. We not only met our fundraising goal, we crushed it. The citizens of Stow were thrilled to welcome Colt and it was a true example of a community coming together to help. Colt truly was the People's Dog. Colt will be deeply missed and my thoughts and prayers are with Sgt. Miller and the Stow Police Department."

Film praised Colt, adding that much of his success was due to Miller being "an excellent handler."

"I know that Colt has been an outstanding K-9 for our department," he said. "He had tremendous drive and discipline, absolutely amazing for our department."

Miller said that of all the types of deployments a K-9 goes out on, tracking suspects can be the most dramatic because the unexpected can easily happen.

"Those are the times when [the dogs] get it, get the game," he said.

He recalled one time when a woman, who had been operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, "blew through a stop sign" and crashed. After she fled from the scene on foot, Colt tracked her to where she was hiding behind a building. What made this feat impressive, said Miller, is that a number of people had been walking around the crash scene, something that will complicate picking up a scent, but Colt did it.

Miller recalled another incident, early on, that indicated his new partner was going to work out. A suspect who had been stealing television sets from Wal-Mart ran out the back of the store, Miller said Colt was by the book all the way, including standing still while Miller had the suspect lie on the ground while he was handcuffed.

"He did everything I asked him to do," said Miller. "We had just gotten on the road together."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9431

Facebook: Jeff Saunders Record