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Austintown police dog dies of cancer

Published: Thu, April 28, 2011 @ 12:04 a.m.


Special to The Vindicator.Austintown police said goodbye to Conan, a 71Ú2 year-old German shepherd, on Tuesday. Conan, who was brought to the department in 2007 and worked with officer Justin Coulter, died of an aggressive tumor that spread throughout his body. Coulter described Conan as his best friend and said the dog was wonderful to work with..

By Elise Franco



Township police said goodbye Tuesday to one of their own.

Conan, the department’s 7 1/2-year-old German shepherd, died Tuesday after battling an aggressive tumor that spread throughout his body, said Chief Bob Gavalier.

The dog joined the department in 2007 and bonded quickly with his handler, officer Justin Coulter, who said Conan was wonderful to work with.

“He was my best friend,” Coulter said. “He was a blast to work with, and we had a lot of success together.”

Between May 2007 and February 2011, Coulter and Conan had 37 felony and 185 misdemeanor arrests and conducted 485 narcotic searches, according to a news release issued Wednesday by Gavalier.

The pair also confiscated several handguns during traffic stops and seized about $61,000 in U.S. currency due to Conan’s ability to detect narcotic odors.

Gavalier said Austintown now has one police dog, Neo, who has been with the department for about six months. He said Conan will be missed by everyone at the department.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “Having a K-9 in the past, it’s something that we know can happen.”

Coulter said after handling Conan for nearly four years, he hopes the department will be able to acquire another police dog.

“I was a first-time handler, and I’d really like to be able to continue,” he said.

Gavalier said new police dogs cost about $15,000, and he’s looking into funding to replace their fallen friend. He said if the money isn’t available through the police department’s general fund, they’ll look for ways to raise the funds.

“The passing of [Conan] was unexpected for officer Coulter and the Austintown Police Department,” he said. “No decision has been made at this time whether the department is able to replace this valuable asset to the community.”


1rdl50(22 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Rest in peace Conan. God has a special place for you in heaven.

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2assiseeit(36 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

RIP Conan. God Bless his handler.

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3cheybaby2(102 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

That's a Very Short life span for a German shepherd. most live to be 12-15 yrs old. Way to short. I think id go somewhere else for another trained dog.. Nice Looking Dog Looks just like my Hilda. God Speed .

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4lilgandee(103 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I am sorrt for your loss. It is sad the sudden loss of Conan and how loved he was is such a blessing with all the animals abused and discarded. My condolences to Officer Coulter and the APD and ur city.

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5MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Before I drowned in all the dog lover tears I just have to go on record as saying that there is no such thing as "doggy heaven". The mere notion of such a thing disgust me as a human, a catholic, an American, and a soldier. You people who harbor this type of sentiment are the same type liberal pieces of work that won't lose a minutes sleep over my men and I when we go into harms way. Bunch of double talking bible thumpers who curse men like me six ways to Sunday and go to pieces over a working dog? Give me a break. I grew up in a kennel. I own dogs. They're tools for protection and hunting. You maintain them like any other property. They get a tumor, you put a bullet in their head and dig a whole. I wouldn't have to explain that if this country didn't have misplaced emotions and mixed up priorities.$15k for a dog and they want another by any means necessary. Yet, I'll bet they don't pass that school levy in May. Soft. Just soft.

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6mommaof2(25 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Wow MattMarzula - what a piece of work you are! God forbid someone should feel a different way than you. How dare you slam someone else's belief just because you are too much of a pig to open your eyes to the fact that just maybe you DONT know it all!! I feel so bad for those dogs you call your property...im sure they have never known any compassion from you and for that I'm sorry. I hope in your next life (provided you aren't burning in h*ll) you come back as a poor defenseless dog that has an owner JUST LIKE YOU!

RIP Conan...

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7mommaof2(25 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Oh...and before you claim that I'm one of those "double talking bible thumpers" think again...I just have respect for others and their beliefs.

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8janedoe1(3 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Officer Coulter. May you be blessed with another canine friend in the future.

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9donna6(1 comment)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Dearest Matt Marzula:
You are a heartless, ignorant, and irresponsible pet owner. I hope to God that someone removes your "property" aka animals as I am sure they are treated without love or respect, which in turn is the way you should be treated. No one said anything about lack of sympathy for soldiers, humans, etc. Animals have been used for protection and have aided the military and should be respected and thanked for the work and the role they play in helping our soldiers protect our country. "Put a bullet in their head"??? Wow- hope someone who reads this and knows you calls the local police to have your "militia" removed so you can't put a bullet anywhere. Animals are often more sympathetic and loving than the members of this sick, twisted society we now are a part of of, and you appear to be a leader of the sick and twisted.

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10AtownParent(565 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"I grew up in a kennel" - someone should put you back in it to keep you from posting insensitive rants like the one above.

Conan was a police officer. He was a partner and a friend. RIP Conan and my thoughts are with Officer Coulter.

I believe the APD should do a fundraiser to get a new dog. As a resident, I like knowing we have K-9 patrols. I like knowing those dogs are working hard to keep drugs out of our schools. I would be happy to support a fundraiser for a new k-9 officer.

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11lilgandee(103 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Matt-I am a republican who believes in family values. There is no draft you sign up to defend our country (though with you I think its the enjoyment of brutallity). I thank all soldiers but I believe our nation u defend needs to look at what we have become. I love my dogs they are loving, goofy and all around great 2 have. If u don't feel that you should consider an alarm system and hunt alone! Be thankful they can't return fire! You really shouldn't get time from any of us since you will NEVER understand.

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12boxerlover(133 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

To the Austintown PD and Mr. Coulter I am sorry for your loss. RIP Conan.

To Mr. (and I use that term VERY loosely) Marzula, please pray you never get cancer and someone puts a "bullet in your head" and digs a HOLE (note spelling) and drops you in it. You say dogs are property trained for protection. You as a soldier are trained for our protection and THAT scares me. You say this "country and it's misplaced emotions and priorities", then why are you a soldier defending this country? If more people thought the way you do than the rest of us in the country with its misplaced emotions we would be in sadder shape than we are now.

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13walter_sobchak(2306 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I would hope the APD puts on a fund raiser for a new K-9. With I-80 cutting through the twp. and the quantity of narcotics on it, it is necessary. Look at the amount of money seized using this piece of property.

To MattMarzula,
I, too, have trouble with the way Disney protrays animals in their fantasies. We tend to ascribe too much human emotion to animals. But, then again, you appear to be one sick b@stard. The 15k is because they have special training for drug sniffing. What about the K-9's the military trains and uses to find wounded people in the rubble of buildings? How much do they cost? On second thought, just go fu[l{ yourself!

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14MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Keep proving my point. Not one of you dreamers has what it takes to do what I do. I make a broad realistic statement that should open your eyes to how people place more importance on a dead dog that effectively lived well into old age but none of you seem to care when young men and women get shipped home in pieces after sacrificing their life on the alter of freedom. The same freedom that let's you misguided people choose to pray for and support a dog over a soldier. Before you damn me, take a look at yourselves. I stand for what I believe in. I prove it every day. If you believe animals exist in heaven; blasphemy. If you think that dog, (that by the way lived better than some people you may know) is more important than a human being; That is inhumane. Sure we use dogs for all sorts of military applications. Mostly because they're better at them and disposable. But you're confusing work animals with pets. They're bred and trained for a purpose. We could have dell with several thousand mines in Afghanistan and other places around the world with rats, dogs, and monkeys. But no. All you bleeding hearts said it was inhumane and should be left up to people to clear them. And sleep well because people are clearing mines you'll never have to worry about. Many of them children. I see you're emotions are pretty stirred up. Probably want an apology or someone to cry with you? Tough. I stand by my assessment and use my real name like a man. I'm not hard to find. I can talk about sensitivity issues, cost effective employment of assets, and animal rights all day. But, because of the simple fact you would ascribe anger and curse one of your own for telling the truth, it affirms my suspicions that few if any of you are really worth the time and effort it takes to do what I do. So wish your ills, fling your curses, fan my flames, testify to a weak moral fiber, and show your true colors.

I seriously hope this burns your chapped and sensitive backsides.
I remember my first tour. We had 10 dogs on a small Iraqi base I was living on. In 9 months it was 120 diseased, vicious, and dying dogs. Well, PFC Marzula had to shoot one that was attacking Iraqi soldiers who had managed to corral it in some fence materials. I caught hell from a couple of Captains on the team. Animal lovers. But luckily, Majors outrank Captains and told the both of them I could shoot any dog I wanted because it was my primary job on that team to shoot people who were a threat and they wanted my skills up. At the high point, we had about 120 diseased and vicious muts that would eat each other. But even muts are smart. I probably got a dozen or so until the rest simply left the base.

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15DRoseA1962(2 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Wow! Who peed in your lemonade? Your comment that "not one of us dreamers has what it takes to do what you do"....if that is supposed to be an insult you failed miserably! I thank God I am nothing like you! My family members who have served our country are nothing like you...my Catholic faith has taught me to be nothing like you and my strong faith and devotion as an American to this country has made me proud to be nothing like you! You are a seriously angry and disturbed individual and I will pray for you, because you are in some serious need of prayer! How thankful I am that most people I know respect ALL life; whether human or animal! I feel sorry for you!

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16MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

You know, you anonymous internet users never fail to disappoint. You'll avoid the real issues, make personal attacks, communicate threats, play devils advocate, and generally act tougher than you are. In 27 months of overseas combat and for 5 years of active service I didn't use the internet unless it was job related. I missed the social media wave. But I get it. In the two years I've reintegrated into this community I have found you're mostly fake unscrupulous and argumentative cry-babies who'll change your tune to whatever gets the most ears listening. The funny part? The guy with convictions and character just peaked the most interest by saying the truth. You want to run your man-pleasers like your emotion based opinions have credence, go right on ahead. I'm done on this story. It's a dead dog. There is no dog heaven. It was a tool employed by the city not a pet. The point of the story breaks down to basic cost analysis. Appropriate funds for the purchase, maintenance, and care of an animal that yields results for basically half the annual salary of a recruit while men and women are being laid off and a school levy is being voted on. Or, have a donation set up for Conan 2 which I'm sure all of you fiscally responsible citizens will bend over for. The news paper just raised the public awareness and basically wrote the check by tugging your heart strings. This is why tax payers get hosed. They don't understand the reality of things.

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17MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Herst I believe said it best: (I'm paraphrasing) If you want to sell something use a pretty woman, a child, or a dog.
Dog+cancer+your emotional gulibility = money. Put it on the ballet, no one cares. Put it in the paper with a soft-hearted story everyone tramples each other to cry out support. Take a step back. This is media. You're being advertised too.

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18MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Yeah I ment ballot...

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19u149(1 comment)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Hi everyone...This is Justin coulter Conans handler. I want to thank everyone for their prayers and best wishes. Conan was a great partner and did alot more than just narcotics work. Conan would protect me with his life as he was trained to do. He was more than just a work dog no matter what matt says.He was loved and he was very loyal to me. matt u are entitled to your opinion and i will respect that but i would like to talk one day and explain what Conan and my bond was like.Maybe i wont change your mind but i would like the oppurtunity to try.And i will say this. Conan would have been there for you as i would have if you needed the police .Conan would have given his life for u if the circumstances had come up.and matt thankyou for defending our country and giving me freedom so that i can enjoy my life and oppurtunities to work with a partner like conan.Thankyou

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20Ginger76(178 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

To All, some people get or they don't. It's very sad.

Justin, I'm certain you know that all our prayers are with you, your family and the APD.

....and if there are no dogs in heaven, that ain't my idea of heaven. Run free!!

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21MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

@149: Whether or not you're Officer Coulter is a burden of proof I leave to you. At least you are being reasonable. I have worked with several working dogs. Bomb, drug, and corpse sniffing as well as rehabilitative animals. The biggest problem we had was people wanting to touch them and treat them like pets. The exception of course being the rehab dogs that you're supposed to fraternize with. My beef is the detachment people have with reality. Conan in the broader sense of the news was a justifiable expense and city owned property. If you're department can not authorize the money for another working dog I seriously see a flaw in the American psyche to gather them through donations from the public through sentimental hogwash.
@R1200GS: Part of the problem is people gathering their concepts of real life human beings from movie portrayals of composite characters. Thanks for the spelling lesson. But since I gave up walking on pins and needles a long time ago, I fail to see how the point is any less clear.
@ The Rest of You: I am seriously done with this thread. My points have all been made and proven. You're part of a society that wants to have your cake, eat it, and have it catered to you. We had a saying during training most of you couldn't comprehend. It was "Roll over the weak". Let that sink in. Think about what you would do when instructed to roll over people in your way. You would most likely fail. The successful ones would push the weak out in front and not crush them to get ahead. When you can understand the difference you can begin to understand people like me.

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22cambridge(3452 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago


Get some help Major Matt.

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23lilgandee(103 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Officer Coulter I am sorry that this turned into a battle with whose right or wrong. This is a time for you to remember the memorable things you did with Conan and in that memory I hope you find peace you had many years with him. Sorry for it all going out of control but I respect your fallen officer and condolences again for you, your family and APD.
Melissa Gandee

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24DRoseA1962(2 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Officer Coulter, I too am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved partner Conan. I pray for comfort for you and your family and I thank you and Conan for your service to others. May Conan rest in peace. I commend you for reaching out to Matt. I agree that he is entitled to his opinion, just as the rest of us are. I do feel he could have expressed his opinion in a more respectful manner. You are a true gentleman and I pray for comfort and healing. Rest in peace Conan and thank you for your service.

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25walter_sobchak(2306 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Officer Coulter,
I hope you are comforted by the good memories that your companion Conan provided you during your valiant work together. I found the following prayer on the website of the Diocese of San Jose that may help ease your burden of the untimely loss, in spite of what some of the heartless would believe.

In the name of God the Father,
who created you and all the animals,
in the name of Jesus the Son,
who spoke of you in parables and stories,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
in whom every creature lives, moves, and has their being,
go now in peace, dear friend.

May you find rest near refreshing waters,
may you lie in cool, green pastures,
and may you warm yourself under the sun that never sets.

You have been my constant companion,
my shadow and confidante,
my comfort and playmate.
You filled my days with life and brought me endless joy.
For this I give thanks to God who gave you to me.

Now return to your Maker who eagerly waits for you
as you waited for me at the end of each day.

In the Father’s arms, let there be no more pain.
Let there be no more suffering.
Let there be only light as it was on the day God created you.

For our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever. Amen.

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26dlj2011(2 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I wish just like to let you know officer coulter that you are in mine and my families prayers. I am his neighbor and I know for a fact that he loved that dog and the dog loved him. They really were a great pair. He always stopped home frequently to make sure the dog had fresh water and so the dog could go to the bathroom. He also cleaned the cruiser after every shift they went on. I truly believe that dog would have done anything to protect him. I know what it feels like to lose a dog suddenly and it truly saddens me the way Mr. Marzula acted. No one ever said that just because we all care and are affected by the loss of officer coulters partner and best friend doesn't mean that we don't respect the sacrifice that you and your men have made for this country. I thank you for fighting for my freedom, just please show some respect and let him grieve and remember his dog in peace and give him a chance to let him explain what this dog meant to him. Also, I would be gladly willing to help set up some fundraisers to help the APD raise money to get him a knew k-9 companion because he is the perfect officer for such a job and he puts 125% effort into the job. Again, you are in my prayers!

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27HasTheWorldGoneMad(3 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

WOWWY! Must have been a slow news day? I was reading this article as a follow up to the first time they printed it. All I wanted to say was that the lady who thinks German Shepherds live to be 15 years old was crazy. Then I read some of the other post and I can tell that she's not the only one. Some of you need to Butch-up. Now I know Youngstown has some gang problems but man alive I didn't know they had internet gangs!!! lol.
Anyway, you folks don't know much about working dogs. I was working on a bison ranch in Idaho a few years ago before I followed some college girl back here. That ain't the story. The story is we had a German Shepherd mix I raised and named O'boise. Not a bad herd dog. But he kept eating the kittens. Now it is holding some down and breaking their spines and crunching them up like they were snacks. This was the second time and the boss told me the first time if it happened again, I had to do something. Well, I took O'boise out the next day like we were hunting. Dropped a pig ear on the ground for him and turned his lights out with my .22 Hornet. Now I raised that dog and he was a good worker. But he damn sure wasn't a pet. I don't like cats much, but if you'd have seen that dog tearing into those kittens and heard those sounds, you'd have left him for the coyotes too. A dog is a dog is a dog. The Creator isn't allowing beast in heaven. Anyone saying otherwise has gone mad.

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28dlj2011(2 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

maybe it wasn't the dog, maybe it was the owner mr. world has gone mad!

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