By JOE GORMAN
YOUNGSTOWN — One of the police department’s first police dogs had to be put down over the weekend.
Ninja, who had been on the force since 2007, had to be euthanized Sunday because of complications from kidney failure, police officials said Tuesday.
Ninja was almost 9 years old. His handler, Patrolman Michael Anderson, said in an email Tuesday: “Not much to say except he was an awesome dog and excellent in his work as a police canine. All the way to the end I could see in his eyes that he wanted to please me but could no longer do so.”
Anderson also added that saying goodbye to his partner and friend was one of the hardest things he has had to do.
“Going to miss my canine, Ninja,” Anderson wrote.
Ninja joined the department in March 2007 and was 2 when he was paired with Anderson. Ninja also was part of a wave that saw four dogs join the department that year. Now, from that class, the only dog left is Helo, who works with Patrolman Josh Kelly.
Lt. Frank Rutherford had one of the dogs, but he is no longer a dog handler since being promoted from detective sergeant. Former officer Ron Jankowski, who is on medical disability, was the other handler.
In November, the department added three dogs. Their handlers are officers Jessica Shields, Nick Bailey and Martin Stachowicz.
Police Chief Robin Lees said Ninja was a valuable asset to the department and will be missed.
“It’s a credit to Ninja that we extended the canine program because of the success by him and the other dogs,” Lees said.
Over the years Ninja had quite an eventful career and had been used to find drugs during traffic stops. He also was assaulted by a man in February 2012 who tried to run from a traffic stop.
Anderson and Ninja have received several departmental awards for their work over the years.
Capt. Kevin Mercer, who is Anderson’s supervisor, said it is not yet known if the department will have a memorial service for Ninja. He said Ninja will be cremated, and Anderson will be allowed to keep his ashes.
Mercer said Ninja had been sick for some time.
“He [Ninja] had some ongoing issues he’d been battling,” Mercer said.
Because of Anderson’s job as a union official, he often worked days and there were usually two dogs on the day shift with Kelly also working. Now there will just be one police dog on day turn, Mercer said.
Ninja is the first of the department’s dogs who joined in 2007 to have died, Mercer said. The others were retired.