Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Macon County Sheriff’s K-9 officer Craig Stahl brought home his future partner Conan when Conan was just a puppy. The Belgian Malinois was coal black with an “antenna tail and huge pointy ears” as a pup and was born into a life of service. Stahl was the only handler Conan had ever known and at almost 10 years old, Conan took his last ride as a K-9 officer on Tuesday, with a full police escort and his handler and best friend by his side.

Conan was accompanied by members of local fire departments, EMS, and law enforcement on Tuesday as he made his last walk into the vet’s office.  His entire K9 family, the narcotics division of the Sheriff’s Office, Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland and his “at home family” were all at his side as he passed away peacefully in Craig and Racheal’s arms.

All of the MCSO K9 healthcare is provided by Dr. Stagnitta at Franklin Veterinary Hospital in Franklin. Conan had to be put down yesterday afternoon after being diagnosed with prostate cancer only a short time ago. Conan’s official end of watch was April 4, 2017.

“As a former K9 officer I know the bond an officer has with his four-legged partner,” said Sheriff Holland. “No one can actually understand it unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. It’s like losing a member of your family.  A K9 officer actually spends more time with their K9 than their own family.  Conan was loved by his family… a true asset to our agency and without a doubt he made a difference in our community.  He will be missed by us all.”

Conan was certified in narcotics work in the fall of 2008 and then made “full patrol” in the fall of 2012, and has only served with the MCSO K9 unit. He was sworn in on Sept. 9, 2013, with an official badge and title of “officer,” which is recognized by the state of N.C.

More than just a K-9 officer, Conan was a member of the Stahl family.

“He always brought smiles to everyone’s face, protective of his ‘family.’ He hated cats, and if one of his family was sick he would remain at their side and watch over them,” said the Stahls.

He was an alarm clock for his “mommy,” Racheal, but he always let his daddy sleep, they said. Conan loved playing in the snow, loved his Kong and fire hose, and loved playing tug-o-war with anyone that would try.

“He was awesome enough to attack a grown man for the job and gentle enough to turn loose in an elementary classroom,” said Racheal. “He was a super loud snorer and was excellent at narcotics detection.”

Conan has been credited with several narcotics “finds” and with keeping the community safe over his years of service.  He was even on patrol half of a shift the night before he passed. MCSO K-9 dogs have a drive that is bred into them and they don’t quit, no matter the pain they are feeling or how sick they are.  They live to work and serve.

“Part of me left as I watched Conan pass in our loving arms, but Conan gave his all to me and even though he’s gone now he will definitely not be forgotten,” said Craig. “He will always hold a special place in everyone’s heart that knew him. He was and always will be Daddy’s best big buddy.”

Conan leaves behind his faithful handler Craig Stahl, his “Mom” Racheal Stahl, and three four-legged brothers and one two legged sister.