BUZZARDS BAY — After Yarmouth police K-9 Officer Sean Gannon was shot and killed in a Marstons Mills home last week, his four-legged partner, Nero, was trapped in the attic, alone until his rescue except for the man accused of killing Gannon.
Since then, a community of K-9 officers has made sure the 28-month-old Belgian Malinois with gunshot wounds to his head and neck hasn’t been alone for a moment. On Sunday night, at Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Buzzards Bay where he is convalescing, Nero dozed with bandages on his legs and his head on the lap of Barnstable police Officer Sean Roycroft, one of dozens of K-9 or former K-9 officers to stand vigil over the dog since the shooting.
“We lost one of our very good friends, and this is his partner, and he got shot and we just need him to get better. We’re focusing on him to get him better and it helps us to get better too,” Roycroft said in a small room inside the veterinarian hospital’s busy intensive care unit.
If there are any bright spots for the Yarmouth Police Department in the past several days, they have come in the outpouring of community support and Nero’s survival.
“He’s one of our children,” said Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson.
Frederickson said the relationship between a police dog and its handler is more than he can understand, not being a dog person, but when he went to visit Nero for the first time Sunday, he left in better spirits.
“I felt like a million dollars,” he said.
Most people don’t understand the bond between a handler and a K-9, said Yarmouth police K-9 Officer Michael Kramer.
“Just like we would an officer, we have been maintaining a 24-hour vigil,” he said, adding that between 20 and 30 different K-9 officers or people with connections to K-9 officers have stayed with Nero since the shooting.
Dogs that do police work are often going into dangerous situations, Kramer said. Nero is a patrol dog and serves a variety of functions, including locating, tracking, finding and apprehending suspects, he said.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Kramer was among the officers who went into the Marstons Mills home after the shooting to help retrieve Nero. When Nero came out, he was wagging his tail, Kramer said.
“He got shot in the face and he’s just a tough son-of-a-bitch,” he said.
Nero was stabilized at the scene of the Marstons Mills shooting by the Cape Cod Regional Law Enforcement Council SWAT Team and then taken to an emergency veterinary facility, according to a post from the Dennis Veterinary Hospital.
Retired Yarmouth police K-9 Officer Peter McClelland was called in because he had helped raise and train Nero, Kramer said.
“He has steadfastly refused to leave Nero,” Kramer said about McClelland.
He would have stayed with Nero anyway, because of who he is, but that additional bond drove McClelland to be even more adamant about standing watch over the dog, Kramer said.
McClelland, who served 32 years on the force, 29 as a K-9 handler, is a legend in the K-9 community, Kramer said.
Nero is doing well, said Kramer, who called Gannon “simply the best.”
“He’s not out of the woods but he’s seeing the edge of the woods,” he said about Nero.
Nero is looking great after having gone through surgery Friday, said Nero’s veterinarian, Kevin Smith, of Hyannis Animal Hospital in West Yarmouth.
The bullet entered through Nero’s cheek and traveled through his trachea and esophagus, but didn’t touch his jaw bone, lodging under his shoulder where it will probably stay, Smith said.
Veterinarian Edward Kochin, of Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists, had to repair Nero’s trachea in two spots and use material from the dog’s muscle to repair the esophagus, a procedure not many people could perform, Smith said.
In a post on the Yarmouth Police Department’s Facebook page, Nero is shown walking.
“The men and women of the Yarmouth Police Department are proud to report that our beloved K9 NERO is back on his feet — FIGHTING back and standing STRONG!,” the post says.
— Follow Patrick Cassidy on Twitter: @PCassidyCCT. Tanner Stening contributed to this report.