Yarmouth police Officer Sean Gannon’s K-9 partner is recovering “better than expected,” from being shot last Thursday, according to veterinarians.
Gannon and Nero were both struck by gunfire while serving an arrest warrant for Thomas M. Latanowich at a home in Barnstable Thursday.
Latanowich, 29, who was wanted for violating his probation, has been charged with Gannon’s murder and for wounding Nero.
The bullet that hit Nero entered under his jaw and went through his trachea and esophagus and then lodged in his back by his shoulder blade, according to Dr. Louisa Rahilly, medical director at Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Buzzards Bay.
She said Nero had to undergo “urgent surgery” on Friday to repair his trachea and esophagus. The bullet will remain in his body, she said.
“He’s doing great, but I wouldn’t call him out of the woods yet,” she said. “He’s recovering better than expected.”
Rahilly said if all goes well, he could make a full recovery, but they’re taking it day by day.
“He’s bright, alert, he’s comfortable, and he’s eating,” she said. “I think right now he’s on the road to a full recovery.”
Rahilly said the dog has been following commands and walking laps around the hospital, which makes him feel like he’s working. His appetite has improved and he’s been eating chicken more regularly, she said.
Rahilly said Nero has had many visitors. Police officers who are grieving the loss of Gannon have been a constant presence in the ICU.
“It’s healing for them to see him, and to see him recovering and improving,” she said.
Peter McClelland, a retired Yarmouth K-9 officer who trained Nero when he was a puppy, has been watching over Nero as he recovers.
Nero and Gannon were both shot at a home on Blueberry Lane in the village of Marstons Mills. McClelland said the dog was shot in the upper part of the house, and remained inside the home until police arrested Latanowich. “We didn’t even know where he was,” said McClelland. And when Nero was found, “we didn’t know the extent of his injuries.”
Sergeant Tom Hennessey, the supervisor of the K-9 unit, said Nero’s recovery means “we get to keep a piece of Sean.”
“The past two days he’s become more alert, he’s moving a lot more. You can see his old personality coming back, which is good,” said Hennessey. “It’s heartwarming for us to see him bouncing back.”
The story of Gannon’s death has been felt by residents all over the Cape, not just those in law enforcement. On Monday afternoon Julie Mauro and her 11-year-old daughter, Madison, drove from their home in Mashpee to the animal hospital in Buzzards Bay to bring blankets and toys for Nero and a home-cooked meal for those who are caring for him.
“To know the officers are keeping vigil there and never leaving his side...it really just struck a chord,” Mauro said. “It’s tragic what he’s gone through, losing his best friend and handler.”
“We don’t know any of the officers personally. But we have animals, and we care a lot...we’re just trying to help in any way we can. We appreciate the officers for everything they do for us, as well as the vets who are doing so much to save his life.”
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. Pat Greenhouse of the Globe staff contributed to this report.