K-9 Nero: Cape Cod’s Symbol of Hope

How one wounded K-9 came to symbolize hope, support and a fighting spirit to our community.

The Cape Cod community is mourning the tragic loss of Officer Sean Gannon and coming together to support the swift recovery of his K-9 partner, Nero. By: Yarmouth Police Department Facebook page

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, our community suffered a horrific loss when 32-year-old Officer Sean Gannon and his K-9, Nero, were shot attempting to serve a career criminal with a warrant. 

When Officer Gannon and Nero entered the home, the pair were both shot by criminal “125” — so called by the Yarmouth Police Department, who vowed not to use the man’s name, referring to him only by the number of his prior convictions. Officer Gannon did not survive the shooting, and his partner Nero was shot in the face and the neck.

When Officer Gannon was rushed from the scene, officers simultaneously began to clear the house and search for the wounded K-9. Nero was found and rushed to a local animal hospital.

A Deeply Personal Loss

The shooting death of Officer Gannon has left the Cape Cod community shocked, saddened and angry. The community here is close-knit, and a loss like this one is deeply personal.

Officer Gannon’s cruiser was parked outside the Yarmouth Police Department, and within a day it was covered with notes, flowers and balloons. Local businesses by the hundreds have dropped everything to raise funds for the Gannon family.

The Boston Bruins held a 50/50 raffle, with the proceeds to be donated to the Gannons. A petition to state government officials almost immediately began to circle, demanding stronger penalties and less leniency for criminals like 125, who, with so many prior, violent convictions, should never have been on the street to begin with. And through it all, Cape Codders kept asking: “How is Nero?

Nero is recovering from his gunshot wounds. By: Barnstable Police K9 Foundation Facebook page

Nero’s Road to Recovery

Nero fought his way through his first night in the animal hospital, and when he was stable enough underwent emergency surgery the following morning. The bullet’s path was devastating, entering his body under the jaw and traveling through both the trachea and the esophagus before coming to rest in the opposite shoulder. 

On Sunday, the Yarmouth Police posted a photo of Nero, back on his feet for the first time since his surgery, a photo that was shared over 16,000 times and that received over 3,000 comments. Nero’s recovery has come to represent the fighting spirit and determination of all of Cape Cod.

Local residents, well-wishers and law enforcement from across the nation have been following Nero’s progress, seeing it as a small ray of hope in a horrible tragedy. Each step Nero makes has been generously shared with the public by local law enforcement groups and is quickly shared again among the community, with many offering heartfelt wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery.

The Cape Cod Community

It may sound a bit entitled, but these things just don’t happen here. Cape Cod is a community that supports its law enforcement. So many of us have friends and family in law enforcement that it would be strange to do otherwise.

The shock we feel, the fear we’re experiencing resonates to the bone. Watching Nero take his first steps, eat something for the first time, look about alertly — it makes us feel part of his journey, it makes us proud and it makes us want to fight just as hard as Nero is fighting.

On April 18, Officer Sean Gannon was laid to rest. Nero, still recovering from his injuries, was unable to attend the ceremony; however, he was well represented in his brethren. Hundreds of K-9 officers and their partners attended and saluted Officer Gannon on his final ride.

That same evening, although he still has a long road to go, Nero was able to leave the animal hospital and go home with his original trainer, retired Yarmouth Police K-9 handler Peter McClelland, who entered the home after Nero was shot, helped locate the wounded K-9 and had stayed by Nero’s side since — 144 hours straight. When Nero has improved a bit and everyone feels ready, he will return to the Gannon family.

Officer Gannon was a much-loved member of the Cape Cod law enforcement community:

K-9s and Their Handlers

There is nothing like the bond between K-9 and handler, and there will never be anyone who can replace Officer Sean Gannon in Nero’s heart. He will be forever wounded — and we relate to that too.

Officer Gannon’s death has left a hole in all our hearts. Nero is our hero, our wounded warrior. Nero will recover, but he will never be the same, and nor will we. But we can promise Nero something: This is our community, our law enforcement officers matter to us and we won’t let this happen again.

We love you, Nero.

Melissa Smith

View posts by Melissa Smith
Melissa Smith, discussions manager for Petful, has been researching and writing about pet behaviors for several years. A longtime pet lover, she lives in Massachusetts with her teenage son, their cat Harrison and the spirit of their German shepherd named Gypsy. Melissa is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in multimedia design and hopes to adopt as many needy animals as she can.

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