Archive for Thursday, July 18, 2013

Son to adopt dog of Lawrence man found dead in Kansas River

July 18, 2013


Gabby, the black labrador retriever whose owner's body was recovered in the Kansas River Wednesday, plays at the Lawrence Humane Society.

Gabby, the black labrador retriever whose owner's body was recovered in the Kansas River Wednesday, plays at the Lawrence Humane Society.

From the looks of her wide grin and silky black coat, you would not think Gabby, a labrador retriever, had been through such a traumatic experience.

Police brought the dog to the Lawrence Humane Society after her owner, Dwight Sexton, 49, of Lawrence, was found dead in the Kansas River about 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Sexton and Gabby were well-known around town. The two palled about and made friends walking throughout Lawrence.

A relative of Sexton's said Gabby is a service dog. Several people who knew Sexton say Gabby was trained to detect seizures, but her greatest job was serving as a good friend.

In a 2010 WellCommons article, Sexton, then 46, said he had been diagnosed with psychotic paranoia, post-traumatic syndrome, bipolar disorder and social anxiety at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

Sexton was known to downtown Lawrence employees and shoppers because he and Gabby could be found on the 800 block of Massachusetts Street two or three days a week, between the Ernst and Son hardware store and the Lawrence Antique Mall.

"Dwight used to sit out there most days," said Jake Elder, a sales associate at Ernst and Son. "He started showing up this year."

Humane Society client care associate Rachel Guyer says man and dog were inseparable right to the end: Gabby never left Sexton's side at the river.

"The officer said she was just kind of there, watching," Guyer said.

The Humane Society guesses that Gabby is about 3 years and 8 months old. She soon will have a permanent home, when Sexton's son Brent comes from Colorado to adopt the dog.

"She gets to stay in the the family," Humane Society executive director Dori Villalon said, "so I hope that will be a comfort for them."

Villalon says dogs belonging to homeless owners often are the most adaptable and well-mannered.

"When I worked in San Francisco, I noticed many dogs with transient owners were much better behaved because they are more socialized," Villalon said. "Gabby was well cared-for."

The cause of Sexton's death is not yet known. An autopsy was held Thursday, according to Lt. Steve Lewis, a sheriff's office spokesman, and results are expected in a few days. Investigators from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over the river, said a preliminary investigation showed no evidence of foul play.

Sexton originally was from Atchison, where family members said they are planning to hold memorial services for him.

- Reporter Meagan Thomas contributed to this story.


Jean Robart 4 years, 11 months ago

Good! She may be a trained service dog, but I think to try to reorient her to another disabled person could be traumatic, since she was obviously very much bonded with Mr Sexton. I have a feeling she will be a very important of her new family.

riverdrifter 4 years, 11 months ago

I doubt if it would be traumatic to the dog at all. Labs are extremely malleable and biddable. Most labs don't have a bad day. Hopefully they'll do the right thing and make the dog available to the next person that needs one.

mom_of_three 4 years, 11 months ago

Not sure service dogs can be passed on, like a used car. Dogs are trained to detect certain behaviors or with the blind, and are then matched with someone... can anyone answer that... and labs can be ornery and stubborn and all that... although service dogs have a certain temperment.

Liberty275 4 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like a man with challenges that would buckle anyone.

You people that knew him have my condolences. If he had a friend in a dog, he had to be a good man.

Irenaku 4 years, 11 months ago

Wow...I remember seeing Mr. Sexton quite often. So good to know Gabby will have a forever home with family. I do not have all of the challenges that Mr. Sexton had, but I have had a time of it with severe anxiety and PTSD, and my dogs have been right by my side through it all.

Dan Rose 4 years, 11 months ago

"Dwight used to sit our there most days" - really? I know it passed spellcheck, but proofread what you write! That is all... lol


sbrummer 4 years, 11 months ago

This makes my heart so very happy!! So glad to see Dwight's son to be comgin to get Gabby so she can stay in a forever home!!

sammysbride13 4 years, 11 months ago

Hi this is Dwight's niece and I would like to thank you on behalf of my family for everyone carring for gabby's well being. She is at my grandma's right now with my cousin his son. I can say that I have talked to my grandma and Gabby and his son are joined at the hip. They get along great and he really cares for her. She will be well cared for by him. Once again thank you all he was a great guy and I have very fond memories of him and they will live on through our hearts.

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