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Canine cancer companion is all heart

Photos courtesy of DAVID HAYNES
When David Haynes saw an ad for a free dog, he didn’t know what a great deal he’d be getting. Connie, his 9-year-old rat terrier, is his best friend.
Haynes had to give up GoGo, his green wing macaw, when he began chemotherapy.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Instead of her sleeve, Connie wears her heart on her side.

The 9-year-old rat terrier has a patch of black fur on her left side that’s shaped like a heart. It’s a unique look that her previous owners had hoped to breed into puppies.

But not only did Connie not have puppies bearing the mark, she didn’t have any at all.

And that’s how she came to be part of David Haynes’ life.

“There was a newspaper ad for a free dog,” said Haynes, of Pax. “They had her for breeding, but she never had any puppies.”

Haynes wasn’t necessarily looking for a dog, but the timing was right.

In 2008, he’d been diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer, which had spread to his ribs and lungs, and he’d had to give up GoGo, the green-winged macaw he’d had for 15 years.

“One snap, and I would have been a goner,” he said.

Haynes, who has been in remission for 2½ years, couldn’t live by himself while he was receiving chemo. So, for several months, he stayed with Greg Spinella, former publisher of The Welch News (who himself died of cancer last year), and Spinella’s wife, Gwen.

When he returned home, he was all alone.

Then one day, he saw the ad that led him to Connie.

“We’ve been best buddies ever since.”

Connie was already named and approximately 4 years old when Haynes got her from the couple in Daniels. She’d hardly ever been outside, he said, and she’d never been in a car. The first trip was an eventful one.

“She tried to climb up my back,” Haynes recalled. “She tried to climb out the window. She threw up.”

Now, he said, she’s very well behaved and just sits in the seat beside him. It’s a good thing, too, because she’s come to love her car rides.

“If I put my shoes on, she’s ready to go!”

Connie also loves the woods, so they take car rides together to get to some of their favorite places, including the Paint Creek Scenic Trail. Haynes said there is a waterfall there that they both enjoy, and he likes the seclusion it offers.

“She likes to roam free when I let her,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of land, but I don’t want to turn her loose out there because coal trucks run up and down the roads here.”

Though she does enjoy her time outside, Connie is content to stay inside with Haynes most of the time. In fact, she hardly leaves his side.

“I can’t even go to the bathroom without her,” he said and laughed. “She’s my companion, you betcha. She’s been a whole lot of company for me.

“She’s a real calm dog,” he added. “The best dog I’ve ever had.”

Though he’s absolutely content with Connie in his life, Haynes still wonders about what became of GoGo. The bird originally went to a family across the street from his cousin in Glasgow, but last he heard, GoGo was in Smithers, having been sold or given away.

“I would really just love to know if he is alive and has a good home,” Haynes said. “I wouldn’t trade 10,000 GoGos for Connie, but, man, after 15 years of the times GoGo and I had, I would love to see him one more time.”

If you think your adopted pet has a unique story, send your contact information and some details about your pet’s story to Amy Robinson for consideration for a future feature.

Reach Amy Robinson at or 304-348-4881.

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