A piece of heaven: A veteran mourns a beloved service dog

After his first year with a Ciara service dog, Eric Haynes wanted to celebrate. So take it on a cruise to Mexico.

Hines told The Citizen it looked like all 3,000 people on board knew him on the second day on board. Everyone asked her if they could pet her. But a man, who looked sullen, did not.

Hines had a conversation with him and learned it had to do with dogs. He just lost his dog nine years ago. Hearing this, Hines asked Ciara to “do whatever you want.” I approached my husband. Then, at last, he bent down and caressed her. Hines said feeling and relieving the pain was her gift. It was a gift she made to veteran musician Auburn every day of their four years together.

That sailing moment had been on Hines’s mind since May 20, when Ciara died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 14. And now, he said, he knew how that man felt.

“I have never been so close to anyone,” he said. “You not only told me how to live, but you changed my life.”

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Ciara will be mourned with a military-style parade on the afternoon of Saturday, June 18, beginning and ending at U.S. Legion Post No. 239 in Skaneateles.

Hines said Ciara was part of the family at the post office and she had her bowl there. She will be buried in the Onondaga Valley Cemetery on a plot of land for her close friend, veteran Vietnamese fighter Ron Patterson, who gave her his dog labels to wear on her service jacket. The plot on which you will be buried is the burial place of Patterson’s great-grandfather, Wellington Patterson, a Civil War veteran.

Patterson was one of the countless hearts that touched Ciara. From those she and Haynes met at Walmart to the 500 people who asked for selfies with the couple when they auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” in New York City, Malino, Belgium was a hit. Those people, some of the voyage to Mexico, he said, were among the hundreds of consolations Hins received.


After serving nearly 12 years in active duty in the U.S. military, Eric Haynes wants to use his history and musical talent to help others heal.

“Everyone who met Ciara met a piece of paradise and they knew it,” he said. “She had a smile that destroyed the walls. You have caught them all. “

Hines, a 12-year-old army veteran who served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006, suffered from PTSD when he linked up with Ciara through a chance meeting at a songwriting workshop in Georgia. She had PTSD, having served as a bomb sniffing dog for the military. She was an hour away from euthanasia when she was rescued to train as a service dog.

Haynes said she, in turn, saved him. He attempted suicide three times before adopting Ciara. But its effect on him was so comforting and immediate that he wrote a song that day called “Tears of Joy.” Elham has continued his music career, which has seen him release albums and perform concerts in downtown New York, singing and talking about his mental health message.

“We knew what it meant to have no voice,” he said. “We just hoped to encourage others to help them find their personality. Sometimes people get hurt so badly that they do not even think they deserve it. Self-esteem is great. Growing up, I didn’t have much. In the worst of times, the biggest thing was humility and recognizing the problem. “You are nothing less than someone to ask for help.”

Ciara’s last concert with Haynes took place two weeks before her death, at the Winery Colloca Estate in Fair Haven. He said the album release party for the band, Held Hostage, was also Haynes’s biggest concert of his career. As usual, she spent a party next to him, seeing some from outside the stage. Haynes added that the concert was miraculously filmed for a music video.

During his band’s last song, Hines walked among the audience with Ciara. He said with a laugh that she “loved everyone”. Although many service dogs could not be touched, he allowed his brown-eyed daughter to have moments of love with strangers because she “was exactly that kind of dog.” Like the man in flight, many of them had pain invisible to most – but not her.

“I understood people more than they understood themselves,” Haynes said. “She never asked for anything. “I just gave it up.”

Haynes said it is rare for military dogs to make a “wonderful living” after their service. He is grateful that he was able to secure it for Ciara. Whether she went to concerts or the clothes she liked to wear, she was always smiling. Now, in her absence, he believes it is more important than ever to continue their mission to help people in the same difficult times they lived to find each other.

“As difficult as it is, I think it allowed me to practice what I had always preached with Ciara,” he said. “I know she’m still with me in a different way, working with me from somewhere else.”

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.

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