NORTH SMITHFIELD – If you live in northern Rhode Island, there’s little chance you haven’t seen the duo many times over the years – out on one of their daily walks along Route 102.
David Contildes and dog Winchester were a touching and familiar sight for many traveling the busy highway, with the affection between pet and owner apparent in their slow but steady gate.
Contides, a Marine Corp veteran and resident of Slatersville, died on Thursday, Feb. 11 in Rhode Island Hospital following a tragic fall. A Woonsocket native, Contildes worked as a steeple jack, and a fisherman in Narragansett, according to his obituary. He later received bachelor degrees in psychology and social work from Rhode Island College, and worked as a drug counselor for the Providence Center, retiring in 2009.
The 74-year-old was also an animal lover, and could often be seen walking Winchester, a 180-pound English Mastiff.
Now, his family is seeking help with expenses – including care of the beloved pet.
“It was unexpected and we were not prepared,” said Hannah Contildes of her father’s passing. “Without my dad we cannot afford our house, our dog, to get food, to survive basically.”
Known by many, at least by sight, dog and owner nearly became a viral meme last year after one local posted a photograph of the pair on social media with the words, “Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.”
“Our dog Winchester is the last tie we have to him,” said Hannah. “To have to give him up would be another heartbreak added on.”
A GoFundMe page for the family had raised $7,480 by Wednesday, Feb. 17.
“The amount of support we’ve been getting from everyone means so much to my mom, brother and I,” Hannah said.