With its lush forests and gorgeous beaches, the Hawaiian island of Kauai is a tropical Eden for humans. But for some dogs it’s a nightmare. Hunters throughout the islands breed dogs for use in ferreting out wild pigs. Dogs who fail to serve this purpose are often abandoned, or worse.
Fortunately, there’s an underground railroad — with angels’ wings — hard at work rescuing some of these forlorn dogs and flying them to new homes on the mainland.
A bedraggled little dog named Dan-O made it all personal for Rebecca Nance of Salem. After she and her husband lost their Whippet, Duncan, their search for another Whippet led them to Lori Rose of Whippet Spaw rescue in Salem. There they found Dan-O and learned the tragic story of the dogs of Kauai.
“Mixed Whippet breeds are popular with pig hunters in the Hawaiian Islands because they are fast,” says Nance. Hunters breed Whippets with Spaniels, Bull Terriers, and Airedales, and must register their hunting dogs. Those who become aged or injured, as well as unregistered puppies, are often abandoned to fend for themselves. Many dogs discarded by hunters end up withdrawn and wary, often leading to their euthanasia.
Rescue groups in Kauai and the Northwest are working to save these dogs.
“When we adopted Dan-O — yes, in homage to ‘Hawaii Five-O’ — he was terrified,” says Nance. Semi-feral and malnourished when wrangled out of the wild by Kauai animal control, Dan-O could walk only a few yards before collapsing, Nance explains. He now sleeps happily under the covers, snuggling his family’s feet.
Dan-O’s ultimate good fortune defines the mission of both Whippet Spaw and the Kauai Animal Welfare Society (KAWS), with whom Rose works. KAWS is one of several Hawaiian organizations committed to the rescue effort. It takes in these ill-fated dogs, flying many of them to foster homes in the Pacific Northwest.
KAWS cofounder Dinah Chao, a dog rescuer and special education teacher, has a profound love for animals and children who “aren’t the easy ones.” Chao and her husband fostered Dan-O until he was healthy enough to fly, and Nance says she can’t imagine what would’ve happened to Dan-O without them.
The way KAWS operates, each of the lucky dogs getting a trans-Pacific ticket makes the flight accompanied by an escort, who could be any animal-lover heading back to the mainland. Vacationers learn about the need for help via a poster displayed in a T-shirt shop where KAWS volunteer Marlana works.
Whenever a transport escort is needed, Marlana hangs a poster, and “within a week, she can find us one,” says Chao. KAWS then handles all transport costs and arrangements, meeting the travelers at the airport. Upon arrival to the mainland, the escorts meet fosters waiting to collect the dogs. Transport escorts never need handle a dog.
Dan-O himself traveled to the mainland with a family returning from vacation. In fact, most transport escorts are tourists flying from Kauai to Portland or Seattle.
“I think the escorts really like the experience, as they are able to give something back to the island they have enjoyed so much,” says Chao.
Fosters also treasure their role. “As an Oregon foster home for KAWS, I love seeing the little faces peering through their crates at the airport,” says Rose. “The pups adjust quickly to their new world . . . sometimes with help of a new coat or jammies.”
“Each KAWS foster is my favorite,” she continues. “The Kauai rescues give something special. It’s in their eyes and little hearts . . . their innate aloha spirit melts my heart. Seeing them placed in loving homes is worth every second it takes to be a foster volunteer.”
Other organizations also arrange rescue flights. “My friend Deanna Cecotti, of Greyhound Pet Adoption Northwest, is going to Hawaii early next year,” says Nance, “and both she and her traveling companion will be bringing back dogs.” Cecotti’s volunteers with Oregon Humane Society, which partners with Kauai Humane Society. Different groups partner in their own ways, all sharing the ultimate goal to rescue, foster, transport, and place dogs in loving homes.
If you’re a dog-lover planning a Kauai vacation and would like to help the rescue efforts, why not save a life, too? For more information or to arrange to be an escort, contact any of the organizations listed under “Resources” at the end of this article.
Pups who've found the broken road to home
Henrietta’s shyness nearly earned her a bullet — her hunter owner’s version of retirement. But word of mouth intervened in the nick of time.
“She was so shut down I thought she wouldn’t come back,” says foster Cindy Cabrera. “She wouldn’t move. I had to carry her everywhere, and she would just curl up in a corner — it was so sad. Then, one day she came out of the bathroom on her own and lay on the floor near me. The rest is history.”
Some dogs put in years of service to hunters, and then are abandoned due to age.
“We adopted Shyler from the Kauai Humane Society almost four years ago,” says Valri Kriner. “She was a pig dog that was dropped off at the shelter at nine years old.”
Health issues led to a splenectomy and removal of Shyler’s right eye last summer, but Kriner says, “She is my furbaby.”
Shyler's broken road really did lead home.
Mayzie and Angel
Some dogs, like Mayzie and Angel, travel that broken road home on three legs.
James Benkert’s adopted dogs Mayzie and Angel were both discarded hunters. And both are missing a hind leg. Mayzie’s leg was dangling and infected when she was found, and Angel was thought to have had a hunting injury that the owner "fixed" himself. Both dogs have torn ears, scars on their chests, and broken teeth. But they are now home, safe and loved, and Benkert says, “Both are super dogs.”
Kimberly Goldsworth rescued Jax, a Whippet/Hound mix “with eyebrows that everyone loves.”
Once shy, Jax now bounds along busy sidewalks, accompanying Goldsworth to work in San Francisco. “He’s our official office comedian,” says Goldsworth. “Now he’s snuggling with his favorite co-workers and even ‘protecting’ us from office visitors.”
“Apparently many boar hunters starve the dogs, feeding them only once every few days to entice them to go after the boars, which I believe was the case with Jax,” Goldsworth says. “He was skin and bones when I got him. I imagine he was dumped since he’s such a passive, shy dog — definitely a lover, not a fighter — and thus not a great boar hunter. But he’s got so much love to give and wants nothing more than to snuggle and drape his entire body over mine and his family . . . never mind that he weights close to 50 pounds!”
Something of an Instagram star, Jax has nearly a thousand followers at “jax.the.hound.” Here this boar-hunting reject educates people to the plight of the dogs of Kauai.
“I’ve been encouraging anyone who will listen to adopt a dog from Kauai,” says Goldsworth. “They’re universally sweet and loving, and all so damn cute. And they’re just so grateful to be rescued.”
Kitsap Humane Society Rescue Me Program | 360-692-6977 | kitsap-humane.org/programs-services/rescue-me-program/
Oregon Humane Society Second Chance Program503-285-7722 | oregonhumane.org
Kauai Humane SocietyAloha Escorts Transfer Program | firstname.lastname@example.org
Christy Caballero writes from the heart about all things pet-related, from a couple deer trails off the beaten path, typically juggling a cat (or two) on her lap as black kitty AsTar teeters on her shoulder and Mojo the retired Greyhound quietly calls for reinforcements!!