Here on the Big Island
By Kelly Moran
One day last November, friends of mine were driving up the road to their house, when a brown dog with floppy ears approached their car. He wasn’t trying to chase it; he sniffed it, and stared in at them. When my friends slowed down and stopped, they saw him do the same to every car that passed, in either direction, as if he were asking: “Are you the people who left me here?”
For dogs on the Big Island, it’s a sad fact of life that not all of them are loved, and that not all of those who are unwanted get treated humanely, or brought to a shelter. Quite a few are simply taken somewhere, and left to fend for themselves.
This dog was on a paved County road, halfway between one cluster of houses and the next; if he had simply wandered away from either place, he’d have been able to follow his nose home. My friends waved down a few cars, but no one recognized the dog. So they drove him up to their house (which took some effort – he was reluctant to climb into their car) and proceeded to search for his owners.
A month earlier, they had come home to find a lost dog on their doorstep – a mature female with a pleasant disposition, but no collar. My friends alerted their neighbors, then took her to the Humane Society, where a microchip revealed her name and ownership. She turned out to belong to a friend of a neighbor who had taken her pig-hunting that day. She’d gotten lost in the woods, found her way out, and taken shelter at the first house she encountered.
The experience made my friends think seriously about adopting a dog. They’d always had cats (there are two in their house), but neither of them had ever had a dog for a pet. They didn’t act on the idea, and had almost forgotten the incident . . . until they saw this lonely dog on the road. So they took the dog to their cats’ veterinarian to see if he had a chip (he didn’t), and give him a medical checkup. The vet found that, except for being undernourished, he was quite healthy, about a year-and-a-half old, and probably a mix of Lab, pit bull, and heeler.
Again, they phoned and emailed neighbors, and posted his picture on Craigslist, even noting that he had a V-shaped bite-mark in his right ear. But after a full week, nobody claimed him. My friends took this as proof that he was not lost, but deliberately abandoned. They speculate that he’d been raised for pig-hunting, but had either failed to hold his own with the other dogs in his pack, or that he was too affectionate by nature to tackle a pig without getting hurt. Yet, instead of giving him away as a pet, or taking him to a shelter, whoever raised him had simply dumped him.
So he’s my friends’ dog now. “Romeo” is still a puppy at heart: he wants to play with the cats (the feeling is not mutual!); and he loves to run fast (my friends joke that they could paint him gray and enter him in a dog-track). But he’s loyal: he keeps to the trails when they hike through the woods; he always comes when called; and though he’s never chained up, and spends most days outdoors, he doesn’t go roaming. But he is still very, very reluctant to ride in a car.
For more information about lost, abandoned and neglected pets – and especially if you’re interested in adopting one – the Hawaii Island Humane Society has full-service facilities in Kailua-Kona, in Waimea, and in Kea’au, near Hilo.