A Hawaii vacation idea that can give travelers paws

On a Hawaiian hike with Ralph, a terrier mix from the Kauai Humane Society. Ralph is now named Toby and lives with the Bennett family in Granite Bay, Calif.
On a Hawaiian hike with Ralph, a terrier mix from the Kauai Humane Society. Ralph is now named Toby and lives with the Bennett family in Granite Bay, Calif. TNS

After many visits to Kauai, my daughter, her godfather and I decided to add some new adventures summer to the usual snorkeling, biking, hiking, kayaking and eco-touring.

With Nora’s daredevil boyfriend, Emile, at the wheel, we survived a bumpy side-by-side all-terrain vehicle ride over roots and ruts in the back country where scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Descendants” were filmed.

We also enjoyed a moderately bumpy spin in a helicopter that took us close to Manawaiopuna Falls, the 360-foot-tall gusher known as “Jurassic Falls” for its picturesque turn in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.”

And, to make our trip complete, we got a dog fix, thanks to the Kauai Humane Society, a shelter for domestic animals just west of Lihue.

The program allows residents and tourists to take adoption-ready canines for a day of frolicking at the beach, on a trail or in an arboretum. The dogs must be at least 6 months old, fully vaccinated and spayed or neutered. Shelter staff works with them to make sure they’re ready to be good citizens once they’re away from the cages and exercise yards. The shelter provides a towel, bottled water, poop bags and a collar, leash and vest with a bright “Adopt Me” sign.

“It gives them exercise and socialization and breaks up the monotony of being in the kennel,” said Penny E. Cistaro, the shelter’s executive director.

Although she acknowledged concerns about liability, Cistaro has become a fan. “It’s a little scary that we’re letting a shelter dog go out with perfect strangers where anything could happen,” she said. “(But) the benefits far outweigh any risks.”

Throughout the nation, “shelters are doing remarkable things to increase exposure of pets,” said Inga Fricke, director of shelter and rescue group services for the Humane Society of the United States. The Arizona Animal Welfare League, for example, has a “slumber party” program that lets families welcome dogs into their homes for a few days for a trial visit.

We heard about the Kauai program on the local visitors information channel. None of us was in the market for a new pet. But we were missing the three dogs and the feral feline we had collectively left behind.

Ralph, a 2-year-old, coarse-haired West Highland terrier mix who had recently been neutered, became our companion for the day. He was timid and quiet but turned out to be an intrepid trekker.

With Ralph trotting along on his four little legs, we hiked the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail that skirts the Poipu Bay Golf Course. There we photographed him in front of a tumble-down heiau (a possible ancient religious site made of lava rock). We then toured Old Koloa Town, which opened its first sugar mill in 1835. Shops now fill the old plantation buildings.

After several hours, we returned Ralph to the shelter — and instantly started to miss him.

I was relieved to hear from Cistaro that he had found a home with Gary and Susan Bennett and their daughter, Ashleigh, in Granite Bay in Northern California.


Kauai Humane Society, 825, 3 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue; (808) 632-0610, Visitors who want to participate in the dog field-trip program must be at least 18 years old and sign a liability waiver.


Kauai Visitors Bureau,