The sendoff for Gigi at the Lihue Airport on Tuesday afternoon was one with hugs and tears. There were laughs and smiles, too, as friends and family gathered to bid their final farewells to the 2-year-old girl they adored.
The shy Gigi stared back through her big, brown eyes and seemed to smile.
Then, she wagged her tail.
The 60-pound Plott hound was headed to her new home in the Bay Area.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Larry Richardson, one of Gigi’s foster parents over the past two months. “She’s a sweet dog and we’ll miss her. But we’re grateful she’s going on to bigger and better things and her forever home.”
What makes Gigi so special, what made nearly 10 people come to bid her goodbye, was that she belonged to the late Robert Hamada. The Kauai artist and master woodturner was known for his magnificent wooden bowls. He passed away at the age of 93 on Jan. 23 at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.
He also bred and sold hunting dogs. When he died, there were 25 dogs and six puppies on his property. A friend, Allen Kapali, cared for the dogs in the following months and found homes with hunters for nearly all of them.
Kapali said the hunting dogs were a big part of Hamada’s life. He was so proud of them, so sure of their abilities, that he give guarantees to the people who bought them. If they weren’t the best hunting dog they ever had, after one year, they could return it for a full refund.
“He did that for 30, 40 years, and not one dog ever came back,” Kapali said. “That’s how much belief he had in his dogs.”
Kapali kept one of the dogs and a female pit bull was adopted by a couple in Anahola.
Then, there was Gigi.
She had been running loose on the property and no one could catch her. She ran when anyone approached and stayed just out of reach. Hope was nearly lost she could be caught.
“She had escaped three hunters who wanted her but they couldn’t catch her,” said Carol Ann Davis, another Hamada friend, who paid for Gigi’s flight to California.
Eventually, with patience, they befriended Gigi and placed her in a foster home with Richardon and Barbara Wiedner. Allyson Kirk, certified in rehabilitation and relaxation massage, worked with Gigi and many of Hamada’s other dogs.
Months later, there’s been a transformation. She’s comfortable around people and loves going for walks. Without a fuss, she walked into her kennel at the airport so she could be weighed before boarding an Alaska Airlines plane.
“She’s a great dog,” Wiedner said. “She’ll be in a home, where she’ll be pampered and people will love her.”
Kapali said it was nice knowing Gigi was adopted, too.
“It’s a big relief,” he said.”We know she’s going to a really good home.”
Davis said Hamada would be pleased his dogs, which he cared for and loved, all found homes. Many people, she said, rallied to help look after the dogs because of their love and respect for Hamada.
“He was loved,” she said.
Norm Brand, who worked with the dogs, said he worried homes couldn’t be found for them all and feared they might be put down. He said the effort to save them was “phenomenal” and was a tribute to Hamada.
“It just shows you the positive affect dogs have on people,” Brand said.