POLIHALE — Amber-eyed Hale has spent his entire life surviving in the wilderness at Polihale State Park, but the dog is now settling into his new home in Lihue.
The 3-year-old is no stranger to people; he’s been a fixture at the beach and is known to state park staff, as well as many campers who frequent the area.
But he was wild and avoided any close contact.
His fortunes changed in October, however, when he met Andrea Kuo of Kalaheo. Their connection was kismet.
“You just look at him and you know he’s a gentle soul,” Kuo said. “We saw him out there and he was really shy at first, but I wanted to help him.”
Over the next four months, Kuo and her boyfriend, Tyrus Cardinez, visited the dog every weekend and brought gifts of hamburger and steaks.
They named him Hale, short for Polihale.
Near the end of November, Hale was injured in a dog fight that Kuo and Cardinez witnessed one evening. They were camping on the beach and had already fed Hale.
“We heard them fighting and then we heard one dog get beat,” Cardinez said. “We saw the big Doberman and Hale was nowhere to be seen.”
Kuo was devastated. The couple spent several weekends searching for Hale before he showed up along the beach one evening after dark.
“I saw him and so I told her to quick go outside the tent and feed him,” Cardinez said.
Kuo added: “He ate two pounds of hamburger.”
At the end of December, Kuo was able to touch Hale for the first time. Days later a friend posted a picture of Hale on social media, with a plea for the dog’s capture.
That’s when the Kauai Humane Society stepped in.
“We’d tried previously and a dog trap wouldn’t work; he’s too smart,” said Jessica Venneman, field services manager for KHS. “So we wanted to try again and do it before New Year’s.”
They mobilized on Dec. 30. A dose of sedative in meatballs eventually brought Hale down. Ben Osorno, a humane officer who made friends with the dog, got him to eat the medicated meatballs.
He didn’t fall asleep right away, though.
“We followed him around for three hours while he was drugged,” Venneman said. “He walked all over the place and eventually he wandered over to the water.”
Fearful that Hale would pass out in the surf of Polihale Beach, Venneman approached and got a leash on the dog just in time.
“He laid down in the water right there, so we just carried him up from the beach to the truck,” Venneman said.
His temperament was a mystery until the drugs wore off. Venneman was thrilled when she discovered Hale is a friendly dog.
“He’s got a good personality and he’s active,” Venneman said. “He was right up there at the front of his kennel, tail wagging and watching everyone; not barking.”
After receiving a clean bill of health and being neutered, Hale was allowed to go home with Kuo and Cardinez on Thursday.
“We’re making him part of the family and now our goal is to get him adjusted to living in a house,” Cardinez said. “He’ll be inside for a while.”
For KHS, it’s a special moment when a family that’s been caring for a feral animal actually gets to adopt the friend they’ve made.
“It happens fairly often that a family that’s been caring for an animal will call us, but overwhelmingly the challenge is finding a forever home,” Venneman said.
Hale is living that dream, though, with Cardinez in Lihue.
“Hale means house in Hawaiian,” Cardinez said. “He didn’t have a house, but now he does.”