Dogs have been in Hawaii since the first canoes landed. Think of the dogtooth adornments on view at our museums, which may point to ilio (dogs) being both friend and food. On Kauai in Wailua, there is even a street named Haleilio, or House of the Dog. Ilio could also be used as a metaphor for clouds in oli and mele, chant and song. That much this writer knows.
What I didn’t know up to four days ago was: Beware of the (small, toy-like) doggies. “Beware of the dog” signs always get my full respect. I’ve written about neighborhood (and beach and “path” dogs) briefly before — pros and cons (“Green Flash,” Feb. 12, 2018).
“Dogs and cats,” said a friend to me the Sunday before, “are the new ‘kids.’” We were talking about how people are opting for pets that are treated as members of the family, sometimes better than less fortunate children, whether in place of or to supplement existing progeny.
Interesting. I thought further about this idea encompassing “food” to “love objects,” about dog (and cat) owners I know, and interactions I’ve observed now and in times past. I considered the popularity of the “Dog Whisperer” program, how dog owners often were shown why dogs need to be treated as dogs, not humans, so as to take their place in the home and beyond property lines “normally.” That is, without various disturbing and neurotic tendencies. Dogs, like kids, need love, but also need to have limits set and be schooled in manners and good behavior — and to know who’s in charge. The Whisperer’s lesson is that this mode is far less confusing than “anything goes.”
I’ve been wary of dogs since my youth, because of some difficult and scary episodes experienced with aggressive dogs off-leash. Yet I’ve owned good dogs, my children’s pets, and also know and appreciate other people’s good dog pets. And cats, too. For now, I want to stick to the subject of dogs.
Particularly because last week Thursday, I was bitten by one. That first dog bite of my life (I hope it’s the last!) took place subsequent to the dogs-are-the-new-kids conversation, while my husband and I took a stroll.
Two blocks from home, we were enjoying the exercise and the perfect day, chatting as we noticed the election signs beginning to bloom in our neighbors’ gardens. Around the corner, a girl had called a friendly “Hi!” as she fiddled with a hose, a senior who cycles around the neighborhood daily on his 3-wheel bike passed by with a nod and a wave. I didn’t pay much attention to a fluffy white toy pooch that was trotting toward us from down the block — that is, until it trotted right by me. With no provocation, it attacked from the rear. Ouch!
When I turned to whack at it, the dog let go and ran. Too late. I’d received a painful bite from a creature that looked like a lap dog that might ride hidden in a kimono sleeve!
“I’ve been bitten,” I announced, anti-climactically, seeing the nasty tooth marks and blood starting to trickle down my left leg above the sock line. We were both in shock, and yet I knew we should hurry home and drench it with disinfectant and also take a photo of the wound before heading for medical help.
“I’m so mad at myself,” I said as I limped along.
“What for? You didn’t do anything.”
“For letting my guard down, for allowing that little mutt to pass by me so close without keeping an eye on it.”
How stupid to be so trusting, I thought, then said aloud, “I’d have behaved differently if it were a larger dog, especially a type of attack dog.”
“True,” he said. “We’d both have been wary. I’d have held my hiking pole ready.”
The bike rider had doubled back. My husband told him I’d been bitten, asked if he knew where that dog he described belonged. He did.
Fifteen minutes later, we stopped at the house on our way to Urgent Care in Lihue. A dog was heard barking indoors, but no one answered the door. My husband figured the “little brute” had a doggy door, but we couldn’t be sure.
About three hours later, my wound washed with germ-killer soap, slathered with a special dog-bite antibiotic cream and bandaged, and with drugstore supplies in hand, we stopped at the house again on our way home. I practically jumped when the door opened to reveal three pre-schoolers and The Doggy, barking fiercely while throwing itself at the screen.
“Don’t open the door,” I commanded. “Get your mother or father, please.”
The mom was apologetic. What could she do to help? The dog had escaped somehow.
I felt for her, but I felt for me, too.
“I’ve reported this to the Humane Society,” I said before limping back to the safety of our car. “Don’t let your dog get out and away again. It’s dangerous. It’s bite is painful. They will remove it.”
An uncomfortable night and several dressing changes later, I was grateful for a follow-up call from Becky (Rebekah Oishi) of the Kauai Humane Society, who had contacted the dog’s owner and passed on some helpful information to me. It surprised me when she said that many people on-island are not aware of the leash laws.
I pass on what she told me: If a dog leaves your property off-leash, a leash law warning may be issued, or a citation, which requires a court appearance (and fine).
Considering the circumstances, I’ve requested a warning, only, be issued.
Two things, Dear Readers, I’ll pass along: Watch out for a powderpuff doggy on the loose in the vicinity of Mala and Ahakea in the future; and if you have a tot who has just learned to open doors, make sure your own dog is well-contained, or round it up. Pul-ease!
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, firstname.lastname@example.org.