Donations sought for family’s real hardship

After realizing their dog had sneaked out of the house Sunday night, Paukukalo resident Cori Kauha’aha’a and her children were up past midnight looking for the pet they consider to be another member of the family.

They were reunited with their nearly 5-year-old Ridgeback terrier Moke the next day, after the dog had been hit by a car and was found lying on Lower Main Street in Wailuku. The 50-pound dog was kept overnight and cared for by Valley Isle Animal Rescue after co-founder Dennis Burns responded to a police call reporting the injured animal had been found on the road after 10 p.m. Sunday.

“I’m so grateful,” Kauha’aha’a said Thursday. “It’s so amazing that all this happened.”

With veterinary care expenses topping $1,000 for the dog that remained hospitalized while receiving antibiotics and painkillers Thursday, Burns said the nonprofit organization would accept community donations to help the Kauha’aha’a family with the costs.

“It’s not for our organization. It’s for the family,” Burns said. “It’s a real hardship.”

He said Kauha’aha’a, a single parent with a son and daughter, was considering getting another job to pay for Moke’s veterinary bills.

He said the all-volunteer rescue organization started by his wife doesn’t have money to pay the veterinary bills.

But Burns said he wanted to try to help after seeing Kauha’aha’a fall to the ground and cry when she saw Moke, who suffered injuries to his tendons and ligaments that left some bone exposed.

“It just broke my heart,” Burns said.

Since 2011, the rescue organization has been responding to reports of injured animals and other animal emergencies – except those involving mongoose or sea animals – from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. when the Maui Humane Society is not available to respond.

On Sunday night, police called the rescue group after the dog was found lying on the road on Lower Main Street near Minit Stop.

Kauha’aha’a said the family had looked for Moke in other nearby areas but didn’t think he would have gone as far as Lower Main Street. The inside dog had snuck out of the house while the family was unloading belongings after returning home from an outing, Kauha’aha’a said.

“He doesn’t do that,” she said. “He’s so well trained and well behaved.”

Burns said the dog appeared to have been hit on its side and dragged. He was bleeding, had road rash over about 40 percent of his body and had some deep cuts, including one that exposed bone on a front paw, Burns said. Ligaments were exposed on another leg.

“Each leg had severe contusions,” Burns said.

Even with the serious injuries, Moke licked Burns’ face as he and his wife worked into the early morning to close the wounds. Burns woke up every hour after that to check on Moke.

“It was a long night, but it was worth it,” he said.

In the morning, he went to Maui Pitbull Rescue for help in better wrapping Moke’s wounds.

Burns called the Maui Humane Society, where an employee traced Moke’s tattoo to Kauha’aha’a, who now works at another location for the same restaurant. She had taken Moke to the Humane Society to be neutered when he was a puppy.

He was the last of a litter of 14 puppies, and Kauha’aha’a had to pull him out of his mother. Kauha’aha’a recalled how he was stillborn, and she had to breathe into his mouth to bring him to life.

After getting Moke back Monday, the family at first kept him at home in their living room.

“It was like having a newborn baby,” Kauha’aha’a said. “Everybody slept in the living room that night.”

At Burns’ recommendation, Kauha’aha’a took Moke on Tuesday morning to At Home Veterinary Hospital in Kahului.

She asked her boss for an advance so she could make an initial payment toward Moke’s veterinary bill, and the animal hospital has worked out a payment plan for her.

While some had suggested that Kauha’aha’a put down the dog, she said Moke didn’t suffer any internal injuries. He was being kept at the animal hospital because of the trauma and risk of infection, she said. If his injuries don’t heal properly, Moke could face reduced mobility or the risk of amputation, she said.

“He’s a big part of our family,” she said. “He’s such a sweetheart.

“I’m just trying to do what I can. I wouldn’t tell my own child they can’t get fixed.”

Kauha’aha’a said she appreciates the “amazing” care Moke has received from the veterinarian and vet tech at the animal hospital.

“I’m just praying for a fast recovery,” she said. “It’s just not the same not having him here.”

With the unexpected veterinary bill occurring on top of rent, car registration and other expenses, “you kind of feel like you’re under a rock,” Kauha’aha’a said.

“I’m just really grateful that anybody’s even considering helping,” she said. “It’s amazing – this community we live in, how they come together when you’re faced with something like this.”

Burns said the 501(c) (3) organization would set aside any donations exceeding Moke’s vet bill to help future injured rescue animals.

Tax-deductible donations for Moke’s medical expenses can be made by calling Burns at 463-4194 or his wife, Suzanne Burry, at 463-4108. Donations also can be mailed to Valley Isle Animal Rescue at P.O. Box 695, Makawao 96768.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at