Putting faith in man’s best friend

FIRST PHOTO: After using sign language to instruct him to close the door, former U.S. Navy SEAL Kimo Akaka watches as his new assistance dog, Akamai, does the job Friday afternoon at the Assistance Dogs of Hawaii facility in Makawao. The 17-year veteran, an Oahu resident, suffered a stroke in 2011 that left him without speech and only limited mobility. Akamai has been in training for eight months and has worked with Akaka for the past week. The pair already are developing a strong bond. Using pen and paper to express his appreciation, Akaka said that Akamai will make a very big difference in his life, doing everything from small chores to dialing 911, if needed. Also Friday, another assistance dog wrapped up training and was placed with Pat Brilaut of the Hilo prosecutor’s office. Faith, a black lab, is scheduled to be a courthouse dog, helping victims and witnesses, including children, get through the court process.

SECOND PHOTO: Maureen Maurer, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii co-founder and executive director, applauds the effort of Akaka and assistance dog Akamai during their final day of training in Makawao on Friday afternoon. “It’s just such an honor for us to have an opportunity to place dogs with veterans like Kimo,” Maurer said. “We are so excited about this team, how well they have already bonded and how they are communicating through the sign language we have created here.” Maurer plans to deliver Akamai to Oahu for his final week of on-site training while turning him over to his new owner.