Twice a week, Sharing comes by to feed and check on one of the cat colonies she began on our rural road some years ago. All of the cats have been "fixed" and are older animals. Sharing began the colony down below the house. For a variety of reasons, the feeding station has moved up to the front of the house where their presence is a delight and I've inherited food chores five days a week.
Tubster, a gray tabby now in his dotage, and Malone, an orange and white guy who likes to hang around with humans, have been around the house for about a decade. They were here when I moved in with two cats of my own - Neville, an elegant Abyssinian cross who died a couple of years ago, and Cyrano, whose butterscotch and whip-cream coat matches Malone's. Cyrano is the only inside cat. All the others get no closer than the garage, even though they've all seen Cyrano come and go via a cat door.
The current crew also includes two females, one other male, and one who lives down the street but is always on hand for an evening meal. The male is Zipper, a gray tabby who sleeps with Tubster. The hungry neighbor is Garbanzo, a juvenile Persian. The females are Baby Black, the smallest and feistiest of the bunch, and Patches, a calico who shies away from contact. Two other cats, Slinky Black and Fat Face Charlie, show up on an irregular basis.
During the years, two short-term members of the colony fell prey to traffic - a beautiful long-haired gray (I've forgotten the name) and Dusty Dawg, a large orange tabby named for his looks and anxious canine-like behavior. For a while, Tigger came around. He was part of nearby colony tended by Sharing until the property owner took over.
Plenty cats, for sure. However, once a colony is established there's no choice but to feed and care for them. Sharing and I have the vet bills to prove the care part. Besides, judging from their behavior, most of the animals were abandoned pets.
Five days a week, the gang hangs out near the house around dinnertime. On the two days Sharing comes by, they spread across the yard and watch the driveway. When she drives in, they greet her. How they know one day from another is a mystery.
During one of her recent visits, a conversation turned to the need for animal care and population control. She was all in favor of any group devoted to no-kill philosophies. A bug bear of mine centers on TV ads asking for donations to off-island organizations such as the national Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Oahu's Hawaiian Humane Society. The money should stay at home. The Maui Humane Society certainly needs it.
Sharing put up some low-key objections, saying the only excuse for putting down an animal is if it is so sick or injured it has no chance of a decent life. Yes, the Maui Humane Society has to put down animals but every employee and volunteer hates to do so. It's a hatred that is matched only by their love of animals.
The Maui Humane Society gets a bad rap partly because it runs the island's animal control agency. That began when Council Member Joe Bulgo got the leash law passed. The Police Department wanted nothing to do with enforcing the law. The county negotiated a contract with the Humane Society to handle the enforcement of the leash law and animal cruelty statutes.
When it's said and done, responsibility for Maui's cat and dog population belongs to owners who don't bother to have their animals spayed and castrated. Because they don't, the island has too many dogs and cats, many of them living miserable lives "in the wild."
It's a myth that domestic cats can fend for themselves. And, on their own, dogs turn into predatory animals. In packs for three or more, even the most domesticated dogs will kill calves, goats and other livestock. That's one of the reasons you'll seldom see dogs running loose around ranches. A strange dog spotted in a pasture doesn't live long.
Do Maui's companion animals a favor. Spread some aloha. They didn't ask to be brought into the world. If you want a pet, get one from the Maui Humane Society or some other shelter. Make sure they're "fixed." It would be nice - especially on Valentine's Day - if someone besides a member of the choir hears what I'm preaching.
End of sermon.
Most of the outside gang are slumbering in the shade. Later, they'll be up, waiting for supper, each with its own personality and ready to add a little animated delight to a sunny day.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.