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Sharing Mana‘o

I love cats, always have. Over the years, I’ve raised a dozen of them, not counting the 50 or so feral cats I fed — and named — during the two years I lived on the North Shore. My current housing situation isn’t conducive to pets, so I get my furbaby fix by visiting pet-owning friends. Only thing is, nearly all of my friends are dog people. I’ve become a favorite aunt of several canines who don’t seem to realize that I’m a cat person.

Actually, I like dogs, just not as much as cats. My first “real” pet, after three turtles, a guinea pig, and countless guppies, was a sweet-tempered, shaggy terrier/poodle mix named Jingles. She was a Christmas present from my parents, and I thought of her as not just a best friend, but a soulmate. She was a little clumsy and awkward, eager to please, and happy to hang out around the house. Just like me.

At 9 years of age, I was not a very responsible pet owner, so my mother ended up being Jingles’ primary caregiver. At the time, I didn’t realize how stressful that role was for her, because she never complained. Much later, long after Jingles crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Mom confessed to me that she was neither a dog or a cat person. Even as a child, she had never been comfortable around animals.

A few years ago, Mom was a daily volunteer at Hale Makua, helping to feed my grandmother and other patients. One day, she saw someone bring in a therapy dog to visit the nursing home residents. She told me, “If I get to the point where you have to place me here, I just have one request. Do NOT let them bring any animals into my room!”

According to PetWebMD, almost 50 percent of folks who were surveyed online called themselves dog people, far more than the 12 percent who said they preferred cats. Around 25 percent of respondents identified as lovers of both, and 15 percent said they didn’t like cats or dogs. Though that survey is probably skewed, dog owners do outnumber cat owners in the United States, but by a far smaller margin. As in my case, one does’nt have to share a home with an animal to identify as an animal lover.

Whether you own one or not, if you like dogs, you should attend the second annual Fit 4 the Dogs Healthy Dog Festival at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center on Jan. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. A fundraiser for Caring K9s Therapy Dogs of Maui, the festival will feature fun activities for dogs and humans, including carnival games, a photo booth, silent auction, even massages for both people and pets. Veterinarians, trainers and other dog specialists will present informational sessions throughout the day, and Caring K9s’ therapy dogs will be there to give and receive puppy love. Dog owners may bring their pooches, as long as they are well-mannered and on leash.

Caring K9s Therapy Dogs of Maui is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its stated mission is to enrich the lives of the people of Maui by promoting physical and emotional health and bringing comfort and happiness through compassionate therapy dog visits as well as animal-assisted reading and education programs, while encouraging a culture of kindness toward animals. Volunteers conduct therapy visits at nursing homes and adult day care centers, comfort visits with hospice patients, and educational and therapy programs at schools, children’s camps, and Boys & Girls Clubs. Information on all of the Caring K9s programs will be available at the festival, along with support and volunteer sign-up opportunities.

I’m planning to attend, maybe even take along my favorite four-legged niece. But I’m not even going to mention it to Mom.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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