I took a dog on an excursion to Hawaii and it was the best part of my vacation

By | March 19, 2024

It’s true that seeing a place through the eyes of a child is special. But it turns out you’re looking at it from a dog’s point of view.

This is what I’m thinking as Opal, the 10-year-old rescue dog I’m taking on an excursion this sunny morning as part of a volunteer experience on the island of Hawaii (often known as the Big Island), looks curiously over the lava landscape beyond the hiking trail we’re on located. She stares at a group of goats in the bushes, looking back with interest but wariness.

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Taking a shelter dog on a field trip in Hawaii.Taking a shelter dog on a field trip in Hawaii.

Taking a shelter dog on a field trip in Hawaii.

Hello. Mahalo. In Hawaii, learning Hawaiian words is not just about relaxing into the atmosphere of the island, it is also about understanding the spirit of this place that has been shaped for thousands of years by the spirit of Aloha – the idea of ​​“mutual respect and affection” and a way of looking at the world “in which every person is important to every other person for the collective existence,” according to the state constitution.

There’s another word that visitors to the islands hear more often these days: malama – a term that means giving back. As part of the Malama Hawaii Project, tourism officials, hotels and attractions have worked together to offer one-off volunteer experiences tailored to vacationers. They’re easy, fun and short, and make a difference in local communities. Especially for repeat visitors, vacationers who feel a deep connection to Hawaiian culture, beaches, volcanoes and the spirit of aloha, the idea of ​​giving back makes a lot of sense.

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There are more and more opportunities to do some volunteer work during the holidays. Beach cleanups, reforestation efforts, workdays in botanical gardens and cultural conservation programs are just some of the volunteer activities that benefit the island and its people while turning tourism into a force that gives rather than just takes.

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The first time my family engaged in Malama volunteering was a beach clean-up at beautiful Hapuna Beach. For that first attempt, my daughter agreed to grab a bucket and a litter box tipper in exchange for the promise of shave ice.

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As we played a game of collecting plastic and rubbish, we realized how many times we must have enjoyed clean beaches thanks to the efforts of other volunteers doing exactly what we were doing. It was strangely relaxing and meditative, an easy task that allowed us to really look at our surroundings and notice the plants growing out of the sand and the little crabs scurrying among the rocks.

During dog excursions in Hawaii, beach time and walks are possible excursions.During dog excursions in Hawaii, beach time and walks are possible excursions.

During dog excursions in Hawaii, beach time and walks are possible excursions.

Dog excursions in Hawaii

As part of planning our next vacation, I looked for another malama volunteer experience. I first looked at GoHawaii’s Malama site to browse ideas and then did a Google search. And then I saw it: the Hawaiian Island Humane Society’s field trip program for rescue dogs. This was clearly the perfect way to get my eight year old excited about volunteering; Giving a rescue dog a big day out was a dream come true for her.

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Humane society on the island of HawaiiHumane society on the island of Hawaii

Humane society on the island of Hawaii

We signed up, agreed to the $25 donation, and answered a short list of questions, such as experience with dogs and ages of participants. We spent time scrolling through the excursion dogs on the website (under the Features, select Take me on an excursion), wondering which dog they would pair us with.

On the day of our field trip, we invited a cousin and walked from Kona to the Holualoa animal shelter, where we ended up on a beautiful, modern campus perched on a densely wooded hill.

A friendly shelter worker came to sit with us and gave us our briefing. He also gave us a backpack full of the things we might need during our excursion (water and a saucer, a few toys, a blanket, a laminated guide for taking great dog photos, etc.).

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The Hawaii Island Humane Society provides backpacks with all the items needed for a dog excursion.The Hawaii Island Humane Society provides backpacks with all the items needed for a dog excursion.

The Hawaii Island Humane Society provides backpacks with all the items needed for a dog excursion.

She then disappeared into the back and returned a few minutes later with our canine friend, Opal. Opal wagged her tail in greeting, leaned over for pets, and happily followed us to the car, ready for adventure.

On the road with Opal

Since we had a rental car, we brought a blanket for Opal to sit on, both for her comfort and to keep the car free of dog hair (we also vacuumed the car after our excursion). The shelter had given us a list of activity ideas ranging from dog-friendly beaches to dog-friendly restaurant patios. We opted for a morning hike along the 1871 Trail at Puuhonua o Honaunau, the refuge town.

The trail was perfect for our mix of an older dog, a child and two adults. According to the safety contract we signed, only people in our group aged 18 and over were allowed to walk Opal, but my nine-year-old walked next to her, petting her, talking to her and pointing out things she thought a dog might find. interesting, including goats, sticks, shade and the beach.

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Taking a dog on an excursion in Hawaii means there are plenty of water breaks in the shade.Taking a dog on an excursion in Hawaii means there are plenty of water breaks in the shade.

Taking a dog on an excursion in Hawaii means there are plenty of water breaks in the shade.

There were spots where you could wade into the water, and the trail itself meandered past native Hawaiian ruins and village reconstructions along a historic walking trail. Because the trail is part of the national park, there was an audio tour on the NPS app that told us about the ruins and old bridges we saw.

Along the way, Opal befriended almost everyone we encountered, sporting her cheerful “adopt me” bandana and the backpack that read, “We’re on a field trip.” You can adopt this dog. (It’s OK to Be Excited)” generated a lot of questions and interest from people Opal met along the way.

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Not only is it good for these dogs to get out of the shelter, it also gets adoptable animals into the community where they might find their forever homes. We hoped that seeing Opal at the shelter instead of in a kennel might bring her a little closer to finding a new home.

When we returned to the shelter after our walk and a lunch of fish tacos on a dog-friendly restaurant patio, Opal greeted everyone there with wagging tails and her big doggy smile—which I took as a sign that this is a shelter that takes in abandoned pets. a happy life while they wait for their forever home.

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Malama means giving back, but our experience brightening a shelter dog’s day has given us so much in return. At the end of our trip, which included plenty of beach and pool time and a trip to Volcanoes National Park, I asked my daughter what the highlight of her vacation had been. She replied without hesitation, “Spending the day with Opal.”

Editor’s Note: While the Hawaiian language recognizes the use of the okina or glottal stop, one of the eight consonants of the (modern) Hawaiian language and the kahako or macron, this story does not include the okina or kahako because not all computers can reproduce them. markings.

I took a dog on an excursion to Hawaii and it was the best part of my vacation originally appeared on FamilyVacationist.com.

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The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY. FamilyVacationist.com and TourScoop.com are owned and operated by Vacationist Media LLC. Using the FamilyVacationist travel recommendation methodology, we review and select family vacation ideas, family vacation spots, all-inclusive family resorts, and classic family vacations for all ages. TourScoop includes guided group tours and tour operators, tour operator reviews, itinerary reviews, and travel gear recommendations.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why You Should Add a Dog Excursion to Your Next Hawaii Vacation

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