Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
“Okinawa is such a beautiful place, not just the ocean and scenery and culture, but the people. I’ve been treated well and taken care of by many people here in what has become ‘My Hawai‘i.’” — Colin Sewake
This past February, our family bid our dog Hana a “Happy Fourth Barkday!”
With this year being the “Year of the Dog” according to the Chinese calendar, I thought I’d tell you about our family’s experiences with man’s best friend in Okinawa.
Since moving to Yomitan, we’ve taken care of four dogs.
Our first dog, a white mixed-terrier stray that I named “Kea” (“white” in Hawaiian language) showed up in our backyard in 2004 while I was grilling. She was pretty well behaved and didn’t seem to want to leave. I felt bad that she didn’t seem to have a home to return to, so I convinced Keiko, who prefers cats, that we should keep her and take care of her.
In the spring of 2005, Keiko’s co-worker’s dog — a purebred Shiba — gave birth to three puppies. We couldn’t turn down the offer to take home one of our dream dogs for free. Koa, which means “warrior” in Hawaiian language, took only a few months to grow to almost full size. He was also a pretty rough dog. Unfortunately, Kea didn’t like the newcomer and found a way to escape after her tolerance level was tested one too many times.
In December 2009, however, Koa had a run-in with a poisonous Okinawa habu snake. The habu had chased a mouse into our backyard and got into a tangle with Koa, biting him over his right eye. Sadly, Koa did not survive the injury — he died three days later, just three months short of his fourth birthday.
I’ve always enjoyed the love and joy that a dog brings to a family, so, I convinced Keiko to let me adopt another dog. A few weeks later, I visited the canal outlet area of Mihama American Village. A nonprofit organization had brought over several dogs and puppies for adoption that weekend. Our daughter Mizuki picked out the same dog that had caught my eye. She was one of five female puppies.
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Colin Sewake is a keiki o ka ‘äina from Wahiawä, O‘ahu, who was assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in December 1994 to fulfill his U.S. Air Force ROTC commitment. He met his future wife, Keiko, within a month and decided to make Okinawa his permanent home. Colin retired from the Air Force and, recently from the Air Force Reserves. He now works as a customer service representative for Hotel Sun Palace Kyuyokan in Naha. Colin and Keiko have two teenaged children and make their home in Yomitan.