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By: Andrea Cronrod
I have had companion dogs throughout my life. When I first met Shasta at my friend Scotty’s house, her sweet personality, and demeanor attracted me. She was colorful but not flashy, friendly but not affectionate. She was one of six dogs that Scotty cared for at the old plantation manager’s house they lived in up on a hill. Shasta wandered into his yard one day. Lost hunting dogs are common on Kauai, though it was hard to imagine her as such since she did not have the killer instinct.
I took her home a few days before Hurricane Iniki in 1992. My house in Kalaheo had extensive damage from the hurricane. I began traveling back and forth between the rental home and my cabin up the hill in Kokee State Park.
“Shasta,” I said, “If you can handle going from one place to another, we will remain together.” True but not tender, our living arrangement worked out well for both of us.
The back seat of my convertible Volkswagen became her mobile home. Wherever we went and whatever we did, she remained loyal. We eventually moved full time up the fifteen mile windy road to Kokee. Whether sprawled on the back seat of my car, or on the sofa amidst other dogs while visiting at Barb’s ranch, she knew how to make herself at home. One morning Barb and I awoke to find her stretched on the sofa with Barb’s two dogs close by. Her head was on the pillow and we never figured out how she covered her body with a blanket.
My canine companion was a mixed breed looking beagle, shepherd, and husky. Medium size with a kind face and a beagle wiggle that “swayed with a wiggle with a wiggle when she walked.” Her smile could heal nations, and I would get lost with my arms wrapped around her body and my face buried in her thick, husky, fur neck.
The beach was our favorite recreation area. Some dogs run back and forth, kick sand, and drool excitedly. Shasta had her own system for finding a place to relax on the beach.
Patient, ladylike, and a professional in etiquette, Shasta taught me the art of successful communication. I learned by watching her techniques.
Upon arriving at the ocean and letting Shasta out of the car, I headed for the water. Shasta scoped out the beach, looking for a likely candidate. She approached them slowly, smiling and panting, only to set a short distance away. After she attracted the attention of her intended recipient, she moved closer and closer, continually stopping to stare. Her final introduction would then be in order. When I returned from swimming, my friendly dog would be sitting proudly not on but right next to a person or family. She might be drinking water from their hand and setting under their umbrella, smiling happily.
This was her hunting technique, which explained to me why she failed in the field as a hunter’s dog.
Shasta loved people, and a good party was one of her favorite pastimes. Though she did not regularly wander, she crashed parties when detected by sounds or scents. If she disappeared from our cabin, I had only to cruise the neighborhood for the trail of a gathering. Party hat on her head, I would find her mingling, as happy as a dog could be. As with any good partnership, I was glad that she was able to venture out and have a social life of her own.
We lived near a pavilion, much to her delight. Shasta regularly patrolled the domain, seeking scraps or handouts from people and tourists eager to share their lunch with her. In one of her hungrier moments, I was told that her behind was seen hanging out of a trash can.
Once, some tourists thought she was a stray, and drove her down the hill to the humane society sixty minutes away. I am sure she readily hopped into their car, with no qualms or fears about going for a ride with strangers. After I discovered Shasta was missing, my friend informed me that she saw her on television at the humane society. Miss congeniality was not in a cage like the other dogs, but wandered freely around the office, presumably a mascot by that time.
Years later, as my health began failing, it became increasingly more difficult to care for her needs. I was lucky to find a woman who used to run the humane society with a large menagerie of her own. Shasta won her affection, and lived the remainder of her life in happiness and peace as a retiree until in death she did us part.
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