Just like their owners, the doggies of Maui are a melting pot. It seems like there are 20 loveable mutts for every one well-trimmed purebred pooch chasing tennis balls at Kam III Beach. Most of the island’s dogs may not be eligible to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but there’s a standout breed you may notice trotting along South Kihei Road or shopping in The Pet Shop at Maui Mall more often than others.
You can make a pretty educated guess about what Maui’s most beloved canine is. The pit bull wears the doggy crown, although his fame doesn’t come without some notoriety. Pit bulls are stereotyped as predators waiting to chomp off the leg of anything with a pulse, a belief demonstrated through a past of regulations on the breed in over 700 cities throughout the nation. Dennis Burns, owner of Valley Isle Animal Rescue, refuted this common view and claimed that about 90 percent of the pit bulls his organization sees on calls are “great” and “family-oriented.” In fact, Burns said that only one vicious pit bull has ever crossed his path, which is considerable given that he started his organization back in 2011 and worked with animals for over 40 years.
“Pit bulls are definitely a dominant breed on this island,” said Jerleen Bryant, Maui Humane Society CEO. She went on to commend the stout dogs by saying that they “make wonderful pets.”
Why are pit bulls the Regina George of canines? Bryant believes it’s due to the number of hunters on the island who prefer dogs with a lot of tenacity.
“Pit bulls are definitely a people-pleasing dog,” Bryant said. “They aim to really please their owners regardless of what the owner wants.”
Hunting dogs in general seem to be the kind of hounds prevailing the island. Bryant reported seeing a lot of crosses used commonly in hunting at her animal shelter, which included catahoula leopard dogs mixed with pit bulls. Other dogs who love a hearty chase followed tail which included all the herding dogs, like cattle dog mixes.
Can a classic Maui mutt be written into the American Kennel Club’s official list of recognized dog breeds? Besides pit bulls, mixed dogs are described with as much pride as someone proclaiming they’re Chinese, Hawaiian and Irish. The popular term for these diverse doggies are “poi dogs”, a nickname taken from the actual extinct breed renown in Hawaii for its considerable lethargy and bellies that seemed to be stuck in an eternal state of kanack attack. The poi dogs of the 21st century triumphed Bryant’s list of The Maui Humane Society’s most popular dogs, adding more contestants like small dog mixes (chihuahua and terrier) and labrador and golden retriever mixes.
Dawn Hall, founder of the Hawaii Rescue Animal Foundation (HARF), had a different take on which breeds win the hearts of Maui’s people. Her opinion towards pit bulls was that just like chihuahuas, they were the dogs who take up the most cages at the shelter.
“There’s a disconnect between what ends up in shelters and what people are actually looking for,” Hall said.
Hall and Bryant shared the same stance on labradors and golden retrievers being sought-after dogs. In fact, Hall said that Corgis and Jack Russell Terriers are also one of the most popular breeds that are adopted.
Which breed do you think truly deserves the title of Maui’s most desired dog?
Photo: Mysthyria/Wikimedia Commons