Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Hanai's favorite daily activity was to play Frisbee with
Pohai Nani Administrator David Fitzgerald. Her favorite
toys, including a plastic hamburger, were buried
with her Friday.

Retirement home residents
mourn dog’s death

Pet therapy provided by
Hanai the poodle touched the
lives of everyone who met her

By Pat Gee

Hanai, the "director of pet therapy" at Pohai Nani Good Samaritan Retirement Community, died Friday, leaving the retirement home's 42 residents heartbroken over the loss of their 6-year-old standard poodle.

"I loved her. She was a real special dog" who touched many lives, said Administrator David Fitzgerald. "They had a great amount of joy just petting her. The residents, even those with dementia, were very upset when she died."

Hanai's handmade mahogany casket was buried in the shade of the banyan tree where she loved to play Frisbee with Fitzgerald. Her memorial service on Friday was attended by dozens of residents, their family members and staff, said Fitzgerald, who delivered her eulogy.

Hanai was discovered half-paralyzed on the grounds a few days before she was euthanized by a veterinarian, who suspected Hanai had a blood clot in the heart or brain.

Hanai's favorite resident, 93-year-old Gladys Meeker, said she "was heartbroken and cried most the night" Hanai died. She could not fall asleep without Hanai curled next to her bed as she had the past six years.

Meeker, who has lived at the care center the longest (since 1967), said Hanai chose to sleep next to her because she was the only one who could get the puppy to eat out of her hand.

"I wasn't going to have anything to do with the dog" at first because Meeker thought dogs did not belong confined at a care facility, she said.

But after feeding the puppy, Hanai "decided to stay (with me), and that was it. She came in and just decided this is where I'm going to live. I don't think she ever slept with anyone else in six years," said Meeker.

Fitzgerald said Hanai would be by his side during his daily rounds. Hanai could sense "when a resident was sick or dying, and she would often stay at their bedsides," he said.

Luann Foos, executive director of the retirement home, bought Hanai especially for residents because the standard poodle is one of the most intelligent and well behaved of all breeds, he said. Hanai grew up at the facility and had her official title, "director of pet therapy," on her collar's name tag, Fitzgerald said.

Pet therapy often is used by institutions to cheer up sick children and elderly people and help improve their conditions.

Hanai, not allowed to enter the dining room, would wait patiently outside the entrance for Meeker and others to sneak her table scraps even though the vet had asked everyone not to, Fitzgerald said, laughing.

The night before her death, Hanai was allowed to sleep next to Meeker one last time.

"Our staff cared for her just like they would a resident," said Fitzgerald. "Everybody pitched in; the cook made her hamburger for her last meal at Mrs. Meeker's request. William Luck in maintenance took all day to make her a beautiful casket."

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