DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eloise Monsarrat received the Volunteer Service Award from President Bush yesterday after he arrived at Hickam Air Force Base. She volunteers for the Human Animal Bond Program at Tripler Army Medical Center. She was accompanied by her husband, Roger. CLICK FOR LARGE
Pet lover is honored by president during visit
Nervousness got the best of Eloise Monsarrat last night when the 84-year-old Oahu resident met President Bush.
"I gave him the wrong lei, I was so excited," said Monsarrat, who received the President's Volunteer Service Award from Bush. "So I took it back and gave him another one."
Other than a small group of local dignitaries, Monsarrat and her husband, Roger, 85, were the only Hawaii residents allowed to greet Bush and his wife, Laura, on the tarmac at Hickam Air Force Base last night.
Monsarrat gave him a hug and kiss but mistakenly gave him a white-and-pink crocheted lei intended for Laura Bush. So Monsarrat removed it and placed a bright red silk Micronesian ginger lei around the president's neck.
"They'll last forever," she said of the silk lei.
Monsarrat, a dog lover and handler, did not forget the "first dogs" and presented Bush with a little red-and-gold silk lei for his Scottish terrier, Barney.
CHARLES DHARAPAK / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Oops, wrong lei, Mr. President: Eloise Monsarrat had to do the lei shuffle yesterday after she accidentally gave President Bush the wrong one shortly after he disembarked from Air Force One at Hickam Air Force Base. "I gave him the wrong lei, I was so excited," said Monsarrat, who received the President's Volunteer Service Award. "So I took it back and gave him another one."
She then gave Laura Bush the crocheted lei and a smaller similar one for her Scotty, Miss Beazley.
"So both dogs and both people got leis," Monsarrat said.
President Bush presented her with the award, a small pin, for her pet therapy work at Tripler Army Medical Center.
Monsarrat said the president told her "he's so proud of the work we do with animals because they love animals."
The Monsarrats then posed with the Bushes for a photo.
Eloise Monsarrat is one of 550 volunteers nationwide to be named a USA Freedom Corps Greeter.
Every Wednesday morning, Monsarrat brings 6-year-old golden retriever sisters named Deja Vu and Karma, who belong to another volunteer, to visit patients at Tripler.
The Missouri native moved to Hawaii in 1948.
She has worked with animals ever since her retirement in 1983, first at the Hawaiian Humane Society and for the last 16 years with the Red Cross program at Tripler.
Monsarrat, who had never met a president before, could hardly believe her close encounter with Bush.
"He was right down there next to you, you know," she said.
Meeting the president was "very rewarding" and "very fulfilling," said the Republican. "He reaches down to the people, you know, people like me."
Monsarrat felt the president was down to earth, and got pretty comfortable chatting with him.
After visiting with him and the first lady, Monsarrat said she has one regret.
"I'm just sorry they didn't get to see it (the pet therapy work)," she said. "Because when you're there and you see how the faces change when you bring a dog in, a dog doesn't criticize them and doesn't correct them, and they're just happy to have them. Unconditional love."