I was vacationing on a remote beach in Hana, Maui, with my family when my 10-year-old daughter Emily and I saw a young black Lab that reminded us of our dog at home. When we got closer, it was obvious that the dog was starving — it was just skin and bones, and it looked sick. Emily said, “Mom, we’ve got to do something!” The dog was so sweet and friendly, in spite of being sick.
A few minutes later, we found a second black Lab. Both males, and clearly siblings; the second dog was even sicker than the first one. My daughter and I got very upset but no one wanted to help us. I realized that this was a moment for me to be an example to my daughter.
If I want her to be a compassionate person, how could I turn my back on these dogs? My daughter is the next generation. How different is that from turning my back on a homeless person or others who need help? I want her to learn that we can make a difference — don’t give up!
Just then, a young couple came along and the woman, who introduced herself as Jess, became as worried as we were for these two starving pups. She and her new husband were on their honeymoon from Boston and offered to find a nearby shelter where the dogs at least would get some food and a place to sleep. Emily and I helped get the pups in Jess and her husband’s car, and she and I exchanged telephone numbers.
A few days later, I called Jess to see how it had gone, and although she was back in Boston by then, she told me that she and her husband had fallen in love with the dogs and signed a “no-kill” form at the shelter on Maui. This meant that if the dogs were not adopted then she would somehow ship them all the way to Boston unaccompanied; it would cost about $2,000 if it could even be arranged. It was kind of depressing, because I knew that because of the expense, this was a long shot. My husband was worried that I’d want to adopt them.
As soon as I got home, I sent out an email blast to my friends, asking if anyone could help get these dogs from Maui to Boston. To my surprise, a complete stranger named Debbie, who had received a forwarded email, got in touch with me. An animal lover, Deb lives in a nearby California city and was visiting Honolulu at that moment. If I could somehow get the dogs from Maui to Honolulu in about a week, she agreed to bring them with her back to L.A.
I was ecstatic, but then wondered how in the world we would get the dogs to her. Who would buy their crates, fill out the paperwork for the dogs to travel, transport them to Honolulu? Meanwhile the shelter contacted Jess, pressuring her to get the dogs out of there soon.
Even though I felt really uncomfortable about it, I sent out an even wider email blast to friends asking for ideas and help. People seemed to come out of nowhere! A friend of Deb’s (who live in Maui) said he’d get the dogs out of the shelter and keep them at his house for a few days. A friend of mine put me in touch with a Los Angeles real estate agent named Juanita, who in turn told me about Pilots N Paws, a group of pilots who transport dogs in their own private planes and ask nothing in return. Within minutes of my contacting Pilots N Paws, I got two replies. I went with Howard, as he offered to pick them up and get them to the airport. I could not believe this was happening!
Howard arranged for the dogs to go on an empty charter flight returning to Honolulu. The dogs were met by another person unknown to us, who picked them up and kept them at his house for several days before they could fly to L.A. with Deb.
Jess and I could not believe the boys were safely out of the shelter and out of danger and being loved by these unknown angels. The dogs had their crates, new collars and even beautiful Hawaiian leis for the ride to L.A. Deb checked in at American Airlines with the boys. All went so well that when the airline staff heard this heartwarming rescue story, the manager gave a free ticket to one of the dogs. Again, angels! Jess and I were on pins and needles. Would all go well for takeoff?
My daughter and I went to the airport to pick up the dogs, where Juanita joined us, just to meet them! It was so exciting — as a team we had done it. We hadn’t given up and we now had the dogs with us. We all cried — it was unbelievable! It had taken us three weeks to get them this far. There had been moments when I almost gave up and then something wonderful would happen, I’d get a call with help and was renewed and hopeful again.
Now safely at my house, we had to figure out a way to get the two dogs to Boston. I sent another email asking for anyone flying to the East Coast who wouldn’t mind two Maui pups accompanying them. One woman forwarded my plea in an email blast to 600 actor friends, and about 30 people offered to help. In the end, Jess and I paid for the dogs to be flown to her, and that is where they arrived a few days later, safely and happily. She named them Kona and Kai.
My VIV Moment came somewhere in those weeks when I realized everything was going to fall into place. People really care, and will come together if you can reach them. Even though my husband was not enthusiastic about this whole project, I pushed through anyway.
It’s a small thing to save the life of an animal, but each of our little contributions can make a difference in the world. When I was on that beach, I had a little piece of hope that it was possible. It felt like a huge risk. I didn’t know if others would ignore me, but every time I reached out, people had so many good ideas! That made it easier. Now I feel like the world is bigger, filled with a lot of people who care about animals as much as I do.
Emily was sad that we couldn’t adopt the dogs ourselves, but she’s happy that they’re in a good home now. And we both know that you don’t have to give up on an idea just because it seems almost impossible.