Dogs, Cats and the Pandemic.
Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran
Based on social media postings, one thing happening during this pandemic was a lot more people getting pets. I occasionally saw friends’ updates featuring cat videos before COVID-19 but then noticed more personal pet photos over the last nineteen months. A lot of us picked up pets while we were isolated from family, human friends and co-workers.
I haven’t personally made any correlations but there are several well-regarded studies of the two types of domesticated animal owners. In 2010, University of Texas researchers found dog people were more social and outgoing while cat people tended towards being neurotic and somewhat more thoughtful or cerebral. A 2014 Carroll University survey found dog lovers energetic and outgoing and (gasp) rule followers. Cat lovers were introverted, open-minded and sensitive. Apparently, cat lovers also proved more non-conforming and scored better on intelligence tests.
Reportedly, so-called Red States have the highest rate of dog ownership while Blue States have more cat owners. I don’t know how true those studies are for Hawai‘i. From walking door-to-door over the years, I think a lot of local people in Central Maui keep canine guards for front doors and garages.
Growing up in Pā‘ia, a lot of my neighbors had dogs (the haole guy who opened a juice stand along Hāna Highway at the end of our street named his business after his Great Dane Charley). There were little yelping things warning owners we were walking past their house. Some larger mixed breeds kept us pesky latchkey kids off nicely manicured yards or made us yell from the street whether they wanted to buy fundraising candy for a school trip to the Big Island. I don’t really remember the cats—they were quiet, lazily watching us from perches on a patio or hollow tile wall.
My family is ambidextrous.
Living on Luna Lane, our first pets were dogs. (Papa Lino’s roosters were not pets and the egg-laying hens and the occasional bunnies and billy goats eventually became meals.) Precociously creative as children, my sister and I named the black and while poi dog we had Snoopy after a famous World War I flying ace. After we lost Snoopy, our next pet was Tarzan (there was a television series). When Tarzan passed—and I don’t know who decided on this—we called a white collie-like mutt Tarzan Replacement No. 1 while my grandpa scoffed that he should have been “Lassie” instead.
In the early 70s, my parents bought a tract home in the 12th Increment—a small subdivision across from the new Maui High School campus. My granduncle Juan Agaran retired from one of the Big Island Sugar Companies and moved in with my parents. He was a lapdog person.
His brother, Papa Lino, turned out to be a cat person. In fact, I think Papa Lino developed one of the first cat colonies in Kahului. One of his show bird cronies gave him a kitten but when additional felines wandered onto our property, he and Uncle Johnny would grouse about them but fed them anyway. Eventually those cats would come by regularly for some milk or a meal.
But the women who ruled our household—my grandmother and my mother—insisted they were outside cats.
Uncle Johnny went to Maui Adult Day Care at Maui Evangelical Church—one of the few male retirees in the program. Some of our yarn braided clothes hangers were made by Uncle Juan in that program. Papa Lino had other activities and television shows he preferred to government sanctioned senior social gatherings and passed on continuing adult day care after a few months.
When I went to college, my grandfather’s two cats were tabby Branford—named after my residential college—and gray Connecticut—the state where I spent my undergraduate years. After graduation, he added calico “Berkeley” where I attended law school.
While working on O‘ahu, the family drifted towards some small dogs (although my sister’s best friend Nelson had two Dobermen—Princess and Duchess—for a period). My sister renamed a part-chihuahua gift Heineken after a green bottled beverage. A friend of my mother gave her a lap dog named Nicki. Perhaps because they were small, cute things, they became our first pets allowed in the house.
After both Heinie and Nicki passed, my mom and sister became born-again cat persons (although my mom and her morning walking friends reputedly feed the feral chickens at Maui High).
Sister Vel presently has Ading after Fluffy passed, and in recent years added Whitey. Mom renamed Whitey Britney because he turned out to be a she. Ming-Ming wandered onto the property and is now one of my mother’s constant companions.
The most recent addition is a cat that started as a neighbor’s stray. But he liked the food at our house better so Vel and Mom named him Kipp as in “Are you planning to kipp him, mom?” The neighbors named Kipp Oliver because he has an “O” in his fur, so his full name is Ollie Kipp now.
Kipp is kept out of the house because that smaller cat enjoys picking fights with the others.
My wife and I should be cat people. Her kin have both cats and dogs. Growing up, I thought of myself more as a cat person. Unfortunately, she has allergies and cats leave too much hair around a house.
One of our neighbors gave her the runt of a litter that they named Mija. Mija was a quiet, smart, attentive dog who turned out to be a wonderful sign waving asset. But we lost Mija a few years ago due to an attack by a rescued boxer that got loose in the neighborhood.
So now we have Makalapua, or Maka. Born during Hurricane Lane weekend, Maka is a stubborn little thing—living up to her Chug heritage (Chihuahua-Pug). She has trained us well. Since the pandemic started, I walk her in the morning before work then she pulls my mother and me through Tsutsui Regional Park in the late afternoon (my mom gives her training treats just because Maka gives her light scratches on her arm driving to the park). I think she uses me just for exercise and food service. When she has a choice between curling up with Kallie or me, Maka’s choice is clear. Maka bonds more with her even though I’m the rule follower. I guess Maka knows who’s the Texan in the house.
Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran’s Alma Mater were the Bulldogs with Handsome Dan as a mascot but he was graduated from Maui High when there was some mistaken effort to have Saber-tooth Tigers recognized as its mascot rather than the Ahinahina Silversword. He currently represents Central Maui in the State Senate.