If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve been following our preparations for relocation to Maui. Part of that adventure included getting Beast, our Alaskan Malamute, to the island as well. Sadly, those plans have now changed.

Beast had been having some throat issues for a while, and we thought we had it pretty much taken care of. Last week, the coughing became suddenly worse, and he started refusing food. Sarah took him in to the vet, and the X-ray revealed a huge tumor in his throat, distorting his trachea, and putting him at risk of asphyxiation, a horrible way to go. Sarah was with him in Newport with family while I was in Kula setting up the house. I turned off the saw, realized I had a text from Sarah, and called her. Her first words were “he’s gone, baby, I’m so sorry.” Sarah had been trying to reach me, and I either couldn’t hear the phone or wasn’t getting reception, so she had to make the hard call by herself, a hellish task. We can only be thankful that the choice was clear.

Change is hard for dogs, and the last month or so had been especially challenging for our boy, with strange people viewing the house, packing, things disappearing into boxes. We set his travel crate up in the living room with us and he really took to it, preferring to stay in there quite a bit, denning. Then out of the house and into a hotel for a week. Sarah was working, so Beast and I were on our own, together constantly, going for walks, exploring the pet store, finding the hotel room, learning about elevators. He was game, curious, playful and, a bit unusual for him, snuggly.

On the 30th, I gave him a hug and a belly rub, and departed for the airport for Maui. I didn’t know it was the last time I’d see the dog I’d adopted seven years before.

Since my departure, Sarah had him roaming the beaches in Oregon, playing with his new dog friend Odie on the ranch in Newport, and seemingly rediscovering some of the puppyhood he’d never had. His last weeks were filled with adventure, and he embraced it.

When I first brought Beast home with Belle, he was the troubled one, lacking any sort of confidence, glued to Belle’s side. Touching him anywhere back of his shoulder blades caused him to cower and cry in fear. Three years later, I could grab his tail and he’d understand it was play – but that was a long, gentle process to get him to realize he had a place in our home that was his. We watched him blossom, learning it was all right to play, to ask for attention, to demand dinner. When we lost Belle, he became our only child, the sole center of our dog-world. He moved out of her shadow and started expressing himself more than ever before. He watched more television than any dog I’ve ever known.

Beast was a gentle giant, curious but insecure, loving but only just beginning, really, to understand how to ask for love, fascinated by little children. I like to think he’s running with Belle now, free and happy. Our pack is smaller, and we miss him terribly.

Island Bound 1: Dreams of Maui

Sarah at Ahihi Kinau 

A couple of years ago, my wife, Sarah, and I took a vacation on Maui. Sarah had never been to Hawai’i before, so I was curious to see how she liked the place. I used to live on Oahu many years ago, enticed out to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa from Denver when my future boss said something like “well, you’ll have to spend about half your time in the water training dolphins.”

Sarah lived for a while in Costa Rica, and had thoughts of returning to that sort of climate at some point. Sitting at a table in Ka’anapali, sipping a cold drink, looking out over the ocean, Sarah commented “this is so much like Costa Rica, but something’s different.” I’m a pretty experienced traveler, but it’s one thing to visit a foreign country and quite another to consider when buying real estate, settling down and such. Also, Costa Rica is a long way from the west coast. I responded “It’s in the U.S.” and her reaction was “Whoa! Yeah, that’s it!”

I think our dream of moving to Maui may have started at that moment.

Over the next couple of years, we returned to Maui a few times, staying in different locations to try out the many microclimates and communities found on the island. We did the resort thing in Ka’anapali. We stayed in a cottage by the beach in Kihei, and in an ohana in Pukalani. We explored the south shore down to Makena and the north shore down to Haiku. We started gravitating to the upcountry area (is that antigravity?), and fell in love with the vibe, and the views, in Kula. I reached out to an old acquaintance, a realtor on the island, and started the process of getting more serious about a future with the word “relocation” in it. 

House hunting on Maui can be exciting and frustrating. Houses can be ramshackle but crazy expensive, neighborhoods can change dramatically by turning a corner. As a mainlander, you need to understand the difference between lease hold and fee simple. New home construction is surprisingly costly per square foot – and many neighborhoods dictate a minimum size enclosed space – lanais don’t count. There are garden views, and territorial views, and ocean views – and something I’ve only heard of on Maui, the bi-coastal view, where you look sort of westward at the West Maui Mountains, and you’re able to see both north and south coasts. And there’s the concept of the Condominium Property Regime

Early in 2013, house-hunting, we fell a bit in love with a little place just up the road from the Kula Lodge. Not quite a bi-coastal view, but a sweet view of the north shore, Kahului, the West Maui Mountains, and even Moloka’i in the distance. We arranged pre-approval with a local lender, and thought long and hard about making the leap. In the end, however, we decided the time wasn’t right, and we left the island for home.

The story doesn’t end there, however…

[next: Island Bound 2: Timing is Everything]