Published: May 5, 2013
The lanky, charcoal-gray dog with a distinctive, wiry hairdo would stand out in most other animal shelters, but no one gave him a second look on Hawaii's island of Kauai.
But thanks to a tourist willing to take him across the Pacific, an Airedale Terrier-Irish Wolfhound mix named Grady now enjoys a spacious California loft with a new owner.
The Kauai Humane Society since December has been reaching out to tourists and others traveling to California and Oregon to see if they're willing to check some extra luggage - one of the island's many stray or abandoned dogs.
When a traveler agrees, the shelter pays a reduced rate of $100 to fly the dogs on Alaska Airlines to get them to shelters in Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., where most get adopted within a couple of weeks. Dogs also can make the trip as cargo at a more expensive rate.
Shelter officials attribute some of the program's success to the uniqueness of the animals. Kauai's only shelter gets a lot of stray and abandoned dogs derived from hunting breeds used for stalking feral pigs on the island.
The animals can languish for months at Kauai's shelter. But once they're sent to the mainland, the dogs are snatched up quickly because they're different from others normally offered for adoption.
'Some are kind of funny looking, unusual looking, ' said Laura Fulda, vice president of marketing and development at the East Bay SPCA. 'They tend to be a little shy, very sweet, well-behaved and have had some training, and they are friendly toward other dogs. '
The dogs delivered from Hawaii have been mostly mixed breeds derived from Airedales, whippets and hounds - breeds sometimes used on the islands to hunt feral pigs. On any given day, Kauai's shelter holds about 90 dogs and 45 cats, shelter operations manager Brandy Varvel said.
Varvel came up with the idea to fly the dogs off the island to shelters that mainly take in other breeds.
The Kauai shelter has an open-door policy, meaning all animals are accepted regardless of space. The steady influx of hunting breeds was forcing the shelter to double and even triple up on dogs in their cages, Fulda said.
Since the program's start, 24 dogs have been adopted with one or two dogs shipped each week to California.