PUUNENE, Maui – Everyone who has lost a pet knows the pain of letting go. Now anyone wanting time with a beloved animal before cremation at the Maui Humane Society will have a private place to say goodbye.
Tracey Harrap didn’t get to do that when her dog Bolita — a blue heeler/shar-Pei mix who loved riding surfboards — died of cancer a year ago.
“The last two weeks we were up with her day and night, walking her, talking to her, checking in with the vet so there would be no pain,” said Harrap, a Maui woodworker and artist. “That final evening we decided the vet would come to the house the next morning. I held Bee in my arms on her bed, telling her it was OK to go.
“She left us at 2 a.m., on her own terms and in her own time.”
When Bee – also known as “bumbles, bubbles, princess, sweet pea, all kinds of silly nicknames” –died, Harrap and her partner Dean Fenwick had a plan for her first-ever dog.
“I rent, so I had no place to bury her,” Harrap said. “I decided on cremation at the Humane Society, the only place on Maui that offers this service. I made her a lei, wrapped her in a blanket and we took her back to the place where I’d gotten her 12 years ago as an 8-week-old puppy who looked like a fluffy tennis ball.”
She and Fenwick “were exhausted and crying, the Saturday kids were coming in to look at the animals, families were looking for a pet, there was no privacy,” Harrap said. “I asked what to do and was instructed to back the car up to a chain-link fence gate.
“An employee who was very kind put Bee on a gurney, wheeled her into the employee parking lot, then shut the gate. I’d just wanted a few minutes to say goodbye, but there was no place to do it.”
Four months after she picked up her pet’s ashes, Harrap sent an email to the shelter’s CEO, Jerleen Bryant, and community outreach director, Nancy Willis, “telling them how raw the experience was for me. It was very rough to leave Bee there like that.”
Harrap had been thinking about how to change the end-of-life procedure she’d gone through, so when Bryant invited her to a meeting Harrup took internet research and her own sketches of small pavilions.
Bryant and Willis embraced the gazebo idea and walked Harrap outside to identify a building site, then asked her to assemble a materials list.
At Willis’ request, Kahului Home Depot manager Cory Dietz sought approval to support the project and his company donated materials based on the initial $2,200 estimate. When the shelter decided to remove a sickly plumeria tree to relocate the pavilion it covered the $1,000 overrun. Home Depot and MHS trucked in lumber and other supplies.
Harrap moved to Maui from New Zealand 22 years ago as a competitive windsurfer. Now a journeyman woodworker and professional artist, the Kuau resident volunteers for environmental causes and knows many contractors and carpenters.
When she put out a call for volunteers nearly two dozen replied, including a Maui fireman just off a three-day shift, an Ironman Triathlon competitor, three Home Depot employees on their days off, and her auto mechanic’s father, who donated sand and paid for delivery.
“I couldn’t have done the structure without my friend Mike Grier’s contractor knowledge, hard work and crew,” Harrap said. “They powered through in one really windy day to get the walls up and roof panels on and set us on course.”
Why did Grier do it?
“We didn’t have a dog when I was growing up and I like to go to the shelter to see the dogs,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help the Humane Society but I didn’t know how. This was a great way for me to support them and Tracey.”
The 12- by 12-foot structure was completed over three weekends. Harrap’s father, Ray, had been advising his daughter by phone about how to lay stone pavers, then flew in with her mother Heather from Napier, New Zealand, to help.
On what Harrap described as “a hot, horrible, long day,” the threesome laid the stone floor, then built and installed redwood benches. Her former landlords donated money for ceramic pots and flowers.
“It’s been a wonderful experience for all of us,” Bryant said. “Tracey ran the project and it’s a beautiful gazebo.
“We feel very strongly that we serve Maui’s people as well as our animals. Tracey didn’t have the best experience leaving her animal with us, yet she was willing to help out and give back to the Maui Humane Society and her community. She and her friends gave back with their special skills to make this project exceptional.”
During her last 18 months of life, Bee had played stern mother to a half-starved, wounded and abandoned pit bull puppy Harrap rescued and named Koi Boi.
“I told Bee ‘I can’t do this without you so teach him. She was the queen and the puppy was her student, just like I was when she taught me by body language and sounds when she was sore or sick or afraid,” Harrap said. “Koi Boi now weighs 100 pounds, eats eight cups of dog food a day, is full of muscle and a cuddler.”
Harrap knows she may someday lose another canine friend.
“I wouldn’t want to go through again what I went through with Bee, and I wouldn’t want other people to go through it, either. I’m grateful to everybody who gave their time and skills to make the gazebo happen.”
A dedication for what is now informally called the “Farewell Place” is planned for later this summer. Harrap hopes it will also carry the Hawaiian name Mai Ka Lani Mai, which translates as “Heaven Sent.”
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