The journey from Maui to Portland, Oregon, and then to the Bay Area might seem like an arduous one for a dog. But the long trip didn’t kill Wolfie’s “spitfire” personality. He couldn’t wait to get out of his kennel at the Marin Humane Society and do his business.
The one-year-old terrier was one of 44 animals that arrived in Hayward around 8:45 p.m. last Friday, standing at the front of their crates with wagging tails and wiggling whiskers. The animals, which included 33 dogs and 11 cats, were rescued from the Maui Humane Society to create more space for the shelter that is overwhelmed by the deadly wildfires that took the lives of more than a hundred people and an unknown number of pets.
“We were all waiting sort of on pins and needles for the plane to arrive,” said Candace Alexander, the volunteer engagement manager at Marin Humane Society. “It was wonderful to see everybody kind of on the same field just waiting to help the animals and when the plane landed, you could just feel this sort of quiet moment of anticipation and excitement.”
The Berkeley Humane Society was initially contacted by the Maui Humane Society to see if it could take some animals that had been living in the shelter or in a foster home. To help out with the effort, the Berkeley Humane Society contacted other shelters in the Bay Area.
A kitten named Ahe gets some attention from lead adoptive animal care specialist Faith Wanko while working the front desk at Berkeley Humane in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. Ahe is one of five kittens and six dogs that were rescued from Maui after the wildfires that destroyed parts of the island. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
“All of the shelters in the Bay Area were already really full. So in order to make this work, we decided to put a coalition of partner shelters together,” said Jeffrey Zerwekh, executive director of the Berkeley Humane Society.
The dogs and cats were rescued by the Berkeley Humane Society, Marin Humane Society, East Bay SPCA, Tri-City Animal Shelter, Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter and Animal Rescue Foundation. Some, including Wolfie, have already been adopted.
The flight from Maui to Portland was arranged by Greater Good Charities in partnership with Southwest Airlines, while the flight from Portland to Hayward was also arranged by Greater Good Charities in partnership with national cargo airliner Ameriflight.
A kitten named Kawena licks its nose as it rests in a kennel at Berkeley Humane in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. Kawena is one of five kittens and six dogs that were rescued from Maui after the wildfires that destroyed parts of the island. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
The Bay Area shelters were no stranger to natural disaster rescue efforts. Cole Kuiper, marketing manager for the Animal Rescue Foundation, started working for the shelter in Walnut Creek in 2017. For as long as he’s been part of the foundation, rescuing animals from natural disasters has always been part of the job.
“There was one year where we took in a about a dozen cats who were actual burn victims from the (2018 Camp Fire),” said Kuiper. “And our clinic just worked overtime to assist with their wounds.”
Like other volunteers, Kuiper was amazed by how happy and eager some of the animals were after their long flight.
“Tails were wagging. Kittens were sticking their arms out of … their little carrier crates, ready to be petted, already purring at first sight,” said Kuiper. “You’d think they’d be quite stressed out, but it was almost like these animals knew that something special was waiting for them when they hit the ground.”
Kristen Loomer, director of operations at Berkeley Humane Society, was stationed at the cargo door to receive the animals when the plane arrived. It was not an easy task. Loomer had to make sure that her balance and footing were stable to avoid dropping one of the crates on the tarmac, which could weigh anywhere from 20 to 80 pounds.
“I’m a little sore still I’ll admit,” said Loomer.
Berkeley rescued six dogs and five kittens, and Loomer found herself partial to Olina, a gray-and-white pitbull that was a little reserved when she got off the plane. The second she got back to the shelter, all she wanted was cuddles, said Loomer.
Loomer hopes Olina will find her new home this Saturday at the Berkeley Humane Society’s 11th Annual Bark (& Meow) Around the Block Adopt-a-thon and street fair, the largest adoption day in California.
“She is really ready for her new home,” said Loomer. “We really hope that this weekend … she will find her person. I’m 100% confident that she will.”