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A Refuge of One's Own

by Doreen Hinton

Imagine being at a luau where a fat, delicious pig is the highlight of the great feast. Imagine, too, that as the pig is being cut, three tiny piglets fall out - of the three, just one little piggy survives...

Imagine a delicate fawn, caught in a fence; humans manage to disentangle her, but she stays put, crying out for her mother to retrieve her. Alas, it's no use: her mother never returns...

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Imagine a love so profound that it prompts a man to begin bringing home hurt and sick animals in hopes of saving his sweetheart, who is dying of cancer. Imagine that the sweetheart, though herself ill, nurses the animals to health - and that it makes her happy to do so. Imagine the man bringing home more and more animals, ever clinging to the hope that helping sick animals will help his woman have something to look forward to, something to live for; he hopes that she will become well. Then imagine that it works.

Who could resist this face?

Suzie was diagnosed with cancer twenty years ago - she came to Maui to die, but she met Sylvan Schwab instead. Prompted by Suzie's love of animals and the genuine happiness that caring for them seemed to bring her, Sylvan began bringing home the sick and maimed for Suzie to take care of. As divine providence would have it, Suzie survived the cancer and is very much alive and well today. Out of the love that Sylvan had for Suzie, the East Maui Animal Refuge was borne.

Everybody's got a story, and animals are no exception. If they could speak, they might tell us about the various ways in which we humans, either directly or indirectly, hurt them every day. The fact is that they may have more insight into human behavior than most of us will ever know (The stories you just read above are all true). But, thanks to the East Maui Animal Refuge, or EMAR, a few hundred animals could also tell stories about love and friendship; little pigs like "Moi-moi" and delicate fawns like "Squeaky" would tell you that they know the true meaning of aloha.

EMAR's mission is to take in the injured and/or orphaned wildlife of Maui and provide refuge for the animals that the Department of Wildlife, the Humane Society, or the Police can't take anywhere else. For many of these animals, EMAR is salvation - the last resort. Luckily, the last resort really is a resort, if you're an animal.

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EMAR is licensed by both state and federal Departments of Fish & Wildlife to rehabilitate and house just about any kind of animal (uh..mongoose and snakes need not apply) and indeed, there are more animals (aka "Boo Boo Babys") than you can shake a stick at: cats, dogs, pigs, a variety of birds and ducks, goats, sheep, a cow and even a deer! Everyone roams happily and freely over the grounds of EMAR - cats sleep on pigs, goats hang out with dogs, sheep suckle the shirts of visiting writers...

How many cats can you find in this picture?

Have you ever fed nearly four hundred babys? Sylvan and Suzie do it every day, beginning at 3:00a.m. It takes about $15,000 per year to keep everyone well fed (and if you've ever seen a wild pig, you'd know that it's no small potatoes). Of course, everyone gets by with a little help from their friends, especially the Boo Boo Babys. EMAR is run entirely by donations from the public. Dr. Ronald Moyer (of Upcountry Veterinary Services) generously donates vet care, and a local feed store provides all that food at a discount.

Maybe it was because it was feeding time, or maybe it was because there was a new face at the Refuge - I don't know, but I sure made alot of new friends that day. I learned that goats aren't mean (and that maybe it's just because their horns look so daunting); and that over a hundred cats, big and small, could get along (thus debunking the term, "cat fighting"); that sheep's wool might be a little wet and muddy on top, but if you get past the surface it's as soft as clouds; I learned that, despite trauma, most of the animals were still willing to seek friendship and love - even from a stranger.

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The one buddy I didn't really get to know was "Elmer" - a lovely black and white dairy cow, who just happened upon the Refuge some years ago and decided to stay. (No one knows for sure why she did this, but the writer suspects that all the noise and hoopla of the other animals sounded like way too much fun to miss!) Funny, for all the stupidity that we attribute to cows, Sylvan explained that, once you get to know them, cows possess distinct personalities much like our house pets. And, it must've been true - Elmer seemed like she knew exactly what was going on - she even followed us for a bit - hoping I'd interview her, too, no doubt. "I ate meat all my life until I experienced a cow," reminisced Sylvan. After meeting Elmer and Moi-moi, I'm not so big on this carnivore thing, either.

During the first few moments of my visit at EMAR, I thought of Sylvan and Suzie as the modern day Doctors Doolittle. But, by visit's end, I realized that it is even better than that! The love that these two people share for each other is so abundant that it now encompasses nearly four hundred children; they're a family. Thanks to Sylvan and Suzie Schwab, Maui has a place for the ill, the hurt, and the unwanted amongst us to go. Thanks to EMAR, these animals have a refuge of their own.

The East Maui Animal Refuge always welcomes your donations and volunteerism.

You can contact EMAR at 25 Malu Aina Place, Haiku or call: 572-8308.

Copyright © 1997 Maui Time Magazine

The East Maui Animal Refuge (EMAR) is a no-kill, all volunteer run, non profit, rehabilitation sanctuary for injured and orphaned animals who would otherwise die.

EMAR is licensed by both the State and Federal Department of Fish and Wildlife to rehabilitate animals - including threatened and endangered species.

 

 

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