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Ninja Poi Dog

“Ocean good, people-pack good, canoe good.”

September 26, 2013
Jonica Hall - Contributing Writer , Maui Weekly

I named my little dog "Le," which is short for both "Lehua" (Pele's flower, a beloved friend, strong) and "Lele," which means "jumping." She is true to her name in heart and action.

Le is the lone survivor of Huli, a once flea-bitten, starving and unbeknownst to me, hapai little poi dog who found me at Ma'alaea Harbor almost six years ago. I named her Huli because she would always roll over right at my feet. I tried really hard not to make eye contact with her, but that obviously didn't work.

The first time I took Huli to the beach, every time a wave would break, she'd hunker down in fear. The sound of almost anything loud made her do this. But after just a few weeks of calm guidance, she began to relax and even enjoy our frequent beach outings.

Article Photos

Imua with Maui Canoe Club
Jonica Hall

By the time little Le was born, Huli was an old pro at hanging at the beach, playing in the break and going out in outrigger canoes. Her fear was replaced by a compulsive need to lick everyone who said "hi" to her (hence, one of her nicknames is Lickapotamous"). In fact, she seemed convinced that the sole reason these people were at the beach in the first place was so they could meet her.

I started taking Le to the beach when she was about as big as her head is now. Tiny as she was, she instantly took to the water and the playful shore break.

I started taking both dogs out in the canoes as soon as Le could fit into the smallest doggie life jacket I could find. I only take them out on days when ke kai (the sea), isn't too rambunctious.

As an outrigger captain, I almost always sit in seat six. Huli and Le sit in the canoe in front of my seat before we launch. It's amusing and impressive to see how adeptly they handle themselves from launch to landing.

While Ms. Lickapotamous checks out the "lickability" of seat five, Le takes her place as navigator and co-captain, perusing the situation, often ending up either curled behind me or in front of me. Her other postures include taking a meerkat-like stance in full-on, ninja poi dog paddling mode, savoring her place in the canoe and her place in the whole scheme of things--"Ocean good, people-pack good, canoe good."

My next column will tell the tale of the historic role of dogs in ancient Polynesian culture. Although it's not pretty, it's a real and respectful accounting of dogs and their lives.

One word of warning: There's a reason Hawaiian dogs are called "poi dogs."

Maui Canoe Club welcomes guest paddlers Monday through Friday for our 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. canoe outings. Please show up at least 15 minutes in advance. For more information, please visit



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