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Hawaii NewsIncidental Lives

Kaneohe couple shares home with collection of cuddly buddies

You assign real names only to things you intend to keep. So, for now at least, the puppy’s unofficial name is Puppy.

Kaneohe resident Paula Yamashiro, 44, knows all too well how adorably cute overnight guests tend to become permanent residents of her ever-expanding household.

For as long as she and husband Dean Shimamoto have been together, home has never been void of the pitter-patter of tiny paws padding about the place.

Shimamoto, 46, found Puppy wandering around Waimanalo. After trying to find her owner, Shimamoto took her to a veterinarian in Kailua to check to see whether she had a microchip ID. When that turned up negative, Shimamoto took the little pup home to meet the family.

“We intend not to keep her,” Yamashiro says. “But who knows?”

Indeed, the same was likely said about many of Yamashiro and Shimamoto’s furry finds.

Take Ipo, the long-in-the-tooth poi dog who showed up outside the couple’s house late one night. They found him eating the cat food they leave out for Patches, Princess, Kenya and Simba — the four outdoor cats who adopted them years ago. The Humane Society deemed Ipo too old to be adopted, so Yamashiro and Shimamoto made him one of the family.

On any given day the couple is also likely to be caring for a damaged dove or a cat-mauled chameleon.

The couple also has 10 indoor cats — four of which moved in when Yamashiro took in her aging parents several years ago — a couple of mynah birds, and a cockatiel named Pookie, the only animal the couple actually purchased.

Yamashiro says it’s her husband’s big heart that keeps their home filled with critters.

“He’s the one who brings them home, and I’m sort of the maintenance man,” she says. “He has a lot of empathy for animals. We don’t actively look for them, but if Dean sees an animal in distress or in need of care, he’ll pick it up. Even if we can’t afford it, if an animal needs help right now, what can we do?”

Yamashiro says she’s never surprised when Shimamoto — who also feeds cat colonies, chickens and fish in the Kaneohe and Pali Highway areas — returns home with a new hardship case. Once he brought home a cat whose leg had been shot off. Another time he retrieved a kitten with a broken hip that was stuck in a garbage can. (They named him Oscar, of course.)

Friends and family joke that the couple is liable to end up on one of those reality shows about animal hoarders, but Yamashiro and Shimamoto’s penchant for taking in strays speaks to the condition of their hearts, not their heads.

“It’s hard to turn away an animal when it needs you,” Yamashiro says.

Expect Puppy to stick around for a while.


Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@staradvertiser.com.

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