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Makana goes to school

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Nov 5, 2015

Golden retrievers are known for their calm demeanor, gentle disposition and overall friendliness. At Sacred Hearts School, Makana is a counselor with fur. Many of the students talk directly to her. She has excellent listening skills and often knows when a child needs some comfort. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

LAHAINA – Abundant research shows the benefits of having a dog present in the work, school and healing environments. In fact, articles from the Mayo Clinic, Psychology Today, WebMD and others bring to light the therapeutic effects of dogs.

Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina experiences this firsthand. Every morning, for the past ten years, Makana, a purebred golden retriever, stands sentry at the top of the steps waiting to greet the students, parents, teachers, staff and clergy. There she receives her morning salutations and embraces from all who come to school.

“I can’t say enough about this golden gift, which was given to me by one of my students,” said Middle School Teacher Mary Anna Enriquez. “A phone call was made to me in March 2005 from Cody Miller, who said, ‘Ms. Enriquez, my dog just had puppies and you get pick of the litter.’ “

There was no way Enriquez could choose when she saw the litter of golden retrievers, so she asked Miller to choose one.

“I knew you would say that, so I chose for you,” Miller said, pointing to one that looked like a loaf of bread from Kimo’s restaurant.

Technology has caught up with Makana, the ten-year-old Golden Retriever at Sacred Hearts School, shown here listening to her favorite tunes.

“Makana stayed with her mom and siblings until she was weaned, and I checked on her regularly until it was time to pick her up,” Enriquez recalled. “At that point I couldn’t leave her home alone and asked the Sacred Hearts principal, Susan Hendricks, if I could bring her to school with me.”

Hendricks, knowing the advantages of having a dog in an educational institution, gave her full permission, and Makana went to school. She has literally grown up with the students who have been there since preschool.

“You can feel the legacy of love that Makana contributes when you set foot upon the parish school campus,” said Principal Hendricks. “She is part of so many stories of days past as well as fresh stories that perpetuate the ‘ohana of our special school community.”

Hendricks described the chickens and roosters that occasionally wander the playground and the cats that keep the mice clear from the outdoor storage area and the St. Francis Garden. “However, none can hold a candle to Makana,” she said.

“The students, their families and the staff all think she is theirs, and in the Hawaiian tradition of hanai adoption, she is!”

It was ten years ago that Hendricks told Enriquez that she could keep Makana in a pen in the classroom until she was potty-trained, old enough to stay home alone or until someone was allergic to her.

“However, Makana never stayed home, and everyone continues to benefit from the unconditional love that she showers upon those around her,” she said. “In fact, her name, ‘Makana,’ means gift in Hawaiian!”

Golden Retrievers are known for their calm demeanor, gentle disposition and overall friendliness. At school, Makana is a counselor with fur. A lot of students talk directly to her. She has excellent listening skills and often knows when a child needs some comfort.

“A first-grader, in a designated reading spot, was entwined with Makana while reading her a story and showing her each page as he read aloud,” said Enriquez. “I asked him how it was going, and he said, ‘It’s more fun reading to Makana because she listens better than anyone.’ “

“Two fourth-graders, in a disagreement, were sent to me for discipline; both very angry,” Enriquez recalled. “I had them describe what happened to Makana, and within ten minutes they were both wrapped around her laughing and petting her, their woes totally transformed to sharing.”

Students from all grades have wonderful things to say about having Makana in school. “Makana is important because everyone tries to take care of her, so together we do something as a family,” said Ana, a seventh-grader.

“As eighth-graders, we are caught up in technology,” said Alexis. “Makana reminds us there is more than just the computer.” “She gives us a better understanding of nature and Malama Honua (caring for our island and the Earth),” added Alex.

Jacob and Mia, first-graders, both agreed: “Makana is Super Dog! She protects us and never runs away. She is that smart! If you’re just having a bad day, Makana is always there to make you feel better, and she will make you happy!”

Cash from the fifth grade summed it up for everyone at Sacred Hearts School. “Makana, Makana! She is special; she’s loving, playful and soft. She is a great dog and friend. We love her and we will never ever forget about her!”