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Rescuing Momi (Jan. 14, 2004)

A lot of goofy and bizarre New Age behavior takes place here on Maui. We have everything from fake Rastafarianism and aroma therapy to sensory-deprivation tanks, and tantric-yoga cults, which, in the words of one practitioner, are “not exactly prostitution, but…”

My landlady, Sue, and her husband, Jon, have a relatively normal life, with an eight year-old daughter, a fluctuating number of cats, and a big old brown mutt named Momi. I stay in an apartment built into the large garage on the property, so they are my immediate neighbors.

I said “relatively” normal. Sue likes to read about reincarnation and extraterrestrial visitors from the Pleiades, and earlier this year, at the age of 50, decided she would go on a “breatharian” fast. Breatharians are supposedly able to go without food entirely, subsisting only on the air they breathe and occasional small amounts of water or juice. Earlier this year, with her husband and daughter away in Alaska for a month. Sue moved into a tent at the bottom of the 200-foot-deep gulch that runs along the back of the property and began her fasting period.

It would be my job to feed the animals, take Momi for occasional walks, and monitor Sue's condition by speaking with her daily on a walkie-talkie. The walls of the gulch are almost vertical and one must get down there by means of a system of ropes tied to the trees. Twice a week or so I would go down there with a backpack full of ice cubes, or later, juice for her.

Momi is a big dog, around 80 or 90 pounds and is 13 years old. She doesn't get around well, and if she were human would be up for hip replacement surgery. Two weeks into Sue's fasting period, Momi decided to join her human friend in the gully. No one saw it happen, but it must have been a bad tumble.

Sue heard Momi whimpering and found the dog at the bottom, unable to move, in a spot where she had recently “had a vision of three space aliens, little gray guys, standing in a circle.” I was informed of this by walkie-talkie, and went down with a carton of health food store vegetable broth, hoping that Sue would drink it. She hadn't been eating much even before going into the gulch, and besides seeing spacemen, was looking dangerously thin.

The dog was indeed unable to move, and obviously in pain. Getting her out of the gulch would be very difficult, and we decided to consult with Andy, the next-door neighbor and a dog lover himself. He's a psychologist from Texas and I knew he would have a gun if it came to that.

I read somewhere that “if you talk to God, you're praying, but if God talks to you, you're schizophrenic.” Everyone talks to dogs, but dogs talk to Andy. Momi “told” him something, but the translation wasn't entirely clear to me other than that she was in pain.

The three of us stood in a circle around the dog for a long time, swatting at mosquitoes and going over the possibilities. Sue had made the climb back to the house and returned with hot dogs in which she had hidden some kind of prescription painkiller, and fed this to Momi. The dog also got the broth.

The issue, remaining mostly unspoken, was whether to shoot the dog or try and pack her out and take her to the vet. If Momi's back or hips were broken, it might be best to put her out of her misery. But no one wanted to do it, and we didn't know the dog's true condition. And so the discussion wore on.

Andy decided more information was needed. We climbed back up to the house and called Jon in Alaska. He told Andy to do whatever was necessary. Next was the vet, who said he would be glad to examine Momi if we could get her to him.

The dog lover in Andy took over. He set to work and built a “stretcher” out of plywood and two-by-fours, and found six volunteers to go into the gully and pack Momi out. Sue taped Momi's mouth shut so no one would be bitten, and the dog was eased onto the plywood gurney and tied down.

By an awkward and tedious stage-by-stage process of inching the dog-on-platform up from ledge to ledge, keeping it secured with ropes around trees at all times, the mission was accomplished. It was a fairly comical operation, with Andy heading the charge wearing a red bicycle helmet “in case of a fall,” and a fellow calling himself Zantar, who sang constantly, kept falling down and should have had the helmet.

The news from the vet was good: no broken bones, just a lot of bruises and fatigue. For the next week I kept Momi tied closely to the garage so she couldn’t try and repeat her stunt, and Andy came by every day with antibiotics from the vet hidden in ground beef and Italian sausage.

Sue survived her fast and is back to eating steak and baked potatoes.

Momi still doesn't get around very well, but she remains a family fixture, manages to wheeze out a bark or two when a strange car comes up the driveway, and is always happy to see Andy.

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