Man saves kitten from Ala Wai canal, kitten saves man from a lonely holiday

Barb Forsyth

WAIKIKI—Imagine it is 4:00 a.m. and you are asleep in bed. You are miserably awakened by the shrill screams of a cat in a distress. Is it a cat fight, you wonder? The cries continue. Is it a case of animal abuse? Your mind starts churning over the previous night’s event, when your car broke down in Kahala and no one stopped to help you, how wrong that seemed. Unable to shake the sense that something is not right, you get out of bed, throw on a towel for cover, and groggily wander out into the dark night to investigate.

Now imagine you live in an apartment complex near the Ala Wai canal.  4:00 a.m. is not exactly a great time to be out cruising this hood, especially when wearing next to nothing. You approach the canal, searching for the source of the sound, and gaze about 100 yards away to where a hefty guy is crouching under the McCully bridge.

At this point, most of us would walk away—if we had managed to drag ourselves out of bed in the first place, that is. But we’re not talking about you or me. We’re talking about a rare soul in this town, a young man named Craig Hardin who threw caution to the wind and walked right up to the man he feared was torturing a kitten, only to discover that he was a) someone he knew and b) in fact trying to come to the cat’s aid.

It turned out that his neighbor, Mario, had been outside trying to unwind after his shift on his porch that overlooks the canal, when he saw someone pick up an innocent kitten and throw her into the water.  Now Mario was gripping a thick branch, about as thick as a baseball bat, leaning towards the water to throw the kitty a lifeline. Upon witnessing the incident, Mario called the fire department, but they had not yet arrived. So, the two men tried again, and, in the meantime, they strategized as how to rescue this cat that had thankfully managed to find a little rock jutting out of the water on which to perch.

It takes a certain kind of intrepid person to jump into the Ala Wai. Not because it is cold, not because it is treacherous, but because it is toxic.

Craig gave the stick approach a try, a challenge that was further complicated by his desire to avoid dropping his towel and flashing the neighborhood. Then he noticed the all-too-familiar sight in his neighborhood of a partially submerged shopping cart and climbed out onto it so he could get a little closer. Still no luck. Before long, he noticed how sore his hands had become. Looking down, he saw that they were gashed and bloody, the result of wielding what was unfortunately a very sharp and thorny branch. A vision of falling into the notoriously filthy Ala Wai with multiple open wounds flashed through his brain.

Right at that moment, to the men’s intense relief, the fire truck finally arrived at the scene. Unfortunately, the four men that answered the call were not all that helpful. According to Craig, they were intent on identifying the cat rather than offering assistance. The fire fighters on scene that night denied Mario and Craig various requests for a boat, a blanket, and so forth.

Craig eventually talked them into borrowing their surfboard and an emergency blanket, but it was abundantly clear that he would have to employ these tools to rescue the kitten himself. 

As Craig was pushing the board in its direction, the frightened kitten started swimming counter-current in the wrong direction. Craig described how something primal overtook him and he jumped on the board, blanket in hand, and started to “paddle like hell.” When Craig reached the kitten, he grabbed her with one hand, wrapped her in a blanket with the other, and swam back to safety, still without any aid from the HFD.

Now, it takes a certain kind of intrepid person to jump into the Ala Wai. Not because it is cold, not because it is treacherous, but because it is toxic. Not unlike jumping into a sewer, as a matter of fact. Then, add adrenalin to the mix, splashing water into your mouth, and, of course, the open wounds. Unbelievably, our protagonist had the wherewithal to fish the abandoned shopping cart out of the water as well. 

Craig and Mario, purring kitten in tow, walked back to their building just as the sun started its ascent. It was clear from this moment on that the kitty had found a new home. Needless to say, Craig and his new furry companion also took about eight showers upon arrival. 

If this story weren’t odd enough already, it turns out that his kitten had already introduced itself to Craig on numerous occasions, on which Craig couldn’t help but notice how she seemed to lack “street smarts” and generally seemed skittish and troubled. In addition, Craig and his girlfriend Colleen, who had both recently relocated to Honolulu, had been visiting the local branch of the Humane Society as a way to mitigate the stress and loneliness from the move. 

Then, the day after the canal incident, Craig noticed that the kitten had some kind of eye infection. He was heading to the vet when he ran into another neighbor, puppy in tow, who immediately noticed the kitten and called out, “Hey, that’s our cat!” 

Apparently the arrival of the puppy had traumatized the cat, who fled the apartment, rarely returned home, and when she did come home was generally disagreeable and unpleasant. Her former owners were more than happy to pass her along to Craig. Unsurprisingly, under the care of her new loving owners, there has been a dramatic change in the kitten’s temperament, Craig said. She has become loving, friendly, and genuinely content.

Armed with information from the neighbor concerning cat’s vet, Craig was able to learn that she was a nine-month-old Turkish Van, a breed known to be fond of water! The kitten, who has yet to be renamed, is in excellent health, full of spunk, and a source of joy and inspiration to her owner. 

As Craig explained, this isn’t just a story of “boy saving cat.” It is a rare tale of human and animal saving each other from the hard knocks of life in the concrete jungle.