HAWAII KAI, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Hawaii Kai Dog Park opened in 2008. It has been an oasis for four-legged friends to run, play and have a ball since then.
It is not just a dog park for humans, however.
“It’s still a meeting place. I remember talking to two ladies that were sitting right here on the bench. Never knew each other. They live four doors apart from each other. They both came to the park, started a conversation, and realized they had a common interest,” said Ken Barclay, a board member of the Hawaii Kai Dog Park.
Since the off-leash dog park opened, it has been 13 years of relationships forming between the dogs and also the humans. It is thanks to one woman, Elaine Dobashi, a fierce animal lover.
“We would walk together… went to parks together… let our dogs off the leash together,” said Carol Suyderhoud who was good friends with Elaine.
Elaine’s husband, Ronald Dobashi, said she changed everything when they met.
“I really wasn’t a dog person, but I’m a dog person now,” he said about his wife.
Elaine Dobashi loved animals so much, she even worked for the Hawaiian Humane Society in the early 2000s.
Officer V. Ling is the lead investigator with the Hawaiian Humane Society. Officer Ling worked with Elaine when she was at the animal shelter.
“We are out there… we are the voice for all those animals. You got to have that passion to really get the best outcome, and I did see that in Elaine and everything she did here,” Officer Ling said about Elaine’s character.
Elaine’s drive to make the lives of all dogs happier caused a light bulb to go off in 2003. Elaine wanted her neighborhood to have a dog park.
“We were chased all the time. No dogs allowed! No dogs allowed! And then finally we said, ‘let’s do something about that,'” Suyderhoud explained.
Elaine’s idea took five years to become a reality. It took fundraising thousands of dollars, countless trips to Honolulu Hale and a lot of convincing.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that a single person is responsible for this park,” Ronald Dobashi said about his wife’s hard work.
Elaine got to enjoy the park for 13 years, but her husband said she never took credit.
“She was a very humble person. She didn’t come here to… to see that she built this,” Mr. Dobashi said. “She was happy that nobody knows what she did, and that she was just another park user here.”
Elaine Dobashi passed away in February of 2021 after battling pancreatic cancer. There is now a push to make sure everyone knows she was not just another park user.
“So I introduced this resolution and it was voted unanimously to rename the Hawaii Kai dog park the Elaine Dobashi Dog Park,” said Honolulu City Council chair Tommy Waters.
For Elaine’s friends and family, the name change means the world.
“I kind of sense that she is here in spirit, and I know that she’s resting happily with the fact that she made a contribution to the community,” Ronald Dobashi said.
Chair Tommy Waters said the next step is to get Mayor Blangiardi and the Department of Parks and Recreation to officially change the name and then put out a new sign.