Max and the Search for an Inu Shirt

It was the day before Father’s Day. In anticipation of the celebration, Max and I were productively engaged in the traditional activities of quaffing malt beverages, chomping jerky treats and telling snorf, snorf jokes when the Alpha Japanese Female interrupted and screamed like a harridan that wistfully mentioned that she wished she had a new inu shirt.

As a fearful loving spouse, I immediately recognized that my beer and Max’s treats would be in jeopardy were we to ignore the AJF’s tyrannical demand deceptively casual request.

Furball and I leaped into action. Well, that may be an exaggeration. Neither of us is much into leaping but we did lower the footrest on the LazyBoy and reach for the laptop.

Let’s start with the basics: “inu” is the Japanese word for dog. The word can be written using kanji (a Chinese character) or in hiragana which is one of the phonetic, cursive forms of the written language.

inu 4
Kanji character for “inu” (dog) on left; the hiragana version is on the right. Max says dogs don’t care which one you use. This concludes today’s Japanese language class.

An inu shirt, as mandated suggested by the AJF,  is a tee shirt with a very clever image that incorporates the Japanese hiragana characters for inu with a stylized drawing of a pupper. Makes sense, no?

This design is a great favorite of the AJF; it lets her get all ethnic while walking Max around the neighborhood. Since Max actually understands commands in Japanese as well as English, he is happy with the arrangement.

Let your English Sheepdog wear his Union Jack, let your Poodle wear stinky cheese haute couture, let your Shih Tzu wear dim sum, let your Australian Shepard wear the carcasses of drop bears and other deadly creatures found Down Under. The AJF is turning up, she’s turning down, she’s turning Japanese, I really think so.

The cute tees are made in Hawaii by a small business named idkwhat2wear. This company has a knack for capturing the sentiments, language and attitude of local, as opposed to tourist, Hawaii. Visit their website and see for yourself; consider it an insider secret from me to you. But, I digress.

Typical idkwhat2wear tee shirt humor. Pilfered image from their website but, what the hay, it’s free advertising.

Back to the inu shirt. These are hard to come by. In the past we’d simply mosey up Manoa Valley to one of Max’s favorite stores: Hawaii Doggie Bakery. Not so easy to do when one lives in Rancho Cucamonga, eh?

Max wasn’t worried at all because he knows the folks at HDB are delightful (and tolerant of marauding Maltese) and already have a thriving business shipping their goodies from Hawaii to less fortunate global locations, basically everywhere else on Earth..

Inu Shirt
Our fates are dependent on these boss ladies producing an inu shirt, the one with the red arrow. The cat ears may be unforgivable. Image shamelessly poached from Hawaii Doggie Bakery.

We started at the website but, alas, there was no sign of an inu shirt, so we emailed and were advised they were currently out of stock. But the HDB ladies (it’s a women-owned business) remembered our furry little Malt and promised to alert us when the inu shirts were again available.

Inu 2
Close up of the inu shirt. (The pixel shortage is all my fault.) Image pirated without mercy from HDB site.

Not incidentally, Max reminds me that large bags of poi cookies are also available for order and we could bundle and save shipping costs. Just sayin’, Dad.

So, now the pressure is on. If we can produce the new inu shirt for the AJF we are golden and The Malt and I can continue our lives as carefree rapscallions. Should we fail, our beer and jerky may well be at jeopardy.

I will update faithfully. I am going to tell the Hawaii Doggie Bakery folks about this post to place unbearable pressure on them encourage them to produce the goods. Maybe they will comment on this story. Maybe they will simply remove Max and me from the mailing list.

Chick & Poi
Image stolen without remorse from HDB’s website.

One or both of the regular readers of this silly dog blog may recall a December 2014 post about poi dogs that extolled the sheer wonderfulness of Hawaii Doggie Bakery’s dog cookies made of chicken and poi.

Here’s a link to that story. Full disclosure, I have no connection with either of the businesses named in this story except as a customer but if you’re looking for fun stuff, unusual gifts and tasty dog treats, you may want to check them out.

Max heartily concurs.

Poi Dog

Max is a good shopper who stands in line to wait his turn. That's the AJF on the right.
Max is a good shopper who stands in line to wait his turn. That’s the AJF on the right.

Max likes to gift his doggie friends with poi products at Christmas time.

That’s the reason we headed a few miles mauka of our home to visit the Hawaii Doggie Bakery in lovely, misty Manoa Valley.

Max loves this bakery which specializes in dog treats, gifts and paraphernalia with a distinctly Hawaii touch.

Their selection of local goodies includes fish & poi gingerbread men, Christmas “Pawty” cookies, sweet potato snowflake biscuits and a variety of muffins and cupcakes.

Here's the good stuff.
Here’s the good stuff.

For Christmas, Max is distributing to his boon companions gift boxes which contain a bag of chicken & poi cookies, a poi & honey candy cane and a roll of poop bags for post prandial clean up.

Max is a dog who likes his poi but he is not a poi dog.

See, in Hawaii “poi dog” has a very specific meaning. It refers to mixed breed dogs, especially those of uncertain lineage.

We even use the phrase to describe folks of a mixed Hawaiian-Something Else heritage. Don’t worry, the phrase has a positive connotation suggesting stamina, durability and a salt-of-the-Earth personality.

The Hawaii Doggie  Bakery doesn't bake doggies. It does make some mighty fine treats for doggies!
The Hawaii Doggie Bakery doesn’t bake doggies. It does make some mighty fine treats for doggies!

So Max, as a purebred Malt,  is not a poi dog even though his appetite suggests he is a mix of Maltese and voracious Great White Shark.

Poi is the primary Polynesian staple food, made from the underground part of the taro plant.

Ancient Hawaiians, believed that taro expressed the sacred spirit of Hāloa, the original ancestor of the Hawaiian people.

Poi is traditionally made by cooking the heart of the taro root in an imu, an underground oven, for hours and then mashing it until it is a very thick paste.

Water is added to achieve whatever consistency is desired.

Poi is low in fat, high in vitamin A, has bunches of complex carbohydrates and is naturally gluten free. It can be a bit of an acquired taste, particularly if left to ferment for a few days into sour poi.

When folks first make its acquaintance they inevitably compare it to wallpaper paste.
When folks first make its acquaintance they inevitably compare poi to wallpaper paste. We expect that remark and feel disappointed if someone doesn’t make it.

Folks all around the world eat taro but only Hawaiians make poi.

Local folks eat it plain or mix it with a little sugar and sometimes milk.

No matter how it is served, the AJF can’t stand it but I like it and a Hawaiian plate lunch is not complete without some poi.

Poi is also used as an ingredient in many wonderful baked goods.

It adds a soft, satiny mouth-feel and smoothness to breads, rolls and numerous desserts.

Enough about food, let’s get back to today’s subject which is the Hawaiian poi dog. What we today call poi dogs has absolutely no relation to an actual poi dog. OK, that needs a bit of explanation…here goes:

Poi dog from Wiki.
Poi dog picture from Wiki.

Many folks don’t know that there once was a breed of dog known as the Hawaiian poi dog.

It came to Hawaii with the Polynesians during the first settlement more than 1,000 years ago and was an important part of the Polynesian people’s life.

It’s now extinct.

Pounding poi. After baking, this is how the process starts. Photo credit: Honolulu Magazine
Pounding poi. After baking, this is how the process starts. Photo credit: Honolulu Magazine

Poi dogs were raised by Hawaiians as companion animals and as a food source. The dogs were only fed poi because meat was too valuable to be used as dog food.

This limited diet made the dogs inactive and obese, waddling around with distended bellies not unlike the author of this post.

Over the years the diet changed the shape of the dogs’ skulls which became large and flat due to disuse of the temporalis muscles from lack of chewing.

Women were in charge of the care and maintenance of poi dogs. Guys were busy with waddling and their distended bellies which, as all men will agree, did nothing to diminish their sex appeal.

Some poi dogs were kept as “good luck” animals for children thus it was highly possible that a poi dog might sleep with the kids on Monday and be eaten for dinner on Tuesday. Bummer.

Captain Cook recorded encounters with pot-bellied, short-legged poi dogs that freely associated with hogs in the village. It seems that hogs and dogs were pretty much peer critters to the Hawaiians.

Not a poi dog.
Not a poi dog. This is a tourist dog.

By the 19th century, the Hawaiian Poi Dog had inter-bred with feral dogs brought by European settlers to Hawaii and was no longer a pure breed.

The Honolulu Zoo tried to reconstruct the original but after 12 years of trying it was deemed a failure and the program was discontinued.

Aloha, poi dog.

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