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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2001

Kahalu'u mourns hit-run death of golden retriever 'Buds'

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

KAHALU'U — Highway memorials marking the location of traffic deaths dot the streets of O'ahu, but a shrine erected recently on a residential road in this rural Windward area stands out for its elaborate posters with photographs of the victim, details of the accident and a plea for help in finding the hit-run driver involved.

Gary Rokuta spruces up the memorial for his dog, Buds, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Kahalu'u.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The memorial also stands out because it was erected in memory of a dog.

Buds, a 9 1/2-year-old golden retriever known throughout the neighborhood, was critically injured about 6:15 a.m. March 28 when a tow truck struck the animal and kept on going.

Buds' owner, Gary Rokuta, 46, spent several days making the posters and has invested countless hours tracking the truck driver.

Rokuta wants an apology.

"I would be happy with that," Rokuta said, adding that his dog was more than just a pet.

"Buds is a gift from God. He would mellow me out every time. If I'm mad, upset or stressed out, he would cure me because he's so cute."

The posters and a bouquet of chrysanthemum and anthuriums were attached to a light pole near the accident last week on 'ühuimanu Place. The extra wide two-lane road is a major access to mauka communities. During the day, traffic is light, but in the early morning vehicles are backed up. Speeding has always been a problem here, residents say.

Neighbor Dan Bender said all the children played with Buds and everyone knew the dog and his owner because they walked in the area daily

A photo of Buds, killed by a hit-and-run driver, hangs in owner Gary Rokuta's car-door panel.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser


"Buds was part of the neighborhood," Bender said.

Rokuta recalled his panic upon seeing his pet lying in the middle of 'ühuimanu Place near Christmas Tree Lane (Hui Koloa Place), unable to rise after being struck. He lashed out at his owner, biting him as he tried to comfort his pet.

The speeding truck hit the dog twice, breaking his back, Rokuta said. A veterinarian told him that Buds was in extreme pain and would never walk again even if surgery were performed. And the surgery would cause more pain. The doctor recommended that the dog be euthanized.

Both Rokuta and Buds were crossing the street when the truck turned onto 'Ahuimanu Place from Kahekili Highway, Rokuta said. Buds was ahead, not on a leash, and Rokuta saw the truck, but figured he had enough time to cross safely. But the vehicle closed the gap quickly, apparently accelerating, he said. Rokuta called Buds back, but the dog moved too slowly.

Rokuta said he has been consumed with guilt and remorse and has missed about four weeks of work since the accident.

"I should have never taken my eyes off the truck," he said. "I can never forgive myself. (Buds) happen to be 3 1/2 feet in front of me. I don't know how I let this happen."