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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 13, 2010

Putting a bit of Mojo into one's life works wonders

By Leslie Kawamoto

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Tsumoru "Jiji" Ishimoto will have service dog Mojo to help him with the simple tasks that Ishimoto now finds difficult.

Photo courtesy Dog House Hawaii

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Tsumoru Ishimoto, affectionately known as "Jiji," will get a live-in friend March 20, thanks to the Hawaii Canine Assistance Network, known as Hawaii CAN.

Ishimoto, 86, the eldest son of Japanese immigrants, grew up on the Big Island. In 1944, he was drafted by the U.S. Army. After serving his country for 20 years, he returned to Honolulu with his family and started a pickling business, which he successfully operated for 25 years.

As the years passed, Ishimoto's health deteriorated. He survived a brain tumor, but that left him with an abnormal gait. He suffers from other ailments that make doing simple daily tasks difficult. Hearing loss has further isolated him from family and friends.

But this isn't a sad story at all. Ishimoto now will have a four-legged companion, Mojo.

Hawaii CAN has trained the golden retriever to be Ishimoto's service dog.

Their first meeting was an indication that this story would end happily ever after. "Mojo went straight to Jiji and placed his head on his lap. He couldn't stop saying 'I love you, Mojo,' " said Hawaii CAN president Tiffany Kawaguchi. "At the end of the visit, Jiji got up and got Mojo a bowl of water. His family was shocked! Normally, Jiji doesn't do anything for anyone."

Before Mojo, Ishimoto sat in front of the TV all day long. "I would become a bother to my wife. My wife is much more mobile, so she preferred working outside in her garden. We would end up squabbling with each other. Due to my inability to hear well, it oftentimes ended up with my feeling lonely and isolated. When my grandchildren arrived home from school, the interaction was minimal due to their school schedule. The same was true with my son and children due to their work schedules."

Working with Mojo has changed Ishimoto's life dramatically. "He gives me confidence to go outside and move around without another person's assistance," Ishimoto said.

This four-legged therapist has transformed Ishimoto into a different person. Daughter Loretta Monroy said, "I can't believe what Mojo has done. It is just remarkable. I have never seen my father so at peace with himself. I can't believe this is the same man."

Mojo has even brought the Ishimoto family closer. "Mojo has significantly improved my relationship with my wife as we interact more harmoniously as Mojo is usually the topic of our daily conversations. Currently, when my grandchildren arrive home from school and see Mojo, they are delighted to see him and initiate the time to dialogue and interact with Mojo, my wife and me," Ishimoto said.

Like Ishimoto, Mojo's life has had some ups and downs. As a puppy, he was shipped from California to be a stud dog. But that didn't work out as planned.

Because of Mojo's mischievous ways, digging up things and eating rocks, he was placed in three different homes. Then Mojo went to live with Kawaguchi. "He finally found his calling as a service dog. He loved training, socializing with people, and going into public. He is calm, gentle, and sweet. He loves Jiji with all of his heart and will do anything for him," Kawaguchi said.

Janel Yoshimoto, Hawaii CAN's first vice president, says that "dog power" is the positive energy that dogs bring to our lives. The organization trains the dogs with love and compassion so these dogs will help others live productive lives.

"Dogs don't judge us. They don't criticize us. Dogs are the perfect 'partners' for people who need to feel supported and encouraged to be better people," Yoshimoto said.


The organization's work is solely funded by donations from the community.

Hawaii CAN is holding its inaugural fundraiser dinner 6-9 p.m. March 30, at the Keehi Lagoon Veterans' Memorial, John A. Burns Hall. Hawai'i CAN will be officially giving its first service dog, Mojo, to Ishimoto.

The theme of the party is Green Dog Night, a throwback to the '70s era with a silent auction and canine costume contest. Doggie action stations will feature Hawaii Pet magazine, Dog House Hawaii, Doggie Adventures and Training and Juju Beadz.

Tickets are $50 and include dinner, soft drinks and entertainment. If you are bringing your dog, the cost is $70, which includes a flashy choker chain for your dog and a pet photo from Dog House Hawaii.

For tickets or more information, visit www.hawaiican.org/ or call 781-2596.

Animal lover Leslie Kawamoto has been with the Advertiser for 19 years, or 133 in dog years. Check out her blog at http://islandtails.honadvblogs.com.

CORRECTION:The inaugural fundraiser dinner for the Hawaii Canine Assistance Network will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday. The date was incorrect in a previous version of this story.