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Sunday, March 9, 2014
The Story Of Nozawa's Ark
By Carol Chang
The Nozawa clans menagerie of critters great and small are popular at parties and fairs, and it just keeps growing.When the animals start marching in two by two, its not a flood thats coming but Nozawas Ark, setting up for a baby luau in your back yard.
Jerome and Dawn Nozawa never dreamed their affinity for hooved, feathered and furry creatures would lead to a whirlwind life of pony rides and petting zoos. Dawn was aiming for veterinary school and Jerome was a career firefighter.
We started out 10 or 12 years ago with a 4-H mini zoo at Bishop Museum. We had one dog, one cat and two horses, says Jerome, 54, captain of HFDs HazMat 2 unit at Kapolei. At the moment, however, hes standing in the middle of the Nozawa animal kingdom, where the only hazardous material is very fresh and natural.
The leased, two-acre family compound is tucked into the hillside next to movie valley at Kualoa Ranch, where a flock of Nozawa chickens has just wrapped up a lucrative on-location acting gig.
The Nozawa clan transports its animal ark to fairs and parties from their little barnyard to as far away as Hilo. In a good month, theyre out every weekend at multiple events, bringing laughs and thrills to urbanized keiki all over our island state. Watching the kids sports is out, along with holidays at home or away.
Jerome steps aside as a stampede of sheep and goats lumber by on the way to dinner. Its just getting bigger and bigger, he says, amazed. We generated money last year, but it all went back to the animals. Zelda the rabbit, for instance, needed an infected eye removed, and then poor old Handsome the horse had a huge tumor.
The surgery would be $1,500 with only a 10 percent chance of success. I could have bought two more ponies with that money! But Handsome had worked for us without complaint, and when I saw Dawns eyes, I said lets try it. (Their 2002 vet bill totalled about $6,000.)Jerome and his animal-loving wife strike a good balance between the practical and sentimental, it seems. He grew up on a commercial hog farm, viewing animals as a disposable commodity. Dawn the softy she calls a 40-minute anti-fungal grooming a bonding experience has named every Nozawa creature, great and small. None is called dinner.
They all have a soul and a unique personality, she says, and someday shed like to run an educational farm, where children can learn to care for and appreciate animals. Recalling a tall Samoan girls visit to a petting zoo at Dole Middle School, Dawn tears up. Shed never even touched a dog before, but she stayed there all day, cradling Sadie in her lap. I cant imagine a child not able to grow up with an animal friend to tell things to.
As Oahus main animal ark, Nozawas is in demand for family fun, public and private. The couple and their four children often split up for the weekend, taking different animals to each booking. On Mothers Day, for example, 10-year-old Justin pulled duty with Mom at the Pet Expo. I get to watch my sister and rake up the poop, he explained before the event. On May 10 the Ark had school fairs in Lanikai and Kaaawa, while Dad took ponies to a Pearl City party. Easter meant more parties at the Pacific Club and Castle Hills.Nozawas Ark charges $165 per hour for a pair of ponies, $75 for each additional hour, $225 for a petting zoo, with 15 percent off for both. A 15 percent discount also goes to all firefighters and military. For school fairs, they split scrip proceeds, giving 40 percent to the school. Their first fun fair and a regular for many years was Wailupe Valley Elementary in 1992, which jump-started the word-of-mouth publicity. To reserve an ark, call 237-8174.
Coming up May 23-June 15 is a biggie the 50th State Fair at Aloha Stadium. This will be the third year of a successful partnership with EK Fernandez, which also features Nozawas Ark at its spring break sports carnival and at two yearly fairs in Hilo.
Theyre wonderful with the animals and the children that come into their petting zoo, says Donna Smith, vice president of the carnival company. Theyre real easy to work with, and the people love it.
All the Nozawa kids help out, including 21-year-old Army Pfc. BJ Nozawa (Kahuku 00), when hes home. Hes currently in Iraq repairing runways, but theres a big yellow ribbon for him tied to the tree right next to the llama pasture.
If they must all be away at the same time, Jeromes daughter Christine fills in, armed with five pages of instructions from Dawn. Keegan, 9, prefers bugs, but hes a good animal sitter, and 5-year-old Serena is learning the ropes and riding everything on four legs. Courtne, or Koko, is 13 and gladly handles many farm chores. An eighth-grader at Kahuku Intermediate, Koko wants to be a traveling veterinarian, just like Dr. Jerry Dilsaver.
She even helped deliver triplets recently. Mom called me and I had to grab the baby goats legs, she says.
The head was turned and I had to grab the neck. It was hard because the baby was stuck. I just did it; Im used to it.
Its a precarious, demanding routine with chores until dark and dinner as late as 9 p.m. But after the Kaaawa couples first romantic meeting at Kahukus Gunstock Ranch, there was no turning back.
He was a single father of four and shed come with her college class for a trail ride. The Nozawa kids (humans, not goats) helped with the horses. Jerome and Dawn didnt exactly ride off into the sunset together, however. Their eyes first met while both were picking ticks off of dogs, and then things escalated enough that Jerome impressed her with his healing hands.
She worked for a veterinarian and had some puppies with mange, Jerome recalls. I showed her how to oil them. They were cured in three weeks and had beautiful coats, he adds, modestly.
That was over 14 years ago. They now have four children of their own and about 80 animals. Goats, sheep, horses, ponies, pot-bellied pigs, llamas, chickens, rabbits, cats, donkeys, ducks and three generations of slobbery dogs. About 25 on the ark are working and the rest are multiplying.It costs $1,000 to $1,200 a month just to feed them all, so we very seldom turn down a fair, Jerome says, noting that otherwise the animals pay for themselves.
Among the brood are Lamb Chop, the retired sheep with a crooked neck; Zen and Valentine, brand-new offspring of a registered Nigerian Dwarf (goat); Pearl, the Zebu calf from Washington; Koko, the pot-bellied pig from Nanakuli; Cleo, the stray cat from Koolau Center. In the family pet cemetery are Maximo the rooster, a hospital pet therapy favorite, and T.C. (too cute), a pig that could bow, sit up, and play a keyboard with his snout.
Posted: June 9, 2003 @ 12:00 AM HST
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