Reunited After the Hurricane Devastation
Here at Greenbriar Veterinary Hospital & Luxury Pet Resort we have been fortunate enough to help 30 dogs and cats find their forever homes after the hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed the place they called home in the British Virgin Islands. There were a few cases where the dogs and cats brought to us already had homes and needed to be reunited with their families. We have a few wonderful stories to share with you so this will not be the last. Below is a firsthand account from one of the families we helped reunite along with Humane Society International.
We have had Bob for almost 4 years, having originally found him under a car, nearly starving and with a very badly broken leg. We have two sons and Bob is a doted on and much-loved member of the family. He has always been a bit of a character, having been a stray, and he suffers from bad separation anxiety which is not that surprising, given that he has been abandoned. He is something of a local celebrity at home, and takes himself off to the beach when we are out, to go and hustle food from tourists. The staff in all the bars on the beach know and love him.
We had been tracking Hurricane Irma for about a week as it travelled toward the BVI, hoping that it would turn north. When it became more likely that we might be impacted, we were offered the opportunity to evacuate with my work, but we wouldn’t be able to take Bob and decided to stay. At that stage, the forecast was that Irma would pass us as a category 4 hurricane, and its eye would pass 50 miles or so north of.
Bob stayed indoors with us for the storm. We had another family, and a friend, with us for the day of the storm, so we had five adults and eight children. We had large bifold doors around our living room (they were hurricane shutters) and they blew in during the first half of the storm, meaning that that room was unusable, but the nine of us and Bob stayed in two bedrooms which were secure, albeit with about two inches of rain water throughout. We were far luckier than many, and friends have terrifying sorties of huddling in toilets holding the door shut, or lying in the bath with a mattress over themselves. Many had to run from their original location during the eye of the storm, to try to find safer shelter.
We lost power quite early on, and telecommunications went down mid-morning. In the end, as many people will now know, the storm was the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic (with gusts of 225mph) and the eye passed directly over us, causing catastrophic damage to the BVI. We ventured out of our bedrooms at around 5.30pm, but didn’t understand the scale of the devastation until the next day, when people started venturing out on foot.
The week after the storm was spent trying to keep things as normal for the children while trying to clear up what we could and conserve food and water. Several people who had been less lucky than us came to stay at our house (losing only the living room made our house much better than most) and we ended up with four adults and eight children, plus three dogs and two cats, between two houses. The two-bedroom apartment downstairs ended up with 5 adults and six children and another family moved into the empty apartment below that. Most houses in the BVI rely on cistern water, so once the electricity goes, there is no running water. They estimate that it will take 4-6 months to get power to “most heavily populated areas”. We were lucky enough to have a small generator, which we ran for an hour each morning and evening to flush toilets and run showers. Unfortunately, because of the debris from the storm, our cistern water turned dark brown and gave off a very acrid smell. The children all started to get rashes.
We are very fortunate that my firm started immediately looking at methods to evacuate us (and all other members of staff). However, we were being evacuated to Cayman (via Puerto Rico) and they would not initially accept evacuated pets. Instead, we agreed with some neighbors that they would feed him (and the other dogs who were, by then, staying with us), and we spoke to friends who had worked in the (now destroyed) beach bars, who agreed to look out for him. Telling our nine-year-old son that we were leaving, and not taking Bob, was one of the worst things I have ever had to do. He was very upset, and adamant that he was happy to stay without electricity or water. By that stage we were hearing tales of looting (which thankfully has since been contained), and there was a curfew in place, so we didn’t think it was a safe or viable choice to stay.
Some time after we left, we were told that the Humane Society International had sent a team of vets into Tortola to help evacuate abandoned and stray animals. Some friends had also stayed to help, and HSI were working with PAW BVI. We were asked if we would like Bob to be evacuated to Washington and confirmed that we would be delighted (and extremely grateful) if he could be. In the meantime, friends sent us regular messages to let us know how he was doing, and I was told that he was being well cared for by the marines, who had moved into our house
Humane Society International in Washington D.C. then contacted us with the papers needed for him to fly, and she said that he would be sent to a local boarding facility, and they would give us a contact there once he travelled. They were able to put us in contact with Jessica at Greenbriar Veterinary Hospital & Luxury Pet Resort, who was able to give us a full update and to help us work out options for onward travel and get Bob home. Jessica sent us a photo later that day to show that he had arrived safely, with reassurance he was being taken care of and happy.
Our lives have been turned upside down, but compared to so many on Tortola and elsewhere in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, we have been extremely fortunate. We are massively grateful to everyone that has helped us, but particularly to the everyone at Humane Society International, PAW BVI, Greenbrair and the Routt County Humane Society, who have taken away the concern about Bob. He is in a lovely home, with space to roam, and a family who will give him love and cuddles. He is one very lucky dog!