BERLIN – Berlin’s resident pet community got a new member recently when a local family returned from a Caribbean vacation with an abandoned and abused little dog treated with violence and threatened to be put down.
When Ocean City Paramedic John Holloway and his wife, along with a group of friends, traveled to the Virgin Islands in January for a mid-winter vacation, the last thing they expected was to bring a new family member home with them on the return trip.
Holloway, son of Kenille Davies, long-time director of the Worcester County Humane Society, said the little dog, now known affectionately as Sandy, was abused by locals and was threatened to be euthanized by the local government before being rescued and brought back to a new life in Berlin.
Holloway said he first noticed Sandy playing on the beach just down the hill from his vacation residence on Yost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands early on during his vacation.
When Holloway and his wife went down to the beach, Sandy started to follow them wherever they went and the couple developed a quick affinity for the animal.
“She followed us wherever we went,” he said this week. “When we walked down the beach, she would follow us, and she followed us when we came back. When we went out at night, she was there waiting at our house when we got back. She ended up staying in our house with us all week.”
Holloway said like many other stray dogs around the islands in the Caribbean, Sandy had been abandoned and left to fend for herself. It appeared she often “adopted” vacationing families and begged and scrounged for food like so many of the others, but Holloway sensed right away the little dog was different somewhat than the others, perhaps drawing from the instincts of years helping out his mother at the Worcester County Humane Society in West ocean City.
“She was just a smart, lovable little dog and she took to us right away, probably because she sensed somehow we were so dog friendly,” he said “It really bothered me that she was neglected and abused and by the middle of the week, it was like she was our own dog already.”
It wasn’t until later in the week that Holloway learned just how bad Sandy was being abused by the locals. One day, the dog followed Holloway into a local beach bar and laid down at his feet when the owner approached and said the dog was not welcome in the open-air, sand-floored establishment.
Holloway said he was not sure if he was kidding or not until the owner picked up a large rock and attempted to drop it on the dog. When the rock missed the dog, the owner picked up a broom and hit the animal across the back with it. Later in the same day, a local police officer was taking pictures of the dog.
When questioned, the officer told Holloway there had been numerous complaints about the animal, and if the complainants identified the dog through the pictures, it would be taken to a government-run shelter and euthanized. Holloway said the decision was then made to somehow save Sandy from that fate and his group huddled to come up with a plan.
The first order of business was getting the dog checked out and Holloway took the animal by ferry to the Humane Society on Tortolla, where it was examined by a government veterinarian and deemed healthy. After a couple of shots, Sandy was officially turned over to Holloway, although the effort to bring the dog back to Berlin was even more complicated. After several long and frustrating phone calls, Holloway learned his return flight airline did not accept pets and he made arrangements to return to the states on a pet-friendly airline.
“I had to eat my return ticket on our original airline and buy another ticket on a separate airline,” he said. “My wife and the rest of my group flew home as planned, and I came home on a different airline with Sandy. It was a long trip from St. Thomas to San Juan and from San Juan to Baltimore, but we finally made it.”
Once back in Berlin, Sandy was examined at the Ocean City Animal Hospital, and save for a treatable heartworm condition, the dog was given a clean bill of health. Sandy is described as an Island Mix, basically a euphemism for the countless, nameless strays that inhabit many of the islands in the Caribbean, but her story had a happy ending.
“She is right at home in Berlin and the kids took to her right away,” he said. “She jumps in the truck and rides with me wherever I go. I can’t go anywhere without her by my side. It was a struggle, but it turned out great for us and the dog in the end.”