What had been up to that point an idyllic Vineyard vacation suddenly took on an ominous hue about 2:30 pm last Saturday afternoon when Tamara and Susan Gemme-Crawford of Springfield pulled into the driveway of their rental house in Oak Bluffs after a few hours at the beach. Their dog Grayson — a border collie/Australian shepherd mix — was out of his dog crate and lying on the front porch, covered in purple paint. The porch was covered in purple paint. And the front door was shut and locked.
The couple was visiting the Island with Tamara’s brother and his wife, William and Christine Crawford. The four had gone to State Beach and left early so that they could prepare the ribs they planned to cook for dinner that night. Tamara and Susan also wanted to bring their 4-month-old puppy, Grayson, to the beach by 5 pm, when it opened up for dogs.
They soon learned that the house had been broken into. According to one of several police reports, Felix Regan, 20, of Oak Bluffs, broke into the Pinewood Road house through a rear bedroom window. A MacBook Pro computer was missing, along with several bottles of medication, and Christine Crawford’s driver’s license and Visa card.
Soon after breaking into their rental house, Mr. Regan stole a car, and entered another house, police said. Police arrested Mr. Regan on numerous charges that included breaking and entering in the daytime with the intent to commit a felony; larceny of a motor vehicle; assault and battery on a police officer, destruction of property; and cruelty to animals for dumping a can of paint on Grayson.
Mr. Reagan is currently being held in the Dukes County Jail without bail on a probation violation.
The puppy ‘was a victim’
Police posted the story of the arrest and the painted dog on the department’s Facebook page. The story about the “purple-painted puppy” on Martha’s Vineyard was picked up by media sites around New England and by the Daily Mail in London. Still shaken by the experience, Tamara and Susan said that the majority of the media coverage failed to identify Grayson as a victim.
“Grayson was an innocent bystander. This was an innocent puppy who was of no harm to anyone,” Tamara told The Times in a phone conversation. “That’s what I want people to know. Grayson is the victim. The media wants to go crazy over the painted-purple puppy, but let’s give them the details.”
She said the puppy was in a crate in a closed room, with the shades drawn and air conditioning on, where she had safely left him. Tamara said Mr. Regan took Grayson out of his crate, opened a can of paint, and poured it all over the puppy, the house, and even the dog bowls. Then he shut the dog outside.
The couple is not entirely sure what Grayson did between then and when they found him on the porch, but they said that one woman tried to send Tamara a message to say that she saw Grayson “running down the street.”
The couple had taken Grayson that afternoon to Tradewinds Fields Preserve, known lovingly as the dog park in Oak Bluffs. It was conveniently down the street from their rental. Since they had arrived on Thursday, Sept. 1, Grayson had been to the park five times.
Tamara and Susan think that because Grayson had gone to Tradewinds so many times, he was able to find his way home after running off.
“He knew his neighborhood,” Tamara said. “Thank God for Tradewinds dog park. He knew what house was his because we had walked to the dog park.”
Both couples left the Island early. They had rented the house until Sunday night, but left Saturday after they had finished filing the police report. Tamara said they had nothing but positive things to say about the police department. She called the Oak Bluffs police “fantastic,” and said they were at the house in minutes.
She and Susan also said that the homeowner of the rental house in Oak Bluffs has been incredibly kind as well.
The Gemme-Crawfords had been to Martha’s Vineyard a couple of times before, but only to visit William and Christine at the campground. Tamara said that this recent trip was the first time they had made a point of renting a house and a car.
The Island is known for being a safe place for residents and visitors alike. Many Islanders leave their doors unlocked and their keys in their cars. Tamara and Susan said they always lock their doors in Springfield. They locked their doors in Oak Bluffs, too. Part of the draw is the quaintness of the Island, and they said they had considered retiring here.
Tamara said that having their dog abused has affected her and her partner’s sense of being on the Vineyard.
“We’re thinking twice, for sure, about going back,” Tamara said. She said that Mr. Regan tainted their perspective of the Vineyard.
Asked about how Grayson was recovering, Tamara said that when he returned to his obedience classes on Tuesday, the dog trainer offered to let him repeat his five-week class at no charge in the hopes of getting him “back on track” to where he was.
“Grayson is home, where he is safe, with the moms that he loves,” Tamara said. “But we did not leave the Island with the same dog we went on the Island with.”