‘Love for Love,’ for the love of dogs

Kenny Chesney behind a special dog coming to the Island.

Courtesy Ashley Medeiros

After Hurricane Irma ravaged hundreds of Caribbean islands in September 2017, country music singer Kenny Chesney rounded up support for and created the Love for Love City Foundation. Love for Love City, according to its website, is a fund that creates the “right kind of relief” for people who need help after the hurricane.

“And animals,” adoption advisor Lynn Shepardson of Angels Helping Animals Worldwide (AHAWW) added in an interview with The Times.

Two weeks ago, Love for Love rescued its 1,001st dog from the Virgin Islands. That dog is here on Martha’s Vineyard.

“It takes a team,” Shepardson said.

After the hurricane, many displaced dogs ended up in overcrowded shelters in the Caribbean, and the government was going to have them euthanized. Love for Love City partnered with shelters in St. Thomas and St. John’s to fly unplaced animals to various no-kill shelters in the U.S.

AHAWW founder Leslie Hurd of Vineyard Haven and manager Rhea Vasconcellos of the Humane Society of St. Thomas started the Pets with Wings Program in 2012, which flies adoptable animals out of St. Thomas to shelters in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Colorado. Love for Love City partnered with Pets with Wings to bring the foundation’s 1,001 dog, Chip, to Martha’s Vineyard.

“Chip is a very special dog,” Hurd said.

Two weeks ago, Love for Love chartered a jet with Chip and other dogs on board from St. Thomas to North Carolina. From there, teams of volunteers drove the pups to shelters all over the country. Shepardson was waiting for a group arriving in Worcester.

“I woke up at 3 in the morning, and while I was on the road, flights kept getting delayed,” Shepardson said. The rescue mission was conveniently during our series of snowstorms and steamship breakdowns. “I pulled into a Walmart and slept for hours.”

When the pups arrived, Shepardson brought them through the state-mandated quarantines and vetting. Then they were loaded on the boat and brought to the Island. Chip, and another pup, Emily are currently in foster homes, and available for adoption.

AHAWW participated in a similar rescue mission in September, but it was funded by an anonymous citizen.

“With everything that guy has going on,” Shepardson said, “I find it really amazing that Kenny Chesney picked up something like this.”

Shepardson and Hurd praised the Love for Love team, and especially Chesney’s tour assistant, Jill Trunnell.

“Jill is amazing,” Shepardson said. “Any time I called her, she picked right up and made sure we had everything we needed.”

“There must have been 100 people involved,” Hurd said. “Airport pickup, transport volunteers, paperwork. It was very well organized.”

Areas like New England have fewer problems with stray dogs and overcrowded shelters. Our leash laws and spaying and neutering prevent problems that are prevalent in the Caribbean and in southern states.

“It’s a fixable issue,” Hurd said.

“Our recommendation is keep your dogs leashed, and have them fixed,” Shepardson said. “The more lives we can save, the better.”