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IT’S A DOG’S LIFE: Country Superstar Kenny Chesney Rescues 250 Animals From The Virgin Islands After Hurricane Irma

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CRUZ BAY –– Kenny Chesney is the bard of island life.

In the world he conjures through song, it’s always summertime.

Beachside bars welcome shirtless, shoeless customers. 

You And Tequila are all one needs for a tropical idyll.

And paradise grows even sweeter When The Sun Goes Down.

For some 17 years Chesney, 49, has found inspiration for his bucolic vision right outside his front door in “Love City,” a.k.a. St. John.

For all but two of those years Cookie, a mix-breed canine companion, shared his life.

Then, in September, while the six-time Grammy Award nominee was away, Hurricane Irma shattered their world.

“A friend of mine — we call him Low-Key Bob — took care of Cookie while I was gone,” Chesney says. “He brought her to Tennessee but then a week later she passed in my assistant Jill Trunnell’s arms. So what we did after that has been kind of in Cookie’s honor.”

The country music superstar created a foundation, named it Love For Love City, dedicated it to providing aid to Irma’s victims and flew back home to survey the damage. “I’d never seen anything so apocalyptic,” he remembers. “An area called Coral Bay was hit especially hard. My home was gone — and it had been built really strong. I’d lived there for so long so to see it broken and bleeding, especially a place that was known for its beauty and charm, it was devastating. It had become a ghost of an island.”

“We did all we could to try for the people who were struggling there,” he continues. “We flew generators and coolers down there. You bring them to these people who have been without power for two months and they’re literally crying. They appreciate anything you can do because they need it so badly.”

As they worked amidst the devastation in St. John, Trunnell began to notice the countless domestic animals wandering down the rubbled streets. “She said to me, ‘What about the animals who have been left behind?’ I said, ‘You’re right. We’ve got to help them too.’

“Once we got past the anxiety of getting water to people and taking care of their basic needs, Jill contacted Big Dog Ranch in Florida and Island Dog Rescue in St. John, St. Thomas and Vieques in Puerto Rico,” Chesney continues. “Next thing you know, we’ve got three or four planes going down there to get these animals healthy and safe.”

Since Nov. 16, Love For Love City has mobilized boats, ferries, box trucks and approximately 100 volunteers on behalf of lost and abandoned pets. About 250 animals have been transported to West Palm Beach.

There they were boarded onto two 50-passenger jets to Norfolk and Statesville, North Carolina, with volunteers driving them to those owners who could be tracked down. The remaining animals were delivered to facilities in Virginia, North Carolina, Maine, Massachusetts and Missouri, and offered for adoption.

This mission isn’t over. Donations are still welcome at Loveforlovecity.org. “But,” Chesney says, “I’ll tell you, it’s getting better every day, thanks to a lot of people. First time I flew there after the hurricane, every tree was broken. It looked like it had been bombed. Then a couple of weeks ago I went back and noticed a little bit of greenery. It takes a while. There’s no blueprint for something like this. But I’m really proud to be a part of helping the animals. Without Cookie, it might not have happened.”

CHESNEY COMPOUND: Kenny Chesney’s sprawling estate in St. John.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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