KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Pets were left behind during February’s catastrophic flooding in East Tennessee, but it’s an even bigger ongoing problem in hurricane-ravaged areas in the Caribbean.
More than 50 dogs rescued from recent hurricanes are in the U.S. Several of them are here in East Tennessee with forever families, thanks to a local effort started by women wanting to make a difference.
It all began with Tennessee entrepreneur Britnie Turner was in the British Virgin Islands checking on real estate, got stuck during the deadly Category 5 Hurricane Maria, and ended up helping in recovery efforts.
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Along the way, she found some of the most helpless hurricane victims – puppies. So many puppies were left behind.
Turner called her friend back in the state – designer Diana Warner – to help get the puppies to safer ground, already with a puppy in mind for Warner to take home.
That puppy is now aptly named “Hurri-canine Maria.”
“The first batch of little puppies, there’s puppies that came to the United States and I was busy trying to find them homes, and I ended up keeping the one she thought was mine,” said Warner with a smile.
Maria is just one of more than 50 puppies who survived the massive storms, only to be abandoned by their former owners.
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That includes dogs like Lucy, who now gets lots of love and care from Bob Bundy here in Knoxville, after suffering horrifying injuries and left for dead.
“She was found hacked up with a machete in a dumpster in the Virgin Islands. She has a pin holding her right back leg together,” Bundy said while holding Lucy.
Bundy and Lucy joined a reunion of rescue families meeting up at Diana Warner Studio in Knoxville. All have a story to share.
Puppies like Stella that were barely alive when rescued are now healthy and happy.
“She was really in terrible shape and so now she’s almost doubled her weight and she is so rambunctious and quite hilarious,” owner Connie Coffey said.
From photos of puppies at the moment of rescue, to a hero’s welcome home, and into arms of their new loving forever friends, these puppies, no matter their breed, are known in the Virgin Islands as “Coconut Retrievers.”
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One high school student, Kristen Benesh, came to see Diana Warner for a prom dress but instead fell in love with a puppy she named “Knox.”
“We came over here and he was here and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is him. I’m going to get him.’ So instead of a prom dress, I got a puppy,” said Benesh.
The puppies in the states now have all been spoken for, but a whole new group is brought in from the Virgin Islands every six to eight weeks. Hurricane relief efforts are far from over. The need is still so great for survivors including the furry friends left behind.
“Our goal is to do more, get more puppies healthy and forever homes,” reminded Warner.
If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a hurricane puppy, call Diana Warner Studio in Knoxville at 865-454-8978 to have your name added to the waiting list.
To learn more about the rescue of dogs in the British Virgin Islands, and other hurricane relief efforts: www.BVIStronger.com. Donations are appreciated to help with transportation and medicine for the rescued puppies.