BERLIN – Neither their friends, their kids or even John and Kim Holloway themselves would classify the couple as souvenir hunters or dog people for that matter. So the fact that the couple moved heaven and earth to fly a stray mutt in from Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands, to their home here was a surprise to everyone who wasn’t on the island with them.
To be fair, though, it’s not that the Holloways didn’t want a dog or that their kids hadn’t been applying the let’s-get-a-dog pressure kids tend to apply. The obstacle to getting a dog was simply that no one could agree upon the acceptable size, breed or gender of a possible family dog so the issue remained in limbo. Sandy changed all that.
Early on in their vacation, the Holloways saw Sandy frolicking with a couple along the beach. Sandy attached herself to them not long after and John returned the dog to the people he’d assumed were her owners.
“They told me she wasn’t their dog, that she was a stray who was just following them around,” he said. “So we let her follow us around for awhile.”
The Holloways had rented a house with a few other couples — the doorless, windowless kind common to the islands — so when Sandy decided to take up residence with them, there was both nothing they could or cared to do about it.
Sandy would accompany them around the beach, swim with them in the ocean and sleep either in the house or on the porch as she pleased when the group finally called it a day.
As they bonded with the dog the Holloways noticed an odd vibe coming from the locals and it manifested itself when the landlord dropped by to let the vacationers know he had it in for Sandy and would happily get rid of it for them. As the Holloways tell it, it sounds like the turning point in some bizarre thriller where all of a sudden the locals are revealed to be almost cultish dog-haters.
This is probably not that far from the truth. The island of Jost Van Dyke — and as they tell it the British Virgin Islands more generally — has a bit of a dog problem. Strays beg and steal at all of the local eateries, the villas and pretty much wherever people congregate.
For the year or so since her birth Sandy has latched onto a different couple every week acting the part of rent-a-dog to survive. She’s weathered two hurricanes that have hit the island and likely numerous attacks from the human population by being visible only when it is safe to be so.
John and a friend were sitting at a table at Ivan’s, a famous island bar. Sandy was sitting at their feet under the table when the owner noticed the dog, picked up a softball-sized rock and threw it at her. He told everyone at the table the dog wasn’t welcome. Ivan gave them the impression that once the dogs started coming around they’d never leave.
As if to drive home the point, he was waiting outside of the bar, John said, with a broom and smacked the dog with the aim of driving it away for good.
John and Kim each have a number of stories that go just like this. They were hassled by the police, by shopkeepers of all sorts and even by random locals. And this was less than halfway through the couple’s vacation.
Once this disdain was revealed the vacationers decided as a group that they wouldn’t be leaving the island without Sandy, the only question was who’d bring her home. The problem was that there were nearly as many obstacles to flying Sandy home as there were to keeping her around on the island.
Kenille Davies is John’s mother as well as the executive director of the Worcester County Humane Society. She provided logistical support, telling the couple the right questions to ask and routes to take to ensure her son’s successful, if brief foray into the dog importing business.
There is only one veterinarian in the British Virgin Islands and the Holloways took the 40 minute ferry ride to see him, get Sandy’s shots and have her extradition approved. In an odyssey filled with unfortunate events and islander derision they caught one break — the islands are rabies free which meant that Sandy wouldn’t be subjected to the six-month quarantine generally require for bringing dogs into the United States.
John was forced to switch to an airline that would allow dogs in the cargo hold — leaving the U.S. as a non-pet owner it hadn’t occurred to him to check his originating airline’s pet policy — but successfully, if at significant expense, was able to get Sandy stateside.
Back at home the Holloway boys, Brooks and Brennan, got a way better answer than they expected to the question, “What did you bring us?”
For her part, Sandy endured the trip and has been a model pet. She’s housebroken and doing well on dog food, a delicacy she’d not experienced before. Among the Holloways’ most satisfying discovery is that Sandy enjoys the snow as much as the sand so has integrated to her new climate as well as her new home.