By John Campbell
Special to St. John Tradewinds
Dr. Williamson took a look at Saturday.
“Well, this poor lady is literally starving to death.” My wife explained that she’d tried to get her to eat soft dog food, but that Saturday hadn’t shown any interest. “I’ll get her hydrated and we’ll feed her baby food from a jar. That usually works. What happens if she lives?”
Before I had a chance to reply, my wife responded, “Of course we’ll keep her. How long do you think she’ll need to stay with you?”
“I guess a week or two before we can get some strength back into her. She’s too weak to be wormed and will have to wait quite a while before she can be spayed — if she lives.”
We told Dr. Williamson we’d call frequently to find out how Saturday was coming along. We returned to Gallows Point and sat down to think through our new situation. Only then did we realize that we couldn’t take Saturday back to Tortola with us because of the then-current quarantine laws.
“Now what?” we asked each other.
Of course my wife had an answer.
“JC, please go back to close the house in Tortola and then come back here. We’ll fly Saturday with us to Massachusetts. I’ll call Sabrina — one of our daughters who’d recently graduated from Tufts veterinary school — and tell her that we might be bringing home a beautiful but malnourished coconut retriever. As soon as we find out how Saturday is coming along at Dr. Williamson’s, we’ll make reservations for a flight north.”
Saturday lived and she slowly improved on her diet of frequent jars of baby food. We made our plane reservations, including one for a large dog in a crate. Whoops. What crate? We didn’t have a large crate — or any kind of kennel for her. This was before the time of an organized St. John Animal Care Center shelter and before a St. John on-island vet.
So, off we went again to St. Thomas in search of a large animal crate. We spent an entire day searching. The pet supply store didn’t have anything large enough, the equipment rental agency didn’t have anything at all.
We drove out to the airport and inquired up and down the cargo areas. No luck. At the end of the day, we returned to Dr. Williamson’s office in Tutu to report our failure.
“I’m afraid we can’t take Saturday after all, there’s no large dog crate anywhere on St. John or St. Thomas,” we told him. “We can only hope you’ll find a good home for her locally.”
Dr. Williamson rose to the occasion. “I have a dog crate the right size for Saturday. I use it a lot and it’s the only one that size I have. I’ll lend it to you if you give me a $50 deposit and ship it back to me.”
Thanks to Dr. Williamson’s generosity (I think he only charged us for two weeks worth of baby food) and willingness to go the extra mile, Saturday’s future looked promising. We agreed that Dr. Williamson would give her shots to travel and have her ready in her borrowed crate for us to pick up on our way to the airport the day of our flight.
We didn’t realize how fortunate we were that Delta and American had straight-through flights to New York and to Boston pretty much all year. When we landed in Boston, a snowstorm was just beginning. Our skinny coconut retriever was being transferred out on the tarmac in a freezing cold snowstorm.
I thought of Dr. Williamson’s final words to us, “Well, you may have a dead dog when you land, but you’ll have tried your very best to save her.”
Sabrina was at the airport with the station wagon and an armful of blankets for Saturday. (She also had ski jackets for us.) She drove us home to many years of happiness with the gentlest, sweetest hound in all the world. What wonderful dogs those coconut retrievers were.
Saturday lived in good health with Sabrina and her family for eight more years.
Submit Off-Island Adoption stories to St. John Tradewinds at P.O. Box 1500, St. John, VI 00831.