all-nighter with pet rescue queen

The team: Nick, Sali, Chris and Sydney

An old prep school friend asked if I’d volunteer to help receive rescue dogs arrive from Puerto Rico in Miami.  Of course.

She’s a Navy pilot veteran and sometimes flies the big bird 767 herself.  She didn’t mention when or for how long I could help, no matter.  I got her message a few days prior to the Saturday arrival of a cargo load including 27 dogs looking for homes.

When to meet up?  She said she’d take a nap and we could meet at Amerijet’s terminal when the paperwork would likely be ready.  At midnight.

I took a shared ride out to the nearly deserted cargo terminal and soon enough my friend, Sali Gear, arrived with a boxy outfitted van and her local kennel partner, Chris.  The paperwork cleared, we loaded up the van with as many kennels as possible (many with more than one dog) and drove to the nearby kennel (really a ranch house with a good sized fenced-in back yard) to welcome the eager doggies to the mainland.

There we spent the night – mostly quiet, though at times we had to tamper down dog play so as to not awake the neighbors – cleaning out the kennels, walking, and feeding each grateful dog.  Until 5am.

The boxy van, specially outfitted with shiny air tubes snaking the conditioned air back to the panting hoard, was carefully repacked for the two day drive north to Virginia, where Sali’s horse farm serves as a distribution center to the continent.  Young Nick, hired for the two day drive with kennel stopover in Georgia admitted that, like me, he’s energized by long drives.  Good thing, as he had been helping since midnight.

Island Dog Rescue was founded a handful of years ago, just in time to implement critical dog evacuations prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, when the stray population on Puerto Rico exploded due to abandonment.  The main hurdle, understandably, is transport, so Amerijet’s greatly reduced cargo rates are crucial.  In 2018 alone, the operation flew 3,600 dogs (plus many cats) to the mainland.

Here is a 2/20 video by Nation Swell on the outfit.  Read the comments, many by grateful island dog adopters.  One calls Sali the Pet Rescue Queen.  Indeed.  [please hover over images for captions]

About Ben

Ben Batchelder has traveled some of the world's most remote roads. Nothing in his background, from a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard to an MBA from Wharton, adequately prepared him for the experiences. Yet he persists, for through such journeys life unfolds. Having published four books that map the inner and exterior geographies of meaningful travel, he is a mountain man in Minas Gerais, Brazil who comes down to the sea at Miami Beach, Florida. His second travel yarn, To Belém & Back, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. For more, visit

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