After Hurricane Irma devastated several of the Caribbean Islands, Sali Gear planned to fly about 20 animals to the U.S. each day over a week.
However, Hurricane Maria changed her plans.
Gear had only two days to come up with a way to fly 300 animals gathered on the island of St. Thomas to her farm in Virginia Beach.
Over the weekend, Gear and donors paid for a $112,000 charter flight out of Miami to rescue the cats and dogs in one fell swoop.
"I did it because it had to be done," she said before the animals arrived. "People have moved heaven and earth to make this happen."
According to The Virginian Pilot, Gear said she hadn't slept much the past two weeks.
"This is a sprint, not a marathon," she said. "I'm exhausted emotionally, physically - but spiritually, I'm not."
The Virginia Beach resident co-owns Island Dog Rescue, a local nonprofit that specializes in saving dogs from the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is where she grew up.
Gear returned the Virgin Islands several times since Hurricane Irma. Most vegetation has been wiped out, as have many buildings, and animals are scrounging for food, she said.
"They all seem happy," Sjolund said. "Island dogs are like that."
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