When Your Vacation Happily Goes to the Dogs


A crescendo of barks greeted a vehicle that recently pulled up to the Montego Bay Animal Haven in Jamaica. Penned dogs — 147 of them — were tipped off it was time for their morning walk. They leapt at the chain link fence, tails wagging, then surged in joyous waves through a gate. Dog-loving visitors, in expendable clothing, climbed out of the van to welcome the onslaught with laughter, no fear.

“Hiking with the Hooligans” began as a tourist activity in January, a raucous way to enjoy Jamaica’s hilly countryside flush with ackee, guava, mango and papaya trees. There are no sea views from this inland sanctuary; the dogs grab all the attention. The hourlong hike is rugged, not a day at the beach, so wearing flip-flops would be a mistake.

Tammy Browne, the haven’s founder, was inspired after visiting Territorio de Zaguates (Land of the Strays) in Costa Rica last year, a no-kill sanctuary with hundreds of dogs roaming the land (it is currently closed to the public). Since Ms. Browne’s 17-acre property in Jamaica is enclosed, the dogs are unleashed for the hike. The panting pack sociably trots together, the shelter’s guides breaking up the occasional disagreement.

Charlie Brown had three legs. Albus was missing an eye and part of his tail. Stallone’s head was furrowed with scars; his street-wise gravitas commanded respect from the other dogs. To the untrained eye, those lacking distinctive features looked pretty much alike, but Ms. Browne knew all their names. She had rescued them from the streets or abusive owners and nursed them back to health. They are spayed and have the relevant vaccines.

“I hate the word mongrel,” Ms. Browne said. “Royal Caribbean terriers, I call them. Every dog you see has a story, the most horrendous background.” She said she has found homes for hundreds of dogs since she founded the nonprofit shelter in 2009 and “adoptions are up tenfold since we started the hike, more in the last two months than we had in the last year.”

Mirah A. Horowitz, the shelter’s executive director, estimated three to five adoptions each month are the direct result of a family taking a dog out through their “Field Trips” program. Eight to 10 healthy dogs are usually available and eager for beach breaks (poop bags provided). The leash stays on even for swims together. Check kauaihumane.org for daily pickup times (closed Wednesday) and the suggested donation is $25. Credit cards will be charged a $200 deposit in the event the dog is not returned.

Explore Central Maui through the “Beach Buddies” program every Wednesday and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Five pooches (one per family) are generally available for outings in nature or to dog-friendly restaurants. Sign up in advance by emailing beachbuddies@mauihumanesociety.org. There is a $20 suggested donation.

Hurricane Irma deluged the shelter in 2017 with more than 300 lost or surrendered animals; the majority were adopted or reunited with their families. In April, only nine socialized strays were available for daily leashed walks to nearby Cruz Bay. “In the last five or six years it’s really taken off, a lot of it to do with our social media following,” said Ryan Moore, the shelter’s manager. Reach the center by calling 340-774-1625 or emailing info@stjacc.org.

For anyone missing a dog back home or looking for a companion to stroll with on the beach, roughly a dozen rescue dogs here would jump at the chance. It’s free, Thursday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, email viequeshumanesociety@hotmail.com.

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