Over the weekend, residents across the Bahamas braced for Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm in the island nation’s history. One woman had a specific goal: to save dogs. She opened her home to 97.
“79 of them are inside my master bedroom,” the woman, Chella Phillips, posted on Facebook on Sunday afternoon. “It has been insane since last night.”
As the dogs settled into her house, Phillips barricaded the outside, according to her Facebook post. Dorian, a slow-moving Category 5 storm, wreaked havoc on the Bahamas, and the death toll is rising.
Phillips took steps to make the inside of her home more pleasant for the animals, putting on music “in all directions of the house” and blasting air conditioning, she wrote on Facebook. Neighbors and strangers donated dog crates, which were helpful for “the scared ones and the sick ones,” Phillips wrote.
Phillips could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Phillips runs a refuge for homeless and abandoned dogs, “The Voiceless Dogs of Nassau, Bahamas.” The day she opened her home to the nearly 100 animals also marked the refuge’s fourth anniversary: Voiceless Dogs has helped about 1,000 dogs since its opening, Phillips wrote on Facebook.
Her post about the dogs she rescued before Dorian hit quickly went viral, with more than 67,000 likes and hundreds of comments. In a second post a few hours later, Phillips updated her followers, saying that all of the dogs were making friends.
“Everyone here gets along and welcome the newcomers with tail wags cause they know they are their brothers and sisters in suffering on the streets,” Phillips wrote.
Dorian lingered in the Bahamas for much of the weekend. Phillips told news outlet WFTS on Monday that she lost power and water came into her home at one point, but that all inhabitants — human and canine — were doing okay.
She posted another update to Facebook a few hours later, noting she and her brother had passed “a stressful night” trying to combat serious flooding. All her TVs were “fried” from the lightning, Phillips wrote, which meant “no more cartoons for the sick dogs.”
Her brother slept just an hour, and Phillips went without sleep, she wrote. She stayed awake all night to dry the house and care for the “terrified” animals.
Phillips wrote she is grateful for “the outpouring support and heartfelt prayers from so many people that don’t even know us” in the wake of her viral post. But she wishes she could do more: She’s concerned for all the dogs she couldn’t take into her home.
“I pray for the other islands who have unimaginable damages and I don’t see how any dogs or any living being could have survived outside,” Phillips wrote. “My heart goes out to them."
Phillips’s online fundraiser for her refuge, which she launched in August and was unrelated to Hurricane Dorian, had raised roughly $63,000 as of Tuesday morning, far surpassing her original goal of $20,000.
Meanwhile, Facebook users from across the nation and the globe flocked to Phillips’s posts to offer supportive comments.