Kenny Chesney felt Hurricane Irma's hit to the Virgin Islands directly, and he was quick to jump in for cleanup. The Category 5 storm tore through the region in September 2017, and in addition to helping natives who lost everything, Chesney lent a hand to man's best friend.

"The post-Irma island was just a terrible existence and no place for a dog. A lot of people had to leave their dogs behind — there are a lot of animals that had to ride out these storms and live in the aftermath with no food, no nothing,” Chesney tells People.

So he partnered with Big Dog Ranch Rescue and Victory Air, and together they saved 1,400 dogs from animal shelters across the islands, sending them to the U.S. where they'd easily find loving homes.

Chesney says "That makes me feel incredible."

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Chesney's own dog, Cookie — a dog he dubbed his "islands dog" — died just days after the storm hit. She was 18, so the star acknowledges that it was "timing more than anything," but that Cookie "was a big part of my life."

"On my next trip down [to St. John] we took her ashes and said goodbye and scattered them in the ocean," Chesney says. "I didn’t want her to be buried anywhere else. I wanted her to be a part of the fabric of where she lived her whole life.”

The country star's effort to rebuild the area is practically immeasurable — an early 2018 report showed that the singer and his crew helped build new bridges and buildings, repair schools, provide generators for those without power and clear out people's homes in the aftermath. The superstar also found a way to make music a part of the recovery effort by donating some of the proceeds from his latest album Songs for the Saints to his Love for Love City charity, which directly benefits the Islands.

“It consumed my year. The tour, Love for Love City, the dog rescue. It’s been a really interesting journey," he admits. "I feel like I have a little bit more compassion and empathy in my life than I did before."

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