Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Super Vacation - Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

     I don't usually blog about family or personal things. This is about "noodling with words," reading and writing.
     But part of having a fertile mind for writing is getting out into the world. Meeting new people and seeing new places brings new inspiration and points of view. And I went somewhere so terrific that I had to share!
     If you are a pet lover and you haven't been here yet, put the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary on your bucket list.
     Our family had been to Utah once before. After visiting Las Vegas and the south and north rims of the Grand Canyon we headed up to Bryce Canyon. But it was at the end of our trip, and with everyone getting tired of the lo-ong car rides between these places, we didn't stop when we saw the tiny roadside sign for Best Friends. Ten years later, the sign is BIG! And this time Kanab, Utah and Best Friends was our primary destination.

     We have supported Best Friends for years and enjoyed their magazine and the Dogtown show on the National Geographic channel on TV. But to see it in person was awe inspiring.
     First the beauty of the physical surroundings. Shades of red rock rising around the canyon. Jackrabbits darting across the road. Horses grazing. Hummingbirds swarming the feeders at the Visitors Welcome Center. The sanctuary occupies 3,700 acres and even though there are hundreds of people hard at work taking care of the hundreds of animals there, the feeling was one of peaceful purpose.
     If you aren't familiar with the sanctuary, in a nutshell their purpose is a world with no more homeless pets. While the ASPCA and Humane Society and many local shelters all work toward this same purpose, what I think makes Best Friends unique is its mission to help the most difficult cases. They take animals that local shelters don't have the time or resources to rehabilitate. A large number of the dogs from the Michael Vick dog-fighting case went here. And even though
these animals were deemed "unadoptable" at other locations, Best Friends works with them and adopts out approximately 80% of the animals every year.
     But back to OUR trip.
     First, we took the free tour of the sanctuary. We had pre-booked a 10am tour, so all we had to do was climb aboard the air-conditioned minibus, sit back and enjoy. The bus drove past all of the major areas: horses, pigs, birds, wild rehab center, rabbits, dogs and cats. The bus stopped and we went inside to meet some of the caregivers and animals at the spanking clean Cat House and Dogtown. If you're feeling the itch to go, alll you need to know about visiting is here.
     We took advantage of the $5 all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet in the cafeteria at lunchtime, then headed over to the Bunny House which has a 2PM Open house where we learned how much more complex these creatures are than I had previously thought!
     Starting the next day, we volunteered in Dogtown. Over the next few days we volunteered with old dogs, young dogs, puppy training, and more "difficult" dogs with some socialization issues. The volunteer shifts are 8:30am to 11:30 and again 1-4:30pm. We walked dogs, cleaned outdoor runs, swept the octogon buildings, scrubbed doggie wading pools, cleaned and refilled water buckets and even took one dog for a car ride when the caregiver said that would help him acclimate to cars and hopefully find a home. Because isn't that what it's all about?
     For cat lovers, here's a one minute video about one of the cats from the Best Friends youtube channel.
     Helpful hints:
     Walking dogs is done only in the morning in the summer, and in June it was already hot by lunchtime. Don't be fooled by the cool desert evenings and waking up to 55 degrees. Dress in layers you can take off And the red sand that you walk in is quite a workout! By the tenth dog, I was panting along with the pooches.
     The Rocking V restaurant in town had some of the best meals I've had anywhere. It would make a great stop if you're driving from the Grand Canyon to Bryce or Zion and just need somewhere to stop and eat. It isn't inexpensive, but the entree price includes a choice of soup and we cleaned every morsel off our bowls and plates.

     So have you been to Best Friends or somewhere else that amazed and inspired you this summer?  I hope you find your special spot to re-energize.

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