Exhilarating. Heartbreaking. Rewarding. Exhausting.
On 3,000+ acres in the middle of nowhere, Utah, sits the most amazing animal sanctuary. Dogs. Cats. Rabbits. Horses. Birds. Yes, even some pigs have made their way to Best Friends. When they say, Save Them All...they truly mean "all".
I learned of Best Friends in 2006 while watching tv one Friday night in Dallas. The name of the show was Dogtown. I became addicted. Dogtown is part of the Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no kill sanctuary in the nation (maybe the world).
I have wanted to visit the sanctuary since I watched them take in all of the Michael Vick fighting pit bulls, and the dogs left behind after Hurricane Katrina. The purpose of Best Friends is to rehabilitate and find an adoptive home for the pet.
This past week was my volunteer experience at Best Friends. I requested to volunteer in Dogtown, the largest part of Best Friends. My volunteering involved working in Admissions (where new dogs come to be evaluated), Maggie's (single dogs that have issues with other dogs), Dulcie's (very traumatized dogs), and The Lodge (dogs that have to be separated from others).
The highlight was being invited to have lunch with one of the co-founders, Gabriel de Perey. As you can see by the picture, he is a bit quirky. Heck, the guy lives with 15 cats and 2 dogs...of course he is quirky! What a thrilling journey he and 24 others began 30 years ago. I very much enjoyed hearing about the beginnings of the sanctuary, and how passionate the founders still are about Best Friends. Of the 25 founders, 5 have died, 5 have moved on to other things, and the remaining 15 still all live on the property and are involved in the daily activities of the sanctuary. Remarkable story!
During our chat, Gabriel enlightened me with his assessment of my life. He stated, "I believe you love traveling and being retired." Amen!
As for the volunteer work...it was HARD!! I very much enjoyed walking the dogs, but walked an average of 4 dogs a day at 2 miles per dog. Then, I spent the afternoons hiking with my pups. I think I set new records on my Iwatch activity app! I scooped poop off the trails. I cleaned all 11 dog runs in Maggies. I washed doggie bowls and toys. I filled up Kongs with peanut butter for treats. Then, I swept, mopped and sprayed down walls in the Lodge (4 large dog areas). I was so exhausted after cleaning the Lodge that I told the caregivers upon my return not to expect much from my cleaning as I usually hired that stuff done!!! :)
The dogs. I walked dogs that had been mistreated, abused or neglected...one dog that spent 9 years in a puppy mill; one had been chained up for 10 years; another so abused, the dog would not get close to a car, a man or a crate. Then, there was the one that had been shot twice...in the throat and the leg. And, another that had spent over 9 years dog fighting.
No, I did not have one that tugged at my heart so much I couldn't leave without him or her. I think it was because I was so grateful for Best Friends and what they are doing for these dogs. They are now all in a very good place. And, Best Friends will not adopt them out until they are ready (they use a point system to evaluate when a dog is ready for adoption).
I also discovered that as much as I was thankful for my time at Best Friends, it isn't something I desire to do for the rest of my life. Yes, I will always want to save and rescue dogs, but I just didn't feel the passion to stay and be a full-time part of the effort here in Kanab. As beautiful as Utah is...and it is truly stunning, Kanab is just way too remote and small for me. (I mean seriously, no Starbucks or CVS????)
So, I will continue to support Best Friends monetarily, and have great memories of my time spent volunteering at the sanctuary. Please check them out on the web...bestfriends.org. Seeing how hard they work and the great work they are doing, I can tell you firsthand the money is being put to great use!
Now, back to hiking and sightseeing with my own little rescues...Os and Pres...my best friends!!
Life is good!