At different times in my life, I have come across something that seemed ‘too good to be true’…only to discover that it was even better than I could have possibly imagined. My most recent example of this is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. I had heard about Best Friends through a couple of people at our local animal shelter. Their descriptions were so incredible that I thought they might be embellished. Still, the Sanctuary has been on my bucket list for the past year. With our current five-week home exchange to Palm Desert, California, my husband and I decided to add two days in nearby Kanab to our itinerary.
Best Friends is an animal welfare organization with a unique history and vision. Set on thousands of acres of stunning landscape in Angel Canyon, this no-kill Sanctuary is home to over 1700 animals. The goal of this organization is to have all animal shelters in the United States be no-kill by 2025. Best Friends also supports a multitude of partner organizations who share the same objective.
When we drove up to the Sanctuary, Richard and I were both awed. The property seemed to be unending. The buildings were immaculate, the staff and volunteers were welcoming, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. The fact that this was all set on stunning landscapes with unparalleled views was almost too much to fully comprehend. We began our initial visit with a (free) Grand Sanctuary tour. Jennifer, our guide, was the ultimate ambassador. Radiating warmth, energy and a wealth of information, she offered an outstanding introduction to the Sanctuary. A convert herself, Jennifer had seen a documentary about Best Friends over a year ago, scrapped the necessary money together for transportation and accommodation and volunteered each day until Best Friend finally hired her.
Part of Best Friends’ unique vision is to allow people from all over the world to sign up to volunteer for a half a day or more. The area is en route to many popular tourist destinations (most notably, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon), offers incredible hiking opportunities, stunning scenery and is the setting of many movies and westerns (old and new). This all adds to the ease and appeal of volunteering here. In addition, any volunteer may take a dog or cat on a sleepover to their pet-friendly accommodations (including cabins that can be rented on site). For our second day, Richard and I signed up to volunteer together in Dog Town in the morning. For the afternoon, Richard signed up to volunteer in Horse Haven, while I booked myself into Cat World. The staff that we met were each welcoming, and extremely devoted to the animals that they served. All of this combined to make our volunteering an incredible experience.
The living quarters for each of the animals were spacious, clean and focused on the needs of the animals. Each animal that we saw seemed to be very comfortable and secure in his/her Sanctuary home. The first animal that we interacted with was Hurley. Hurley is a nine-year-old Black Labrador who had been in a shelter in Texas that was closing its doors. He had been at the Sanctuary for less than a month. Calm and easy going, Hurley was an excellent choice to invite for a sleepover.
Late that afternoon, after our volunteer shifts were completed, we took Hurley back to our (dog-friendly) motel. As we had only booked our accommodations a couple of days in advance, and there was a huge event in the area at the time, we had secured the last available dog-friendly accommodation. Saying that our room was “incredibly basic” would be a vast understatement. “Hurley’s going to think that we’re cheap and wished that someone else had him for a sleepover instead,” we joked. Thankfully, Hurley did not seem to see it that way. Being nine-years-old, and a Labrador, he possessed the perfect energy level and temperament for this sleepover. He loved his walks, loved to play tug-of-war (although he did cheat…repeatedly)! More than anything else, he LOVED his tennis balls and loved to pretend he was a lapdog and lie at our feet (or beside us on the bed….shhhh, don’t tell)! Hurley had eaten his dinner and treats before leaving the Sanctuary, and would eat his breakfast there as well. We were instructed not to feed him anything but water during his visit. That, along with the loving care he receives at Best Friends, made it easier on him, and us, when returning Hurley from his sleepover.
From start to finish, our entire experience at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was more reassuring and gratifying than Richard and I could have ever thought possible. We will definitely return soon and will find other ways to be involved.
For anyone interested in potentially adopting a new Best Friend, the Sanctuary is currently waiving the adoption fee and cost of the flight home (USA and Canada) for ‘solo artists’ (dogs and cats that they recommend to be the only animal in the home). The adoption fee for dogs eight-years+ and cats ten-years+ is also currently being waved. You can find out more information here.