Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

A couple of months ago a friend of mine told me about an amazing place that she had visited in Utah. It is called “Best Friends Animal Sanctuary”. It is one of the  largest “no kill” facilities in the world, home to between 1600 and 2000 animals ranging from dogs, horses, bunnies, cats, and birds. Mom and I talked about it in January, and here we are …. spending the first week in March as volunteers in both Dog Town and Horse Haven.  As we drove onto the 3300 acre facility, we were in awe of the gorgeous cliffs and valleys in what is now known as “Angel Canyon”.

Horses near the entrance way of Best Friends Sanctuary

Yesterday was our first day, and we spent the morning taking a tour, browsing the extensive gift shop, and going through our initial volunteer orientation. We then had lunch at their outstanding vegetarian cafeteria, took a walk through “Angels Rest”, the pet cemetery 

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At 1:15 we reported to duty at Dog Town headquarters. We told them that we would like to work with some pitbulls,  wanting to learn more about this amazing breed with an undeserved bad reputation. We were immediately told that we could take “Mamas”, a 4 year old pit rescued from a dog fighting ring, to our condo for a sleepover. One of the things they like to do is get the dogs out for one night sleepovers.   This way, they can get used to being in a home, and are that much more ready for adoption. First we sat in Mamas kennel area, which is large and roomy, very clean and has an outside area which she can access at will, with her “kennel mate” and buddy, Valentino. Mamas jumped around for about 3 minutes, then plopped into my lap and professed her love by licking my face and wiggling with excitement.

The dogs at Dog Town are housed in Octagon shaped kennels, with runs attached to each indoor kennel area.There are 2-3 dogs in most runs, as they have found that dogs prefer to live with a friend. For those few dogs that aren’t ready to live with another, they do have “singles” rooms available. Each Octagon has 2 caretakers that are with the dogs from 7am- 6pm. The caretakers provide training, feeding, cleaning, and medical treatment.

Zoom, abused pitbull, with him caretaker. His tail never stops wagging!

Best Friends employs approximately 370 paid employees. Volunteers get the fun jobs of walking the dogs (on beautiful paths throughout the  sanctuary, petting and socializing with the dogs, playing in puppy “pre-school”, and taking dogs on outings or sleepovers. By the time a dog is ready for adoption, it has been through nearly every experience that it will face in it’s new home so that hopefully all placements are permanent ones. Best Friends does have a return policy, if for any reason your new pet doesn’t work out, you can return it and it will be “re-homed” or allowed to live out it’s life at the sanctuary.

Back to our “sleepover” with Mamas. Once we checked her out, along with her bag of toys, water bowl, treats, and blankets, her caretaker helped us seat belt her into the car and off we went. We decided to explore the town are of Kanab, and took her for a long walk which included a tour of the movie sets at “Little Hollywood”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kanab was the home to many movie sets with actors such as John Wayne, Ronald Regan, and many others.

After a couple of hours of wandering, we returned to the condo where Mamas immediately snuggled up on the couch and behaved perfectly all evening. She slept through the night without a peep, and when I woke up was happy to go out for a walk. She really is ready for a home, and would be a fantastic dog for a very lucky owner.

We will return her (sadly) this morning, and hopefully bring someone else home tonight. First we plan to help in puppy pre-school, and walk several other dogs. I hope to learn a little more about training, but they are quite cautious about which dogs volunteers are allowed to handle. It seems that there positive training techniques goes for volunteers as well as dogs!

Day 2– today we spend some time with the puppies, and went to “puppy preschool”.  I got to work with Elora, who reminded me a lot of my old greyhound, Zelda.  Elora is 9 months old, gorgeous, and very well behaved…. it’s hard to imagine no one has adopted her!

Elora- a bundle of loveable energy

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