Last year we passed through Utah, several hours north of Kanab, without time in our schedule for a detour. Things were different two weeks ago when we were back in the neighborhood (relatively speaking), so we planned a visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Probably like many of you, we became aware of Best Friends when Dog Town aired on the National Geographic channel – we were hooked for all four seasons. Visiting the sanctuary and meeting some of the people who work here became one of my “must dos.”
Angel Canyon, the idyllic setting for the 3,700 acre sanctuary, is about 5 miles north of the town of Kanab.
What Kanab lacks in population, it makes up for in personality. The picturesque landscape in this area was a prime location for filming western movies, and the town continues to celebrate that history. Plaques along the sidewalks honor the many actors who worked here, and a museum preserves the memorabilia. Accommodations are easy to come by, with five pet friendly hotels and three pet friendly RV parks in town.
Best Friends offers free 90-minute tours four times a day, seven days a week, except on Christmas. All the tours start at the welcome center and are preceded by a 20 minute video that explains a bit about the mission, accomplishments, and activities of the people who work here. After the video, a tour guide escorts you around the property in a van, explaining the operations and giving you peeks behind the scenes.
On of the first places you come to is Angels’ Rest – the final resting place for the animals that have lived out their lives here. It’s serene, filled with wind chimes and grave markers – many with pebbles marking the visits people have made to their loved ones.
The next stop is Cat World. The cats here have the very best – indoor/outdoor enclosures, floors with radiant heat, lots of toys, and cozy corners to curl up in the sun. Outdoors the rafters were left open for the cats that like to climb, and volunteers come everyday, so there is always someone to snuggle with. One of the cat-loving dogs even hangs out here – to help convince the suspicious felines that canines can make great friends.
Next on the tour was Dog Town. The dogs here have indoor/outdoor runs and live in octagonal-shapel buildings, so if you stand in the center you can see all the dogs and they can see each other. We stopped at the Delores building and were greeted by the “out dog,” the canine ambassador for the building that the staff counts on to welcome guests. To be promoted to “out dog” you must be friendly, trustworthy not to dart out when the gate is opened, and polite enough not tease the other dogs in their runs. I don’t have as many pictures here – honestly, I was busy scratching and petting. :-)
Beyond cats and dogs, Best Friends provides a haven for rabbits, horses, birds, and pot-bellied pigs while they search for their forever homes. There are nearly 2,000 animals here! How does Best Friends do it all?
Funded entirely by their members, the staff of around 400 relies on the support of thousands of volunteers to help care for the animals. Some volunteers come for the day, others stay for a week, and many come back year after year.
Best Friends’ mission is for there to be no more homeless pets – something I think we’d all like! And, there are ways you can help.
Going to Kanab and volunteering at the sanctuary is an incredible experience, but not an option for everyone. Best Friends offers a lot of ways you can help in your own community. You can follow their initiatives to end puppy mills, restore the reputation of pit bulls, or keep cats safe and out of shelters, and use their tools to get involved locally. If you’re more of a hands-on dog or cat person, Best Friends will connect you with a local shelter or rescue group that would appreciate your help.
Adoption is always an option! Home visits can be scheduled anywhere in the country, so making one of Best Friend’s adoptable animals a member of your family – no matter where you live – is a great way to provide your support. A network of volunteers transports animals to and from the sanctuary, so a trip to Kanab to pick up your new pal isn’t even required.
If another pet isn’t possible for you right now, reading the biographies and choosing an animal to sponsor is another way to connect with one of these animals.
From spreading the word, to spending some time, to making donations of money or supplies – Best Friends is grateful for whatever support you can give.
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