About 25 years ago a group of California friends who had been taking in stray animals so that they would not be euthanized, realized that the need far exceeded their ability to help. They must have been talented marketers and fund raisers, because they raised enough money to build the largest "no kill" animal shelter in the United States located on a huge piece of land in picturesque Angel Canyon. Thirteen years ago our niece drove from her home in South Carolina to Best Friends to volunteer as a vet tech for the summer. This trip demonstrated her commitment to animals and undoubtedly helped her gain admission to vet school, a program with stiffer requirements than med school. And that was the first we had heard about Best Friends Animal Sancturary.
Today we had the opportunity to check the place out for ourselves. The operation was amazing - run like a well oiled machine and filled with love and empathy. As we toured everyone we encountered made it clear that they would be more than appreciative of any help we could provide - either financial or volunteer - but they did so in a low key way. Today about 500 paid staff work at BF and 7- 8,000 volunteers spend time there with the animals. Kanab only has about 3,500 residents so most of these volunteers make extensive efforts to come here to volunteer or adopt a shelter animal. Since it is Spring Break time, there were students from two different colleges volunteering this week.
Although homeless dogs and cats are the major focus of the place, any animal that doesn't require a lot of salt water might be found here. The goal of the wild animal section is to rehabilitate and release. The goal in the companion animal section is to find every animal a loving home. Many of the animals here have had bad experiences with humans or none at all, so a major function of the volunteers is to habituate the animals to our presence. During our tour we were encouraged to love on those dogs and cats who were in the mood. Many of them were not. Those animals who cannot make this adjustment, live out their lives here in conditions as close to perfect as the center can make them. For example, some of the dogs love to live in packs and others want to be along in their own space. Once what makes them content is determined, that's what they get. Extensive medical and rehab services are also provided. For example, they got a cat that was so obese it could not walk and she exercises every day on a hydro pool walker. All the animals are in immaculate, climate controlled facilities and can go indoors or out at will. Outside fences and concrete barriers prevent them from getting totally away or digging themselves out. Low cost spay and neutering services are provided. Once feral cats are neutered, if it is clear that they can never tolerate human companionship, they are released back into the wild. BF has a comprehensive web site which features animals that are ready to be adopted. Folks come from as far away as Alaska to do so. Sometimes the adoptions don't work out, but those animals are always accepted back at BF again.
After a vegetarian lunch with volunteers and staff overlooking Angel Canyon, we headed to Coral Pink Sand Dune State Park. We'd read that many movies have been filmed here and it was yet another stunning version of the unique southern Utah scenery. As the sandstone here deteriorates into sand, it gets picked up by the wind. A unique juxtaposition of mountains created a funnel which brought the wind blown sand to this spot and deposited it here. As we tried to hike through the eerie colored sand, we could hear the roaring engines of HOV's. Riding mechanized vehicles through sand dune of all sorts is incredibly popular here, but leaves me feeling somewhat ambivalent, the same way I feel about snow mobiles. It can't be doing the environment any good to have heavy machinery roaring around spewing out gas fumes and noise pollution. I guess you need to be an adrenaline junkie.