Up at sunrise, we set out from Las Vegas to Kanab, Utah, home to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. A scenic three hour drive with majestic mountains and blue skies, reminded me not to forget there is still beauty in this world. And that beauty paved the way to meet some amazing people and animals, a day I won't soon forget.
Best Friends Sanctuary is like no other. Here, you will find animals of all kinds from all over the country. Sick, abandoned, brokenhearted, neglected, lost - animals arrive from rescue groups and shelters across the country, knowing here, in the hills of Angel Canyon, they will be cared for forever, loved, healed, or even adopted out.
It started in the early 1980s, when a few friends began taking in unwanted and sick animals, those on 'death row' at area shelters. They patiently cared for them, found homes for some while the rest remained living happily ever after at their small haven.
A small beginning with a few friends demonstrates the power of making a difference in the world. Best friends flourished and became one of the world's most beloved animal sanctuary, caring for over 1500 animals. Approximately 30,00 people visit every year to tour Best Friends, and even more sign up to volunteer or stay for a weekend to bond with a lonely pet.
To see the sanctuary, you must take a tour and schedule it ahead of time. Tours are free and are given four times a day. We arrived and made our way to The Welcome Center. Greeted by our tour guide, we watched a short film about the sancturary, learning that their mission is to reach across the country to put an end to the killing of homeless animals. After a cup of hot coffee available at the welcome center, we boarded the bus to begin our two hour journey through the winding roads of Angel Canyon, where many Hollywood movies have been filmed.
The Sanctuary sits on almost 4,000 acres of land, surrounded by 30,000 additional acres leased from the federal government. Our first stop was at Horse Haven, home to numerous horses, donkeys, mules, goats and sheep. Then Parrot Garden, Bunny House, Piggy Paradise, Wild Friends - where injured wild animals are treated then released back to their freedom.
The tour stops at two places, Cat World, and Dogtown, where we were able to get out and visit with the cats and dogs. Cat World is a home to about 600 cats in 10 houses, providing a cage free place with room to roam, play, eat, or be treated by one of the onsite Veterinarians. Inside, we were greeted by Chauncey, a talkative cat with diabetes. A three legged cat who lost a leg to cancer, slid across the floor, and 2 other cats with neurological problems limped to say hello. Our tour guide told us never to feel sorry for these cats, they are treated and loved very well, and best of all, will not be put down because of their sickness or age.
Next was Dogtown. Over 500 dogs living on 50 acres in group homes. We met one dog who was found wandering in the streets after the Utah fires last year. Other dogs are rehabilitated, treated, and adopted out, such as Michael Vick's dogs. Many arrived at Dogtown in a horrendous state, but all have been treated and loved back to health. Most of his dogs have found new forever homes, while nine still remain at Dogtown.
We then went by Angels Rest. Windchimes break the silence of the Utah mountains. It's the final resting place for animals from Best Friends and for those who wish to buy a plot to bury their friend. The backdrop of the mountains and the windchimes in the wind fill you with a peace and thankfulness that these animals were not forgotton.
Our tour ended back at The Welcome Center. We were given a gift bag filled with pens, paper, Best Friends magazine, magnets, and brochures. A cafe, coffee, and a gift shop are all an added bonus on this free tour.
I left feeling redeemed. It's awe-inspring to see what is being done by these wonderful people, and even more heart-stirring to think animals don't have to die just because they are sick, abandoned, or old. This animal society got it right in a world gone wrong. The message is clear. Together, we can make a difference to reach a no-kill nation.
Best Friends is located within driving distance of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Lake Powell, and Bryce Canyon.
Hours are 8 am to 5 every day except Christmas. A great way to spend a day with family and friends.
To schedule a tour, volunteer, donate, and/or find out more information on how you can make a difference, go to: bestfriends.org
Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, Utah 84741 (435) 644-2001