June 11, 2010
Voluntourism has become a huge trend in travel these days abroad, but there are wonderful spots to help out in America too. After driving through Zion we made our way to Kanab, UT a little town next to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Best Friends is the largest animal sanctuary in the United States and largest domesticated animal sanctuary in the world. They take in abandoned and homeless pets often saving them from kill shelters or life on the streets. Their network reaches around the country, working with hundreds of local shelters, but their Utah site is truly amazing. The Sanctuary is located in Angel Canyon and when you take the dogs for walks you are surrounded by beautiful sites!
There are over 1,700 animals living at Best Friends at any given time, including cats, dogs, horses, pigs, birds, bunnies and local injured wildlife. You can volunteer with any of the animals doing activities any where from helping to groom, walking, cleaning up after, or simply just sitting with and playing with the animals to give them some socialization time. You can even do puppy socilization classes where you learn to train them and teach them not to be scared of things like vacuum cleaners and motorcycle helmets.
You can even take some of the dogs out on sleepovers to help them acclimate to life outside the sanctuary, many of them have never been in homes and it is great for them to experience a bit of home life even if it is just in a motel. (Most of the motels in Kanab allow the doggy sleepovers). We took an amazing dog named Trip for the night. She was so sweet and well behaved I fell in love with her in just one night and it was heart-wrenching to say goodbye, but I know she will find a great home soon!
My dad tried to get her to sit still for a picture, but she kept doing this:
Many of the dogs come from abusive homes and are either completely rehabilitated and adopted out or they are given permanent homes at the sanctuary. Best Friends took in all 22 of the Vicktory Dogs, which were the pitbulls rescued from ex-NFL star Michael Vick’s fighting rings. Two of them have already been adopted into permanent homes, some are in foster homes and the others will always have a happy home to run around and play in at the sanctuary. The Vicktory Dogs, as Best Friends named them, are mostly red collars, which means staff only, so most people don’t get to see them. Since we were returning volunteers and I have a lot of experience volunteering with dogs we were allowed to work with some of the rougher dogs, and while we didn’t go into runs with red collars we saw some and I snapped this photo of one of the Vicktory dogs, who is still very shy and skittish around people, but is very happy living a good life running around in his run.
The town of Kanab is small and sleepy, but it has its charm and everyone in the town is really supportive of the sanctuary and greets you with a smile. We stayed at the Parry Lodge, which is probably the nicest motel in the area. It is perfect for what you need, very clean, has air conditioning and heating, free wifi, a pool and is right by shops and restaurants and a 10 minute drive to the sanctuary. Kanab is known as the Little Hollywood because a bunch of old western movies were filmed there and most of the stars stayed at the Parry Lodge including Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Anne Bancroft and many more, so it is cool to stay where the stars stayed! They also show free movies filmed there in an old barn every night, which we didn’t make it to, but looked fun.
My other tips for the town are:
Laid Back Larry’s: A coffee shop that also makes amazing smoothies and serves vegan and vegetarian food, pet friendly and frequented by all the locals.
Rocking V Cafe: A really great restaurant with a very friendly owner and staff with surprisingly delicious food. Highly recommend the caprese salad and artichoke risotto. We did a sleepover with a puppy and brought him there to eat outside with us, the waitress fell in love with him and she talked with us about maybe adopting him (we really hope she does)!!!
Denny’s Wigwam: A fun western store with any souvenir you could think of- from cowboy boots to turquoise earrings. They also have a fun room where for a dollar you can play a shootout game in a saloon set (cheesy but fun) and they have costumes to dress up in and get your picture taken on an old fashioned western set. Don’t miss the fudge there it’s amazing and on a hot day the ice cream is great too!
Zion National Park: A short drive (about an hour) from Kanab, amazing sites, check out my post from yesterday for more info about Zion!
Bryce National Park: Also a short drive (under an hour) from Kanab. Didn’t make it this trip, but went last time. Landscape is so unique, if you’ve never seen a hoodoo before then don’t miss out!
If you can’t make it out to Kanab, I still encourage you to check out their website and see other ways that you can help out. They have a network all over the country and can help you find a local shelter. They also run of the support of donors so check out becoming a member or sponsor an animal and become what they call a guardian angel to an animal. They also have a wishlist of things they need if you want to give that way. Check out here for information about donating to the sanctuary. And remember if you can’t give financially go spend a few days volunteering it is an amazing experience you won’t forget! For anyone traveling the National Parks this summer be sure to add this to your list of places to go!!!