Friday, October 19, 2012

A vacation at Best Friends Animal Society

Last week, I spent a week of my vacation in southern Utah at a town called Kanab.  Along with three friends from As Good as Gold Golden Retriever Rescue of Northern Illinois (Carol, Jodi, and Robin), I did volunteer work for Best Friends Animal Society, at the animal sanctuary near Kanab.  It was the second time that I visited Best Friends.  Set in the high desert, the sanctuary has a beautiful setting in Angel Canyon.  There are sanctuary areas for dogs, cats, horses and goats, pot-bellied pigs, bunnies and guinea pigs, and wild animals that are either being rehabilitated or are injured and no longer able to live in the wild.  This is one of the outdoor cat enclosures.

My volunteer chores included walking dogs, cleaning dog kennels and run areas, changing the water in all of the dog runs in one section, working with one of the groundskeepers at the cemetery on the sanctuary premises, cleaning bunny enclosures and feeding the bunnies their afternoon treat of romaine lettuce, and socializing dogs that are fearful of humans to help them become more comfortable around people.  In general, we did whatever the animal caretakers needed done.  One of my friends ended up cleaning pigeon coops in the wild bird area (in Chicago, pigeons are viewed as flying rats); another friend washed all of the cat breakfast bowls for one of the cat buildings.  Below is a picture of the Bunny House after I finished cleaning it.

On Monday and Thursday morning, we worked with the groundskeepers (Kurt, Dave, and Lenny) at Angels Rest, the cemetery on the premises.  It is a very spiritual and emotional experience.  When I work there, I feel like I am standing in for the families who placed their beloved pets there.  There are windchimes all over the cemetery - when the wind blows, it sounds like the music of the spheres.

I worked on Tuesday morning in an area called the Fairway, a pair of buildings that houses adult dogs mostly between the ages of 2 and 8 years old.  When I returned to work in the same area on Friday morning, I was surprised to learn that two of the dogs that I had walked on Tuesday had already been adopted. 

In the evening, there was plenty of time to sit outside and enjoy a bottle of wine and talk, or relax with a book. The town of Kanab is very quiet, and we tended to go to bed fairly early, since we were due at the sanctuary by 8:30 to start our work for the day.  The weather was perfect except for the last day we were there.  In October, the weather in Kanab tends to be fairly cool in the morning but warms up quickly as soon as the sun comes up over the mountains, so that by mid-day, it is usually in the upper 70's, and then when the sun goes down, the temperature quickly drops down to the 40's.  On our last day at the sanctuary, it had rained overnight and the morning was cool, clear and sunny.  Carol and I worked at the Fairway in Dogtown, and while we were walking the dogs, we saw wild turkeys, a small herd of deer and a huge jackrabbit near the Fairway buildings.  It was great weather to walk dogs, until we were out with our third pair of dogs.  Suddenly it clouded up and HAIL started to fall.  It didn't last long, just long enough that we were thoroughly cold and wet.

We took a day off in the middle of the week and drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, about two hours away from Kanab.  The scenery is breathtaking!  We went out onto a narrow strip of land (which is surrounded by a high fence) to get some great pictures.  I stopped in the gift shop and bought Luke a pair of stuffed burros.  He'll probably tear them apart but it will be 90 seconds of heaven while he does.  I took this picture from the lodge at the North Rim looking across the canyon.

The only negative thing about the trip happened on the second day.  My Golden Retriever Luke began vomiting and having diarrhea.  He was staying with my friend Gail, who took him to the vet at Riser Animal Hospital to get checked out.  His bloodwork was normal, and an x-ray didn't show anything blocking his digestive tract, but Dr. Baukert thought Luke should have an ultrasound anyway, just to be sure, so he sent them off to the specialty clinic in Northbrook.  The ultrasound and MRI were also negative.  After spending the night at the emergency clinic and getting IV fluids and antibiotics, Luke was much better and Gail brought him back home.  It appeared he had just been feeling under the weather and was missing his Mom, and ended up getting himself a little too stressed out.  By the time I arrived home, he was back to normal with the only remnant being a sexy shaved ankle that he is enjoying licking.  Here is Luke with his burro.

My foster boy Teddy also had a trip to the vet while I was gone.  His dogsitter wanted to see if the holistic vet could suggest anything to help his skin condition (which is caused by his kidney failure).  The holistic vet gave the dogsitter a bunch of things to try on Teddy's skin, and she tried all of them, including a couple of baths.  Poor Teddy is used to being left alone and not being bothered.  He was exhausted when I went to pick him up, and just about all he has done since he got home is sleep.  He is feeling stronger today.

Best Friends' sanctuary is a beautiful place with dramatic scenery.  Even if you're not interested in spending time volunteering at the sanctuary, you can take a bus tour of the grounds and visit the gift shop in the Welcome Center.  It's a few hours' drive from Las Vegas, so if you're going to be in that area, it is well worth the detour.

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