If you’re an animal lover, you will love this post. Really. I just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Grail of animal rescue organizations, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and I’m ready to share some photos with you and maybe restore some of your faith in humanity (I don’t know about you, but every so often I need a dose of that). Located on 3,700 acres in the stunning red rock canyon country of southern Utah and housing more than 1,700 animals, Best Friends is the kind of animal refuge you would create if you let your imagination run wild. A village of dogs where canines live together in small groups and puppies have their own nursery? Check. A cat community where felines can safely roam with access to the indoors and outdoors? Check. Onsite state-of-the-art veterinary clinic? Yes! Birds, horses, pigs, goats, bunnies, and wild animals also call Best Friends home.
I began planning the pilgrimage about eight weeks ago. Instead of booking a flight to a conference in Las Vegas at the beginning of May, I started thinking about a roadtrip. As many of you know, Utah is one of my favorite destinations. When I looked at a map and saw that my route could take me right through Kanab, the deal was sealed. I’ve been a fan of and donor to Best Friends for years. I’ve cried through more than one episode of DogTown on NatGeo TV, and after reading the story of the sanctuary’s founders and how they struggled for years to make their vision a reality, I promised myself that one day I would visit. My friend Sue devotes much of her spare time to rescuing cats and raising money for feline rescue, and I knew she would love the place too. We managed to score a reservation to stay at the sanctuary for two nights in the guest cottages. And so we hit the road. Cross one off the life list!
We made it!
The cottages are located behind Horse Haven. Best Friends also offers cabins for rent and spaces for RVs.
After about nine hours on the road, this sign was a welcome sight!
Cottage #6 was our home for two nights. If you volunteer at the sanctuary, you can bring an animal home with you at the end of the day for a sleepover. This helps socialize them (and ensures you stay warm at night).
The view from our back porch
The road into the sanctuary
The welcome center
A listing of available tours on the day we visited
You can travel through the sanctuary on your own, but we took the guided tour first to get our bearings.
Several horse corrals are located throughout the sanctuary. This barn was built for a Disney movie before the Best Friends founders bought the land.
Staff members gather in this grassy area and natural amphitheater for meetings, picnics, and events. Trainers and volunteers bring animals here to work with them.
First stop on the tour: Cat World
Cat HQ. When entering you must be careful to not let any of the cats out.
Some didn’t look thrilled about the latest group of visitors…
…but others loved the attention.
Sue wasted no time in making new friends.
The cats have plenty of private cubbies to choose from.
…where people think like me.
Vortex hams it up for the crowd.
It’s my turn to make a new friend!
Seeing all the badges of the adopted dogs made me smile.
It’s obvious the caretakers love their charges…
Feathered Friends live here.
Right before lunch we stopped at Angels Rest, the last resting place for animals who pass at the sanctuary. Employees can also bury their beloved animals here.
Sue and I were the only visitors. It’s so peaceful and quiet in Angel Canyon, and when the breeze stirred the windchimes, we became a little emotional. Sue was sad; she connected with the pain and loss of the people who buried animals here.
I was touched by the tributes to all the animals who made such a difference in the lives of many people.
Grieving people around the world have been comforted by the Rainbow Bridge stories.
We left Angels Rest and continued on.
The onsite cafeteria serves a delicious vegan and vegetarian buffet, and if the weather cooperates you can enjoy lunch outside with a view. The mesas in the distance are part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
A couple of stops…
…to say good-bye on the way out.
I hope to return one day and further explore this magical place. International friends, I would love to hear about any sanctuaries like this in your countries. I’ve visited Gut Aiderbichl Animal Sanctuary near Salzburg, Austria, and want to see more places like it and Best Friends. Any and all tips appreciated.