Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Best Friends

I'm happy to have learned that my nomadic offspring seem to thrive on life on the road. We had been traveling nearly a month, and the young road warriors had pretty much rolled with the journey, going along with the ride, and enjoying it without complaints. For the most part, we were too busy exploring to think much about or miss home.

Then, while driving through southern Utah between National Parks, we came across a billboard for Best Friends Animal Shelter. We're big animal lovers, and I tend to pull over for all kinds of things, so of course we stopped to check it out.

As we drove up the winding road, we were all admiring the idyllic farmlands and the gorgeous canyon, when an angry little cowboy in a big muddy truck flipped me off as he sped past. We were glad to see that he did not pull in to the driveway for the shelter (he didn't look like the volunteering / animal shelter type, but you never know.) I am seriously beginning to wonder if there is a correlation between large western style head wear and aggressive driving though. In any case, while some enraged people can be frightening, this guy just made us laugh, and since our car was full of dust from his road rage, we all started coughing.

From pulling in, you can tell that this shelter is a happy place. Not all shelters are. Many are very, very depressing, like bad smelling and poorly run insane asylums for animals. Best Friends was seriously like a farm out of a story book. It's the largest no kill animal sanctuary and people come from all over to volunteer helping with everything from dogs to parrots to pigs that live there.

While I liked the spontaneity that traveling without a lot of plans offered on much of our southwestern journey, here was a case where I wish we had known we were coming beforehand. We just missed the last tour of the day, so we explored on our own starting in the gift store, and then heading out to see the horses and goats. A few volunteers were out walking dogs (or more accurately, being tangled up in leashes by dogs) and we wished that we had known about this place ahead of time so that we could have signed up to volunteer for the day. The animals looked like they were having very happy retirements, and the whole place made us start to miss our own critters back home.

Our two dogs and one of our cats came from shelters, and we have two other formerly feral felines that live with us as well. None of them were lucky enough to have been in shelters as nice as Best Friends, but at least they got to come home to a loving family (that was now feeling a little bad since we had been on the road without them for a month.) We were all of a sudden feeling all homesick and wanting to snuggle our furry friends. We also missed our three sweet goats even though our goats aren't really snuggly due to their large horns. They do like to be pet and taken on walks and are generally very entertaining, as is my beloved chicken who thinks she is a house pet. She would probably love to snuggle, but isn't potty trained.

We saw quite a few other people traveling with their pets- mostly dogs, but several cats as well. Of course, most of these people were in motor homes. Somehow, I don't think the cats would work out that well in a tent. Goats and Chickens generally don't travel well in any case, and a lot of places are just not very dog friendly. The National Parks let you bring pets, but not on trails. It would be pretty lame to go all the way to the Grand Canyon, and have to stay in the camp site because the dogs weren't allowed to hike with us. Even if we tried to leave them, our dogs are ill behaved and would probably bark annoyingly, chew through their leashes, and run loose, stealing other peoples food. We had debated bringing the digs beforehand, but for those very reasons, we decided to leave them safely at home with Dear Husband.

My kids and I enjoyed learning about Best Friends and their work, and would love to go back some time and spend a few days volunteering. They have adoptable pets, trainings and workshops and as seen on TV, they have DogTown. I was inspired to see compassion such on a large scale, and impressed at how well run it all looked. We probably won't be back in Utah soon, but my kids came up with a few ideas of ways to help our local shelter. Sadly, our local shelter is not nearly as nice, nor is it no- kill, so they could probably use our help even more.

For now, we're glad to be back with our own petting zoo full of animals, and are also enjoying spending some time exploring the Best Friends website. It has lots of cool news articles that will interest animal lovers, and all sorts of entertaining and educational tidbits. Both the shelter and the website are worth a visit, for sure. We may just figure out a way to take some of our furry friends on the road for future adventures, or we may decide they are better off at home. In any case, the animals and the adventures are both worth it as well.