STUDENT BLOG: Best Friends Animal Society

Five students and two faculty members are spending the first week of their summer vacation in Kanab, Utah, volunteering at the Best Friends Animal Society. For over 30 years, Best Friends Animal Society has been running the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals and building effective programs that reduce the number of animals entering shelters. Follow along with Dr. Julie O'Reilly, Dr. Robin Heaton, Allison Burd, Theresa Barger, Mason Hainey, Emma Morris and Lauren Hoffman as they document their travels and work.

View the full photo gallery on Flickr courtesy of M. Hainey Photography (Mason Hainey, '20).

Day 1: Traveling

Waking up at the crack of dawn, today consisted of mainly traveling. Flying from Detroit to Las Vegas, we spent a few hours in Vegas, which was fun because most of us had never been there before. Our day consisted of lunch and walking down the Vegas Strip. Afterwards, we packed up for the long drive ahead of us to Kanab, Utah. The three and a half hour drive was filled with beautiful scenery! Once we got to the house, we had dinner and relaxed to prepare for the long day tomorrow at the Best Friends Animal Society. Can't wait!


Day 2: Getting Started

Our day got started around 9 a.m. at the Best Friends Animal Society. We had a short video orientation before meeting Kymmie, our group coordinator.

We started the day by learning about Starfish, who is a 2-year-old mustang. His trainer is having him undergo a 100-day challenge where she tames and trains him for competition.

Our group and a few others even helped with training by getting Starfish used to clapping that will come from crowds. After that, we broke from the group for lunch at an all-vegan cafeteria on the premises.

Our first stop after lunch was Cat World. My group ended going into the house which had cats with physical disabilities. We did simple things like cleaning cages and litter boxes, sweeping, wiping down areas, mopping and other tasks. We got to take about 5 cats outside to wander around, which was the best part. All the cats that came out had either no rear working legs or limited mobility. We watched them slide around and explore the world! I watched my cat chase lizards and watch bugs.

Before we left, we went and picked up Esme, our sleepover cat. We ended the day with tacos and lots of cat cuddles.


Day 3: Hard Work

Our morning began at 9 a.m. at Dogtown. I think this is going to be one of the toughest days we have here. We had to pull all the weeds out from around one of the dog kennels. We worked on that until lunch before getting to play with Kermit (pictured below). Since today was so warm, we took a break from the sun and went and watched a documentary, “The Champions.” Best Friends played a large part in the rehabilitation of more than 20 pitbulls recovered from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, which was well-documented in the film. While watching, we got to hang out with our group coordinator dog, Momma Delaney. She is a pitbull who was rescued from past breeding and fighting. It was a rough afternoon as most of us where in tears but we had Momma Delaney to comfort us. After the movie, we picked up our sleepover puppy, Tonya, who is an older large mixed breed dog. We spent most of the night getting her comfortable while the others slept or ate dinner. We finished the night with a walk with Tonya and some well-deserved play time.


Day 4: A little bit of everything

We started our morning at Rabbit Headquarters. Not all of our work involves directly working with animals so we worked on a picnic table that was outside the headquarters. We sanded and stained the table before going inside to watch a short orientation video. We split into two groups with one cleaning the area for rabbits and the other putting chicken wire under some bunny runs. The wire helps to keep them from digging and getting out of their quarters. After working for a while, we got the chance to go play with some of the rabbits and feed them fresh cilantro.

After lunch, we took a peaceful walk through Angel Overlook that led us through the final resting place for many of the animals. These were the animals who either stayed at Best Friends or lived with staff members in forever homes. Our group also had an extra member for the afternoon, Bludo, the good doggo. It was a nice opportunity for him to get out and socialize with us while we walked around the beautiful canyon where Best Friends is located.

We finished the day watching Bludo almost pull Dr. Heaton into the water while we did a short overview of our few days here at Best Friends with Kymmie. She helped us understand a little bit more of what goes on at the sanctuary. We picked up some souvenirs to take back and finished up in time for dinner at Peekaboo Canyon in Kanab. The restaurant is owned by the founders of Best Friends. It was great! We finished the night under the stars, talking about our future endeavors. Tomorrow, sadly, is already the last day of our trip!


Day 5: Wrap-up

Our morning started around around 11 AM. Today was a traveling day with our flight leaving just before midnight. Our big adventure for the day was going through Zion Canyon. It just consisted of a couple hours of enjoying the beauty of the mountains. Once we wandered through there, our next stop was Saint George for In-And-Out Burgers. We had to have In-And-Out. Our final stop was Las Vegas for some quick shopping since we ended up there ahead of time. It seemed like as quick as the trip started, it came to an end. We are all thrilled for the opportunities in Utah and excited to get back out there very soon!

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