Heaven on earth
When actress and Best Friends supporter Charlotte Ross recently visited the Sanctuary for the first time, she had such a good time she couldn’t wait to share the experience with the world (it must be something in the water; people almost always feel that way). Charlotte volunteered in several areas around the Sanctuary — here she shares highlights of her visit, which included everything from pigs to parrots to favorite dogs at the Sanctuary.
After visiting the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Mission Hills, California, and then the gorgeous NKLA facility in West L.A., I booked my ticket to Kanab, Utah, to see where it all started. Everyone should go to this magical place at least once. I had no idea how big and beautiful it is! It's an oasis in a canyon that rivals the Grand Canyon itself. Faith, one of the co-founders, gave me an amazing tour to start the visit.
Making the rounds
Marshall's Piggy Paradise is adorable, with heated houses and a gazebo for the pigs to lounge around in. I met one pig, who at 300 pounds was so overweight when he came in that he couldn’t walk. After having a special diet designed by a Best Friends veterinarian, he lost 75 pounds and is now able to walk. The horses are beautiful; they live on much of the property and are magnificent to look at – if all the wild, beautiful deer and turkeys don't block your view! The Parrot Garden is laid out with a spacious feel, and the mix of birds is extraordinary. The Bunny House is hard to leave. I held many soft, furry bunnies who are happy, healthy and ready to find forever homes.
At the clinic, I witnessed one example of the daily miracles they perform. In one room, people were gently holding an eagle that had been hit by a car and was having emergency surgery. It had been given pain medication and the injury was also numbed; with the doctors and staff holding it in such a peaceful way, the eagle was comfortably lying there. For recovery, they took the eagle to the Wild Friends building. It was simply amazing.
Next, I volunteered at Cat World, which was so much fun. Each cat is individually evaluated to determine what works best for them: if they prefer to be in a group or are happier alone, what kind of mental activities work best for them, etc. There’s a happy, positive and playful feeling at each cat building. I had so much fun with them all, including the wonderful, loving staff.
Digging in with dogs
The second day was filled with volunteering at Dogtown. I love Dogtown! I walked the Old Friends dogs (seniors); they were so well behaved, as the staff works very hard at keeping them happy, healthy and easy to manage. Then I volunteered at the puppy house, feeding, walking and playing with puppies while giving them kisses and cuddles. There are classes where they show the puppies a vacuum cleaner, a motorcycle helmet, a mirror – things not found at a typical shelter but common in people’s homes. It’s another example of how well Best Friends prepares these dogs for the real world.
But my favorite part of the visit was the overnight stays with Sanctuary dogs. The first night, I let staff choose whichever dog they thought would most benefit from a sleepover, and I got Fernando, a beautiful pit bull terrier mix. He didn't pull on the leash when I walked him, didn't bark too much, had the manners of a distinguished gentleman and cuddled on the bed next to me all night. It was hard not to adopt him right there on the spot. What a loving dog. I wonder who benefitted more from our sleepover, me or Fernando?
The second night, I chose Sashay, a beautiful purebred Labrador from Old Friends. She’s 10, but so happy and energetic; you’d swear she's just a puppy. She, again, was so easy to handle on the leash, house-trained, and wanted me to throw the ball to play catch nonstop. These sleepovers not only help the dogs prepare and acclimate to home environments, but Best Friends gives you a detailed form to fill out before you return the dog the following morning. This form asks everything from behavioral questions to any anxieties seen or ways Best Friends can improve the care for each dog, and it helps staff find them the right home.
I miss both Fernando and Sashay very much and am considering adopting one of them, but I recently lost my dog, Taco (whom I rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico 17 years ago), and am not sure if I'm ready to add another dog to our family … yet.
Anyone who adopts an animal from Best Friends will be forever grateful. There is no doubt in my mind that if there were a heaven on earth for animals, it would be Best Friends in Utah. I feel blessed to have had the chance to visit, volunteer and be a part of it, and am already planning my next visit with my son.
Learn more about visiting and volunteering at the Sanctuary.
Photos by Molly Wald