The sanctuary, about five miles from Kanab in Angel Canyon, provides round-the-clock care for about 1,700 dogs, cats, horses, pigs, birds, and rabbits. According to its website, "The animals come to the sanctuary from far and wide. But once they're here, we make sure that nothing bad will ever happen to them again." Volunteers from around the world help full-time staff with a variety of tasks and chores - all intended to provide the residents of Best Friends with a safe, comfortable, loving home. Although adoption is the ultimate goal of the sanctuary, animals can stay their entire lives if a so-called forever home can't be found.
As this was my second visit to Best Friends in five years, I was already familiar with its rugged terrain and awesome vistas. However, I took considerable pleasure in observing my father fall under the spell of this enchanting place. On our first morning, we helped train rambunctious puppies to sit, obediently enter and exit cages, and heed other commands. We then took several dogs for walks along the dusty trails surrounding Dogtown (home of Best Friends' canine residents). As I watched my father talk to "his" dogs ("Don't eat that, Max!"), stroke their fur, and massage them playfully behind the ears, it struck me that this was the happiest I had seen him in a long time.
The next day, my father explored the surrounding environs on his own while I worked at Cat World. There, I befriended Miss Dot, Buddy, Lita, and the unstoppable Thumper, whose paralyzed back legs couldn't stop her from eagerly racing around the floor.
On the third day (our last day at the sanctuary), my father and I again worked with dogs. This time, we helped clean and disinfect their sleeping quarters before once again taking a few for a brisk, joyful walk.
I've heard Best Friends described as a "magical" place and it's easy to see why. The landscape is stunning. The full-time staffers and volunteers are some of the warmest, most down-to-earth people I've ever met. But ultimately it's the animals who call it home that left the most indelible imprint on my heart and on my father's, one that will never diminish.