Monday, March 13, 2017

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: Day 1

Once again, I struck out at the NCB lottery.  After having such a nice night outside of Coral Pink SDSP, I had high hopes.  High hopes that quickly diminished, as failure was all but guaranteed upon arrival, with the parking lot (empty the day prior) almost completely filled.  This nearly full parking lot gave me a new reason to dislike certain drivers, specifically those who park their little coupes in the extra long trailer parking spots even though normal-sized spots are still available.  The lengthwise equivalent of parking in two spots.  I crammed into the last available trailer spot, the one right next to the light pole that I didn't want to take because I was pretty sure I'd side swipe the metal post with the trailer as I attempted to pull out of the lot.  The small cars that occupied the other trailer spots looked so roomy and comfortable that I almost wanted to light them on fire.

Anyway, having struck out once more, I brushed my teeth in the parking lot, made some breakfast, and planned my day.  Having made the drive to the dunes the night prior, I passed two signs that piqued my interest (for two very different reasons): 1) Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, because I want to pet every animal, and 2) Moqui Cave, because I love tourist traps.  This post is about the prior, as the latter is a waste of both time and money, and not in a good way.

Cleaned and fed, I headed back up US-89 to the BF Animal Sanctuary hoping to make some furry friends.  I had no idea what I was in for when I turned off the highway and headed toward Kanab Canyon/Angel Canyon.  I didn't know that I was heading into the most magical place on earth.  Disneyworld doesn't have shit on the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

The road in wound high through red canyons, passing staff and guest housing, and led to a massive field alongside a trailer-friendly parking lot.  Horses were milling about in the field, with workers doing work things with them.  I parked and headed straight up to the visitor's center, eager to get to meet a non-equine critter.  It's not so much that I'm disinterested in horses as I am leery of them.  They are giant animals that could stomp me into the ground if they so desired.  I respect their sized and prefer to steer clear.  I've ridden one once as an adult.  It was disconcerting.

After climbing the canyon stairs leading up to the visitor center (with a relaxing koi pond), I saw herds of people and charms of hummingbirds.  Did you know that's what a flock of hummingbirds is called?  I didn't until just now, moments before typing it.  I really could've called it anything and you'd have likely taken my word for it.  Maybe it isn't actually called a charm and I'm pulling one over on you.  In any case, there were multiple feeders under a shaded deck along the visitor center, and hummingbirds flitted about, alternating between feeding on nectar and scaring away other little HBs trying to get nectar of their own.  Apparently HBs are territorial little buggers and can get pretty vicious in defense of that sweet sweet sugar water.


From the vantage point of the VC, it was obvious that the Sanctuary is in a very special place.  Angel Canyon is a sprawling pink and orange canyon, not dissimilar from the canyons throughout Southern Utah, but instead of remaining untouched (conservation through desolation), the Best Friends had built their sanctuary harmoniously into the canyon (conservation through appreciation).  The main road horseshoes through the sanctuary (built on and in the canyon), passing open fields and a natural amphitheater, and gaining elevation as it climbs the canyon its natural curve.  I had come in at the bottom of the canyon, and beautiful as it was down there, it didn't have anything on the scenic overlook up above on the other side of the shoe.  The sanctuary was built in the type of canyon I love to hike in.  Animals and canyons!  It was perfect!

Situated on close to 21,000 acres, the sanctuary is home to over 1,600 animals (mostly temporary, some permanent, never kill).  These animals are then within the following species-based habitats:
  • Dogtown
  • Cat World
  • Horse Haven
  • Marshall's Piggy Paradise
  • Bunny House
  • Parrot Gardon
  • Wild Friends
These different areas are separated so that animals don't have any interspecies overlap, which could be especially traumatic for rescued animals that may have spent most of their lives being abused.  Aside from the specific-specific habitats, there is also a clinic for animals needing extra help as well as special plot named Angels Rest and Memorial, which was where any animals that passed before finding homes were laid to rest.  I wanted to see everything, and fortunately for me, they offer tours of the sanctuary.

After saying goodbye to the hummingbirds, I headed in to sign up for a tour.  I was an hour early for the next tour, so they gave me a map of the facility and showed me where a nearby trail was that I could kill some time on.  The trail was supposed to end at some petroglyphs, but I read the map wrong, so once I ran out of time scrambling about a sandy canyon, I headed back for my tour.

It's a Catio!  Get it???

Two hours later, I was pretty sure I wanted to stay forever.  So many animals!  Dogs!  Cats!  Everything else!  Even horses... Apparently some of the horses had come from BLM round-ups.  After wild ponies are caught by the Federales, some are brought to Best Friends to be domesticated.  What they do is put the wrangled pony in a low-walled stabled out in the horse field.  Then they bring out a domesticated horse and have them meet over the wall of the stable, with the tame horse out in the field.  Over the course of meetings, the tame horse teaches the wild pony how to be human-friendly.  Once tamed, the horse can be placed in a home.  I never cared that much about horses until now!

All the little towns and worlds were set up so perfectly for the animals with ample space in each facility, areas to run around outside on leash (or in a stroller), and most amazingly everything was so clean!  I know people with three cats that smell like they have 300, so the fact that their different cat facilities with 50+ cats didn't smell bad was impressive.  On top of all that, I learned about their 80% animal placement rates and lifetime return policy in cases where families decide that they can't keep a pet!  How was this all possible???  For the sake of keeping this from growing any longer, I'll answer that question next post. 

When I got back to the visitor's center, they asked if I wanted to sign up for a volunteer shift during the week.  I now knew why I didn't win a NCB lottery permit.  I was going to spend my last full day in Kanab playing with kitties, not hiking The Wave.  That made way more sense.

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