I am not alone in wanting to make the world a better place for people as well as animals. But my attempts are feeble at best, small drops in a vast sea that barely cause a ripple. It was humbling and exhilarating to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah last weekend as part of a media tour. Their mission, “Save Them All,” may be lofty, but the people at Best Friends Animal Society are idealists who are making their vision a reality.
Let me apologize right now; I don’t have the vocabulary or the photography skills to do this trip justice. It is one of those things you have to experience for yourself, like falling in love. Until you have done it, you can’t appreciate how amazing it is. And after you have experienced it, you are changed, but can’t accurately explain it to other people.
After checking in at the Welcome Center and Gift Shop, we met our tour guide, Therese. Our first stop was at Horse Haven. As we approached the fields and rings, two women leading a miniature horse and a one-month-old foal told us to stop where we were. They led the horses into the ring and motioned for us to come over.
It was the first time the foal had been outside, and boy did he love it!
Prince was too weak to nurse after he was born. His mother is a stray or wild horse, and it was impossible for humans to get close enough to her to help him. So Prince was moved from Arizona where he was born to the Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. (A blood test is required to transport horses across state lines which is why Prince has a patch of short hair on his neck.) Prince is bottle fed every two hours. As you can imagine, he started to bond with humans, but it isn’t safe for a horse to think he is a human.
They introduced “Uncle” Feather (a miniature horse) to Prince so Feather could teach him how to be a horse. Feather is a Best Friends alum and was adopted by one of the trainers years ago.
After we oohed and ahhed over Prince and Uncle Feather, we saw some of the other horses. Most of the animals at Best Friends are available for adoption. Many of the horses cannot be ridden anymore due to age or medical conditions and are pasture pals. I think a pasture pal might be better than having a horse to ride.
We walked over to Piggy Paradise to see the pot-bellied pigs.
Many of the pigs were originally sold as “micro pigs.” Jen told us that people who bought these pigs were told they would be around 40 pounds as adults. A pot-bellied pig at maturity weighs about 150 pounds. There are some breeders who are trying to produce smaller pigs, but according to our guide, those pigs can have some serious medical issues.
Some of the pigs came to Best Friends because they were living in a house that wasn’t zoned for farm animals. [bctt tweet=”Do your research before getting a pet. Don’t depend on breeders to give you truthful advice; breeding animals can be a lucrative business and while there are ethical breeders, many are not. ” username=””]
A bunch of us fell in love with Jared when he plopped down for a belly rub.
There are piglets there as well, but they were in another pen because they were finishing their breakfast. They have to be kept separate from the adults during mealtime to make sure they get their fair share because pigs can be, well, piggy.
We visited with the Manny, Bitsy, and the other goats for a little while and then we were off to see the parrots!
We were greeted by Bubba, a very handsome dog who is not a Best Friends rescue but epitomizes what Best Friends is all about. Bubba was found in a dumpster with a significant scalp laceration. He does not have external ears anymore, but he can hear. He lives with Jackie, who is the parrot expert at the sanctuary.
Best Friends houses the birds in “the least restrictive” environment possible for each bird. Some birds live in aviaries, but many prefer the familiarity of a cage. We saw several African Greys, Macaws, and Cockatoos.
If you don’t know much about birds, this is what we learned in a nutshell. Parrots are intelligent creatures, similar to children between the age of 3-7, are highly sensitive, should eat a diet of pelleted diet and fresh vegetables, and many retain a sense of humor throughout their long lives. They understand words and can use them appropriately. African Grey parrots are the best talkers. Cody is particularly social and entertained us.
The Macaws have a pretty loud screech, but they are beautiful. Sadly there were lots of birds who had become feather pluckers in their previous homes due to stress.
The cockatoos are funny, intelligent and obnoxiously loud. In my earlier days, I thought a cockatoo would be a fantastic pet to have, but now I realize it takes a very special kind of person to live with a cockatoo, and I’m not one of them.
To adopt a bird, you must come to the sanctuary and meet the bird in person. Given their sensitive nature, it is important to make sure that the bird feels a connection to the human. If it isn’t there, the bird remains at Best Friends. Interestingly, several birds were brought to Best Friends by their aging owners. Knowing the parrots were likely to outlive them, they brought them to a place where the birds will always have a wonderful home.
Best Friends also has a lot of cockatiels which were my favorite of the birds.
We were able to help clicker train the cockatiels to that they will step on the scale to be weighed, significantly less stressful than being picked up or chased. A couple of cockatiels sat on my shoulder and head, and neither of them pooped on me, so I felt pretty special!
After the birds, we went to the peaceful world of the Bunny House. It was so incredibly quiet. Ann showed us how one of the rabbits, Flora, is clicker trained. She knows more tricks than my dogs! Flora can even spin on cue.
I forget this darling’s name, but she is very sweet! We learned that bunnies do better with a partner, so they work on bonding rabbits in pairs or trios. The only requirement is the rabbits are the same age so the life expectancy will be similar. All of the rabbits at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary are spayed or neutered.
The common theme throughout the tour was the devotion that the caregivers displayed for the animals. Each person referred to the animals in their area as “the kids.” Every pen, cage, and stall, is set up to be functional and comfortable for the animals. Nothing is more important than the kids.
As an animal lover, that sounds ideal and perhaps even normal, but Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is extraordinary. The commitment of the staff is palpable. Everywhere we went we met individuals who are dedicating their lives to making the world a better place for animals, who know without a doubt that we can save them all!
Believe it or not, meeting all of these animals and caregivers was just the first morning of our adventure. I have so much more to share, I hope you’ll check back to read about the rest of the trip.
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Absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing and how cool you got to experience Prince’s first visit outside!
Anali Martinez says
This looks amazing!! I would love it there so much!! Such a great place with a great mission!
It is incredible, I hope you get to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for yourself!
Jen Gabbard says
Beautiful photos. I’ve always been a huge fan of their work, and I think they’re a great example of how much of an impact some like minded people can have for animals in need.
One of the coordinators of our trip reminded me that Best Friends is really a grass roots movement and it is incredible how much they have done to change the world for animals.
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
What an incredible experience! I love that they give each animal top notch attention and care. I hope to be able to visit one day!
It is truly inspiring!
I’m so happy that you were able to experience this!!! So fun to see all the lucky animals getting a second chance at a happy life!
Next time you are coming with me!
Carol Bryant says
I was so eager to read about your experience. I love that you are sharing with us. Was it so amazing??I bet it was. I must visit.
Oh Carol, put this on your do as soon as possible list! You will love it!
What an awesome place and how fortunate you were to be able to visit and share in the beauty of these lovely animals!
So many great photos! You take beautiful pictures!
Thank you Emma!
Michelle & The Paw Pack says
What an amazing experience that must have been! I’d love to be able to visit Best Friends someday.
I really hope you can go, it was a dream come true for me.
M. K. Clinton says
What an incredible place! I would love to visit and see the animals and all of the fantastic work going on there. I will be back to find out more about your visit.
Love your photos! What a wonderful experience 🙂
Thank you, it is amazing!
Angela Tolsma says
oh this sounds like a lovely place!
Dusty Desert Dogs says
Wonderful post! I love you go to visit and your photos are beautiful such a great time!
I hope you get to see it for yourself!
Miss Molly Says says
This is so awesome!!! Your pics are the best! I loved Little Prince and how exciting to be able to see his first run outside. And, the birds! Oh my goodness, I would have a field day there!
Lindsay Pevny says
Those photos really capture Prince’s young spirit, and I love that the birds were clicker trained for less stress. Looks like a wonderful visit, thanks so much for sharing your experience.
Kelsie | It's Dog or Nothing says
These photos are amazing and I’m so jealous of your experience. I plan to take a trip there soon!
Dachsund Nola says
Oh my gosh, that foal is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! Gorgeous photos!
He is adorable, and thank you for the compliment about my photography!
Sweet Purrfections says
Wow! This is such an amazing place. I’m sure you won’t forget your visit or the animals in your lifetime.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
That looks like an amazing trip. And what fun to clicker train the birds! I’ve only worked with dogs so far!
Heather with WELLFITandFED says
These photos are so great! I love all the angles you took and the energy you captured. This looked like a fun experience!!
It was amazing!
Gone to the Snow Dogs LLC says
Your photos captured the joy in all of those animals!! This brought me to tears!
I think they all really appreciate the huge impact Best Friends has made on their lives.
Bryn Nowell says
Wow! What an amazing experience! I’m so happy you had a chance to visit and to learn about Best Friends, it’s animals and it’s caregivers! Thanks so much for sharing and
Your photos are gorgeous! You captured it so wonderfully!! I’m so glad we got to spend that magical time there, and it was great getting to know you! Can’t wait to see your next round of photos! (I think the bunny’s name was Flora…)
Thanks, Maggie, it was great to meet you as well!
Cathy Armato says
I’m so jealous! You are super lucky to have been able to visit the sanctuary, I wish I could go. The story of Prince is do sweet, your photos of him are amazing. Fantastic job on this post!!
Love & biscuits
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
It looks like it was an awesome trip so an awesome place! Looking forward to Part 2!
I really enjoyed reading this! What an amazing variety of animals that Best Friends helps. I love goats and pigs and really love the pics you took of Jared.
The Daily Pip says
I think you are selling yourself short …these pictures are BEAUTIFUL especially the ones of the little fawn! Great job! We are going to Best Friends right before BlogPaws and I can’t wait.
Denise Gruzensky says
I’m so excited to read your stories of your time there. Hum, you did an AMAZING job with this so don’t sell yourself short! This is on my bucket list! Alas it isn’t on our way to BlogPaws but it definitely a MUST SEE!
This is absolutely beautiful, Beth. Your images are stunning and your words are so touching. I feel so completely honored and privileged to have experienced Best Friends with you. … I know exactly what you mean about it changing you.
It was wonderful to meet you and share this amazing experience! I know I haven’t done it justice, but this trip is a highlight of my life.
Robin Whiskers says
Grrreat photos! These people truly care for animals.
Dianna C. Lincoln says
What a amazing story! And also amazing place! I love your photos and how truly the love that they give to animals.
It is truly the best place ever!