Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located just north of Kanab in southern Utah. It is not far from Zion National Park, but for some reason, I have never been there. I have an animal lover in Emily and after finding out kids camps were available, decided to give it a try. I am so glad we decided to spend the day, it was very educational and very hands on for the kids.
Best Friends was built by a group of friends who decided there had to be a way to help the sick or problem animals at shelters across the country that were not being adoped and eventually being put to sleep. They picked this amazing location in southern Utah amidst the red rock country for their sanctuary, and began taking the animals in and helping them grow and flourish. The goal is to have all the animals adopted out, but if not, they can live in this place for the rest of their lives happy and healthy. Not only do they rescue animals, but also spread the word about spay and neutering animals to keep populations down so these animals stand a chance. There is now an amazing medical facility on staff as well as comfortable "lodging" for many types of companion animals spread throughout the 3,700 acres.
On this day as the temperature hit the triple digit mark, we met the camp group at the welcome center. This center is open every day to the public and also provides tours. The sanctuary relies heavily on volunteers, and there are certainly plenty of those. People come from all over the country and donate their time to work with these animals and rehabilitate them. Since there is a certain age to volunteer, the kids camp was a perfect way for the little ones to also get involved and learn. It is a free camp, you just need to sign up. The groups are small and are offered most mornings. We had about 9 kids in our group and loaded into a bus for the day. There are many different sections of the sanctuary. Companion animals can range from the usual dogs, cats, birds to potbellied pigs and horses. Each day the camp visits a couple areas and teaches the kids about the specific animals. On this day, we started with a visit to the medical clinic. Since Emily has been 4 years old, she has wanted to be a Vet so this was the perfect stop for us. The staff was amazing! The kids got a full on, in depth tour of the facility. They got to visit the dental area, where surgeries and ultrasounds are performed, saw xrays and picked out what was wrong by looking at the bones, and even got a chance to see some of the sick animals and why they were there. From there, we head to the cats. It was so nice that at each stop the kids were given a presentation. They learned about cats and their behaviors, what it means when cats put their ears back, how to approach animals by letting them sniff you first and slowly approaching them, not sneaking up on them. For someone who doesn't have animals, I found all the tips very helpful. Yes, I'm a mean Mom...my kids have been begging for a dog for years and I keep saying no! I got a chance to learn about bunnies, parrots, horses and potbellied pigs. Did you know that some birds can live to be almost 100 years old? Dogtown was also the focus of a Natgeo series a couple years ago.
So after a long hot day and a happy little girl who now decided she's going to be a Vet at Best Friends when she grows up, we say goodbye to all the little furry friends we met knowing we'll be back. Their web page is amazing and has all kinds of information on how you can volunteer, adopt or even admit an animal. With many programs on adoption and education throughout the country, the goal is to get pets into loving homes and stop the over population.
There are so many amazing things to see in southern Utah that you can make a trip out of it. In the winter while skiing at Brian Head, you can take many side trips from there. We did a great family weekend a couple seasons ago and loved it! Brian Head has a whole summer program on tap with mountain biking, lift rides and hiking. When the lower elevations are sizzling at 100 degrees, the mountain air will feel awesome! Best Friends is located 75 miles south and you can base camp in Kanab. I am going to tell you right now, this town and area is a well kept little gem. It is on the edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante where some of the most amazing hikes in all of Utah are found. It also is known as "Little Hollywood" with over 200 movies being filmed here.
So the next time you plan a trip to Utah, stay awhile and explore....there is so much to see when you scrape under the surface!