Last Saturday afternoon I left my crazy noisy home city of Brooklyn, New York and flew to Las Vegas en route to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. After weaving through slot machines in the airport, I found my bag and took the hotel shuttle to a Comfort Inn near the airport. The next morning bright and early, I headed to the rental car place and picked up my reasonably priced rental car (only $369 for two weeks- clearly not New York prices!) and drove the 3.5 hours to Kanab, Utah. A few minutes outside of Vegas it was all red hills and fields. I prayed I wouldn’t get a flat tire and kept driving. Eventually, I landed in downtown Kanab which is a cute little western town of about 4,000. It sort of reminds me of a more western version of upstate NY towns like Saugerties or Woodstock. They have most of what you need here a few hotels, restaurants, movie theater, grocery stores, etc but you definitely see a lot of UPS and Fed Ex trucks going up the main roads with people ordering online what they can’t get here. There are larger towns like Page, Arizona and St. George, Utah and hour to and hour and a half away where you can get more amenities. I found the house of a Best Friends employee I’d be renting a room from and met her animal brood.
There’s the two dogs Marcel and Maverick who are both rescue sweethearts. She also had three cats the most remarkable of which is Pepito a cat who was born without eyes but gets around like a champ.
After dropping my stuff off, I explored downtown and got lunch at Nedra’s Too, a delicious Mexican American restaurant. Then I checked out the Frontier Movie Town a free museum of Western movie sets. More than 100 movies have been shot in the area from The Outlaw Josie Wales to the original Lone Ranger. Because of all the filming here, Kanab is also called Little Hollywood.
Monday morning I headed to the Sanctuary and took a tour, then spent a bunch of time at Human Resources. I was struck by how huge the sanctuary is and how many animals and employees they have.
Finally I got to go to Dog Town and work with trainers and dogs. I learned how they do their behavior assessments.
Tuesday in addition to staff meetings I got to work with the shy dog Sir Uno who has a history of physical abuse (his owners were hitting him with a cane on his way into the sanctuary when they dropped him off.) He pretty much stays away from people or just sits in the corner of his run and watches you. He shrinks from touch but eventually I got him to take some treats from me. He hadn’t been out on a walk and needed to get used to a leash so I clipped one on him. I tried to urge him to walk with me into the back of his run but he just laid there. So I opened the front door and he started to move so we walked into the hall and out the front door. He walked a few steps would get scared and lie down and then would muster up the courage to walk again. We kept the walk short and came back inside in about 10 minutes. The staff was amazed I was able to get him out. We’ve done a few more short walks like this this week. Now he gets up whenever we come near the door or open it wanting to follow us out, which is a good sign.
Another dog I worked with is Firefly who is an 11 year old pointer from a breeding kennel. She had a lot of health problems that have been treated for months. Heartworm, hookworm, bad teeth, and infections all over her front legs from living in her own filth. She’s a high energy girl who hasn’t been able to get much exercise due to her health problems. When she overexerts she begins coughing and we have to let her rest. Since she’s a high energy girl with no outlet she’s redirected her energy with a fixation on her front legs licking them bloody and bald. She has to wear a cone all the time so she won’t do this. In addition to getting her physically healthy we’re working on trying to get her mentally stimulated with short walks, obedience training, and feeding her with food toys so she has to work to get her food and thus drain her energy. She’s a fighter and a great spirit who I enjoy working with. Firefly is part of Best Friends Guardian Angel Program and you can follow her progress here.
With 400 or so dogs at the sanctuary, I worked with a few more who I’ll write about later but Marcel and Maverick want to go out for a walk and I’m petsitting while their owner is at the No More Homeless Pets conference in Vegas this weekend. More soon!