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Chauncy and Bob: Best Friends

Lin’s friend Tasha read on our blog that we planned to roll through Kanab, Utah and suggested we consider volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society. This blog thing is working way better than I had imagined. I thought it would be a mere chronology of our adventures, a way to let friends & family know where we were, and a reference for us once all the dates & events start to blur together. Boy did I underestimate the power of it. We’ve received so many great recommendations already – keep ’em coming.

On her suggestion, we signed up for an introductory tour and 2 half-day shifts, on Thursday and Friday. The day before our first shift, we did a drive-by to make sure we knew where to go & how long it would take to get there. We’ve come to learn the GPS is merely a suggestion & on occasion it toys with our sense of adventure by sending us off on a tangent. The tour started at 8:30 AM and being out of practice at early starts, we made our lunch the night before, picked out our clothes, and set 2 alarms. We were like 2 excited girls going to their first day of school.

Bright eyes and big smiles greeted us at the reception desk that first morning. Shortly thereafter we boarded a small bus and began the tour around the 3,700 beautiful acres set in the Kanab Canyon. Apparently, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as they also lease an additional 33,000 acres from the US BLM (Bureau of Land Management). It’s big, really big.

Best Friends Welcome Area

Best Friends Welcome Area

Best Friends Property

Best Friends Property

During the tour, the history of BF was a little light, so in writing this post I conducted some research, only to discover some very interesting, non traditional religious roots. I’ll just leave it at that since what’s more important to me is that they are now the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals.

“… For so many animals, it was the beginning of a miracle. It was the 1980s. Shelters across America routinely killed cats and dogs as the primary method of handling unwanted pets. Around 17 million animals perished every year. Older, sick and problem animals were the first to go. Then, a group of friends began taking some of those “unadoptables” to a safe haven to heal. With proper care and patience, the vast majority of these animals found loving forever families. The remaining animals spent the rest of their days romping in the new sanctuary. That group of friends who cared so deeply about animals grew and flourished and became Best Friends Animal Society.” Click to continue reading…

We concluded our introductory tour and had almost 2 hours before or official duties began. We took a leisurely drive up the long, steep dirt road that surrounds the sanctuary making stops at the amphitheater, Angel’s Rest which is the cemetery, and to say hello to a few horses. Having already packed our lunch, we skipped the $5 vegetarian buffet, but joined the crew & volunteers at the cafe to hear Thursday’s success stories. Each week, Directors of the various sanctuaries (Dogtown, Cat World, Horse Haven, Piggy Paradise, Bunny House, Parrot Garden & Wild Friends) gather in the cafe to share animal success stories – be it adoption, improved health, or just a new trick. The room quickly filled with people and tears as animal lovers united over lunch.

Horse Pals

Horse Pals

Thursday Lunch Special

Thursday Lunch Special

From there we headed to Cat World to begin our shift. After checking in at Cat Headquarters and watching another video on cat safety, we settled on Benton’s House. Our job was to socialize with the cats. Some of them are feral, have been abused, or are just getting used to their new situation, so it was important for someone to simply love and play with them. We felt a little like we weren’t helping enough at first, but quickly realized that the ratio of paid staff to animals was so low that they probably had very little time to just sit and offer a lap or to dangle a feathered thingy for even 15 minutes. Everyone on the staff was incredibly nice, and they did spend a little time with us, but they were definitely busy with medicine, feedings and cleaning, always cleaning, especially in this building since a majority of the cats were paralyzed in their hind ends or had some other reason for incontinence. I was sitting on the floor with another cat, when I heard a staff person call out from down the hall “Maury, is that you popping out poops like a pez dispenser?” She bent down, picked up the small brown turd that was in the middle of the hallway and off she went to tend to her next order of business.

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Moments after walking in that first day and copping a squat on the floor, Bob came to introduce himself. He’s an older tuxedo, and part of the incontinent gang. A quick sniff proved I was worthy of his attention, followed by some lap curling, then it was onto my shoulders. He was beginning to make his mark on my heart. Full of personality, he didn’t seem bothered by the small detail of needing assistance to relieve himself, which the staff were all very happy to assist with. It’s all part of a regular day’s work to them.

Luckily, this was not our job

Luckily, this was not our job

We were introduced to many, many other felines and tried to spread our love and entertainment around. This proved to be more challenging than expected given there were around 100 cats living in that building alone. So, we divided our time among the rooms, coming out into the central area every so often to find each other and share stories about who we’d met. All day long we fought the urge to adopt this one or that one. In route from one room to another Chauncey made his presence known. He’s diabetic, incontinent, and mildly crazy (my diagnosis, not theirs). A lovable, old, large, grey, short-hair who greeted, no make that yelled, at everyone who passed by. I’m not sure why I found it so lovable, maybe it was the head butts, in addition to the cries. Nah, it doesn’t really make sense.

Late in the day, as the staff were cleaning up for the night they put on some music and a Neil Diamond song began to play on the overhead speakers. This took me right back to childhood memories of me playing my guitar in our living room with my groupies, mom & Ann, cheering me on. I miss my mom so much. Tears began to roll and Lin approached to embrace me in a hug. There we stood caught up in the moment, hugging, listening to Cracklin’ Rosie when out of nowhere, Bob leapt up onto Lin’s shoulders. We giggled & laughed through the tears that day, thanks to Bob.

On our second day we reported to work in the feline leukemia building and we were asked if we would be interested in taking a cat for a walk. That got a resounding YES, so Oscar and Zippy were leashed up and off we went. Zippy took one step outside and plopped down in the first patch of sun he found. Oscar on the other hand, sprinted to the nearest gopher hole, and then to the next, and the next, and… If it hadn’t been for the leash he would have caught a lizard, which narrowly escaped only because Oscar ran out of leash. These delightful creatures were full of life, despite their goopie eyes and sniffles, they craved love and affection just like their healthy brothers & sisters.

Zippy, ready for his walk

Zippy, ready for his walk

It was an exhausting, emotional and very rewarding experience and helped ever so slightly to ease the pain of loosing our kitty. Much like people, we don’t always choose who we fall in love with. Chauncey and Bob stole a piece of my heart, and because of that love, I left them where they would be best cared for, at Best Friends Animal Society.