Best Friends Animal Society
August 29, 2011
I don't remember when I first heard of Best Friends. Having always supported animal causes I began sending small contributions. One snowy winter afternoon I received a call from a member of Best Friends just to thank me for my contributions and for caring about animals. After reading the book Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary about a group of friends who envisioned a time of no more homeless pets, I knew I had to visit the Sanctuary. Seeing what they have built from the ground up, knowing the challenges and hardships the founders faced is beyond description. I could feel the love the minute we drove into Angel Canyon. It is a beautiful happy place. The animals are extremely well cared for in separate areas for each species. I worked in Dogtown where the dogs live in octagonal buildings designed by one of the founders with indoor-outdoor runs and not a cage in site! The caregivers truly care about the dogs and develop a relationship with each one in their care, helping them to adjust and grow with the hope of a forever home. Everything here is positive-no harsh words, no pulling on the leash, no dominating the dogs as other trainers do. Everything is positive reinforcement only and the results are amazing. The first year we went, the rest of the family was dubious about this working vacation and I think they were just humoring me. By the first afternoon, my husband was saying "Next year when we come back..." Neither of us can stop talking about this wonderful place of peace and happiness in the midst of our chaotic world. For me the trip is a spiritual experience. God made this beautiful land and gave these people the vision and determination to achieve their goals. He gave the people who work there the love and ability to care for these animals and increase their likelihood of being adopted. For most of the animals this is their only chance at survival. Best Friends takes the difficult cases-sick, abused, aggressive-who would have been destroyed in other animal shelters. They give the animals top veterinary care and positive training. Many of these animals go on to forever homes but the ones who don't remain at Best Friends for the rest of their lives and are lovingly interred at Angel's Rest cemetery once they cross the Rainbow Bridge. The National Geographic TV series Dogtown spread the knowledge and good new of Best Friends. Volunteers from all over the world go there to be a small part of this wonderful vision of a time of no more homeless pets. Best Friends sends crews all over the world to assist in times of crisis like Hurricane Katrina where they spent months in Louisiana rescuing animals. They send crews to puppy mill busts, rescuing and relocating these poor animals. They took in the worst of Michael Vick's fighting dogs, now known as the Vicktory dogs, and rehabilitated them despite others' assertions that this could not be done. This has brought a new awareness of breed discrimination across the country. Best Friends works with other rescue groups and has many affiliate groups across the country to educate people and help bring about a time of no more homeless pets. Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. If all animals and indeed all people were treated like the animals of Best Friends the world would be a wonderful place.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
The Puppies Aren't Products campaign has made me more vocal about the importance of adopting instead of shopping. I support my local shelters and rescue groups. I try to influence others on the importance of spaying and neutering. I encourage everyone to adopt, and I thank people who do. Basically Best Friends has made me aware that one person can make a difference and has encouraged me to do more locally. Dreams can come true if we all work at them.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
move the Sanctuary to WV so I could volunteer there all the time! Seriously, Best Friends has grown into a large organization in recent years. This is wonderful and I want them to continue to grow and expand their programs nationally. But don't lose that personal touch like the member calling to thank me for my small contributions. Things like this make people feel special. I am honored to be a member of such a wonderful organization and feel privileged to volunteer there.
Would you volunteer for this group again?
For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?
Did the organization use your time wisely?
Would you recommend this group to a friend?
What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?
Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)
It gave me a new sense of purpose to work toward a time of no more homeless pets, making me realize that one person can make a difference and the hard work is worth it. I have met more people locally who work with animal rescue and am becoming more involved locally. I made friends, both two-legged and four-legged, whom I look forward to seeing again this year.
How did this volunteer experience make you feel?
Words cannot describe my feelings (although my daughter will attest to the fact that I never stop trying to describe it, talking to everyone I meet about it and working it into conversations whenever I can). The first year I felt like a little kid at Disney World. I was totally in awe of the surroundings and meeting some of the founders made me feel like I was meeting movie stars. Angel's Landing was a spiritual experience for me.. I lay in the grass looking up at the sky and petting the dog at my side and felt closer to God than I ever have. I cannot begin to tell you the peace and love I feel at the Sanctuary. It is my idea of heaven on earth. Meeting the dogs and then reading about them on the web site and Facebook makes them feel like a part of my family. My third visit is coming up in 10 days and I can't wait. Let everyone else in WV go to Myrtle Beach and lay by the ocean. Give me my Sanctuary any day!
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & My husband and I have volunteered in Dogtown for the last 2 years and are returning again in 2 weeks. We walk dogs, clean out runs, pooper-scoop, and whatever else needs to be done to assist the caregivers. We take dogs on outings and overnight to help so.