The Welcome Center for Best Friends is about a mile off the main road - highway 89 - from Kanab. It is beautifully sited, designed, and landscaped. After we unloaded our things in our cottage, we drove to the center to check in.
Just to the left of the entrance is this deck with tables and hummingbird feeders.
Inside the center is a reception desk, a gift store, a video room, and a little side sitting area. And more. It reminded me of one of the better welcome centers for national parks, for example, but better. Clean, well-lit, surrounded by natural beauty, offering what we needed. We went to the desk to announce our arrival and make arrangements for the tour. The last tour of the day had left about ten minutes before we got there but they had a "short tour" available a little later, which sounded great to us.
We perused the gift shop, read some of the material, picked up various brochures, until the guy came to do the tour. There were four of us touring, two mother-daughter pairs, as it happened. Our leader was a former Englishman, complete with accent and strange sense of humor (even strange for an Englishman). Later Elaine and I agreed that animal people all tend to be a little strange, though. He took us in a van through the "developed" part of the Best Friends sanctuary. Best Friends owns 3,000 acres outright, and from what I saw all of it is beautiful. They aren't exaggerating when they call it "breathtaking". It backs up to Bureau of Land Management land, which extends its apparent size (and beauty) even more. Our guide drove us by DogTown, an area that includes several octagonal buildings spread out on several small dirt roads, a clinic and administration area, and even a fitness center. The fitness center has an under-water treadmill for arthritic doggies. At least that's what i thought he said.
We then cruised by the cat center, the birds, the horses. Each area is separated from the others and features small, low-scale buildings that use a lot of the native red rock in their construction and in the block retaining walls. I decided against taking pictures in the van because the opportunities weren't very good and I knew we'd come back the next several days. What is amazing is that there are about 500 dogs and 650 cats (often there are more) right now and yet there is no sense of overcrowding, of mass management.
After we went on the tour we had a brief volunteer orientation, mainly a matter of signing papers and reading safety guidelines and looking over our schedule. Linda, the volunteer coordinator, gave us a marked map showing how to get to each section and noted that we'd have to do a doggie orientation first thing the following morning (today), at the clinic-admin building.
It was about five when we headed back to our cottage.
The cottages are amazing. A bedroom with two full-size beds, a generous bathroom with a shower suitable for persons with disabilities, a nice kitchen-living area, plus a lovely outdoor deck that looks over a horse corral and gorgeous red rock beyond and around.
The entire development is so well-designed and thought-out that it is like a retreat for both humans and animals. Best Friends has 200,000 members and no doubt a number of key donors on top of that. The property is paid for - they bought it, it was not given to them. They have designed the sanctuary so that it is appropriate in scale, it is not overcrowded, the workers are not overwhelmed (except, I am sure, by what they see when animals are rescued from horrifying conditions; and when I looked through the books of animals that had "traveled over the bridge" I couldn't help but feel sadness for those who ended their lives in an instititution, however nice it may be, rather than a home). The buildings are nicely designed, work well, are not the warehouses so commonly built for animals, and the grounds are beautifully maintained as well.
My feeling is that a place like this is going to attract better employees and enthusiastic volunteers and is going to raise awareness in a large number of people who just happen to be in the area (visiting Zion, for example). The overall attitude of the place is positive and encouraging, yet does not pretend that horrors do not exist.
Next up: going to the dogs.