Spend time with your Best Friends

View of Angel Canyon from Best Friends
View of Angel Canyon from the cafe at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Alert: cute puppy photos below!

Looking for a way to donate your time to a good cause in a classic Western setting while getting a major puppy or piggy fix? Look no further than doing a volunteer day at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Kanab is pretty out-of-the-way, so a visit to Best Friends is perfect to combine with a trip to Zion National Park. That’s what I did just about a year ago — in April, one of the best times to visit , before southern Utah’s scorching summer hits.

The sanctuary is in gorgeous Angel Canyon and home to a variety of homeless animals, many of whom were ill, neglected or abused before ending up at Best Friends. The site is on thousands of acres and there are several free tours a day (that’s the only way to see it — you can’t just drive through).

I’d gone on a tour a few years before, which whetted my appetite for spending some time volunteering. And since I was a huge fan of National Geographic Channel’s “Dogtown,” deciding to volunteer at that area of the sanctuary was a no-brainer.


If dogs aren’t your thing and you’d prefer to give a pig a belly rub, groom a horse, chop veggies for bunnies or hang with other critters, you can volunteer at Horse Haven, Piggy Paradise, the Bunny House, Cat World, or Parrot Garden.

After a brief orientation for Dogtown, it was off to the Puppy Preschool area. I chose to work with the puppies (who wouldn’t??) but you can also spend time with senior dogs, which I plan to do next time I visit.

Volunteers do a variety of tasks, and the day I was there I took puppies for walks and played with them in the fenced-in exercise area. Yeah, it’s hard work but somebody’s gotta do it. The pups have temporary names based on random things. I played with some of the “cheese” malamute mixes, Havarti and Mozzarella…:

Malamute pup

Malamute w-ball

…and took some pups whose names I can’t recall for walks on the red-dirt trails adjacent to the puppy building. These guys were pretty fearful; it’s an awfully big world out there and I think this might’ve been one of the first times away from their little siblings:

Walking pup

But back in the play yard, all was good:

Tan pup w-ball

Some pit bull mix pups were named for the Toy Story characters…Dolly, etc. They had a blast in the play yard:

Pit pups

Pit pups2

This guy was a bit of a loner who liked to do his own thing, namely dreaming of life outside the confines:

Pup on bench

Eventually playtime was over and it was back inside the kennels, which were very roomy and had nifty raised beds:

Pups inside

Is this guy the cutest thing, or what? I totally could’ve taken him home but my elderly Lab wouldn’t have approved:

Malamute inside

Horse Haven is another area where I’d like to volunteer some day:

Horse haven

Other volunteer options at Best Friends include taking a dog on an outing to “town” aka Kanab, or even on a sleepover. The sanctuary even has cabins for rent, where you can take one of the sanctuary’s cats, dogs or rabbits for a slumber party. There’s a serious chance you’ll end up bringing home one of these homeless creatures, which is kind of the idea.

I know some animal activist groups have problems with Best Friends’ no-kill policy, but volunteering your time at the sanctuary is so rewarding and just feels like the right thing to do.

One more word about visiting Best Friends: there’s currently construction on Highway 89, the main route to Kanab, so be sure to check the sanctuary’s website, or Utah’s Dept. of Transportation site for updates.

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