My Journey to Best Friends Animal Society

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By Eve Salimbene, CARMAA President

Recently, I was lucky enough to accompany a group of friends to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. After flying into Las Vegas and spending an exciting night, we rallied early morning for the 4-hour drive to Kanab. My husband always says that the drive is the best part of a vacation, and while it wasn’t the best part of our trip, it was an awe-inspiring, amazing adventure. The scenery in Zion National Park it absolutely amazing and worth a trip west even if you are not visiting the Sanctuary.

Eve working with Tater Tot, a dog at Best Friends

Eve working with Tater Tot, a dog at Best Friends

However, while the drive is amazing, visiting Best Friends can be described in one word—revitalizing. Anyone who works in the animal welfare world, whether in a shelter or rescue, can attest that compassion fatigue and burn out run rampant. It can be a highly emotional, heart-wrenching, “no-end-in-sight” job. It can chew you up and spit you out at the end of the day. It can be emotionally and physically draining.

The Sanctuary at Best Friends Animal Society, however, is a respite in the hectic, emotional shelter/rescue world. This trip was my 5th visit to the Sanctuary over a 10-year period. I have never met an employee or volunteer there who is frazzled, stressed or disgruntled. Everyone is dedicated and committed to the common goal of saving lives and finding homes for adoptable animals. The difference with a Sanctuary is that if it is determined that an animal there is “unadoptable,” the focus turns to providing the best quality of life for the animal while it lives comfortably at the Sanctuary. This includes enrichment, inside/outside runs, golf cart rides, training time, staff and volunteer handling (if safe to allow) and even overnight off-site trips with staff and volunteers.

The Sanctuary practices amazing coordination, teamwork, networking and dedication. The new tag line of Best Friends is “Save Them All.” This is a bold statement and really refers to their shelter/rescue work across the country. Can we truly save them all?

Sometimes animals are too damaged to save, right? Even Best Friends understands the enormity of the phrase “Save Them All.” The safety of the public does need to play a part in the decision. Some animals will not be able to be saved—they understand and acknowledge that. But their belief is that animals should never be euthanized for space, lack of resources, age or breed—thus saving all that are adoptable.

I know there are those who think sanctuaries are just places to warehouse unadoptable animals. To those naysayers, I’d like to challenge you to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I can’t speak about any other sanctuaries, but Best Friends is a first class act. I’ve worked with many different caregivers there in several different areas—from working with older/senior dogs to animals in their wildlife rehab center to the dog-aggressive canines to one of the dogs rescued from the Michael Vick compound of fighting dogs that is now working to earn his Canine Good Citizen certificate to be placed for adoption.

It’s always been a breath of fresh air for me. I love to bring “newbies” with me and hear them say, “when I come back I want to….” I’m already looking forward to my next trip, possibly in fall of 2016. By that point I will be ready for another jolt of revitalization and focus on what is the driving goal of what we do.

Good job Best Friends. Keep fighting the good fight!

For more information about Best Friends Animal Society and to learn how you can donate or volunteer, visit

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