Friday, October 6, 2017

The Rest of Best Friends

DSC08556                                           They just moved into this new building in June

I scheduled myself to volunteer in the Parrot Garden on Monday morning, and although I don’t know much at all about them I was interested in learning. After the three of us who were volunteering watched the safety video, we were told to first go into all of the rooms and just talk to the birds. None of them talked back but they made a lot of other very loud noises.



Then we had to take a couple tubs full of empty metal bowls outside, place them in holders on the outside cages, and fill them with water from a jug. After that I watered a few shrubs and plants that the sprinklers don’t reach.


Then it was kitchen duty, where I dried dishes along with an intern, while one of the employees washed. Between the wash and dry they are placed in a sanitizer for a few minutes. I learned a lot from our conversation in the kitchen, and came away with the fact that sadly, birds should not be kept as pets. The stress of being confined to cages and lack of adequate exercise from their wings being clipped and not being able to fly accelerates the aging process, so many birds in captivity have a lifespan half of that of those in the wild. This is because they end up with diseases like arthritis, high cholesterol, and heart disease, just like humans.

Cody is a very intelligent African Gray with a vocabulary of around 140 words, but I couldn’t get him to say a single one. He was helping out in the kitchen.


Luckily for the 100+ birds now living at Best Friends they are in a place where they are well cared for and get plenty of attention. Most have been either surrendered by, in many cases, multiple owners or rescued from hoarding situations. Sadly, parrots are one of the most discarded pets due to the fact that they are inherently wild and people don’t know how to properly handle and train them.

And speaking of hoarding situations, I forgot to mention in the previous post that we were told about a woman who was hoarding 1,600 rabbits on a 2 acre piece of property where many of them were sick or starving. Best Friends ended up taking in 400 of them.

After dishes I swept and mopped several of the rooms, serenaded by ear piercing screams and some occasional talking. Then it was on to the most fun part of the morning, taking the birds outside for the rest of the day.

Mork and Mindy are Jenday Conures, which are one of the smaller members of the parrot family, that have been in multiple homes over the years. Mindy has liver damage from being fed an all seed diet, and Mork has leukemia, untreatable in parrots, but they are both stable, comfortable, and seemingly happy.  And since they’re so small they got to go out on one arm. And it was a small arm belonging to cute 10 year old CJ, who was volunteering with her grandmother.


When we entered their cage they would go right on a perch as we put our arm up to it. I think I carried 5 outside and they all did fine. The afternoon staff and volunteers will bring them back in.


The outdoor enclosures are located in a pleasant garden area.


I really enjoyed working in the Parrot Garden and learned a lot about them. Most of the birds there are up for adoption and I wish I had asked how many actually find new homes. For anyone wanting a parrot, this is definitely the place to get one, as they are so well taken care of, both physically and emotionally.

After lunch we reported to Cat HQ for my second, and Jim’s first shift working with the cats. I chose a different building this time, Benton House, where most of the cats have special needs due to neurological or other issues. Being short-handed that morning, (some of the staff are still in Houston helping with the animals after the hurricane), all of the room cleaning had not been completed, so we checked the bedding for urine, brushed off cat hair, swept and mopped. An employee was changing out litter in the boxes so we didn’t have to deal with that part. But before we started cleaning we paid a visit to some cats in another room, where Jim was falling in love.

This is Tara, 6 years old and missing half of her tail. She is one of the friendliest cats we’ve ever met.


13 year old Ale is a pretty sweet boy, too.




After we got done with the cleaning it was time to take some of the cats out for a walk in a stroller. There are paved paths behind the buildings just for that purpose.

All clean, at least for a little while.



You could tell they were used to being out there, as they mostly sat up and just looked around at the scenery.


Before we left we stopped back in Tara’s room to visit with her a bit more. I really think Jim was ready to adopt her, but when I read her bio it said she was about 6 years old and had been at Best Friends for four years. What?? How could a cat this precious not have been adopted! So on our way out we asked an employee about her. Sadly she has kidney failure and also nerve damage that causes her to be unaware of when she needs to use the litter box. Consequently she gets fluid for the kidneys, and has to be “expressed” daily to get rid of her urine and feces. Well I guess that explains it. She is on the “quality of life” list, meaning she’s one of the cats that is being kept comfortable until her time is up. We just couldn’t believe she is that sick based on her personality. She runs to the door to greet anyone who walks in, and is quick to jump up on a leg or a lap (or a shoulder). I’m happy she is in a good place where her needs are met.


That evening we had dinner at Peek-a-Boo Wood Fired Kitchen in Kanab. We were surprised to learn that Kanab has become somewhat of a foodie town, and when we saw that it was a vegetarian restaurant we just had to try it out. The pizza was excellent, and we even liked the 3.2% draft beer from Zion Brewery. I had the IPA and Jim had the Octoberfest and they were surprisingly good. Jim took this after we had almost finished our first piece.


On our last afternoon I scheduled us to work with the cats again. When we arrived at Cat World HQ we had our choice of several different buildings to work in, but we chose Benton House again, which was a good choice since they had plenty of help that morning and all the rooms had been cleaned. After doing some dishes, our job was to walk the cats and socialize with them. I’m not sure how many different cats we pushed around in strollers, but it was a nice afternoon and we got to talk with several other volunteers out walking cats from other buildings, some of them on leashes. It was a good way to end our volunteer time.

Just one more sad cat story: Richie had both eyes removed due to severe glaucoma but he is very friendly and knows his way around his building. He gets to be one of the roaming house cats. Jim met him when he went to the building next door to Benton House to use the restroom, and immediately came back and told me I had to go over and meet him. What a nice boy! They said he was like a new cat after his second surgery a couple months ago, since he is now pain-free. He is up for adoption and I suspect he may one day find a special home.

20171003_154424             20171003_154809 

On the way back to our site we stopped for a hike to Hidden Lake. We tried to find it another day but walked down the wrong dirt road following other footprints. We stopped at the visitor center to get better directions and found it this time.

Kanab Creek flows through a little slot canyon at the start of the hike.


The area is full of interesting rocks.




We couldn’t really see the lake until we walked into the cave. Jim used the fish-eye effect so my legs look strangely short but it gives you an idea of the size of the rock and the opening into the lake.


There really is water in there but our photos of it did not turn out well. Rumor has it that divers went into the lake to see how deep it was but did not find the bottom.


The swirls in the rock were more fascinating anyway.




On the way back we took a side trail around to some ancient ruins and rock art.



The old saying that time flies when you’re having fun was definitely true during our five night stay at Best Friends. As we were getting ready to leave I told Jim I felt like we had just arrived and it shouldn’t be time to go already, but I’m so happy we had the opportunity to volunteer here.

It’s an amazing operation. Last year alone Best Friends took in over 1,100 dogs and cats, and 926 were adopted out. That doesn’t include all of the rabbits, birds, horses, and potbellied pigs that reside there. Although the majority of animals are there awaiting their next home, for those who are older or sick they have a wonderful haven here for the rest of their lives. All animal lovers should definitely put Best Friends on their bucket list. Not only to interact with the animals, but to also enjoy the beautiful surrounding natural area. I hope they are successful in their mission to put an end to kill shelters in the U.S. by 2025.


  1. This is truly touching. Thank you for sharing your experience at Best Friends -- I love reading about the different animals and their stories and how they're receiving such loving, quality care. It would be hard for me to resist bringing one or two or a dozen home with me. I might very well turn into an eccentric cat lady when I'm older and not traveling anymore. Until then, at least I can make a donation to Best Friends!

    1. Thanks. Best Friends is an amazing place.
      I may turn into a crazy cat lady one day, too, but not in the RV! We learned that lesson the hard way.

  2. I never knew about Best Friends..until now. You bet, it's now on our bucket list. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Hope you get to visit there one day. It's a very positive environment, not like most animal shelters that make you come away feeling horrible.

  3. You tow do such wonderful work with the animals. I bet it is a real treat to learn about parrots.
    Richie looks like a real doll. Poor thing though. Sorry he had to lose his eyes.

    I love those photos of the swirls in the rocks. They are beautiful.

    1. Thanks, the parrot house was a fun experience. I also wanted to volunteer with the pigs for something really different but all the volunteer slots were full while we were there.

  4. Another wonderful post about a fantastic place. I really enjoyed your parrot house visit since I have always felt very sorry for parrots confined to cages. You've done such a great job of highlighting what an exemplary organization Best Friends is. Thanks for volunteering there. Also loved the beautiful rocks on your hike. The swirls, layers and stacks were amazing.

    1. If you have to be a parrot in captivity, Best Friends is a good place to end up. They get lots of attention and enrichment activities to keep them stimulated. And Best Friends is very particular about who they let adopt them.

  5. What a wonderful place!!! I am so glad you shared this with us!! I bet you learned so much about the animals. The parrot garden was very interesting! I never owned a parrot so didn't know all those things you shared!
    Tara is so precious and I am glad she has such a comfortable caring place to spend her life at. And Richie, bless his heart!! I hope he finds a perfect home!!
    Love the pics especially the swirl rocks....very pretty!!

    1. I have a feeling Richie will find a home one of these days. He has certainly won the hearts of the employees, volunteers and visitors. It's just a matter of time before the right person comes along.

    2. Agree with Happytrails, this was an exceptionally great post! Thank you Jim and Gayle for enlightening us.

    3. Thanks, Terri. Writing it helped me relive our time there. I hope we can go back and do it again one of these days.

  6. I wanna go back to this awesome place! Thanks so much for sharing your time there. Best Friends IS The Best!

  7. I can only imagine how loud enclosed parrots are - they're crazy loud in the wild! Cody is a beauty.

    How wonderful that sweeties like Tara and Richie found their way to a special place equipped to care for them.

    1. Yes, a good many of the animals are in a much better place than they were when they were rescued.
      If we were living in a real house, I have a feeling Jim would have taken blind Richie home!

  8. It's amazing that a place like this is able to adopt out so many animals. It's not exactly a populated area:) I enjoyed reading your stories on the various animals.

    Nice hike! We are thinking of heading to Kanab this spring. I'll have to remember this. Neat rocks!

    1. Be sure to take the Best Friends tour if you do go to Kanab. They have three hiking trails, each around 3 miles round trip. With your Jeep you can also drive the road to Peek-a-Boo, a slot canyon we would have liked to check out but the sand was too deep for our Subaru. And the Kanab area has lots of other hiking. You will love it!

    2. Pam, I forgot to add that some dogs and cats can be adopted without having to come to Kanab. Best Friends will fly them to you but potential adopters must go through a screening process first.

  9. This certainly does look like a great place to volunteer for those who are animal lovers. The bird sanctuary reminded me of my beloved friend Barb's macaw. As her medical condition worsened, it was apparent each time I walked into her house, just by looking at her beautiful macaw Semus, that there was stress within the house. Before she became ill, she would hold Semus, which she couldn't do after she became wheelchair bound. He took to plucking his feathers out and screeching at the top of his lungs, a very sad thing to watch and hear. It is so good to know there are these organizations for those who can no longer take care of their pets.