Five weeks went by so quickly, and I was glad that I decided to stay for longer, as it allowed me to just enjoy every day of my final week, knowing that I would be able to visit all the animal areas again, just in a different capacity as a volunteer. My last week of the internship was with all the horses, pigs, and goats. And of course also with a cat that has taken up residence in the area as the unofficial mascot of this part of the sanctuary, ironically named Meow, as I never heard her make a peep. I had heard from many people during my previous four weeks that this area was a favorite, and that they were most surprised by how much they enjoyed spending time with the pigs. So I was pleased to start my week with a couple days with the pot-bellied group, and what a fun time it turned out to be!
Dog week had finally arrived, and I was so happy to finally get spend a week in Dogtown, especially in this magical place, as there are just so many, each with a unique and special story. I was fortunate to be assigned to a great area, one call Old Friends, which is an outdated name, since they have dogs of all ages, including a set of nearly 8 month old special needs puppies. Since I love diversity, it was perfect to have such a mixed bag of dogs to focus on for the week. And what a week it was!
JDN: This one’s for you. ♥
The third week of my internship was spent with cats. A bit different than my time with lions in Africa, but it’s interesting how similar the various feline groups are in mannerisms, as I’ve seen both domestic cats and lions have many of the same behaviors, just at very different scales and impacts. The cat and dog areas of the sanctuary are the largest in terms of total number of animals in these areas, and interns are typically assigned to one area for their week, so we just see a limited amount, but it’s still a great experience. I was fortunate in that I was able to spend in two cat areas, with a few hours in a third one, as well. Having been a cat owner, and being around cats my whole life, this area was familar in many ways, but there were still things to learn when it comes to caring for this many of them in one place. It’s a bit of an overwhelming prospect, really, but they manage the best they can, and for the vast majority of these animals, they have a better life at the sanctuary than from where they came.
My first week at the sanctuary flew by, no pun intended (I was with the parrots), and for my second week I was in the All Day Adorable area of the sanctuary that is the Bunny House. Upon arrival I was greeted by a senior caregiver who was very welcoming and helpful, both my first day, and all week. She’s been with the sanctuary for 15 years, half that time in parrots, and the last half with rabbits, and she’s fantastic. A kindred spirit in terms of her work ethic and attention to detail. There are two main buildings, plus a whole area of outdoor enclosures, and then a separate area of the sanctuary that was dedicated to the care of a huge number of rescued rabbits, originally 400, now down to about 10 (more on that in a minute). The intern group had toured the rabbit area during our orientation, and I was given a quick refresher on the two main buildings, with a demonstration on the process for the morning feeding and cleaning, and then it was off to the races to get all the inside runs done by lunch, with enough people is very doable.
I arrived in southern Utah at the beginning of April, spending a couple of days enjoying Bryce Canyon National Park before my short drive down to Kanab, where the Best Friends sanctuary is located. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon to get settled into the place where I’m renting a room. It was great to arrive and meet Jen in person, one of my aunt’s friends, who rents out the two rooms on the first floor of her home, something that various homeowners in this area do, as the demand for temporary housing is quite high with all the visitors to the sanctuary, as well as tourists in the area. We had an orientation day on Sunday, getting us ready for our first full day on Monday, April 3rd, and I got my first look at the sanctuary and it’s beauty, as well as a tour to show us all the animal areas and special places on the property. It’s really quite magical.
After a few months back in Seattle, much of it spent pet sitting for several great pet owners and their adorable pets, I left on Monday to embark on a road trip from the Northwest part of the U.S. to the Southwest. A map of my route is shown below, a total of 1142 miles (1838 km) and estimated to be between 16-19 hours total. I opted to limit my daily drives to about 4-6 hours, so I planned overnight stops in the following places: Walla Walla, WA; Caldwell, ID; Salt Lake City, UT; and Bryce Canyon, UT. And today I drove to Kanab, my destination, which is about an hour south of Bryce Canyon. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how beautiful Utah is, from the snow-capped mountains in the north to the red rock canyons of the south, it’s been great to see so many new things, since I haven’t been to this part of the U.S. prior to now.
My version of “normal life” these days is not much like my old life, save for being in Seattle for a few months, catching up with friends, shopping at the same grocery markets, and driving the same streets. Other than that, it’s different in so many ways. Ironically, or perhaps just somewhat cliché, is that while I may be financially poorer by Western standards, I feel richer by life standards. Not in material wealth, but in mental, spiritual, and humanitarian wealth — in other words, the stuff that actually matters. From the time that I was able to share my plans about leaving my former job, selling my house and half of my stuff, and embarking on a journey of travel and giving back, people have been wonderfully supportive, and in many cases, say that they wish they could do the same. That it all seems so amazing, adventurous, and liberating. And it has been. But it would be disingenuous not to point out that this is hard. Really hard. I have my moments where I wonder if I’ve made the right choice, but those are brief and don’t last long, as I know that I have when I reflect back on the last year and a half and all that I’ve experienced in that time.