A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to return to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which is the country’s largest animal sanctuary based in Kanab, Utah. The sanctuary cares for more than 2,000 animals in need including some of the Michael Vicktory dogs. However, instead of the four hour drive through the mountains from Las Vegas solo, this time was even better since I got to travel with a friend and fellow animal welfare advocate, Beckie Tomala.
Beckie and I also work together at Matrix Partners, a pet product marketing firm. So we were ready to leave the Midwest and journey out West to volunteer and talk pets all weekend long. We volunteered with dogs, cats and a new area for me was working with horses! We had some great memories on the trip including making new friends, hiking in the canyons, giving our heart and hands to help animals in need plus meeting one special dog name Rhubard, that would make anyone shed a tear.
Next year when we go back, we hope to bring a bigger crowd and work with the potbelly pigs, too. Below is an interview I did with Beckie on her first experience at Best Friends. Trust me, she will be back…I’m lucky that I was able to get her back on the plane back to Chicago!
See what Beckie thought of Best Friends:
Q. What inspired you to visit Best Friends?
My love for animals has been apparent ever since I was a young girl. I was always bringing home stray cats, dogs, mice (whatever I could get my hands on) begging my parents to “please let me keep them!” Once I realized there is just no way to keep them all, I wanted to turn my compassion for animals into a solid way to help and protect their welfare and well-being. I started volunteering with several animal rescue organizations including True Hearts of Rottweiler Rescue. While I love helping out my local shelters and rescue organizations, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has always called my name. I knew I was destined to visit someday and help these amazing animals from all over the country.
Q. What was the most memorable experience there?
Hands down working with and visiting Rhubarb was one of the most touching experiences I have ever had in my life. Upon walking in his octagon, Rhubarb was just chilling on his cot, smiling at us from ear to ear. I did not have any clue his disabilities were so great. Rhubarb has an unknown disease that made him lose control of his legs. But, if you asked him, he’d probably say “hakuna matata.” What a sweet, sweet dog that just loves life, even though he faces huge obstacles in everyday life we take for granted. And while yes, Rhubarb is a dog, not a human, he could teach anyone on this earth a very important life lesson: life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you deal with it is what makes the difference. Since our visit to Best Friends, Rhubarb has been adopted. While caring for Rhubarb will be in no way an easy task, the love and compassion he will give his new family – the same love and compassion that Rhubarb gave to me for two short days – will forever out weight any obstacle life might bring.
Q. What is the best tip you have for anyone visiting Best Friends?
Try different things. A cat lover? Try working with horses. A bird expert? Why not work with some pigs? Variety is really the spice of life and Best Friends has the spice for any pet lover and animal advocate! I already have plans to go back next year and work in different areas I did not have a chance to see this trip.
To learn more about Best Friends or to schedule your trip, visit www.bestfriends.org. Have you journeyed out to Best Friends yet? If so, tell us your favorite memory.
Stephanie Krol can be best described as a mixed breed of a newshound and publicist in the pet industry. She has the ability to sniff out the latest lifestyle trends when it comes to pets. As a proud “pet parent” of three rescues Nigel (cat), Simon (dog) and recent addition of Nola (cat). Stephanie spreads the word of animal welfare every chance she gets. She is the board president of the Humane Society of Elkhart County and serves as a spokeswoman for the animal shelter along with volunteers for a variety of animal welfare initiatives. For more information, visit Steph Tails All on Facebook.