Each employee at Trupanion receives one paid day off to volunteer at a non-profit organization of their choice. Last year our employees volunteered over 300 hours toward organizations like Seattle Humane Society, PAWS, Pasado’s Safe Haven, Seattle Aquarium, food banks, senior centers, and the Washington Trails Association. This benefit is a part of our larger philanthropic program we call TruGiving.
This past October Jamie Kelley, an IT Operation Specialist here at Trupanion, used her paid day off to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT with her husband. This entry is the journal she kept while there.
Day 1: Check In
Today we arrived at the 3,700 acre animal sanctuary that cares for early 2,000 homeless animals. There were adorable signs greeting and directing us to our studio cottage. Once we checked in, we inquired about the sleepover night you can do with a dog or cat. Sleepovers are a way for Best Friends to get outside assessment of the animal for any information that might help the pet get adopted. The staff explained that you need to register for a time to volunteer in Dogtown or Cat World before setting up a sleepover, and that they were currently all booked. Every specie of animal has a huge plot of land specifically for them i.e. Dogtown, Cat World, etc. The staff suggested we register that night, and arrive the next morning in case there were spots open from no-shows. We registered immediately when we get to our cottage to get on the list.
Day 2: Part 1 – Cat World
This morning we woke up and immediately went down to the volunteer center to check for any possible openings to volunteer in Dogtown or Cat World. A few people canceled which gave us our opening to volunteer in Cat World!
In the Cat World area, there were about 3-4 houses catering to the care of around 700 cats. Each house has its own kind of cats such as cats with FIV, neurological issues, etc. One cat house was called The Incontinental Suite for cats who are incontinent. We volunteered there the last day, but first we were off to “Colonel’s Barracks” named after one of their rescues.
Before we could start volunteering, we had to watch an introductory training video on cats and their behavior and how to read their body language. Sonia was the resident cat that made sure everyone was paying attention. I whispered something to my husband, and Sonia jumped on the table in front of us turning her head with eyes saying “pay attention!”
After the introductory training video, we went to Colonel’s. There were a few rooms within one house, and we were designated to one. Our job was to essentially clean litterboxes, sweep the area (which is huge), and wipe down EVERYTHING that attracts fur such as cat trees, blankets, mats, beds, anything. We also needed to remove anything from the room that was soiled. After that we would sanitize any hard surface areas. They do this EVERY SINGLE DAY. Once all of this is done, we can play with the cats or take one for a walk. Naturally we did both.
We took polydactyl Mac for a walk. A polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as hyperdactyly), that causes the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws. Mac had 7 toes, the staff referred to him as “7 toes Mac.” He absolutely loved his walk with us. He refused to go back. At a certain point we were having a problem getting him back in. He was exhibiting some of those behaviors shown on the video of growling, and general warning to leave him be. So we had the caretaker come out to grab him. He is a sweet boy that just wanted to play longer.
Part 2 – Dogtown
While we were in Cat World, we got a call that two people canceled their volunteer shift in Dogtown so we headed over to Dogtown. When we checked into Dogtown, the first order of business was the introductory training video. This video discussed the behavior of dogs, but emphasized the meaning of the color of collars they’re wearing. A green collar indicates that they are friendly with EVERYONE. Purple means no children, and red means only caregivers can tend to them. There is no petting or approaching.
The caretaker for this section of Dogtown introduced us to the resident dog, Digby. Digby is a 7-year-old medium sized Mixed Breed with Lupus on his nose. He was very sweet. He was just a big adorable love bug. He welcomed us to Dogtown and made a lasting impression on us.
Every dog had their own run outside or shared one. They all had shelter as well that connected to the fences of the outdoor runs. In the area we went to the caretaker put all the dogs out on the run so we could clean their space. Our job was to clean the entire inside of this space. We swept, mopped, and cleaned their food dishes and buckets.
Once our cleaning was done we met up with the caretaker who was assisting the photographer with a photoshoot. The photographer was snapping photos of a beautiful American Pit Bull Terrier Mix named Fiesta. She was around 3-years-old. She loves to play dress up and loses her mind with excitement once you put a shirt or any clothing on her. She could not have been any sweeter. The photographer invited my husband and I to join the photoshoot. We played and got a little dirty with Fiesta, her kisses were the best thing in the world.
The photoshoot eventually turned into a video you can watch here:
Part 3 – Sleepover
We had the option of doing a sleepover with a dog or a cat. We fell in love with Fiesta, but she’s a hyper little nugget and we were exhausted from the day. The other dog that stole our heart was Digby. We were told Digby never goes on sleepovers (probably due to his older age), so we jumped at the chance.
While we waited for the caretaker to bring Digby to us the staff gave us a bag full of toys, treats, bowls and food. Along with that was an assessment sheet to fill out during the stay. Questions such as; How was the car ride? How were walks? How was the night? Did they wake up? Any issues with children? and so on. All of this is to better help Best Friends match animals with families and find them forever homes.
Digby was ecstatic to come back with us. Once we were back at the cottage he looked at us to see if he could jump on the bed. Being cat owners we thought, “YES! JUMP!” We snuggled and he was asleep in seconds just loving life. At any moment that his leash was in hand, Digby would bark with excitement. He was an amazing dog. I still think of him and just can’t get him out of my mind, or heart.
Day 3: Part 1 – Incontinental Suite
The first order of business of the day was to bring Digby back to Dogtown by 8:00am. We very reluctantly did so. We said our goodbyes and had our last snuggles.
Right after this we found out that there was an opening shift in Cat World. We would be going to the Incontinental Suite. This is where all the cats are incontinent and need assistance relieving themselves. Volunteering here included taking the cats for a walk in strollers. The strollers were made specifically for pets, and to my surprise these cats LOVED it. We did this for a good 2 hours. Just walking around Cat World in the Utah desert.
At one point when we tried to come back and switch the cats out, one wouldn’t have it. He wanted more. So more it was. Once we were done with the walks, one of the previous cats saw an opening in the stroller and jumped in. It turns out, this is where he hangs, in hopes of a walk.
We met a few of the cats who “roam” around the area of the Incontinental Suite. One of the awesome cats had a ruptured disc in her back, and hip issues. She didn’t bat an eye at moving around, even though her back legs were not terribly stable. Slidell was the other kid. His name is cleverly suited for him considering his condition. His back legs are paralyzed and he just slides around everywhere especially to the person who will be showing the love.
Part 2 – Tours & Angels Rest
Today is our last day at Best Friends. We had planned to venture out and explore more of Utah, but we weren’t ready to leave this sanctuary. We decided to check out of our amazing cottage and booked a hotel room in the next town over so we could enjoy another day at the sanctuary.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary offers tours daily to specific areas of the place. Throughout the day we did a tour of Bunny House, Wild Friends, Parrot Garden, and the overall tour of the sanctuary itself and its history. On our own time we explored Angels Rest, a place for animals to be buried and memorialized. Anyone can purchase a plot or wind chimes specific to your pet. It was a magical place that is well taken care of. We went there two different times, and both times there were employees cleaning the headstones and managing the cleanliness of the area.
Part 3 – Sleepover
Most of the lodging in the town next to Best Friends allows pets, which means we were able to do ANOTHER sleepover. This time we chose the cat we met from our first visit, Neptune. He is an 11-year-old long haired adorable tub of goo unable to bring his tongue into his mouth. Once we got all the necessary things for the sleepover (litter, box, food, treats, toys, scooper, etc), we were off! We hung out in the hotel and just snuggled. He was a bit shy at first, as most animals can be, but a short time later he was on the bed purring with his stuck out tongue.
Day 4: Saying Goodbye
We took Neptune back to Cat World at 8:00am and snuggled up on him with goodbyes. The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was one of the most incredible sanctuaries I’ve ever visited. They run a tight ship, and it works. Everyone is on board with the rules and the animals are well taken care of with such genuine passion and love. There is no question how much the employees, volunteers, and interns love animals. I spoke with many of them who are there, and NONE of them were from Utah. They were from all over the country and willing to leave their big fancy city to go to a tiny town in the middle of the desert, all to follow their passion and care for animals. It was a magical place and I encourage everyone to go.
Are you a Trupanion member? Did you know you can add $1 to your monthly payment and we will donate that $1 to Best Friends Animal Society? Just give us a call at 888.733.2685 and we will set it up for you. Also, now through December 31 every time you refer a friend who takes out a Trupanion policy, we’ll donate $10 to Best Friends Animal Society – $5 for you and $5 for your friend. For more information and to start referring visit Trupanion.com/refer-a-friend.