BFNC 2016


Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and National Conference

Written by Lindsay Black

Going to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Conference was a trip of a lifetime! Every year, AARCS offers the opportunity for two staff to attend the Best Friends Conference, luckily for us it was in Salt Lake City, which is only 5 hours away from Kanab (where the Sanctuary is located), so we were able to do both adventures in one trip! Due to the financial situation of AARCS, it was soon realized after booking the trips, that conferences are one thing we would have to cut out in order to keep the funds going to where its needed most. After much conversation, we just couldn’t cancel the trip of a lifetime, so we went on our own dime.

We began our trip at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Angel Canyon, just 5 miles outside of Kanab. Approximately 1,600 homeless animals reside at Best Friends, including cats, dogs, horses, pigs, bunnies, parrots and wild life. Driving into the desert we were greeted by beautiful orange and white cliffs and canyons. The view was absolutely breathtaking. We stayed in a cottage at the Sanctuary overlooking a number of horses in their pen. Every once in a while you would hear a loud neighing of a horse and at night the crickets sung us to sleep​.

Our first day began with us volunteering at Dog Town (many may have seen this amazing place on the National Geographic show). We took turns walking dogs through the winding paths of sand and greenery, while the dogs were very focused on hunting lizards!
One of the dogs we walked was a 12 year old dog named Scratch. But this wasn’t a normal dog walk like we are used to… we actually walked Scratch in a doggy stroller! Scratch had a very hard life prior to coming to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. He was first found by rescuers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is thought that he was used as a fight dog prior to the hurricane as his golden coat is crisscrossed with dark scars that never have faded. Scratch also has to deal with Babesia, a tick-borne illness that leaves him weak and walking with a slight limp. But none of that matters to him as he is a sweet, happy-go-lucky dog!
In the afternoon we split up, with Terri, Tracey and I staying in Dog Town and Nikki over in Parrot World. I spent my afternoon in the dog admissions building where newly surrendered animals are living until their quarantine period is up and they are able to be fixed, vaccinated and microchipped. Once out of admissions, they are off to another building on the property until they find their forever home. One memorable pup was Teeny, who was under a year old and could not straighten his knees due to luxated patellas. There were also two senior dogs, Mable and Madeline who just broke my heart. They were recent intakes from another rescue that shut down. I’m not sure how long they had been in care for, but they were so sweet and in need of a lot of TLC!
On our way back to our cottage, we stopped at Angels Rest to leave memorial charms of some of our AARCS animals and personal pets that are waiting at the Rainbow Bridge. Angels Rest is a beautiful courtyard with hundreds of memorials of past sanctuary animals and owned animals left there by loved ones. There were memorialized chimes blowing in the wind, all singing a beautiful song.
Our second day at Best Friends was spend in Cat World, we each split up to help out in one of the cat buildings – I spent my day in the “incontinent” suite. Most of the cats in that building are incontinent due to some form of injuries caused by accidents or possibly even born that way. I took two cats,  Mauri and then Arlo each for a walk, or rather they took me for a walk while hunting for lizards in the sand!
Many of the cats (and other animals) will spend their entire life at Best Friends Sanctuary instead of in a family home. While they are all up for adoption, that doesn’t happen for all of them. The staff and volunteers at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary do everything they can to provide the love, care and comfort to the 1,600+ animals in their care.
On Tuesday afternoon we set off on our 5 hour drive back to Salt Lake City for the Best Friends National Conference the following day. Throughout the five day event we met so many passionate animal advocates that are working hard to fight for those without a voice across the world. There were a few other groups from Canada, a lot of groups from the US and even from Australia!
The conference focused on nationwide strategies to Save Them All, which is Best Friends mission statement. And how do you save them all? We learned through various topics such as: community cat programs; creative strategies for placing animals; sharing the impact of your work; website strategies; fundraising campaigns that rock; safer more humane communities through fair laws; bringing out thebest in shy dogs; learning to rally and use community support and a lot more amazing sessions! The conference went by so quickly with all of the great people, great food and inspiring topics.
The evenings were also full of fun activities. On friday night there was a vendor expo (which was open throughout the weekend). My suitcase was jam-packed from all of the things I picked up from the 80+ vendors in the expo hall (including 40 boxes of forta flora for the shelter!). Friday evening wrapped up the day with a “Yappy Hour” where we went to “camp” and discussed any topics that were of interested, such as puppy mills, fostering, and fundraising to name a few. Saturday night wrapped up with a viewing of The Champions, which is produced by Best Friends and follows the journey of some of the dogs Michael Vick used for dog fighting. It was a tear jerker but just motivated us even more to do what we need to do to speak for those who can’t.
Sunday was a really neat experience as we were able to visit local animal facilities. A few of the options were: Salt Lake City Animal Services/Salt Lake City Humane Society; Nuzzles & Co./Best FriendsAdoption Centre; Best Friends Kitten Nursery. Nikki and I went to Salt Lake City Animal Services and Salt Lake City Humane Society. It was comforting to know that all of the animals in the facility were safe, but it was heartbreaking to see the huge number of animals left homeless for some reason.
We have brought a number of amazing ideas back with us, but what was also amazing was to see how many things AARCS is doing right and how we are a leader in animal rescue in our community. I would recommend to everyone to visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as well as attend the National Conference if they can. You will leave feeling rejuvenated, inspired and ready to take on the world! Thank you so much to AARCS for giving us the opportunity to attend the conference and for all the organization does to help animals in need and prevent an overpopulation of unwanted pets.

~ Lindsay Black

Resource and Development & Communications Coordinator

“It was great to see so many people joining together to help animals in need.  I learned a lot and have brought back some great ideas to make life at AARCS happier for the dogs and the people.  It was very validating to hear so many recommendations that shelters and rescues should start doing things that AARCS has been doing for a decade now.”

~ Nikki Knopp, Dog Program Manager




Featured Volunteer: Erin McIlquham

How can I become a volunteer? | See more volunteers

Photos courtesy of Jane Elizabeth Carter Photography

AARCS Featured Volunteer:

Erin McIlquham

A word from Erin:

Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by animals, growing up in 4-H we had dogs, cats, horses, sheep, rabbits you name it.  So, after moving to Calgary 5 1/2 years ago, I knew it was inevitable that I would eventually get a dog of my own. Finally in 2014, I was in a position to start looking for a puppy which led me to AARCS. We adopted our dog Duke (AARCS name Zuko) in September 2014 and they were such a great organization to deal with that I knew I wanted to get involved.
I took over the Dog Website Coordinator position last summer and have thoroughly enjoyed being able to see the dogs go from intake at the shelter, through to adoption.  The progress updates from foster homes that I receive for the website are the best. So many dogs are sick, injured, and scared when they come in to the shelter, and being able to see and hear first-hand the progress they are making in their foster homes is heartwarming. It’s great to get that notification that a dog has been adopted, and knowing that I had a small part in getting them to their forever home makes me incredibly happy. Thank you AARCS for giving me this opportunity!

A word from our Volunteer Manager:

Ever wonder who keeps our website looking fabulous and adoptable dogs up-to-date? Our Volunteer of the Month, Erin, is a part of that incredible team!
For a few years now, Erin has been involved with AARCS, but her largest role in the organization came last summer! Over the past year, we have been so fortunate to have Erin working on our website. She is an instrumental part in ensure the dog profiles are kept current and up to date. Erin is efficient and makes quick work of the daily changes we often see on our dog profiles. Always happy and eager to help where she can, Erin is amazing to work with.
Thank you Erin for all you do for the animals AARCS cares for! Your time and dedication has not gone unnoticed and we appreciate all of your hard work!
Rachel Howard
Volunteer Manager