Friday, September 23, 2011

In Which I Go West

I'm hopped up on a Starbucks Iced Mocha (I really don't know why I continue to drink coffee when it makes me shake and feel nauseas) so this might end up being a sporatic post filled with tangents. I will try very hard to focus. For your sake.

Remember back in October 2010 when I posted a review of Jim Gorant's "The Lost Dogs"? For a refresher click here. Well a few months later I was at my mom's house and read a Best Friends Magazine she had lying around. I flipped through it and landed on an article about the Vick (now renamed Victory) Dogs and how they were doing. Suddenly I was obsessed (this happens a lot to me) and I started doing research. As it turns out, you can visit and volunteer at Best Friends Animal Society. A plan was hatched. It took little convincing to get my mother on board, just a presentation of expense, flight plan, place to stay, etc. I took care of it all (I'm pretty proud of myself). And last Wednesday the adventure began.

From Boston we flew to Vegas where we rented a car and drove a few hours north-east on the most beautiful drive you could possibly imagine through Nevada, Arizona, and into Southern Utah. I swear I pulled over every mile so we could take pictures. It was a little ridiculous, but we were just in awe of the landscape. We drove through Zion National Park at sunset and it was absolutely stunning, though the switchbacks up the mountain were a little hairy.

One of the places we pulled off the highway. How could we not when there was this view?

We stayed at the most amazing lodge (I am not over-exagerating with the adjectives here) - . XbarH Lodge in Orderville, UT If you have any desire to see the Grand Canyon or Zion or Bryce Canyon, this is the place to stay in the middle of it all. JC and Michelle will make you feel like you're visiting family. Also, and this is the reason I chose it for our place to stay, they allow pets so if you're volunteering at Best Friends you can bring a dog or cat home with you for an overnight.

View of the lodge while walking around the property.

My mom and I went on Thursday morning for a tour and orientation. We got to see a dog doing hydrotherapy (post leg surgery), a puppy preschool training class, and visited with some dogs in Dogtown.

One of the puppies in class learning manners.

Then we had orientation and lunch. As a vegetarian I find food can sometimes be lackluster at restaurants. I don't think chefs are particularly fond of us anti-meat eaters. So imagine how happy my stomach was when we had lunch at Angels Landing atop the mesa at Best Friends. It's an all you can eat vegetarian buffet and I kid you not... THE BEST TOFU I'VE EVER HAD. In Utah. I know.

View from the deck during lunch. Sorry for the quality - took it with my measly phone.

That afternoon I volunteered in Dogtown where I attended a puppy preschool class (I had Kalpana, an adorable brindle mutt who was so calm and attentive and adorable) and Then worked at Old Friends sweeping and mopping the dog runs. Then I went to pick up my overnight guest, Flossy, and we drove together to Potbelly Pig Lane to pick up my mother. She had hoped for the pug Teawee, but expected I'd come with a pitbull in the back. She is naturally apprehensive about pitbulls because of the media even though she's also read "The Lost Dogs". So imagine her surprise when I showed up with Flossy, a black shepherd mix. Flossy is the new love of my life. She's the wallpaper on my phone and my computer screen. I can't adopt her because I live in a studio apartment with two cats and I work forty-plus hours a week. But I am obsessed with her and dream about taking her on walks here in Massachusetts and what our life would be like together if circumstances were different.

Sitting nicely on the deck with us while we ate chips and salsa.

On our walk when we got back to XbarH Lodge after leaving Dogtown.

Back at the lodge we went on a long walk together then made dinner and she stood in the kitchen with us helping out in her own way. She just wanted to be with us. After another walk we hung out in my bedroom and though she paced a little bit she eventually calmed down for the night. At 6:20am she let me know she needed to go out and together in the early morning grey light we wandered through the valley together looking at the stars and wondering what creatures might be out too. Then at 8 it was back to Dogtown. I got a little watery-eyed when we brought her back. She was an absolute doll in the car, sitting quietly and looking out the window, which, having grown up with a dog that went nutso everytime he was in the car, was a treat.
That day was spent with horses in the morning, both Mom and I, cleaning out goat pastures and then watching a horse named Montana who came as a wild horse from a sanctuary in Montana be saddled for the first time using the Parelli method of horsemanship. Then another amazing lunch (again the tofu was fantastic) and in the afternoon while Mom spent time with birds I hung out in Cat World with some FIV kitties.
We only spent two days volunteering and it wasn't nearly enough. So on the ride back to Vegas we began discussing ourt next trip out. Hopefully next fall. We didn't have time to explore Bryce Canyon. Or the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Or see the Grand Canyon (well we saw it from the air but that doesn't count). So another trip it necessary. Also, my mom and I tend to butt heads a fair amount (in truth, I get annoyed very easily) but on this trip the only time I got annoyed and took it out on her was on our last morning when all I wanted was Dunkins and the Vegas airport had practically no breakfast options. What does a girl have to do to get an onion bagel with veggie cream cheese?
There's something really special about Kanab, Utah and the surrounding areas. I hate to say it's magical because that sounds cheesy and doesn't do it justice, but there's something so calming about the red clay and larger than life landscapes. My neuroses disappeared. And I just breathed. I can't wait to go back.
Anyways, if you still haven't read "The Lost Dogs" get off your butt and go pick it up. Now. And if you're interested in visiting or donating to or just reading about Best Friends, the website is really cool. Check it out over here. The only Vicktory dog I got to see was Lucas who happen to be visiting the clinic for a checkup when I was filling out paperwork to take Flossy home for the night. His face is scarred with reminders of where he came from but he was not scary in anyway. Although he did tear the stuffing out of a toy in two seconds flat.
Anyways, I hope you check out their website, donate $5 (every little bit counts when they're funded by donations!), and read "The Lost Dogs".
Enjoy the pictures and happy reading!

The gift shop at Best Friends.

Montana at the beginning of the presentation about Parelli.

This is Panda (well his nose) who is new to the pigs area. He was said to be depressed (he was new to his surroundings and understandably upset) yet when I walked over to him and started talking he came right over to greet me.

On the Best Friends property.

The road to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The light was fading so we just drove down the road a ways and then decided to turn around. Next time we'll go there.

View of the canyons from Dogtown.

Zion National Park

On our drive back to Vegas we had to stop when we realized what was grazing on the other side of the fence. I can now check this off my bucket list.

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