A gift from the heart

Kat Lucas and Cherry the pigKat Lucas has been helping animals for years, but last month was the first time she had the chance to volunteer and meet the animals in beautiful Angel Canyon.

That’s because Kat lives in Hamburg, Germany, where she works as a market manager for Expedia, Inc. The job keeps the hardworking Kat quite busy, so she definitely deserved a vacation. And the timing turned out to be perfect. Expedia recently announced that, as part of a matching gift program, employees who volunteer at a nonprofit organization would earn $15 per hour to donate to that organization. Kat was soon on her way to Best Friends, to volunteer at the Sanctuary and to raise money for the animals.

Memorable moments

Her strong work ethic followed her. During her 10-day visit, Kat helped out in all eight animal areas: Dogtown, Cat World, Horse Haven, Marshall’s Piggy Paradise, the Bunny House, Rescue Village, Parrot Garden and Wild Friends. Though she couldn’t name a favorite, Kat had plenty of memorable moments, and noted that by saying, “Every day there is something special.”

One of her favorite jobs was refilling the pond with fresh water for Woodstock the duck, who lives at Wild Friends. “Woodstock was so appreciative and excited. He jumped in and out of the water like a little kid,” Kat says. “You could see how happy he was.”

Kat also made Toofers, a senior dog who came to the Sanctuary from a shelter, as happy as he could be. “I just loved walking him,” Kat says. As an older dog who sometimes has seizures, he wasn’t likely to thrive in or ever hope to find a home away from the shelter. “But here he is fine,” she says. “He’s a happy dog, and it's nice that he gets to live out his life. That’s something really special.”

New experiences

Kat Lucas with Skid the goatAt the Sanctuary, dogs aren’t the only animals who go for walks. Cats, goats, pigs, horses, and the occasional duck and rooster do, too. After learning that, Kat visited the Welcome Center with a friendly, gregarious goat name Cupid. “It was really cool to walk into the Welcome Center,” she says. “It was a new experience and really fun. I’ve never walked a goat before.”

Kat spent the last day of her trip at Horse Haven in the lower part of Angel Canyon, a location she’s come to love. She certainly isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. “You don’t just muck pastures,” she explains. “You get to learn about the horses and their special needs, and you get a guided tour of the canyon at the same time. It’s peaceful and quiet there, with hawks flying around overhead.”

Renewed

Kat spent a total of 60 hours working to give Sanctuary animals some extra love and care. For her efforts, Expedia will donate $900 to Best Friends to directly benefit the animals. But Kat’s generosity doesn’t end there. Like many volunteers, she left Best Friends feeling renewed and reinvigorated about continuing her volunteer work back home.

In Germany, Kat helps out at her local shelter as a dog walker and an adoption counselor, guiding potential adopters to consider dogs that match their lifestyle and handling skills, instead of focusing on breed or age. Her experiences at the Sanctuary have given her some extra inspiration and knowledge to continue doing her important, lifesaving work. And that is truly a gift from the heart.

Be a part of the magic by becoming a Best Friends member.

Want to help out too? Become a volunteer.

Photos by Molly Wald