Birthday trip of a lifetime to volunteer with animals

Lyn Flynn decided to celebrate her 65th birthday with a gift to herself — a trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. However, she didn’t anticipate Murphy’s Law coming along for the ride. A week before her trip, she lost her phone. She traveled through five airports to get to the Sanctuary. Along the way, she lost her credit card, and upon arrival, the hotel didn’t have her reservation. In spite of this, once she arrived at Best Friends, all her troubles dissipated.

“It all fell away and I just felt the calm and beauty of the place flow over me,” says Lyn. “It was wonderful. I didn’t have another bad experience the remainder of the time I was there.”

Personal perch for a pigeon

Lyn volunteering with Ringo the pigeon on her shoulderAfter yearning to visit the Sanctuary for 25 years, Lyn wanted to make the most of her trip. She scheduled three weeks for working with the animals and local sightseeing. Not surprisingly, the lion’s share of her time was at Best Friends, where she volunteered at all of the animal care areas, including Wild Friends. However, she never anticipated meeting a special friend while cleaning the pigeon area.

As soon as she entered the enclosure, Ringo flew over and perched on her shoulder. That was her first close interaction with a pigeon, but certainly not her last. Throughout the day as she cleaned, he revisited her shoulder multiple times, a good perch for inspecting and approving her efforts.

“I felt welcome,” says Lyn. “He would come and sit on me while I was working. It made the work a little easier, too.”

Learn about Wild Friends at our Sanctuary.

Two nights make a difference for two cats

Lyn makes a new feline friend at Cat WorldSince Lyn has cats at home and has volunteered the past seven years for Kindred Kitties in Kenosha, Wisconsin, naturally she spent plenty of time helping at Cat World. And just like with Ringo, she managed to make some new friends.

Lyn says all the cats were friendly at Casa de Calmar, the home for Sanctuary cats with feline leukemia. But there were two standouts — Barney and Bo. They made such an impression that she hosted them for a sleepover in her hotel room.

Barney, a sleepover veteran, was outgoing and affectionate. However, the change in scenery affected Bo, who spent the night under the bed. In the morning, though, Bo found his courage and joined Barney and Lyn for some playtime before returning to Best Friends.

That experience with the pair of cats left a mark on Lyn’s heart, so she requested them for a second evening. This time, however, Bo knew what to expect, so he enjoyed time on top of the bed, instead of under it.

“All three of us slept snuggled next to each other,” recalls Lyn. “It was so neat. I knew that I had actually made a difference in that cat’s life.”

Animal advocate spreading the word

Even on her days sightseeing away from the Sanctuary, Best Friends was always on Lyn’s mind. She just switched hats — from volunteer to advocate.

“It was Best Friends the entire trip,” says Lyn. “No matter where I traveled, I told people who had never heard of Best Friends about it. I got so many people interested.” Spreading the word might just lead to others taking dream trips to Best Friends, where animals of many species are waiting to leave a lasting impression, just as they did on Lyn.

Find out about volunteering at Best Friends.

Photos by Molly Wald and Kurt Budde