My story: Best Friends volunteer Sheri Slattery
For the people who’ve experienced Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, it's much more than a place where animal lovers go to work and play. There’s a certain magic in the air and in those unforgettable moments when someone makes a heartfelt connection with a rescued dog, cat, bird, bunny or barnyard animal. That’s what happened a few times over for Sheri Slattery, who called her first volunteer trip to Best Friends “therapy for the soul.”
The Sanctuary, in Kanab, Utah, is nestled between the sprawling red rocks of Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. But above all, it is an animal lover’s paradise. People come from all over the country and the world to volunteer with the animals at Best Friends, and we’ve caught up with a few of them for a chance to share their stories and experiences from the heart.
In the following interview, Sheri from San Antonio, Texas, tells us what she loved most about the time she and her 17-year-old daughter, Heather, spent at Best Friends.
Where did you volunteer?
What made you want to volunteer with Best Friends?
The feeling of love, warmth, camaraderie and peacefulness that we experienced during our first visit in July of 2017 was addicting! We weren’t able to volunteer that time, but we knew we wanted to go back. As a vegetarian for over 35 years, I was touched by the fact that all human food there is vegetarian. Immediately, I felt I belonged. When I drive onto Best Friends property, I feel enveloped with love.
Which volunteer job is your favorite?
What does volunteering mean to you and why do you do it?
People have told me I am a wonderful person for volunteering at Best Friends, but I know I get more out of my time with the animals than they get from me. Spending time with the special animals relaxes me, calms me and makes my soul feel good. It is so difficult to explain this to people who haven’t been to Best Friends. All I can say is that if you volunteer there, your life will be changed forever. I have been donating to Best Friends for over 25 years, but my first visit wasn’t until July 2017. When I first drove onto the property, I was stunned by the peacefulness that Best Friends exudes. To be around so many loved animals who are being treated with respect and dignity by a group of amazing people who share my ideas about animal welfare is overwhelming! I don’t consider my time at Best Friends to be volunteering. I consider it to be therapy for my soul.
What was your favorite volunteer moment with Best Friends?
We spent two shifts at Quincy House, where cats with special needs live at Cat World, and we were able to interact with some very special kitties. Little Eliana touched our hearts. We took her outside, and she rolled around in the sand and squinted in the sunlight. She looked incredibly peaceful and happy. How wonderful, we thought, that a cat with three legs, one of which doesn’t work well, could be so content. Eventually, she got up and started walking (sliding) around. We were surprised when she climbed four stairs! Later, I discussed the Quincy House cats with my daughter. When I asked her what her time there had taught her about people, she replied, “Even if someone has a physical or mental disability, they are still worthy of respect and dignity.” (It was) a life lesson taught by a tiny, sweet, physically-challenged feline.
Was there a favorite person or animal you met or worked with while volunteering?
I ran into Faith Mahoney (one of the co-founders of Best Friends) at lunch one day and was star-struck!
We fell in love with three animals this trip. A cat named Eunice immediately cuddled in my daughter’s lap when she sat on the floor. Eunice was a new arrival, and we could tell she wanted a lot of attention. She was our sleepover guest for two nights, and she was a perfect little lady. Clearly, she loves cuddling in bed because that’s where she stayed almost the entire time we had her. She was such a love and so difficult to leave!
Azalea at Dogtown looks intimidating, but she’s really a big marshmallow. After taking her on a walk, we sat in her room and were the recipients of her amazing capacity to love. She went back and forth between the two of us for petting and finally settled down on the floor near both of us. She was such a wonderful, gentle snuggler!
Danielle the goat quickly stole my heart when she actually smiled for a selfie I took of us! We relaxed together outside, Danielle rested on a board while I put my arms around her and then I rested my head against her while marveling at the southern Utah scenery and fresh air. It was difficult saying goodbye to sweet Danielle.
What’s the most rewarding part of volunteering?
The feelings of love and peacefulness we gain from spending time with the people and animals at Best Friends sustain us in difficult times. I am filled with love and renewed confidence that at least some of mankind has compassion for our fellow earthlings.
What’s the most difficult part?
We hated saying goodbye to all the animals we met. They are all so loved that we wanted to stay there forever.
Photos courtesy of Sheri Slattery