My story: Best Friends volunteer Tracey Lacka
For the people who’ve experienced it — those who have walked in its red dirt, taken in its majestic beauty and touched the lives of its animals — Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is 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.
The Sanctuary, located 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 few of them so they can share their stories and experiences from the heart.
Tracey Lacka, from Toronto, Ontario Canada tells us what she loved most about her time at Best Friends.
Where did you volunteer?
Piggy Paradise, Horse Haven, Dogtown (including Puppy Preschool, Old Friends and the Clubhouse) and the Bunny House. I am looking forward for an opportunity to visit the New York adoption center as well.
What made you want to volunteer with Best Friends?
I fell in love with Best Friends when I watched “DogTown,” and I follow a lot of the Vicktory dogs on social media. A few years ago my family started sponsoring animals as a gift at Christmas. This past June, I turned 50, and I had a Best Friends party where, in lieu of gifts, I asked people to donate to Best Friends and help me fund my first trip to Best Friends. My dream was to meet my sponsored animals. This past Christmas I sponsored Cowboy, a horse with a swayed back, for my niece and Vicktory dog Meryl for my nephew, because Best Friends has provided a wonderful forever home for her.
When you volunteered with Best Friends, what was your job?
I did everything from helping prepare breakfast for the pigs and dogs, brushing horses, poop scooping, shy dog training and clicker training with dogs and cleaning at the Bunny House. To wind down at the end of the day I got to read to the dogs and the bunnies, which was relaxing for them and for me.
Which volunteer job was your favorite?
Oh boy, that's a hard one. I loved Piggy Paradise because I got to meet Oliver, my sponsored pig, and caregiver Rosalie was very informative and made the experience wonderful. Dogtown was also very special — especially the area called the Clubhouse. Dogtown caregiver Haven made the day great. I helped with everything from prepping breakfast to working with shy dogs and doing some clicker training with the dogs while there was a Sanctuary tour. I felt like I really helped out.
Why do you volunteer?
It is an incredibly selfless and rewarding experience to give of yourself to help animals or others in need. I think everyone should volunteer, whether it be at a sanctuary like Best Friends, or a local shelter. It makes you feel good inside. You are helping animals who in some cases have had a terrible start in life or had terrible experiences and need help with their healing process.
Could you please tell us about your favorite volunteer moment?
Choosing just one moment is hard, but I’d have to say it was shy dog training with Shiloh — getting her to come closer and closer to accept treats until she was almost right beside me.
Was there a favorite animal you met or worked with while volunteer! She loved to be brushed and receive affection.
What’s the most rewarding part of volunteering?
It’s feeling like you were really being helpful. The staff seems so appreciative of everything you do to help, whether it be mopping the floors or reading during quiet time.
What’s the most difficult part?
Leaving! I cried as I left my last shift at Dogtown. On my last day I made my way to Angels Rest and Angels Overlook for a final goodbye.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your volunteer experience with Best Friends?
I knew that this trip would be truly a life-changing heartwarming experience, and I was right. Every day was different. I met people from all over who shared a love and dedication to animals like myself. I plan to return in the near future and become one of those annual volunteers.
Photos courtesy of Tracey Lacka