Bucket list trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

It took 30 years, but one Best Friends fan, a 78-year-old woman, finally got her volunteer dream vacation, a true bucket list experience.
By Jennifer Hayes

Jane makes a new friend: a black catSome people aspire to one day visit Hawaii. Others seek the thrill of skydiving. However, Jane Blythe’s bucket list always included a trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. “This fulfillment of my dream really means something,” says 78-year-old Jane.

It’s been a long time coming, too. Jane first learned about Best Friends roughly 30 years ago after reading about the organization in a newspaper article. Jane liked what she read, so she sent in a $15 donation — a lot of money for her at the time as a single mother going through a divorce. And she’s been a fan ever since.

So after 30 years of waiting and reading about Best Friends from afar, Jane finally visited the Sanctuary. And to make the trip even more special, she shared the visit with her 13-year-old granddaughter, Alexis.

Volunteering with cats, dogs and rabbits

After waiting so long, Jane wanted to make the most of her trip. So she and Alexis planned a full itinerary that included a variety of Sanctuary tours, as well as volunteer time with the rabbits, cats and dogs.

As much as Jane loves animals, she was happy to see how much the animals really loved Alexis. When visiting Benton’s House, a Best Friends building housing many special-needs cats, Alexis sat down and four to five cats began climbing all over her. That’s when she earned the nickname Cat Whisperer.

It wasn’t just cats who were drawn to Jane’s granddaughter. In Dogtown, Mocha Too, a typically shy dog, approached Alexis within five minutes and soon was even enjoying being petted.

Extra time with animals

Their fun lasted 24 hours a day. In addition to volunteering, they hosted animals on sleepovers. Over the course of their stay, Jane and Alexis brought several pets with them to their hotel for some special time away from the Sanctuary. They hosted bunnies Brie and Berry, Edward the cat, and Lordes the dog. Each animal provided them with such joy that, as Jane says, “We’d have taken a horse if we could have gotten away with it.”

While they loved them all, it was Lordes who really worked her way into their hearts. Alexis spent all afternoon playing ball and tug of war with the dog. So when it was time to leave for dinner, a worn-out Lordes wouldn’t budge.

“She flopped on her back and put her arms up as if saying, ‘Hold me,’” says Alexis. It worked! Alexis carried the pooped-out pup all the way from the couch to the car.

Jane and Alexis with Toothless the puppyNeed to return to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

At the end of their trip, neither Jane nor Alexis wanted to leave. “It was everything I hoped for and more,” says Jane. However, when she returns home to Sarasota, Florida, she intends to get her feline fix by volunteering for Cat Depot, a Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network partner. And Alexis was so inspired that she plans to get involved on behalf of animals back home in Rhode Island.

Though Jane’s trip was well worth the 30-year wait, she knows she will return. But this time she won’t wait quite as long.

“A part of my heart is there now, so I have to return,” says Jane. “It’s the only place where I’ve met so many people who feel exactly the same way I do.”

Learn more about volunteering at Best Friends.

Photos by Molly Wald and Kurt Budde


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