Just a tail between us

Church youth find their animal selves at Best Friends.
By Best Friends Animal Society

Once again the energetic teens from the Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix, Arizona, visited Best Friends and this time they brought their buddies from the Shepherd of the Hills in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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"Our visit taught me animals are just like us, except for the tail and their language," said Katye Jones, age 12. "If they had something traumatic happen to them in their childhood, they need help to outgrow it, just like humans."

The teens weeded every inch of Angels Rest, the pet cemetery; worked on trails and even broke rocks with sledgehammers; took a group of lucky bunnies out for an outing on the grass at Angels Landing; cleaned the dogs’ play areas and washed their beds; took dogs through clicker training; and made blankets and toys for the kittens. Whew!

But 15-year-old Dan Kerege said all this hard work was a good thing. "We actually are doing something this summer instead of just sitting around and doing nothing."

Kylene Nelson said her big dream of becoming an attorney will just have to wait a year or two. "When I’m 18, I want to work here first," the 14-year-old said.

The diversity of animals at Best Friends impressed Kelsey Waite, age 14. "Most people have cats or dogs but here you get to meet birds, bunnies, horses."

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"This experience is mind-blowing. Every time I come, it gets more and more profound," said Sam Mellott, age 15. "I meet more and more animals with special needs.

But getting to Best Friends involved a lot of work, too. They sold $25 "youth stock" to members of their congregation. Each stock held a commitment of 20 hours of community service. The teens collected food and cleaned houses, even mowed the lawn for a 100-year-old woman.

The big fundraising hit, though, was the dog wash, said group leader Michele Mellott. "We put up a big banner by the church and all the neighbors brought their dogs, even people who aren’t part of the church. We washed 25 dogs and I swear it seemed like they were all big dogs. The owners loved it and even jumped in the plastic pools with the dogs and the kids to help. We had several people ask if we could do the dog wash again, so we are going to try and do it every month."

We’ll be looking forward to the teens' return next summer.

By Barbara Williamson