Sanctuary becomes the highlight of couple’s southern Utah vacation

Husband and wife from England fall in love with the Sanctuary while volunteering with animals and one cat in particular.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Like many people who live in England and vacation overseas, Edina and Nathan Ivens enjoy spending time in the American Southwest. Usually, they take in the breathtaking scenery in and around the national parks, but until this past September, they’d never visited Best Friends.

The couple learned about Best Friends online and wanted to spend some time at the Sanctuary. But they didn’t know anyone who had visited before, and they were a little skeptical. “We feared that visiting an animal sanctuary might be sad,” Nathan explained. “We expected to see lots of animals in cages.”  But once they were in Kanab, Utah, home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, they decided to experience it for themselves. They put aside any lingering doubts to schedule a visit and some volunteer time.

Edina Ivens enjoying her volunteer vacation at Cat World at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

“A rewarding place”

The verdict? “We are so glad we did this,” Edina says. Not only does the natural scenery at the Sanctuary rival that of the surrounding area (including the national parks), but the couple was also thrilled with the animals and the people they met. “This is such a rewarding place and a great place to spend time,” Nathan says. “There is a great feel about the place. The vibe is just fantastic. It’s the whole package.”

Of course, as animal lovers, Edina and Nathan wanted to spend as much time as possible working hands-on with the Sanctuary animals. And, as it turned out, they found their volunteer niche almost immediately. A day working in CalMar, the building in Cat World that houses cats with feline leukemia (FeLV) quickly ignited their passion. But it was one cat in particular who stole their hearts.

Volunteer at the Sanctuary

Edina and Nathan Ivens on their volunteer vacation playing with one of the FeLV positive cats at Calmar at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Happy cat

Cassidy came to the Sanctuary through a Best Friends network partner after her person became ill. “We fell in love with her straight away,” Nathan says of the petite black cat. “She has a missing ear and no teeth, and she is still so happy.”

Edina and Nathan made Cassidy even happier by taking her on several sleepovers during their stay. Though they wished they could take Cassidy home with them, they have four indoor cats back in England, and one former stray cat who prefers to live in their garage with a heated blanket and a cat door. Because the FeLV virus can spread from cat to cat via close contact (including grooming and shared food bowls), Cassidy must live as an only cat, or with other cats who have FeLV.

So Edina and Nathan spoiled Cassidy as much as they could on the sleepovers. When their vacation was over and it was time to say goodbye, Edina got a little emotional. But the couple was already planning a return trip. Before they left, they promised Cassidy they would see her again next September, if she isn’t adopted by then.

Edina and Nathan Ivens with Cassidy the cat on a sleepover in their hotel

More family fun in Utah

That turned out to be too long to wait. So in April Edina returned — this time with her identical twin sister, Krisztina Cotrim. The sisters work at the same dental office and live only about a mile apart in London. Not surprisingly, Krisztina fell in love with the Sanctuary just as quickly as Edina did. “It’s a magical place,” she says. “All of the animals are so great.” Cassidy immediately became Krisztina’s favorite, too. And, like Edina, it was difficult for her to return the sweet black cat after a sleepover.

But Edina, Krisztina and Nathan are planning lots more family fun in Utah. Edina and Nathan are still planning a trip to the Sanctuary in September. And Krisztina will bring her husband during his 40th birthday trip — a trip that was planned for Las Vegas and Mexico, but now also includes the Sanctuary. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Ivens and Cotrim families will be planning many future international vacations that include visiting the animals at Best Friends.

Start planning your trip to the Sanctuary

Family fun in Utah with Nathan Ivens and dog

Photos by Molly Wald and courtesy of Edina and Nathan Ivens

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