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Best Friends Animal Society: People and animals helping each other

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Parrots are loud. Like really loud. And Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, a 3,700-acre facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and housing of animals, is filled with them.

“They’re the loudest birds in the world, five decibels less than a 747,” said Jacque Johnson with the group’s Parrot Paradise, part retirement home, part rehab center for a few hundred of these incredibly intelligent birds.

Among the desert sage, Best Friends is spread through a canyon. Bunny World is state of the art – staff and bunnies are well versed clicker training, a process staff uses to gain the animals’ attention.

There’s Wild Friends, for birds of prey, Cat World, where felines rule the day. And over at Horse Haven, 40 equines from all over, like Red, a thoroughbred that once sold for $80,000, who rescued from a life of neglect and who now spends lazy days munching on alfalfa and greeting visitors.

Founded by a group of kind-hearted friends in Arizona, the nonprofit is home to thousands of animals: horses, goats and pot-bellied pigs like the 280-pound Roxy, who rubs up against anyone she can.

The Dog Town facility is world-renowned for its canine rehabilitation program.

Cutting edge medical care for every creature, a dedicated staff and an army of volunteers make it happen. And volunteers are lining up for the chance to lend a hand. What started with some homeless pets, hungry horses and injured wildlife nearly 40 years ago, now leads the way in the rehabilitation and re-socialization of countless animals, and has developed a spay and neuter campaign alongside a national adoption program.

“A group of us saw the tremendous need,” said cofounder Faith Maloney, who specifically founded Dog Town. “In shelters we were really killing a lot of animals, so the need was desperate to be able to help. Back in those early days, it was just a few of us. We now have a staff of 50 at Dog Town, plus we have veterinarians, a state-of-the-art clinic, we have dog trainers.”

The canyon pulses with a true affinity toward the tenants. Staff work closely with their subjects; There is a special connection. And whenever any resident of Best Friends is adopted, be it pig, parrot or puppy, it’s bittersweet for staff who have grown close to these critters.

For those creatures who spend their final days in the canyon, there’s a place, Angels Rest, filled with windchimes, favorite toys and collars. Just try to hold back a tear.

In this canyon it goes both ways. People work with animals, but the animals are helping people.

“When you come here, you have to get out of yourself and help another creature,” Maloney said. “You can easily forget your troubles.”

For more information, visit www.bestfriends.org

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