Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah – Part Two: Sleepover Dogs

To read my first blog about this incredible no-kill animal sanctuary and our two weeks of volunteering there, click here

The Concept

While being familiar with Best Friends and its animal sanctuary in Utah, Mark and I had no knowledge of their “sleepover” animals. The first time I heard about a sleepover dog was at Donna’s blog Retirement Reflections, as she reported on taking one to their pet-friendly accommodation in Kanab for the night, after volunteering at the sanctuary. 

Swift portrait

Certain cats, rabbits, and dogs at Best Friends are available for a sleepover. They have been assessed as such by a professional team and usually tried out by staff members. The only requirement to “borrow” a pet is that you’ve completed at least one volunteer shift in that particular department. In regards to dogs, they also request you don’t go out to dinner that night (but cook at your accommodation or do take-out/delivery), so the animal isn’t left alone. Other rules are to not let your sleepover dog interact with other dogs, don’t take him/her to restaurants, and don’t feed him/her human food.

Ehu is a happy boy!

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah – Part One: The Sanctuary

Where do I start?

When I met Mark while traveling through California in 2004, he handed me one of his favorite books to read. It is called “Best Friends – The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary” (published in 2001). Ever since absorbing this story about some of the founders and the animals, we have been captivated by the organization and its no-kill sanctuary in Utah, the biggest one in the country.

Red, Tiponi, Dingo, Dale, Inky, Cliff, Mandalay, Janko, Lordes

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Monthly Expenses – May 2019

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting, and adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 Since July 2018, Mark and I have been combining van life in our Zesty and house and pet sitting, which we did full-time before that. The best of both worlds! 

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce, and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Because of our income level, Mark and I are eligible for free health care within the state of Massachusetts. For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast.

The first ten days of May, Mark and I house and pet sat in Albuquerque and the rest of the month we lived in our camper van in Kanab, Utah while volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I made a comment in my last expense report that May would be an expensive month for us. It was... extremely expensive... triple the amount of April, because of our camper van.

May is the month in which we pay for our annual van insurance, which increased to over $1,000 this year. That's usually what we aim to spend (but rarely achieve) every month for all the categories! We also purchased a new alternator and pullies for the engine, which Mark replaced himself in Kanab, Utah. It was a day-long project. He can now call himself a car mechanic, on top of a boat mechanic. 🙂

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IWSG Writing Update June 2019 – About Drafts

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) engages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement, or anything really, about their writing. A different question is posed each month as a writing prompt. Answering it is optional. For June, the question is: “Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they’re up to.

My answer to the question (Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?)

I used to love reading books. I still do, but unfortunately that activity is at the bottom of my list of priorities. I have no time for it. My life is hectic in a unique sort of way. I make an exception for books I promised to beta read. As a result, I’ve read two books this year – one memoir and one cozy mystery. Yep. That’s it.

I prefer reading stories about real people and events, as opposed to fictional ones. That being said, to really relax when reading, fiction is preferred. To be honest, since I’ve become a writer, I never read for pleasure anymore. My mind can’t help itself to pick out typos and grammar mistakes (and I make notes!) or somehow learn from the craft.

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Canyons, Dead-ends, and Lessons Learned

The Plan

Things don’t always go as planned. Not that we plan often. But after our exhausting house sit in Albuquerque, the idea was to spend a couple of days at a quiet, free campground in El Malpais National Monument, drive to Canyon de Chelly to spend a day hiking and sightseeing, move to the Hopi Reservation in Navajo Nation for an affordable tour and a free night at the Cultural Center, and visit the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. That park opens on May 15th every year and—reputedly—has smaller crowds than the well-trotted South Rim. Our temporary end destination would be Kanab, Utah to volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for two weeks. (Click on or hover over the photos to read the captions.)

Panorama from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Albuquerque, NM

But… two important packages—to fix an engine problem in Zesty—refused to arrive as scheduled, before our departure from Albuquerque. Mark did all he could to reroute them to Kanab. Everything seemed in order; we left for some rest in El Malpais, an hour and a half west of the city. Luckily, we picked up a cell signal with AT&T there (we never did with our previous carrier T-Mobile). After a cold yet peaceful night, both packages were to be delivered at our pet sitting address, that Saturday. In awful weather, we returned to the house. The USPS parcel had arrived by 11am, but we waited for the UPS package until 4:30pm; it was the last stop on his route! We drove until 7:30pm to make a little bit of headway in the right direction and “urban camped” in Gallup, NM. Detour: three hours.

Lessons learned: Don’t believe everything is in order, until it actually is! And, don’t venture too far away if packages are “in transit”.

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Shay), AZ

One of the most rewarding experiences of having no expectations is arriving at a new destination and being awed. We rekindled with that feeling we discovered in Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks last year, in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Navajo Nation, Arizona. This park is free! Staring into the canyon the first time, we found vertical walls, branched off side canyons, a meandering river, and a lush valley.

Canyon de Chelly NM

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Dog Love on the Road

Mark and I love dogs. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been ten years since we last had one of our own, on Irie. Kali passed away in Puerto Rico in December 2008 and we lost Darwin on a trip to the US in December 2010.

Kali (white) and Darwin (grey)

From the moment we sailed west from the Eastern Caribbean and then into the South Pacific, we rarely saw boat dogs anymore and sometimes enjoyed the company of strays. They’d follow us on hikes or walks in town.

Once we left the sailing life and “semi-settled” in the US, we experienced a lot of dog love during three years of house and pet sitting assignments. When we moved in our camper van Zesty, we worried about missing out. But, we’ve managed to pet multiple camping dogs and even had one over for a morning of dog sitting! We’ve made many furry friends along the way this year.

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Completed House Sits – Albuquerque, NM (April 6th – May 10th, 2019)

After Mark and I finished our six-week house sit with Gunner and Beckwourth in Albuquerque last spring (you can read that post here), we never thought we’d be back. While spring isn’t great in New Mexico, circumstances did lure us in for another five weeks. As a repeat sit, the introduction to the tasks was brief and straightforward; the biggest difference a third adult Labrador, named Fitzpatrick. 

The Dogs

Three big dogs are a handful. We easily spent three hours a day taking care of their basic needs – peeing, pooping, feeding, walking. This doesn’t include brushing, bathing, clipping nails, cleaning ears, or cuddling.

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Where Utah and Arizona Meet

As Mark and I wrap up our five-week house sit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it is more than time for me to wrap up my blog posts about our explorations in Zesty before that.

Driving through inspiring landscapes

What follows is a series of snapshots of fascinating areas, which didn’t make it in previous posts. Northern Arizona and Southern Utah—it was often not clear in which state we were hiking, camping, or sightseeing—have so much to offer in terms of natural beauty (and an animal sanctuary) that we are returning soon.

Horseshoe Bend
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Monthly Expenses – April 2019

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting, and adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 Since July 2018, Mark and I have been combining van life in our Zesty and house and pet sitting, which we did full-time before that. The best of both worlds! 

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce, and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Because of our income level, Mark and I are eligible for free health care within the state of Massachusetts. For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast.

Lake Powell near Page, AZ

In April, Mark and I lived and traveled in Zesty for the first week. The rest of the month, we house and pet sat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. No crazy expenses this past month. We went out for lunch in Navajo Nation to try Native American food.

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IWSG Writing Update May 2019 – Final Edits

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) engages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement, or anything really, about their writing.

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they’re up to.

Revising and editing

I planned to title this blog “deep revision,” until I looked up what revising actually means and how it’s different from editing. Revising is about the content while editing is about sentence-level issues and typos. Basically, a deep revision would mean butchering your manuscript and rewriting parts of it. That might happen in the future if I were to find an agent/publisher, but it’s not exactly what I have been doing lately. I’ve been busy “editing.” Lots of it! Good thing I enjoy that part as much as the writing itself.

Surrounded by three labs in the office

Book progress

When I sent my manuscript to beta readers last summer, my biggest request was how to cut the prose: “Which parts could be cut? What’s boring or doesn’t add to the overall story?”

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