As Rampage the large, white hair, curved horn goat approached the gate where we were giving head scratches, our guide Angie, said; “Be careful. He can be a little sassy,” and suggested we use the backscratcher hanging nearby for the requested head scratch. Here I was on a Friday morning in April, standing at a corral in Kanab, Utah, scratching the heads of goats at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and having a wonderful time. Just a month before I would never dreamed this would be my first trip outside of New England since the start of the Covid Pandemic.
An unexpected email a few weeks earlier started me down this trail. I am the volunteer editor for the blog; “Beyond Survival: Still We Rise,” here on the MenHealing website. I attended MenHealing Weekend of Recovery in 201, where male survivors from around the country gather to build community and learn new skills for their healing journey. Since then I have participated in several MenHealing events and volunteered to coordinate and edit the blog.
The email offered me a weekend of service with other MenHealing staff and volunteers. Following careful deliberation and conversation with my family, armed with my strategies to avoid covid, I flew to Salt Lake City.
After a night at a MenHealing volunteer’s home, three of us headed across the plains and over the mountains to Kanab. The following morning found us at the sanctury, joined by another volunteer, touring the 4,000-acre facility in orientation for our weekend of service.
More Than Goats
The goats were only a small part of the tour. We visited with donkeys, horses, puppies, cats, and pot belly pigs. Did you know that pot belly pigs are only kept small if they are starved? Many owners did not know that either and found they had not place for a 200-pound pig.
As we ate lunch on the outdoor deck of the cafeteria we took in the incredible vista; red rock canyon, plateaus and buttes off in the distance enfolded in the blue sky. That is a view worth far more than our $5 meal.
We spent our working shifts pulling weeds, raking hay, cleaning closets, making dog cones and visiting with the animals. I know of no better way to build comradery than sharing in service work together. We laughed around our meals, shared stories, discussed a broad range of topics and became comfortable with each other. One afternoon we hiked a couple of miles into Bryce Canyon taking in the natural beauty, tiny red flowers announcing spring under bright sunshine.
While our days were cool to locals they were just right for this Mainer with highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s.
My sense of humor became noted by the group and soon there were labeled “Dad” jokes. These are not jokes about dads, but jokes by me, a dad.
Inspiration and Gratitude
As I waited at the Salt Lake City airport for my 2-hour delayed, red eye flight to Boston, I felt a deep appreciation for the dedication of the Best Friends staff. Everyone I met was committed to the mission of caring for these animals, finding them homes or a good place to live out their lives. I arrived in Boston, tired, but with gratitude for new friendships, the work of MenHealing, and the unexpected gift of a weekend away just when I most needed it.
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Be well. Stay safe. Take good care.