Of all the miles I've walked in the spectacular landscapes of the American Southwest, one of the most memorable was a stroll over a stretch of desert scrub with a scruffy, playful, sweet-as-can-be black-and-white dog named Harley. We met at Dogtown, a section of the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, www.bestfriends. org, outside the Utah town of Kanab. Harley, like many of the approximately 500 dogs at Best Friends and many of the pigs, horses, birds, rabbits, mules and other animals who live there was abandoned by his owners. Others had it worse. They were abused, used for fighting or kept in horrible conditions. But since they landed at Best Friends, the U.S.'s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, they found people willing to love and care for them, which, blessedly, allows people like you and me to adopt them for the day or in some cases, for good.
Founded in the early 1980s, Best Friends sits on several thousand acres roughly halfway between the better-known destinations of Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon although it has become fairly well known itself, since it became the subject of the National Geographic Channel series Dogtown, and since it took in fighting dogs owned by professional football player Michael Vick, who was sentenced in 2007 to 23 months in jail for his role in a dogfighting ring. Visitors can take dogs and potbellied pigs! for walks, feed horses or tend to rabbits. You can stop in for the day, or stay longer, sleeping in a handful of cabins on the grounds. If you're planning to catch some of Utah's scenery during your next Stateside visit, remember that it's even more beautiful with a couple of dogs happily leading the way.