Best Friends

The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary

Written by: Samantha Glen

Published By: MJF Books

Reviewed by Natasia Minners

            When I came to live with my human, I learned very quickly that she loved all animals, not just cats.  She would get mail from numerous animal protection causes like World Wildlife Fund, the ASPCA and more, but I always found certain pieces of my human’s mail to be very interesting.  That would be the magazines and newsletters she would receive from a place called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.  I didn’t know much about the place at the time, but my human told me that they were a wonderful place in Utah that took in all kinds of animals, no matter how unsociable or handicapped, and had a no kill policy.  They adopted some of the animals out, even the special needs cases, but those animals that came there would have a definite forever home no matter what the circumstances.  I wanted to learn more about this wonderful animal sanctuary, so I picked up the book Best Friends by Samantha Glen.

            The author of this novel is an animal lover, there is no denying it.  She found a way to give back to an organization that gives their lives for their animal tenants by writing this book to help promote its cause.  The book describes Best Friends Animal Sanctuary from its very beginnings, introducing us to the special people who came together from all over the world with one dream in mind - caring for unwanted animals.  The originators of Best Friends believe they were fated to find the land nestled in the wilds of southern Utah and, after reading the entire story about how they found it and how they were able to keep it despite the odds, I have to say that I agree.  The work they did in the very beginning when the major funding they received came from their own pockets is nothing short of amazing.  People willing to devote their lives to giving animals a place where they can feel safe and loved are a very special breed. 

            I especially loved reading the stories about the earliest animals to find a home at this fledgling sanctuary.  Just like each of the humans who began the sanctuary eventually did, each of the original occupants of the sanctuary found their own very special niche - a talent that they maybe never knew they had that could help others.  Like Bruiser the cat who welcomed in all of the orphaned kittens and took care of them until they could adequately care for themselves.  Then there’s Benton, a cat who was left partially blind with a leg that stood completely straight after being left behind by his human and hit by a car.  He was the head kitty in the special needs section of the sanctuary. 

            Victor was a the Dogfather of Dogtown, making sure that the doggies never stepped out of bounds and Asha was his sheriff, keeping the naughty dogs in line.  His faithful deputy Rhonda, could always be counted on for a reassuring lick or two.  And who could forget Tomato the investigative kitty reporter for Best Friends Magazine and his sidekick Tammy the Greyhound?  A dog named Ginger was in charge of rounding up Dogtown’s tennis balls.  Many of the animals found special jobs to sort of “earn their keep” at the sanctuary.

            It was also astonishing to realize just how many people signed on to the notion of Best Friends after a single visit to the sanctuary.  Take Dr. Christy for example - one visit was all he needed to know that the sanctuary was in need of a vet and he did his best to teach the other staff how to perform the various tasks he was doing for the one day that he might not be able to help.  That day would come all too soon after Dr. Christy was killed in a car crash.  Luck would have it that they would find another vet years later who would warm up to the cause after one visit as well. 

            Some people came to check out the place they had donated to and found that they wanted to do more, volunteering to help around the sanctuary, adopting some furry companions, asking others to donate and more.  After word started getting around, more and more people began to trickle in - actors, kids on school trips, vacationers looking for a vacation in which they could give back a little and hang out with cool furry folk and more.  And all of these folk believed in the cause of Best Friends - no more homeless pets. 

            After reading this book, I finally understood why Best Friends was so important to my human and why she suggested I send some of my unused toys to the sanctuary to help out cats who might not have it as good as me.  Since reading Best Friends, I not only realized how lucky I’ve had it in life, but how lucky the animal folk at Best Friends should consider themselves.  After all, if the dedicated folk who conceived of the idea of this sanctuary had never come together or never been able to purchase this land, where would those homeless pets be?  I shudder to think!  I also loved the fact that Samantha Glen included all of those terrific stories about the many animals living at the sanctuary.  What terrific role models these animals make for our young kitties out there!

            Best Friends by Samantha Glen is an in depth look at one of the most beloved animal sanctuaries and one of the most important animal rights movements ever.  I may have shed a tear at some of the stories, but the book had just as many uplifting moments to dry those tears up pretty quickly.  Photos of the human and animal occupants of the sanctuary help you visualize the folks described in the book.  Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was already special to us, but reading this book endeared it to our hearts even more.


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