Spent two hours washing dishes Saturday at Rikki’s Refuge. It’s an animal sanctuary down in Rapidan, Virginia, west of Fredericksburg. Was greeted by a little neurological kitty who was lounging in the middle of the road which, according to the sign, I was supposed to take for parking. Cats. They never read. The sanctuary is home to 650 cats and 40 or so dogs, plus goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, actual pigs, a cow, an emu, a llama, and a pheasant. And there’s the distinct potential I might have missed a species there. A few cat characters supervised my duties in the kitchen, which is attached to the “hospital, isolation, and psych ward” as the volunteer coordinator referred to it. They’re doing a really great job, especially at giving ferals, FIV-positive, and FeLuk kitties a place to live. I hadn’t thought about it, but I guess those three Fs are the hardest cats to find homes for, after the incontinent and neurological, all of which I am sure they have lots of in stock if anyone needs one for back to school.
It’s a massive undertaking, running one of these places. I was walking around, naturally comparing it to Best Friends, which isn’t really fair. They’ve only been around half as long as Best Friends, but after I started thinking I realized that wasn’t what made the two institutions different. The big difference is that Best Friends was founded by a group really passionate about animals, all with very different skill sets. They had the Battistas sitting at tables doing PR in Los Angeles, Faith Maloney running the animal logistics, the Mejias to create the visitor program, Michael Mountain to get the good news to the masses, and over a dozen other people, all of whom were passionate and good at what they did. Having that broad a base really helps identify best practices quickly. And while Rikki’s has 330 acres, Best Friends now has 3300, plus another 30000 they lease. Rikki’s takes in from places as far away as Georgia (the state). Best Friends takes in from Georgia (the country). It’s a degree of scale. Rikki’s will never be Best Friends. And that’s okay. We need them to be Rikki’s. And I’ll continue to spend a few hours there each month until there are no more homeless pets.
P.S. For fans of Dogtown, Best Friends has put out a web episode that gives updates on some of the dogs and answers visitor questions. It’s over an hour long. Be sure to stay for the end for the baby bunnehs and to see big ol’ Warrior at Vinnie’s.
Filed under: Play | 3 Comments
Tags: Best Friends, cats, ferals, volunteering