Student Has 'Life-Changing' Spring Break Experience Helping Animals

WC Senior Volunteers at World's Largest Sanctuary for Abused Animals

April 25, 2013

Devon Meyer is pictured with one of her best friends at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.

Devon Meyer is pictured with one of her best friends at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.

Many Wilmington College students followed the time-honored, spring break tradition of basking on Florida’s beaches and reveling in its nightspots. Enjoyable, yes, but replaying Beach Blanket Bingo a la Frankie and Annette hardly constitutes a profound experience.

Wilmington College senior Devon E. Meyer embarked upon her spring break in Utah intent upon making a difference.

Initially, she expected it would be simply be making a difference in the lives of abused and neglected animals; but ultimately, the excursion profoundly affected her own life.

“This was a life-changing experience for me,” said Meyer, a senior criminal justice major from Arcanum. “It made me want to devote my life to helping animals."

Led by Judy Harvey, assistant professor of English and coordinator of the Writing Center at WC, seven students, a mother and grandmother traveled to Kanab, Utah, to work at Best Friends Animal Society, the largest sanctuary of its kind in the world.

Located in ruggedly beautiful southern Utah, Best Friends has among its residents a menagerie of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, pigs and more, including the infamous Michael Vick’s dogs, which have now been rehabilitated and brought back to good health.

“I never saw so many caring people in one place,” Meyer said about the staff. “I could really tell that each and every worker I met really loved working there and caring for the different animals. They didn’t mind cleaning up after the animals — they were devoted to doing anything for them, no matter what health problems or other issues they had.”

Meyer’s favorite assignment as a volunteer was working with puppies.

“I’m a huge dog person and felt like I really connected with them,” she said. “I’ve had and cared for dogs all my life, but, until now, didn’t have the chance to be around other animals as I did at Best Friends.”

Visiting a section of the facility where animals are interred proved to be an especially poignant and moving experience.

“Angels Rest was the most peaceful place I have ever been to. It was the place where I was most emotional,” she recalled. “Being there brought back memories of one of my dogs passing away in August. It made me think about all of the animal owners who lost their pets.”

Meyer’s time at Best Friends enhanced her compassion for animals, especially those that have been abused or neglected, and provided her with some soul-searching insight into her career aspirations.

“I had been looking into being either a parole officer or an animal control officer, and being at Best Friends has made me want to work with animals even more, especially for a no-kill employer,” she said. “While I love helping people make their lives better, I would also like to be able to do that with animals.”

In addition to spending the week volunteering at Best Friends, the group took some time for sightseeing that included Las Vegas, Zion Canyon, ancient petroglyphs, a Western movie set and Utah’s breathtaking landscape. Also, they met the staff and cast of the television show Dogtown.

“This was by far the most memorable spring break trip ever,” she added. “Once I told my friends that went to Florida about my experience, they became jealous and said they wished they would have made the trip to Kanab.”