Wet licks, warm, fuzzy bodies, and wagging tails greeted those in attendance at the March 25 grand opening of Val’s Puppy Care Center at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The new puppy care facility will house the youngest of a discarded dog population in need of real homes, currently cared for at Best Friends.

Two new buildings to better facilitate puppy care were added to the complex of buildings at the Best Friends facility north of Kanab. The new buildings, the Enrietto and Kallas Foundation’s puppy admissions building, and the Laurie and Carlee McGrath “Puppy Preschool” were unveiled.

Best Friends Animal Society CEO Greg Castle said the new puppy care buildings would help facilitate better socialization for the young dogs, and further advance the cause of no more homeless pets. “We’re in the business of saving lives,” said Castle. He said the new buildings would provide opportunity to train and educate the puppies, as well as those who will potentially adopt them.

Castle thanked the new facility’s numerous supporters, and cited Val Diker specifically, who had been a driving force on the project for the past three years. He added how grateful Best Friends has been for the incredible and generous support of all people who care about animals. Castle said the new building showed the future of animal rescue looks bright.

Kanab City Mayor Nina Laycook welcomed guests, and told of her first trip to Best Friends in 1993. Cyrus Mejia showed her around the then-meager facilities, and explained to her what animal facilities they were planning to build at different locations. She said she was skeptical about what seemed to be the somewhat grandiose plans, but 17 years later had witnessed many of them.

Best Friends Director of Animal Care Patty Hegwood excitedly thanked those in attendance. She mentioned a few of the new features in the new puppy care facilities, including radiant floors for warmth

Hegwood then spoke of the past when most Best Friends facilities were filled to capacity, and weather extremes would raise havoc with care provision. “The water would freeze in the bowls and we would have to chip the ice, so they could get drinks.”

“It’s an exciting job,” said Hegwood. “You have helped widen the universe. We can’t thank you enough.”

“I became involved with Best Friends from their magazine,” explained Val Diker. She questioned what she could do to help. Diker, seeking funding, encouraged friends to view films on and discuss Best Friends’ mission. She said she believes Best Friends has outgrown many of their current facilities, and puppies in particular need to first be kept in a quieter atmosphere to enhance adoptability. Diker stressed she’ll continue to work on future building projects at Best Friends. “We have to let the staff have the maximum facilities to do what they do so well,” added Diker.

After the ribbon cutting, the new puppies were brought in to enjoy their new digs. With the help of dog trainer Ann Allums, building namesakes Laurie and Carlee McGrath demonstrated several puppy training exercises with the first occupants charming the crowd of admiring onlookers.

It was puppy love at first sight!