All Creatures Great and Small

by Matthew Baker

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Most people try to surround themselves with good friends. Kim isn’t much different, but some of her friends are.

The sound from more than 700 barking dogs is deafening, but Kim Nahler enjoys the noise. And it’s a good thing, because during her summer vacation, Kim spends four hours a day listening to this canine chorus.

Kim, 14, is a member of the Kanab Utah First Ward and a volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in the heart of southern Utah’s red-rock country. The sanctuary houses more than 1,800 animals, including dogs, cats, birds, and horses. All the animals at the sanctuary are there because they have been injured, abused, or abandoned. Kim, along with the rest of the volunteers, helps care for and rehabilitate the animals until each animal can be placed in a permanent home.

“I like being around the animals,” says Kim, who has volunteered with the dogs for three years during her summer vacations.

Every morning Kim prepares food for the dogs and feeds them. Some of the dogs require special foods and medication, and Kim learns quickly which dogs need special attention. “It makes you patient,” Kim says. “When you feed the dogs, they all jump on you when you go into their cages.”

When Kim takes biscuits around to the dogs, she suddenly has hundreds of best friends. As a small pack of dogs, eager to eat a snack, jumps on Kim, she stays calm even though she doesn’t weigh much more than some of the anxious animals. Although the more aggressive dogs get their biscuits first, Kim makes sure that all the dogs gathered around her get an equal helping.

During the three summers she has volunteered at the animal sanctuary, Kim has gained a greater respect for animals. “Everything is God’s creation, and we should respect that.”

All Creatures of Our God and King

When God created the earth, He also created animals. These animals are ordained for our use, but we will be held accountable for how we treat them. “For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures” (D&C 104:13).

Kim takes her stewardship over animals seriously and is upset when she sees people abuse God’s creatures. Through her service, she shows by example how animals should be treated.

Brigham Young also taught the principle of respect for life. In the first discourse he gave after the Tabernacle was completed, President Young taught of the blessings that come from kind treatment of animals. “The more kind we are to our animals, the more will peace increase, and the savage nature of the brute creation vanish away” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1997, 333).

Respect for Life

Although working with dogs every day can sometimes be tiring, Kim feels the service is worth her sacrifice. “Sometimes it’s a little bit hard because you have to wake up early in the morning. You know it’s your summer, and you want to sleep in a little bit. Other times it’s ‘Oh yeah, I get to go in to volunteer today.’

“Doing this is well worth my time. Afterwards I feel like I’ve done something,” Kim says. “The dogs need attention, love, and caring.”

As Kim walks past the dogs in the sanctuary, the crescendo of barking moves along with her. Although Kim volunteers with dogs, she loves all animals.

Kim’s service allows many animals to live in a caring environment, free from abuse. This service gives Kim the feeling that she is doing her part to care for God’s creations.

Photography by Matthew Baker and © copyright 1996 PhotoDisc

After spending the morning taking care of hundreds of animals, Kim enjoys some quiet time playing with her cat at home (far left).

Taking care of animals is a good way to learn respect for God’s creations. It’s also a good way to learn patience.

The dogs at the sanctuary seem to especially enjoy Kim’s company. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has a box of dog biscuits. The big challenge is trying to see that everyone gets a fair share.

Kim and her brother, Johnathan Redmond (right), say that taking care of their pets has brought them closer together and taught them to respect all animals.

Lisa Gaudette (above, left) helps take care of the horses at the sanctuary. Kim’s family members (right) have taken several animals from the sanctuary into their home.