Wild Wild West

I’ve never been farther west than Arkansas, but thanks to a grant from the ASPCA, I got to hop on a plane to Tempe, Arizona earlier this month. You’d think I was a kid in a candy store–gawking at every single cactus and mountain. (Seriously, this post could almost be titled “Who knew there were this many types of cacti?”)

When you’re used to the Great Smokies, the bald, sandy peaks look strange. They rose up out of the ground in the middle of this flat desert, which looked so odd.

I stayed just a few yards from Arizona State University. I rented a car and drove to the Grand Canyon, through miles of nothing. I visited the Desert Botanical Garden at sunset, and I got to eat and drink at some of the coolest local restaurants.

This was also the first trip that I have ever taken by myself. That was quite the experience in itself, but my only-child instincts kicked in and I embraced the solitude eventually. That’s not to say I was alone. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and talk to servers, fellow tourists and some locals who introduced me to a side of Tempe that I would’ve never seen.

(Click to enlarge images and view as a slideshow.)

Oh, and if you were wondering about the conference, I learned about leadership and what it takes to make it in the animal welfare world. We debriefed the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, which consumed my life this past summer. During that challenge, the GBHS adopted out 1,051 pets in just three months! Go team!

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