Westlake woman fullfills role fostering dogs in need

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By Sylvie Belmond

A retired intensive care nurse, Gale Haley of Westlake Village provides a safe haven for abandoned animals with special needs.

Haley has been fostering dogs for Agoura-based L.I.F.E. Animal Rescue since 2006. L.I.F.E. is an acronym for “living is for everyone.”

For just over a month Haley has been caring for an Australian cattle dog named Callie and her 10 puppies.

The pregnant dog was found in a parking lot last month. The pads on her feet were badly worn, said Haley, who took Callie in three days before the puppies were born on July 12.

“Dogs usually have litters of four or five puppies, so 10 were completely unexpected,” Haley said.

The puppies and their mother will be ready for adoption in mid- September.

Haley mostly fosters dogs needing medical attention and rehabilitation, nursing neglected and injured animals back to health. Her nurturing has saved thousands of dollars in medical bills for L.I.F.E. Animal Rescue.

PUPPY LOVE—Gale Haley cuddles with some of the cuties from a recent litter. She’s caring for pups until they’re ready to adopt out. 
MICHELLE YORK/Special to The Acorn PUPPY LOVE—Gale Haley cuddles with some of the cuties from a recent litter. She’s caring for pups until they’re ready to adopt out. MICHELLE YORK/Special to The Acorn “I take in some of the direst cases. They heal much faster here than they would in a kennel,” Haley said. “Love truly heals all wounds. I believe firmly in rehabilitating animals.”

She converted a home gym into a dog room so animals in her care would have space to play and learn. She makes the animals part of the family, allowing them to spend time inside the house to train them in preparation for adoption, and letting them run in the yard. Her home is on 3 acres of property.

“I give them a nurturing environment. Our home is a place where a dog can be a dog, a place where joy abounds, a place to heal, to frolic in the yard, chase squirrels and be loved.”

Last summer, Haley cared for a husky and the dog’s six puppies. That dog was found wandering in Somis and delivered her pups at the Camarillo Shelter.

“The following day I agreed to foster her and six pups. The husky was covered in ticks, (in) poor health and emaciated,” Haley said.

About two months ago, she took in a purebred Shih Tzu named Patches that had been severely neglected, and before that she cared for a dog named Earl that had been rescued from a dog hoarder by L.I.F.E.

Earl suffered from neglect and had five rotten teeth and a severe ear infection. His jaw broke in half during a tooth extraction because the infection had gone into the bone.

“He was in rough shape,” Haley said. “Earl was in for a long painful recovery at the vet surrounded by sick animals. I notified L.I.F.E. I would nurse him back to health in a quiet, loving environment. Once Earl was strong enough I fostered his sister Patti. They were so happy to be reunited, and after two months were adopted together and living happily ever after.”

In addition to Callie and her puppies, Haley recently took in a Maltese dog that needs a temporary home until an adoptive family is found.

Though she falls in love with the animals in her care, Haley doesn’t adopt them because that would keep her from serving as a foster mom to dogs in need.

However, she did adopt the first dog she ever fostered, a dachshund named Duchess.

“I cry every time one leaves my care. It is the hardest part of fostering. A litter of pups takes a lot of work. But it is rewarding to see the fruits of my love and labor with the amazing transformation of my fosters.”

In addition to Duchess, Haley owns two older dogs. She said her animals help train the foster dogs.

Emily Bernie, who cofounded L.I.F.E. Animal Rescue with her mother, Laurie Bernie, said Haley is a devoted foster mom who provides invaluable services for dogs and her organization.

“Gale is great,” Bernie said. “She started volunteering for us, helping out and walking the dogs. Then she got more involved with fostering,” Bernie said.

Since 1992, the animal rescue organization has brought new life to thousands of animals.

Many of the dogs and cats are rescued by the nonprofit on the day the animals are scheduled for euthanization at the shelters.

L. I. F. E. operates a rescue center in Agoura Hills and hosts weekly adoptions at the Westlake Village PetSmart.

“There are many ways people can volunteer, and we always need help,” Bernie said.

Fostering puppies or kittens requires a commitment of two to three months.

Volunteers are also needed every Saturday to sit with dogs at the adoption site and throughout the week to exercise dogs, provide love and attention, and help with cleaning the dogs’ living areas at the rescue center.

Before someone can adopt an animal from L.I.F.E. they must complete an application. A representative will conduct a home inspection to be sure the animal is entering into a safe environment.

The cost to adopt is $200 for adult dogs and $250 for puppies. Cats cost $125.

Applications to adopt Callie and her puppies and other pets are being accepted.

For more information visit www.lifeanimalrescue.org.

2013-08-22 / Community

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