Friday, April 3, 2009


Thanks to a Best Friends photographer, Haley didn’t have to live like a refugee.

Written by Cathy Scott

Life for Hana and Haley, two “cave dogs” from Ethiopia, is now swimmingly good – a lifetime away from what they once endured after they were tossed into a 30-foot-deep pit and left to die.

Both Haley and Hana will be featured on the April 3 episode of DogTown! For an overview of upcoming episodes click here

Abandoned in what has become known as “the cave,” Hana, Haley and two other dogs, Tommy and Maria, were rescued in the fall of 2007 by Dr. Antennah Roba, along with a team of helpers from the Homeless Animal Protection Society. They used a specially made long ladder to carry the foursome out of the pit to their new lives.

Hana and Haley were brought by Roba to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Tommy and Maria went to foster homes in Texas, where Roba now lives.

“Haley was the weakest,” Dr. Roba said after the rescue. “She was so weak; she could not lift her little head when her rescuers came to see her. [The dogs] had been in the cave for approximately eight weeks, defying the odds.” Rain water kept them hydrated.

After Haley and Hana arrived at the sanctuary, Best Friends photographer Sarah Ause was assigned the task of taking their pictures. During that initial meeting, Ause, a self-described cat lover, was touched by Haley’s outgoing personality.

“As a cat person, I really had no desire for a dog,” Ause says, “but that all changed very quickly. Haley's pointy little head and her wiggly little butt just begged for me to take her home. I was smitten. I had to have her.”

But she did hesitate a bit before adopting Haley, in part because of her cats. As luck would have it, Haley gets along famously with cats. When Ause brought Haley to the office she shares with several other staff, it took just five minutes for her co-worker’s dog to stop growling at Haley and start playing with her. Also, Ause says, “There's no shortage of people who want to pet sit for me.”

“All the reasons not to get a dog suddenly become non-issues when the right dog comes along,” Ause says. “Responsibility comes easy when you love a dog as much as I love Haley.” So, after a few weeks of fostering Haley, Ause made it official and adopted her.

Now, besides accompanying Ause to work and playing with her canine office mates, Bella and Winston, Haley hikes with Ause in southern Utah and Arizona.

“We’ve climbed mountains together, explored canyons and caves and even lakes together,” Ause says. “Delano Peak is the highest she has been, at 12,173 feet, and her longest hike was probably Deseret Peak, in which we did a little over 10 miles and over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. She is a tough cookie. She has also wandered through slot canyons, peered over the edge into the Grand Canyon, boated around Kolob Reservoir and hiked around Navajo Lake.”

A few times a week, they hike local trails with sanctuary trainers and dogs. Those activities, Ause says, “are great for getting Haley comfortable with a wide range of dogs and people and great for me to help with the off-leash training.” Plus, Haley gets to regularly meet up with the people who helped care for and train the former stray after she arrived at the sanctuary.

Hana (aka Hana Banana and shown to the left) still lives in Dogtown at the sanctuary, where she gets plenty of attention from her caregivers and trainers, who are helping her gain confidence with people and lose the shyness caused by her rough beginnings. Hana’s favorite thing to do with people she’s comfortable with, besides belly rubs, is outings that include swimming.

As for Haley, Ause is glad she got past her reservations about adopting a dog. “These days, I wonder how I ever lived without her,” Ause says. “I think about all the things I'd be missing – what she might be missing – if I had let any of those stupid reasons keep me from adopting her. Good thing I didn't let them!”

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