Meet two heroes for dogs

Karla and Scott Hanley sitting next to Salem the dog
Newborn puppy Rosie is thriving today, and she’s not the first life Karla and Scott Hanley have helped save.
By Nicole Hamilton

A day in the life of Rosie is what you might expect it to be for a puppy who recently turned 5 weeks old. She romps around with her seven siblings; checks in with her mom, Salem, every now and then; and makes an adorable mess every time she eats.

By all accounts, Rosie is healthy, and judging by how fast her tail wags and how much her body wiggles, she’s a happy puppy, too. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that had it not been for Karla and Scott Hanley, two longtime volunteers with Best Friends, Rosie might not be here today.

Scott and Karla had just begun fostering Salem when she went into labor at their home. As Karla watched Salem deliver Rosie, the eighth and final pup after six hours of labor, she could tell something wasn’t right. Rosie wasn’t moving. She wasn’t breathing either.

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With no time to spare, Karla, who served as a nurse in the military for 35 years, began CPR on Rosie while Scott found her stethoscope and other items she might need. Then, he kept an eye on Salem and her newborn pups as Karla tended to Rosie. After more than an hour of emergency medical care, Rosie was able to breathe on her own and join Salem and her siblings.

Karla and Scott saved a life that night. But it wasn’t the first time they’ve rolled up their sleeves, ready to do whatever it takes to help animals. In fact, as of now, the number of dogs they’ve helped hovers around “countless.” And they have no plans to stop anytime soon.

A history of helping homeless pets

Karla began volunteering with Best Friends in Los Angeles years ago, helping with a transport program. “I was recently retired, the facility was just 4 miles from my home, and I had always loved dogs,” says Karla, who loved being involved with the program so much that she eventually volunteered on a full-time basis.

Scott got involved with Best Friends shortly after Karla began volunteering. At first, he walked dogs. Shortly after he began, he discovered he had a knack — and a passion — for helping dogs with behavior challenges learn new skills.

“I’m motivated by seeing how you can connect with certain dogs, interacting with ones who have just arrived and getting a chance to teach them some basic skills,” says Scott, adding that part of the joy of helping dogs with some challenges — whether it’s having too much energy or being reactive on the leash — is knowing that he’s teaching them skills to be successful in a home.

Scott has taken part in 27 one-on-one training sessions with Best Friends dog behavior specialists to reach the highest of the four levels of training that volunteers can receive at Best Friends in Los Angeles. He’s also made five trips to the Sanctuary to volunteer with dogs and learn from the dog team there.

Scott is also a volunteer with Best Friends’ emergency response team. Over the years, he has driven supplies to areas affected by disasters. For example, in September 2021, he made two trips from Houston to Louisiana to deliver supplies for shelters impacted by Hurricane Ida. He has also helped by working in shelters alongside Best Friends staff — doing everything from cleaning kennels, picking up poop, and walking dogs to showing the staff techniques for playgroups and handling difficult dogs. Scott’s volunteer work has meant long hours of travel, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Volunteers share their favorite moments

There are so many memorable experiences from volunteering and fostering dogs with Best Friends that Scott says it’s hard to choose just one as his favorite. “I can recall so many, whether it’s watching a dog chase a ball, or play in the pool, or jump over hurdles,” he says. “It’s always nice when I see a dog again who I have not seen for several months — how I believe they can still remember me.”

Karla will never forget reading an email from a receiving shelter in New York with an update that the 60 dogs had arrived safely from Los Angeles and that their adoptive families were thrilled to meet them. “I was very touched to see the outcome of the work we put into getting the dogs ready,” Karla says. “I was so proud to have been such a part of making this possible.”

These days, Karla and Scott are dedicated foster volunteers, often taking dogs home for a day so they can take a dip in their pool or for a weekend. In fact, it was Scott and Karla whom Ana Pulido of Best Friends thought of first when the team was looking for a foster home for a then-very pregnant Salem, who was set to deliver her puppies any day.

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As soon as Scott met Salem and talked to Karla, they were on board. About 48 hours later, after getting Salem comfortable in their home, she gave birth.

“We are so grateful to Scott and Karla for offering to foster Salem and for giving her a warm, safe place to raise her puppies,” says Ana. “They are so warm and helpful, and they always arrive with a smile and a story to tell about the dogs.”  

“I have often said to people that working with dogs is the best job that I have ever had,” says Scott. “They always love to see you. They never complain. They give you their full attention. And most importantly, dogs do not care about your politics.” 

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