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Jefferson Awards: BrightHaven Healing Arts Center For Animals

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Dafne-Ann and Gail Pope

Dafne-Ann and Gail Pope

SEBASTOPOL (CBS) — If you can no longer care for a sick pet, or you have an animal that needs hospice care, a North Bay couple offers a loving home. This husband and wife are this week’s Jefferson Award winners.

Bailey is a paraplegic that got hit by a car in Taiwan. But now the 6-year-old dog lives in Sebastopol with Gail and Richard Pope.

“He has a wonderful life,” Gail Pope said with a smile. “He races around in his wheelchair. Life is good.”

Gail and her husband Richard founded the BrightHaven Healing Arts Center for Animals more than twenty years ago in their home. Richard Pope says they take in those that would otherwise be abandoned or euthanized because they’re disabled, old, or terminally-ill.

“It seems there was a disposal of these animals while they still had quite a lot of lives to lead,” Richard Pope explained.

Today, the couple, their staff, and volunteers are caring for 5 dogs and 17 cats, plus roosters, geese, and horses on their 10-acre property.

Every room of the house has been converted to make sure it’s comfortable for the animals. For example, in the breakfast room, on top of the refrigerator, there’s a kitty bed, and down in the shelves, there’s a kitty condo.

“We cut out squares from the cupboards under the sink and made some delightful beds,” Gail Pope added.

Gail Pope heads BrightHaven by day, while Richard works full-time as a civil engineer and consultant. At night, they share caretaker duties. Gail says she was inspired to open a sanctuary for animals after they adopted a blind, deaf cat named Gloria.

“I want to look after them,” she said. “I want to make them well, I want to find them wonderful homes.”

“And if she’s got the passion to do it, then I’ve got the passion to support her,” her husband chimed in.

BrightHaven also offers homeopathic care. Kathleen Prasad credits the Popes for using her lessons on Japanese reiki to create a peaceful space for the animals’ healing.

“Whatever the age, it doesn’t matter. Whatever their condition, it doesn’t matter. Everyone here sees the animal with their heart,” Prasad observed.

Staff member Vicki Sims, also a Jefferson Award winner, praises Gail and Richard for more than 5,000 rescues over the years.

“Animals come first,” Sims said. “Their approach is always kind, always understanding, always loving.”

“This life we lead is our passion,” Gail Pope said simply.

Richard Pope added, “You feel quite humbled in being able to experience it.”

So, for providing a sanctuary for hurting animals, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Gail and Richard Pope.

If you’re interested in providing a home to an animal in need, connect with BrightHaven online at brighthaven.org.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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