It started with a video gone viral. The YouTube clip, popular on Facebook, shows a darling beagle tentatively looking out from a cage. The dog has never seen daylight or walked on grass. It has spent its entire life caged in a medical laboratory as a research animal. In the span of the seven-minute video, the pup sniffs the grass, takes its first step out of the cage, starts wagging its tail and soon is bounding around an open field. The clip is a tear-jerker, all right.
The difference between it and others like it is that this video has a very happy ending. The dog is free, adopted by a loving home, thanks to the non-profit organization Beagle Freedom Project.
BFP has rescued more than 500 animals (85 percent of them beagles) from facilities in 35 states since 2010; its primary mission is to save the animals from being euthanized when they are retired from research roles. BFP also promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle and works to “end animal testing one rescue at a time.”
When my family signed up to adopt a rescued dog via Facebook, we figured it was a shot in the dark. However, it was only a few weeks before we received an email informing us of a rescue taking place in Virginia. BFP requested information about our home, family and lifestyle. The group prefers to place dogs in homes that have existing dogs so the adoptive animal can learn by example how to live in a house and be a pet. A few weeks after that, we brought our hound, aptly named Virginia, home with us.
Virginia sat very still on the 7-hour ride home. She hid in the laundry room on her first evening. She allowed the family—dogs and children—to investigate her, but she offered no response. After emerging from the laundry room, she didn’t leave the living room for several weeks. We had to carry her outside to go on walks, and she didn’t understand the collar or leash.
One year later, Virginia is a beautiful, well-adjusted addition to our family. Her loud bawling and playful personality bear little resemblance to the scared animal we drove to her new forever home last summer. Though the tattoo on the inside of her ear will always remind us of her painful beginnings, she has achieved the Beagle Freedom Project’s ultimate goal: to have a name, not a number.
For more information on the Beagle Freedom Project, go to www.beaglefreedomproject.org.