Last year, on this very date, I got to meet Matzah for the first time. He was part of a rescue of beagles from a laboratory research facility in Northern California. Little did I know how much my decision to volunteer for Beagle Freedom Project, an organization that rescues laboratory research animals, would change me for the better forever.
It’s 7pm in the evening and a group of volunteers are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a group of furry little guys. I was one of them. Not sure what to expect from this experience, as it was my first time being involved.
Soon, a van arrived from a long day of travel, carrying 11 scared beagles. I came to understand why they were scared. They had never known anything outside of their cages. They had never walked on grass or played together or felt the compassionate touch of a human.
The world they knew to this point was isolation and pain. They were a number—literally—displayed by the tattoo in their ears (see below). This makes it easier to be tested on. And, the testing I’m talking about isn’t of the life-saving kind. I’m talking household cleaners, new sugar substitutes (Splenda), cosmetics and more.
As I opened one of the crates so that the beagle inside could experience true freedom, I knew my life would never be the same. I watched as each beagle tentatively stepped one paw onto the grass, then the next, uncertain of the feeling, but facing their fear.
I got to witness their break to freedom. The first time they interacted with each other, with toys, with treats, with humans. Some took to play like they were born for it. Others were so afraid they kept to themselves. That was heart-breaking to see.
I was there that night with the intention to foster one of these little guys for one week—and one week only. I was leaving for Christmas and couldn’t take on the responsibility of another dog. I was busy. My business was expanding, I was traveling more…and honestly, another dog would just take so much work and time. He’d have to go through obedience training, and honestly, it would be a long road of recovery. And, I wasn’t ready for that. Or so I thought!
My roommate chose Matzah—the one with the softest fur—out of the 11. We took him home, where he, of course, managed to wiggle his way into my heart. Within two days I knew he wasn’t going anywhere. He had found his forever home.
Call me a sucker, but I call me lucky. This little guy has allowed me to open myself to a greater depth and capacity of loving. I am so grateful for that.
Watching him learn to love to play, eat treats, hang with Lucky (my other amazing pup), go on hikes, snuggle and run free has been such a reward. He has allowed me to see that I’m far more capable, adaptive, courageous and willing than I had imagined. That often times “I’m not ready” is just an excuse. A fear that holds me back. And, I try to remember that now…anytime I find myself buying into the idea that, I’ll be ready when…
Matzah has also gifted me with knowledge and education. Before him, I was completely unaware of what was happening inside of laboratories. I was pretty much clueless. I bought the products that everyone else bought—not even considering how they were made and who/what they may have been tested on.
Now, I’m happy to say I have a cruelty-free household. In fact, cruelty-free is the leading factor in my decision when I buy laundry detergent, deodorant, household cleaners, cosmetics…pretty much anything. I do not want to support a company that at one point may have tested on my boy.
If you are interested in buying cruelty-free, you can learn more here. (FYI – it’s easier than I thought it would be and the products are just as effective, sometimes even better than the other kind. Just look for the leaping bunny or cruelty-free label.)
Also, if you decide to bring an animal into your home this holiday season, please consider adoption. So many beings suffer senselessly in shelters. Sadly, many of them die there, never knowing any kindness. If you’ve ever rescued fur-baby, you know what I’m talking about. There is a bond formed that is irreplaceable. Where both of you are forever grateful.
In the comments below, tell me if you are a rescue owner and what your adoption experience was like.
Wishing you a deeper capacity of love and joy,
Vicki James says
that is the sweetest story ever…warms my heart….just wonderful….
Maria Caplan says
This is so wonderful. there are so many animals that are treated so unfairly in our country-to further the needs of humans-I always urge people looking for pets to rescue. I had a similar situation but with my rescued retired racehorse “Kaia”. I had just been relocated for my job and wanted to someway be near horses, this is the first time in my life I had not owned my own, without all the care and cost that goes along with one. I volunteered for an organization in Marysville, Ohio called “New Vocations–horseadoption.com” This organization rehabilitates and rehome unwanted racehorses (many who have absolutely nothing wrong with them but just do not want to do the unnatural action of running long distances). Many racehorses are sent to slaughter each year, since they are an expense to the trainer and owner once they are proven to not be “money makers.” Since horse slaughter is illegal in the US-many of these horses are sent to Canada and Mexico to be killed. Thankfully, if they are sent to Canada, they are kept at the border, and a phone call is made to their breeder that asks if they want to pick them up before they are killed. Some breeders are now working with organizations such as “New Vacations” to rehome their thoroughbreds and standardbreds to their forever homes. “Kaia” had a similar story and now resides with me in NH after I saw her get off the trailer in Ohio I fell in love. She is simply the best, sweetest horse I have ever owned and is now training to become an Eventing horse!
Amber Krzys says
@Vicki – Thank you.
@Maria – Wow. I am blown away by your story. Thank you for sharing about Kaia here. I’m so glad you honored your desire to be near horses. Looks like not only did you change Kaia’s life, but she changed yours. Beautiful.
April Currtis says
I know this experience that you write about. I started last April in fostering Abe and Davey. Six weeks with those two boys and my heart nearly burst via expansion of love. I wanted to adopt; I already had two pups from the pound. Four was too many for just me. Reluctantly and with a broken heart, I turned them back to Shannon when they found their forever home. I was honored to be invited into that home. Furthermore, I was honored to be their GodMother and I am their GodMother to this day. I now have Santi of the Bay Area 6 and I did adopt him. He is a pocket beagle and three was my limit (although I wlll not blink an eye to foster any pup). He has, like Abe and Davey, brought this capcity for a bigger, more loving heart in addition to becoming the unlikely light of this family and to our home. His two older sisters adore him; they play like they are his age – 18 months but they are 8 and 7 years old now. These pups that have not known love – shelter or labs – are extraordinary. We are truly blessed by their presence in our lives. I personally believe that they are akin to angels – that have got unconditional love perfected unlike any human I have ever known – so they are supreme in my opinion. <3
We have been “rescue” parents for years. We are the proud parents of 3 beagles. Over the years we have “rescued” not only dogs, cats, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and many more..but we became the ones called when a ferret was in need..at one time we had 16 ferrets, 7 dogs, 9 cats and we were in heaven! All the babies need our help..we now have a beagle that was a “Christmas” present…retuned 8 months later to the shelter. ..because she chewed paper and kept running away…1 year later…we have no problems with our Loosy…love and constance caring has changed her and us!
Indeed. Rescue pups do teach us about life and ourselves. It’s interesting that you wrote a tribute to your first year with Matzah. Here’s mine :).
I have 5 rescues and they are the best thing that has ever happened to me, well except for my fiancé. They are loving and grateful. My beagle rescue, Oliver, is the apple if my eyes. He is gentle and sweet.
Every dog I have owned since I’ve been an adult has been a rescue. My Kimmy (beagle)has been with me for 12 years (she’s at least 14, blind, deaf, arthritic, and has doggie dementia), and she is my heart and soul. My Bernie (beagle), who I lost to cancer in Feb 2013, was on his second trip through the humane society when I got him, we had 10 wonderful years with him as my ‘bouncer boy’ who my husband had to buy off with treats when we started dating. The ‘two men’ in my life never really bonded, but were tolerant of each other because of their shared devotion to me, and I returned that love. Broke my heart when I lost Bernie… And then there is Sierra Marie. I got her in May, she turned 3 in August and spent 2.5 years as a laboratory research beagle. I didn’t get her through BFP but another program through my local vet tech training program. She was a shy little wallflower when I met her her, but those brown eyes told me she could be so much more with a little time and love. She’s still tentative around new people and things, but she has blossomed into an energetic, fun-loving, snuggle bug who loves to romp with my 9-yr old Labrador ‘neice’ Ripley and is a pro at stealing socks! Rescues are the best!
Bailey's Mom says
Amber, I’m so thankful for your experience and how it has expanded and blessed your world as well as that of Matzah’s.
We adopted our beagle Bailey at age 3 in SW Idaho. We were told that he belonged to a family that moved and didn’t take him with them. Also that he spent his days outside with a bark collar on.
Being a lifelong beagle-lover and owner, I fell in love with him when I saw him. He’s been with us for 3.5 yrs. His birthday is the day after his adoption day, so there’s lots of celebrating going on in the beginning of February.
He’s a riot, with so many funny antics that keeps myself and those who see him, in stitches. So much so that I didn’t want to keep it to myself. I also wanted to create a living legacy for him, so I created ‘Beagle Photo Of The Day’, a community page on Facebook.
Not only do I feature Bailey, but I advocated for laboratory beagles and the homeless ones. Our fans are also invited to post photos of their beagles and share about them. It’s become a wonderful ‘beagle family’ of sorts.
Bailey is well travelled, having driven with us across the country to Florida in 2010, where my husband began a new career and where I have become a Dog Sitter & Boarding Host. Bailey is never without play companions and I hope we can draw more beagles over to stay with us.
Thank you for sharing your story! I discovered BFP about a year ago, and my home is also headed towards cruelty free products. Admittedly that part is way easier than I thought! My husband and I have 4 dogs – all rescues. Two were saved from a pound – a beagle and and a beagle dachshund mix, and the other two were found at different times wandering around near where we live. All are the most loyal dogs we have ever been owned by. I never dreamed we would have 4 dogs at one time, but we love each one of them! I think our card is full right now – but we only “chose” one of these guys, all the others chose us… so who knows!
What a great story! Happy anniversary 🙂 We have a wonderful beagle Maggie. I used to work in a building in the middle of a park, and she was hiding underneath my car. I went down to see her, and she was terrified, skinny, stinky, had some sort of eye infection. She ran away when she saw me, just far away enough that I couldnt touch her, but not completely away. I went upstairs and warmed up some canned beef stew that happened to be in the kitchen and put some water in a bowl. I came downstairs to give it to her, and she teared into it. I was in love. I, like you, wasn’t sure if I wanted another dog (we already had one great shelter dog, and one other homeless cat we’d taken in). The first couple weeks werent easy, but she eventually became a part of the family. Now she is happy and healthy, and almost everyone who meets her says she is the sweetest and most well behaved dog ever. We call her Doctor Maggie, because her knack for figuring out when you are sad or sick and knowing just when to come lay with you is uncanny. All of our animals are such a joy in our life, and it makes me sick to think of the Beagles lives before BFP helped them. We are moving towards cruelty free products ourselves. May you have many more happy years with your sweetie.
Pamela Saulnier says
Thank you for sharing and for opening your life and your heart to Matzah. We have two dogs and five cats. All former strays or rescues!
Heidi Burton says
Thank you for sharing. I too know the joy and heartbreak of what happens to these beagles because I have a beagle rescued by the Beagle Freedom Project! And my little Willy has changed my life forever. I have learned many of the same things and changed all the products in my household and, though I never thought I would have the voice to be an advocate, I have become one. I share with friends, strangers, anyone because my heart will never be the same since Willy came into my life.
Kelly Lowe says
All of my animals for the last 30 years have been foundlings or rescues. They tend to find me. Now that I know Bout beagle freedom project, my next beagle (it would be my fourth) will be from them. Such loving little babies!!
Molly walked up into my yard the summer of 1991 and never left (and deposited 6 puppies in my basement …); she was stolen out of my yard with one of her puppies a few years later. I’ve always been terrified that the Jerk who lived next door took them, and he worked at a medical lab!!
Roxie was given to me a year later, a 2-lb 7oz beagle living in a house of Rottweilers and put bulls. The guy who rescued her said she would be dead soon if I didn’t take her. How could I not?! She went with me to Alaska seven years later and died in my arms three years after that.
June if 2007, I took Roxie’s asked back to India MBA; when I returned to Anchorage I put her photo in my screensaver and told her to find mommy her new baby. A few months later I’m looking at a rescue site and hear this silent voice in my ear say “go to the Pound website”. It said it twice; I did , and there was this two-color girl. I jumped up and ran … When I got to the pound, there was this scared little beagle … When I signed the papers to adopt her I broke into tears . The lady behind the counter smiled and said I could take her some biscuits. She came home to me the next day. I’ve had cats who found me as well and now have a five month old chihuahua named Xena who adopted me after beig left out in 100 degree heat at four weeks. She and Daisy are best buddies. Can’t imagine life without my fur angels.
Lisa Sandler says
We have a sweet Beagle named Bagel that we got from the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, MA 3 and a half years ago.
We had lost our beloved Wags, who was also rescued as a pup and we got him 13 and a half years earlier. He was a great dog so when we lost him, we made the active choice to adopt again.
We went into the shelter and looked at a number of dogs. We did not want a puppy, we wanted one that was older and had less of a chance for folks to want.
We saw Bagel out in the yard playing with another family and my husband, who is a cat lover first, asked if we could see the dog out in the yard. They brought Bagel in and it was love at first sight for my husband and Bagel. She pranced over to him and batted her long eyelashes at him and he was a goner. I was a goner at any of them.
When they came in to take her out to meet another family or be put in her crate, my husband said, “No, we want her” I was dumbfounded but he stood his ground and she became ours that night.
What followed was a bit weird, though, because Bagel must have thought that this was temporary and she would be moving on so she did not care about where she peed or pooped even though we took her out a lot.
We have a fenced in backyard so it is safe for her to be out there. It took a long time before Bagel believed that she was “Home” but once she got it, boy, has she been home!
She just loves her people and she loves to cuddle and be warm under a blanket. She is a funny little dog and keeps us laughing all the time.
We have become a more physically fit family because of Bagel. I hope this is not too long for you!
Hi – wonderful to hear Matzah’s story. I have a rescue beagle, Bailey. We have had her for 6 years now; she came from the U.S. but we know nothing of her history. Because of her I too went totally cruelty-free a year and a half ago, and started a website (www.crueltyfreecanada.ca) to help inform fellow Canadians about where to find products etc. as there isn’t as much info for us out there. Thanks for sharing!
I’ve got a 5 year old retired racing greyhound and as far as I’m concerned, she’s the best dog out there. She came home shy and a little nervous (she’d been bounced back to the rescue group once before, turns out she is NOT good with cats), but adjusted to home life quickly. 6 months later, we finally got a correct diagnosis of hookworms as the cause of her cyclical bouts of GI upset, and once we cured those (9 rounds of dewormer later), the REAL personality came out. She now demands attention, and usually gets it, LOVES to tear around the back yard or the local dog park at no less than 40 mph (for anyone who’s ever seen a hound run, you know I’m not exaggerating), and steals the couch any chance she gets. I grew up with labs, and while I love all dogs, greyhounds are my personal favorite 🙂
Lisa Sandler says
P.S. Bagel snores up a storm!
I have tears of joy and sadness when I read your story. But most importantly, I relate because of the rescue doggie I adopted from a high kill shelter. We have that special bond where he knows how much I love him and he seems to adore me! My beagle JJ just had a surgery and the limitations of the “lampshade” collar are hard to see…can’t imagine what it would be like to be an unwilling victim caged and tested upon. Poor puppies…let’s make this a thing of the regrettable past!!
Ernie's Mom says
My 10 year old beagle was a lab dog. He was tortured the first two months of his life. Today he knows only love.
Lori Williams says
Thank you for your wonderful story! Crying my eyes out but I love animals, especially beagles, and it just breaks my heart what these furry babies are put through. I am praying I can adopt one soon! Thank you and enjoy your furry babies!
We rescued Dougie the day before the shelter was to put him down !
He is the love of our lives, and brings us hours of laughter
And fun! I was not a dog lover before, and I am 1000% beagle
Lover now! Beagles rule!!! I love to spoil my sweet lil guy, and watching
Him play brings a smile to my face every time ! Free the beagles!!