I was born in a cage and grew up by myself. It always smelled like medicine and chemicals, which hurt my sensitive nose. We soon had hands on us, but not for petting. As I grew, I learned to fear humans that brought me to cold steel rooms and poked me with needles. Sometimes I went to sleep there and woke up feeling very bad.
I grew larger and time passed, but I never got to feel the ground beneath my feet or the sun on my face; only cold metal tables. I licked my scars and nearly lost hope. I hated to be alone but I feared going into the rooms. No one knows we are here.
Today is very different! I am being moved along with others and people are gently touching me, holding me and petting me, without wearing gloves and masks! I brace myself for a needle or worse, but nothing hurts me. I want to trust someone but it is very hard to do that. But, I am outside and I can sniff the fresh air for the first time, so I am willing to try with these nice people. I find out that I am now four years old, and they gave me a name! George Washington.
One by one we are taken out of the truck after a long ride and set down on the ground. The cage doors are opened and we try to understand this new experience. Our noses tell us this is natural grass, earth and air that carries the most pleasant scents. We slowly step out onto the grass and begin our new lives, thanks to the people who don’t forget about us: the Beagle Freedom Project.
This is me with my new person, Gail. She belongs to me and I belong to her. We hardly ever let each other out of our sight. My face is whiter than normal for a beagle my age; Gail says it is from stress in the laboratory. I have learned new things: hands are for petting and loving, and there is a good life outside the laboratory.
The world is so much bigger than I thought. I want to be brave and discover everything but sometimes I feel the fear returning and I have to hide. Gail lets me learn at my own pace. She says I am an ambassador for the Beagle Freedom Project, the group of dedicated people that got me and lots more animals released from the lab.
I have some friends now! These are some of my pals from the laboratory hangin’ with awesome veterinarian and T.V. show host Dr. Katy Nelson. Dr. Katy was the M.C. at this outdoor event to raise money for the Beagle Freedom Project so they can rescue more of us from pain and loneliness. We are called the D.C. Seven, since we all came from a laboratory in Virginia and were driven to Washington D.C. to be adopted. Five of us came to this event with our new owners: Ben Franklin (Ben), that’s me next to Dr. Katy wearing the black vest, then Alexander Hamilton (Hammy), John Jay (Vito). And Martha is on the ground.
This is me with Martha at the Beagle Freedom Project event this summer Red, White and Beagle, marking the two year anniversary of our release. We of the D.C. Seven are lucky: many thousands of beagles remain in labs, along with primates and smaller animals like guinea pigs and mice and the cycle keeps going. My wish is that no animal has to feel pain when better testing alternatives are available. I try not to remember what happened to me in there and just enjoy the soft grass under my feet, playing with my pals, and having a person that loves me.