This weekend my husband David and I adopted two of the 200 beagles sprung from a NC medical research lab shut down after Peta produced and unwatchably disturbing undercover video that shut the lab down. We met them two weeks ago at Associated Humane‘s shelter in Forked River, NJ.
Our beagles–tentatively known as Huck and Pop–were the last of Associated Humane’s 36 vivisection veterans to be adopted. (Though one was returned and my sister may apply.) We’d just missed meeting them weeks ago at the Newark shelter, but how could we have chosen from 36 adorable, needy hounds? As it was, we couldn’t decide. David liked the chunky, sweet Hufflepuff boy. I went for the skinny, sly girl who looked straight at me. When we saw them playing and flopping all over each other, we thought: why not two? And I wondered why these two great well-tempered dogs weren’t picked first. Their caretaker (who confirmed Huck as a nuzzler) said the choosing seemed random and she sometimes wondered why or how families picked.
At the lab these dogs were used in experiments on heartworm or flea drugs. If that wasn’t hard enough, staff abused them, slamming dogs into cages. The dogs were bred to be docile lab subjects and didn’t even have names; numbers are tattooed on their ears and marks on their bellies. When the lab closed two months ago, the beagles were shipped out to shelters up and down the east coast. At first they would just sit still and stare, no affect, workers said. They seemed like they’d never been outside or seen grass.
It’s a cliche, but it’s just stunning that they can think of people as anything but meanies. Yet Huck’s signature move is to rest his paws and head on anyone’s knees to introduce himself. He likes eating, but prefers carrots to treats. Pop doesn’t care for plain food, but if treats are out, she turns into a circus dog, leaping and walking on her back legs. She’s a quicker learner. The stairs first stunned them. Huck wouldn’t even go up a curb.
Yesterday they had a busy day. They went to the dog run for the first time and immediately tore into playing with other dogs. They had baths. Neither are fans. Pop can jump out of the tub. And they had their first meeting with a dog trainer, our friend Garrett Rosso. He says they seem to have missed the normal puppy housetraining lesson that peeing and pooping is something special that you don’t just do wherever you happen to be. Have you heard the one about how dogs won’t pee on their own bed? Well, Huck hasn’t. But we’ll get there.
Pop is already proving wrong on her cage an evaluation that read “does not play well.” She wrestles, destroys toys and plays tug of war. There is more crazy playing between two dogs than I’ve ever seen. We’re glad we got both because it seems to help them having a friend.
David and I spend all our time calling each other over to see the latest antic. They have an endless procession of first. Stairs, fire hydrant, deli, pigeon, fire truck. Oh, this is the first time you’ve seen TV (Huck is fascinated, especially that wolverine NOVA show). This is your first time with a mirror (they both are enchanted by the handsome beagles they see). Six months from now we’ll probably be doing the same thing with an ever narrower set of experiences. Oh, is this your Mini Cooper, piece of Korean BBQ chicken, confusion over someone talking with a bluetooth headset?
When people give animals a number, we expect little of them and tell ourselves they don’t feel or matter. When we give them a name and some love, we get to see who they really are. It’ll be plenty of work, but a joy to see them become the dogs they really are.
Other names under consideration: Ferris, Asta, Panda, Detective
Check out Associated Humane
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Where to See Animals in the Northeast