I’ve been following this story closely because that beagle in the crook of my arm was born at the Cumberland facility nearly 13 years ago. His name is Hammy.
The facility where Hammy was born, 50 miles west of Virginia’s capital city Richmond, was run at the time by a different company that also bred beagles on an industrial scale to sell for experiments.
I don’t know for sure what conditions were like when Hammy was there. But I know that being bred and raised for experimentation in an industrial facility is a terrible way for any dog to start his life.
If you’ve ever experienced the joy of watching a dog get the “zoomies” — impulsively and gleefully zipping around to burn off excess energy — you must understand that zoomies aren’t possible for a dog confined to a kennel or housed in a laboratory.
“You’re never the same person as before. I think the same is probably true for dogs. It damages the psyche in a way that is irreparable.”
So, Hammy is one of the lucky ones. The Envigo dogs dodged a bullet as well. With the exception of the breeding dogs, these 4,000 beagles in Cumberland were on track to be sold into testing and research. Instead, they are headed to homes.
But even though they’ll never be used in a lab, as Hammy was, they did spend every day of their lives in an unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy environment. And because of that, some of these dogs will have special needs. I say this not to dissuade anyone from adopting, but to prepare potential adopters for what they might face.
I adopted Hammy in the summer of 2013. In the first months, he was frightened of everything, including reflections in sliding glass doors and leaves falling on sidewalks.
For years, he trembled when he visited new places or heard sounds like dings and rings. He learned to climb stairs, hop on a couch and forage for treats. In time, he came out of his shell and gained confidence. Today Hammy is, for the most part, a happy soul. We share a bond I’ve never experienced with another dog.
If you’re considering adopting one of the Envigo dogs (or another dog who had a difficult past—who was perhaps abused, neglected or abandoned), you may be donning your patience cap for a while. You may agonize over how to make your dog feel safe and content. Keep an open mind about the individual you’re bringing into your life. Some will be self-assured and adapt quickly. Others will be visibly traumatized and fearful of much of the outside world, maybe even of humans.
Remember that, like us, each dog has a unique story and personality. Take the time to listen to them. You may discover reserves of compassion you didn’t know you had. When I adopted Hammy, I remember thinking that every day of his new life was a gift. And I still feel that way, almost 3,300 days later.
When you adopt your beagle, I hope every day of your life together is a gift too — for both of you. I hope at night you have a beagle in the crook of your arm. And if you lie awake, I hope you count beagles. There’s no sweeter way to fall asleep.
If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a beagle from the Envigo facility, contact one of the shelter or rescue partners of The Humane Society of the United States.