From Envigo Lab to Loving Home

Aug 25, 2022

Stacey had no idea what her new beagle looked like

until she’d made the nearly one hour drive home with him. “He was curled so tight in a ball at the back of the crate,” she said. “He was terrified.” Rocky, the beagle they’d just started fostering for Anderson Humane, stayed that way for the next 24 hours.

Given where he’d come from, the family understood. Rocky was one of 91 beagles Anderson Humane received, part of the 4,000 beagles who were rescued from research and breeding facility Envigo. Though we don’t know exactly what the beagles endured, it’s safe to assume they didn’t have positive human contact, good medical care, adequate food, time outside, or love.

Stacey and her family – husband, Matt, their 4-year-old daughter, Gwen, 2-year-old son, Conrad, and 9-year-old Basset Hound, Mabel – were excited to give all those things to Rocky. They would also gladly give him a permanent home, if he seemed like a good fit for their family. That first day, they simply wanted to meet the 18-month-old pup. That got a lot easier when they introduced Rocky to Mabel.

“It’s like a switch went on as soon as he saw Mabel,” Stacey said of that first meeting in their backyard. Thankfully, Mabel took to him right away as well. Rocky learned how to go up and down stairs, relieve himself outside, navigate the kids, and play by watching Mabel.

Soon the two were chasing each other around the yard. “I hadn’t seen Mabel run like that in a while,” Stacey said. “I didn’t know she still had it in her!” This excitement was especially meaningful because Mabel had been depressed ever since the family lost their pit mix a few months ago. “These two are buddies now. It’s so fun to watch them,” Stacey said.

The family has also enjoyed watching Rocky settle in, like realizing he gets fed two times every day. “It was so sweet to see him trot into the kitchen ready to be fed one day when he’d made that realization,” Stacey said. “He appreciates every morsel of food.”

Thanks to Mabel’s obvious love for the children, Rocky has taken to Gwen and Conrad as well. He likes getting pets from Gwen and became a big fan of Conrad’s when “he realized he sits in a high chair and makes it rain meatloaf,” Stacey said with a laugh.

The family adopted Rocky as soon as they were able. “We’re so glad you guys matched us with him,” Stacey said. “He’s like the missing piece to our family.”

Cautious but Brave

A few months ago, Sharon went to our Bloomingdale Adoption Center “just to look” at the puppies. She’d lost her beagle, Riley, a month prior and was devastated. When she asked the staff member if they had any beagles, she was amazed at his response: roughly 100 of them were on the way soon.

Sharon wasn’t familiar with the Envigo rescue, but when he told her, Sharon was even more interested in adopting one. “I hate that animals are used for research,” she said, adding that her previous beagle had been used for research at a local university. “What kind of life is that?”

She called right away to be put on the foster-to-adopt list, and called often to see when the beagles would arrive. When they finally did, Sharon and her husband, Dennis, excitedly received Ollie, a 9-month-old male beagle. He didn’t make a peep during their 25-minute drive home, but when she let him into their backyard, his curiosity took over.

“He smelled everything,” Sharon said. “Everything was a new adventure to him.” When they went to go back into the house, however, Sharon had to carry Ollie because he didn’t know how to use the stairs.

Sharon spent a lot of time with him the first few days, talking to him and petting him as much as he seemed comfortable with. She had to hand-feed him at first, and he didn’t know what treats were. “He batted them around at first, not realizing he could eat them,” Sharon said.

Then she introduced him to Zoiee, the family’s 13-year-old Cocker Spaniel. “He took to her right away,” Sharon said. “And seemed to learn how to go up and down stairs by watching her.”

Learning how to walk on a leash was another process. When Sharon first tried to put a leash on Ollie, he balked. She got a harness leash to help him feel more secure and put it on him for a while as they walked around the house, then the backyard. Within days, he was walking confidently in the neighborhood with Sharon and Zoiee, sniffing everything as he went.

Though it’s taken a while for his true colors to come out, Sharon now says Ollie is a character. “He’s cautious with anything new, but he’s also brave,” she said, especially considering where he came from. He’s even learned how to open their back screen door, and once he’s in the backyard he often gets zoomies.

“He seems excited and grateful for everything,” Sharon said, adding that he’s brought a lot of joy to their family. “Ollie spent the first nine months of his life cooped up, but now he’s happy. Now he’s a dog.”

How to Dog

“If our family could identify ourselves with one word, it would be rescuers,” said Cindy. She, her husband, Chad, and their 12-year-old son, Cameron, have two rescue dogs (Montgomery and Jefferson), five rescue cats (Leopold, Lexi, Luna, Orion, and Gemini), and a couple tanks full of fish.

So when the Envigo beagle rescue story hit Cindy’s news feed, she was in. The family found the closest shelter taking in the beagles, Anderson Humane, and was soon picking up 9-month-old Gus at our South Elgin shelter.

When Cindy met Gus, she said, “There was nothing not to love about him . . . except the smell.” Despite his sweet demeanor, the smell was a reminder of his tough origins. Gus spent the first few days barricaded in the living room excitedly absorbing the view from the window.

When they finally ventured outside, the fascination continued. “The first couple of days, he kept wanting to stop and stare. Everything was interesting to him,” Cindy said. “The birds chirping, the bugs making noise, and the breeze brought so many smells. He kept taking a moment to take it all in.”

Walks have also been slow because Gus is getting used to a leash. “The leash boggles him,” Cindy said, adding that he wants to go the direction he wants. As seasoned rescuers, the family understands the necessity of patience. “We just allow extra time for walks. We understand that even though he’s 9 months, he’s really just a baby.”

That patience has come in handy for potty training as well. “We’ve been faithful to put on a leash and take him out to try about every hour,” Cindy said. That persistence seems to be paying off. “Yesterday he walked to the front door and cried a little.” When they realized he was letting them know he needed to go out, they were thrilled.

The other dogs have been key in Gus’ adjustment to home life. “Jefferson is being so gentle with him,” Cindy said. “We can’t teach Gus how to dog, but they can. It’s been so fun to watch.” The cats mostly watch the shenanigans from atop their cat tree.

“We’re so glad he was the one given to us,” Cindy said. “We took a roll of the dice and got this sweet little ball of everything. He’s definitely meant to be here in our family.”

Learn more about our rescued beagles and how you can support them.

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