Francis Battista introduces a special guest blog from Kathleen Aubry

As you may have noticed, this page does not feature guest bloggers. However, on this occasion, I am pleased to give my slot to Kate Aubry. Why? Because in the past, we have featured posts about a topic that is much closer to Kate than to any of us here at Best Friends ... her beagle, Juno, one the remarkable survivors of the Great Beagle Rescue. We thought it would be a great idea to share Kate's personal experience with our readers.

—Francis Battista

As I sit here writing, I have a beagle staring me down. For all of 26 pounds, she can be very insistent. It’s a habit of hers to jump on my desk and walk across my keyboard as I try to write. All she wants is my undivided attention and love. I suppose that, considering her past, she has a lot of loving to make up for.

Two and a half years ago, Best Friends rescued Juno and 119 other beagles from a New Jersey laboratory in what has become known as the Great Beagle Rescue. Watching the video of the rescue online broke my heart. Like many others, I had no idea that dogs, mostly beagles, are routinely purposely bred for research. As the tears fell freely, I filled out an adoption application, and one week later, I brought Juno home.

As she made her first steps into her new forever life, little did I know that she would break my heart a million times as she adjusted to life outside of her former sterile environment. I watched in both sadness and amazement at her transformation into a confident, sweet dog who took to getting into beagle mischief in short order. She has gotten into my closet and eaten my flip-flops numerous times (my fault), gotten into the garbage, dug holes larger than she is in the backyard, and once even shredded my tax returns (again, my fault). Each time she gets into mischief, I secure the area and I laugh, not only because she makes the very best sad eyes ever, but because she is behaving exactly like a dog, and I could not have asked for more. Juno is a wonderful ambassador, not only helping to raise awareness about the plight of other animals in research but also as a therapy dog. Just 11 short months after being rescued, we became a certified pet therapy team.

Juno and I have attended many events in both her capacity as an ambassador for laboratory animals and therapy dog. Earlier this year, in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Juno and I were invited as a pet therapy team to the area. Donning her bandana and special tags, she did what she does best: She gave back. For all intents and purposes, she has no reason to trust any of us, yet she does. She looks to me for assurance a lot, but she carries herself with an air of confidence when she has her therapy bandana on. She knows exactly what is expected of her as she greets each person she meets with a wag and a smile. Sometimes I feel as though all of those years she was locked in a research kennel without love or affection have given her an insatiable desire to be loved. Children especially love her, and the feeling is mutual. In fact, she inspires others in ways that I never imagined.

I have learned an awful lot from watching my little girl and am very proud of her. She is smart and stubborn and knows exactly what she wants. She is far braver than I have ever been in my life. She is also remarkably resilient and has few residual effects from her past life. Occasionally she will be startled by a loud noise or a slamming door (then again so am I!). I consider myself lucky to have been able to witness her journey as she has blossomed into so much more than just the laboratory identification number that is tattooed in her ear. She is a great dog, an amazing friend, a healer and a comfort to many. It’s sad to think of all the lab beagles who never had a chance to know life beyond the confines of their cages. Hopefully Juno’s example can help to bring needed change to that cruel practice.

When Juno is not being an ambassador or therapy dog, she enjoys belly rubs, cookies, running zoomies, blogging, digging and the pure luxury of just being a dog.

Forgive me, but I must go now and hug my beagle. She has been terribly patient this entire time.

—Kathleen Aubry

Francis Battista