Freeing a Survivor


It seems like it was just last week that I received a call from Beagle Rescue League after my adoption inquiry. The call was from the director. Her voice sounded tentative yet somewhat excited. The rescue group was hoping that I’d consider looking at a different dog, a ‘Lab-Beagle’.  What a terrific mix I thought; Labrador and Beagle! She said, “We have a middle- aged dog here that’s part of a pilot program.  He’s the oldest one of five other retired research dogs that has been in a laboratory facility for seven years”. I was sick to my stomach. Was I hearing her correctly? There were innocent dogs trapped in cages, being experimented on, for seven years? What? How was that possible? I just remember feeling sicker and sadder the more I listened.

The pilot program was the first of its kind. It was a chance to finally give a few dogs a chance at life and see if they could assimilate into a domesticated world. Up until then, these helpless dogs were viewed as useless ‘wild animals’ that were ultimately euthanized at the conclusion of a study. And there were thousands of studies.

I couldn’t get my head around the thought that dogs were still used in bio – medical research. My heart sank of the thought. Needless to say, I went to the rescue and looked at both dogs that were up for adoption. There were no words to describe the instant connection when I set eyes on the ‘Lab-Beagle’. He was the one. His eyes were merciful, loving, tender and soft. He sat and looked up at me with a pleading yet surprisingly happy look. And so, I adopted him and gave him the name, Sammy!

This remarkable dog had a story that needed to be told. I had the honor, and it was an honor indeed; of sharing a life with a beautiful soul getting a second chance at life as a ‘free’ dog.  His curiosity, determination and joy were nothing short of impressive.  There were moments where I was in awe of him. He could’ve chosen to be resentful and aggressive after all he had been through and instead he chose kindness. Everyone that met Sammy was enamored by his sweet outgoing nature and unwavering perseverance. This dog ultimately gave 7 years to science and then deservingly received 11 years of unconditional love.

I don’t think many people are aware of the extent of animal testing and that Beagles are the breed of choice. I hope that BLESSED will inspire people to make a difference and help bring an end to animal testing and adopt retired laboratory dogs. Retired research dogs are not your typical adoption; it takes an exorbitant amount of time, patience and wherewithal but it’s so worth it. It’s about freeing a survivor and watching them flourish.

Although Sammy’s story is about a laboratory research dog finding his way through a myriad of obstacles and eventually his forever family, it’s also a story that gives hope and empowers people struggling with adversities. I think when people read BLESSED they’ll be inspired by Sammy’s positive attitude towards life, how he saw the good in everything that was thrown his way and the life lesson to never, ever giving up. A dog that would’ve been senselessly killed by humans after giving his life to ultimately help humans ended up making countless humans lives richer and full of love and happiness. Leave it to a dog to do that!

A portion of the proceeds of BLESSED will be donated to laboratory-dog rescue organizations.

It’s been long process developing this book and I’m indebted to quite a few people that helped me bring Sammy’s remarkable story to life.  I couldn’t have done it without the support of my greatest fans; my husband Nick and our son John. A big thank you to my gifted and empathetic illustrator Romi Caron, Ruth Fein, my finely detailed editor, Ron Simasek, my outstanding and proficient assistant and my talented and extremely patient graphic designer, Debbi Wraga at Shires Press. None of this, however, would’ve ever happened if I hadn’t met this incredible dog. I’m eternally indebted to him. Thank you everybody, it has been an incredible ride celebrating Sammy’s life!


As a holistic canine specialist I will gently yet effectively guide you and your dog using force-free, effective and positive-based training methods.