Almost two years ago I wrote a couple of paragraphs about Murph-E, a sweet little almost-5-year-old Beagle who Mackinac full-time residents Jennifer and Kirby King were adopting from a medical research lab. Here’s what I wrote:
“Good friend Jennifer King, General Manager of Grand Hotel, loves beagles. She and husband Kirby are owned by their precious Stu-E, and they all live on Mackinac Island year-round. A few weeks ago, someone shared a video with Jennifer about the use of beagles in research. The video showed beagles who had been rescued from a research lab being released from their cages and stepping out into sunshine and onto real grass for the first time in their lives. Jennifer cried her first tears for those babies that night.
Shortly thereafter, Jennifer and Kirby contacted a rescue group in Illinois (the closest one to Mackinac), and this week little 4-year old Murph-E – a beagle being ‘retired” from a research lab – joined the King family!”
The photo below is Murph on the day the Kings adopted him.
On Thursday evening last week I rode up to Jennifer and Kirby’s home for a follow-up on this adoption story. Jennifer swung open the screen door before I reached the porch steps, and two happy Beagles – with ears flapping and noses twitching (no doubt because I was covered in eau de Maddie scent) greeted me enthusiastically and welcomed me into their domain.
Murph-E, now seven (in the foreground) and his brother Stu-E, who is four, patiently await a treat from Jennifer. The crate in the background belongs to a “cousin” Beagle who sometimes visits. These two are never crated.
In the living room – after getting lots of pets and cuddles from me – with Murph settled on Jennifer’s lap and Stu on Kirby’s, this sweet couple gave me some of the background story.
Two years ago Murph-E had gone directly from a research lab in Illinois into a foster home in the same state. He stayed there for a week, and then his foster mom and Jennifer met each other half-way (in Wisconsin), and Murph officially became part of the King family. The trip home was uneventful, but the following weeks were filled with “firsts” for Murph-E.
Life for Murph in the lab meant confinement to a small cage, where he ate, slept, and went toilet. He was removed once a day so the cage could be cleaned. While he was out of the crate, whatever research procedure was planned that day was performed on him. Even two years later, he will “freeze” if placed on his back and not move until someone manually turns him back over. The Kings have no idea what research he was involved in, and they really don’t want to know. But, because of the uncertainty the Kings are hyper-sensitive to any medical condition that arises with Murph. A suspicious lump last winter was a really scary time until it could be biopsied. Thankfully, the growth was benign.
Jennifer said the first hurdle before he even arrived on Mackinac was “what will he eat?” The foster mom had tried a different dog food each day, usually to have Murph turn up his cute little nose at it – or to eat it one day and refuse it the next. Each day Jennifer would call Andrew at Doud’s Market to see if he could quickly get “such-‘n-such” dog food to the island. Andrew did the research and always said “yes”! The day before they were to pick Murph up, his foster mom called to say, “He’s eaten canned Alpo twice in a row. Buy that.” An immediate call was made to Andrew to order three cases of Alpo – canned. When the Kings arrived home with Murph, they put Alpo in his bowl and Stu’s normal Purina Pro-Plan dog food in his. Murph helped Stu finish up the Pro-Plan and has eaten it ever since. The Alpo is still in the basement.
Murph-E had no concept of what “going for a walk” meant, had never seen stairs or been on grass, and didn’t know that toys were fun objects. Murph’s leg muscles were weak because he’d never been exercised – so he could only handle a very short walk and then he’d he have to rest. Over time, and with the help of Stu to show him the ropes, he has developed into a good walker with normal muscle tone. The only throw-back to his former life is the “turn-around” he does occasionally while out on a walk. It’s as though his brain goes back to when his entire world was his cage, and he thinks he still has to “turn-around” after a certain distance. He will stop, turn in a circle, and then continue on with the walk.
On the inside of Murph-E’s ear was a numbered tattoo which was his lab ID #. When he was adopted, the lab changed all the numbers to “8’s” so it couldn’t be traced and added a smiley face – something his foster mom had never seen before – even though she has fostered several of the Beagles after their release from lab facilities.
Another curious thing Jennifer and Kirby noticed the first summer was Murph-E being very sensitive to warm temperatures. Even though summers on Mackinac are not that hot, even high 70’s and low 80’s seemed to be difficult for him to tolerate. After speaking with a lab technician, they learned the facility where Murph was kept was a constant 68 degrees. Consequently, Murph’s favorite time on Mackinac is spring, fall, and winter. Summer – not so much.
Stu-E has been a wonderful brother to Murph-E, even though he’s younger. As Jennifer says, “It’s Stu who Murph looks to as far as how to act like a dog. The first night was hard though – Stu took one look at Murph and then went into a corner and looked sad and dejected. But he quickly adjusted.”
Since Murph-E’s adoption, the King household has become a home where animal-tested products are no longer welcome, and she’s on a quest to get that information out to as many people as possible. Jennifer was horrified to learn, through Apps like Cruelty Cutter (launched by the Beagle Freedom Project) and Leaping Bunny that the majority of her cosmetics and the cleaning products in their home were tested on animals. She also learned that 98% of the products we use daily are tested on dogs, and 98% of those dogs are Beagles – chosen because of their small size, sweet personalities, and willingness to please.
Life these days is extremely good for Murph-E. With two years as a normal dog behind him, the little Beagle is enjoying life to the max on Mackinac, surrounded daily by owners who love him and a Beagle brother who is his best friend.
And, every time he walks up the steps into his home, he passes under the name of the place he now calls home – Freagle Cottage (Free Beagles).
Jennifer, Murph-E, Kirby and Stu-E in their backyard on Mackinac Island.
A lucky little dog and his loving mom. Jennifer said, “Of all the great things I’ve been blessed to see and do in my life, adopting Murph is one of the best.”
Murph-E today. Happy, safe, healthy, loved . . . . and free.