For Judy and me it was love at first sight. We met at work. I was a postdoctoral laboratory animal veterinarian in the final stretch of my training program. Judy was a beagle engaged in pharmacokinetics research.

The results from her participation in studies were used to determine the best formulation of drugs, inform further animal studies and help determine human dosing regimens. This is an integral part of the process that creates safe and effective drugs for both human and animal patients. Judy helped develop treatments for cystic fibrosis, hepatitis, malaria and autoimmune diseases.

Judy helped develop treatments for cystic fibrosis, hepatitis, malaria and autoimmune diseases. (Photos courtesy of Abigail Greenstein)

My husband and I were cat people. We lived in a tiny apartment without a yard. We didn’t know where we were going at the end of the year. There were all kinds of good reasons not to get a dog. But I couldn’t get away from the feeling that Judy was meant to be a part of our family. I decided to stay at the institution where I was finishing my training and put my name down to adopt her once she reached retirement age. (ALSO READ RUPPERT’S STORY: Life After the Lab)

As Judy neared retirement, we practiced walking through the halls on a leash. We went to the playroom where I rewarded her with treats as she targeted up and down the stairs. I collected advice from all my colleagues with retired beagles at home and read books on positive reinforcement training.

Judy came home in spring 2017. My husband and I got matching shirts that read “Judy’s Dad” and “Judy’s Mom.” (Photos courtesy of Abigail Greenstein)

Judy came home in spring 2017. My husband and I got matching shirts that read “Judy’s Dad” and “Judy’s Mom.” Things were rocky at the start. Our first walk was quickly interrupted by a thunderstorm. The climb to our second floor walk-up was a non-starter. She spent the night curled up in a corner of our kitchen. I worried that we weren’t the right family for Judy.

Judy was used to a lot of attention and was puzzled when not everyone stopped to pet and praise her. If the mail carrier passed us by, she would plop onto the sidewalk and stare longingly, waiting for him to realize his mistake and return. Walks around the block were endless, and Judy was immune to treats or other forms of bribery. But slowly, she adjusted. We rejoiced when she finally completed a lap around the block in less than half an hour. She learned to love hot dogs. She even learned to go up and down the stairs.

Judy has been with us for a move to the suburbs, the birth of two children and the adoption of a second beagle. (Photos courtesy of Abigail Greenstein)

Judy has been with us for a move to the suburbs, the birth of two children and the adoption of a second beagle. She was our daughter’s best friend through the solitary early days of the pandemic and makes herself at home in any lap that will have her. When people comment on her calm and friendly disposition, I proudly explain that it’s because she is a retired research beagle: she has always been treated with love and expects nothing less.

Judy spent the first four years of her life helping develop safe and effective drugs for human patients, allowing them to live happier and healthier lives. In her retirement she continues to be an ambassador for research animal adoption. Our family appreciates her service and that we can give her the joyful retirement she deserves!

Abigail Greenstein is a senior clinical veterinarian at AbbVie.

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