This picture of Gregory, a 2-year-old beagle seemingly hugging his rescuer, Joe Kirk, has gone viral. Findlays HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary saved the dog just two days before its scheduled euthanization date. (Photo courtesy of Schenley Kirk)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN
LIFE EDITOR

A precious pair of puppy dog eyes has launched a local pup into the national spotlight.

But Gregory the 2-year-old beagle wasn’t begging for food or forgiveness for some doggy indiscretion. On the contrary, the rescued pup was very clearly showing his heartfelt appreciation to the man who saved his life.

Schenley Kirk, one-half of the husband and wife duo who run HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary from their Findlay home, posted a picture of Gregory and her husband, Joe, on their “freedom ride” from a Franklin County animal shelter back to Findlay. (Freedom ride is the term rescue organizations give to an animal’s ride home from the shelter.) In the now-viral photo, Gregory is stretching up from the backseat to hug Joe and lay his head on the man’s shoulder, gazing up at him with a loving stare.

Joe snapped a picture of the sweet moment and sent it to Schenley, who posted it to her personal Facebook account with the caption: “The BEST Freedom Ride Picture EVER! Pulled from the Euthanasia List at FCDS today by HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary, ‘Gregory’ is one thankful and appreciative Beagle!”

Gregory the beagle relaxes at his temporary home in Findlay. (Photo courtesy of Schenley Kirk)

The post caught the attention of a handful of national media outlets and has received nearly 10,000 reactions from animal lovers around the world. The post has been shared more than 9,300 times.

“I’m just a bit overwhelmed, to say the least,” Schenley said Wednesday afternoon. “CBS News just contacted us. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ The Today Show, MSN. It’s just unreal.”

Gregory was rescued from the shelter on May 1, just two days before the heartworm-positive dog was scheduled to be euthanized.

As far as Schenley is concerned, that now-famous gaze is one projecting genuine gratitude: “Just the look in his eyes. It absolutely touches you because, you tell me that little dog didn’t know he was safe.”

Schenley explained HOUND (Helping Overlooked Unwanted Neglected Dogs) Rescue and Sanctuary was established in 2014 and earned its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2016. The Kirks rescue beagles and other hounds from about a three-hour radius and adopt them out to other families. Senior dogs or those with behavioral or medical issues “live out their lives here as a sanctuary dog,” Schenley said.

Before Gregory completed his freedom ride from Columbus to Findlay — and before he became a celebrity — a couple with two other rescued beagles had already fallen in love with his picture and requested an adoption form from Schenley. Once the pup has completed his heartworm treatment and is cleared by a veterinarian, Gregory will meet the couple and their dogs to see if he’s a good match for the family.

Schenley said it can be hard to part with a rescued hound, but she’s proud to be helping dogs and she makes a point of keeping up with their new lives on Facebook.

“Every adoptive family, they become a part of our extended family,” she said.

As for her husband’s unlikely fame, Schenley said Joe has continued to shift the spotlight to the beagle, affectionately referring to him as “my little celebrity, Gregory.”

Griteman: 419-427-8477
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Twitter: @BrennaGriteman

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