A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Real fairy tale: How did commoner beagle, rescued from KY kill shelter, end up in Kensington Palace?

By Hannah Carver
NKyTribune reporter

This is the rest of the fairy tale.

The world is familiar with the story. The Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle, born in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, married Prince Harry of Great Britain in the embodiment of the classic Cinderella story.

But it is Duchess’ dog, rescued from a grisly fate in a Kentucky shelter, that is truly a rags-to-riches, happily-ever-after fairy tale.

In January 2015, a heartworm-infected beagle named Guy ended up in a shelter in Montgomery County, Kentucky. He was on the list to be euthanized as no one came to claim him. This could have been the end of the story, for which the lucky (now royal) dog can thank a network of hardworking volunteers.

Guy belongs to the Duchess of Sussex, also known as Meghan Markle. This picture from January 2015 shows him at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter in Kentucky. (Photo provided)

Among those is Rhonda Frey of Union in Northern Kentucky. Despite working full-time as an attorney at Frost Brown Todd, LLC, Frey spends hours every week coordinating the transports of thousands of dogs from shelters in Kentucky and surrounding areas, to rescues throughout the country, and even abroad.

It’s through one of her transports, that Guy made his way out of Kentucky into Canada, where on the outskirts of Toronto, he caught the attention of then “Suits” actress, Meghan Markle.

Now, Guy resides in Kensington Palace, and he’s even been photographed taking a car ride with the Queen.

Frey said she finds this whole story touching, especially because of Guy’s breed.

“Beagles in Kentucky are considered throwaways. If they don’t hunt, they’re disposable,” Frey said. “Guy was likely a throwaway, and now he’s royalty…It makes me so happy to see one of them ascend to such heights.”

Frey said she hopes Guy’s story inspires others to get involved and try to make a difference in the lives of other animals. They don’t aspire to royal status; but a loving, caring home would be dandy.

Every week, Frey’s team runs transports up and down Interstate 71, taking dogs from shelters and placing them at reputable rescues, from which they hopefully will be adopted. (Photo by Molly Merrow)

“He [Guy] has a charmed life, for sure, and will never again be cold or hungry or alone — or in danger of losing his life,” Frey said. “But there are still so many wonderful dogs in our shelters who won’t be so lucky.”

Every week Frey spends her free time communicating with various rescues to get commitments for dogs that are currently in shelters and slated to be put down. She won’t give dogs to just anyone though. It’s a selective process.

In order for Frey to consider a rescue, it has to require its adopters to not only fill out a detailed application, but they also have to have veterinarian references, submit to a home visit, and sign a contract, saying they’ll return the dog to the rescue in the event the adoption does not work out.

Finding commitments on the dogs is one of the more challenging parts of the whole process, according to Frey. Then, she works to line up drivers, who take the dogs where they need to go.

“We email people directly and ask them to specifically help with a certain leg of the transport.”

Fortunately, it’s a steadfast crew that travels up and down I-75, according to Frey.

“If someone makes a commitment to drive, we’re counting on that person,” Frey said. “The schedule I send out is not flexible . . . You need to be at the meeting place at the scheduled time.”

Frey says one of her favorite parts of coordinating the transports is going to meet up with them and see the all the dogs before they leave. (Photo by Molly Merrow)

Frey and her team work hard to keep the well-oiled machine running. They monitor every transport and continually send updates every time a driver hands off a dog. This lets all the people involved know if the transport is running on schedule.

“We’ve got it down to a science, pretty much, which helps,” Frey said. “It’s probably a three-to-four-hour commitment for most people, so we need to respect their time.”

Whether it be drivers, overnighters, fosters, or rescues Frey’s team is always in need of more volunteers. Donations too are always important because they allow for Frey to save dogs from the shelters when they get too crowded.

“Knowing there’s an adoptable dog who’s going to lose its life just because there’s no space, I can’t stand that,” Frey said.

Frey said she sometimes pays out of her own pocket to board the dogs, often taking them to Petropolis Pet Resort in Union, where they’ll usually take whatever payment she can give them.

It’s all worth it though. Frey’s favorite part of the process is going to meet the transports and see the dogs before they set off.

“It’s like they know. They know they’ve been saved, and they’re on the road to a new home and a new life,” Frey said. “The really, really rewarding part is when I get pictures, videos, and emails from people who have adopted the rescues – and stories like Guy’s.”

Anyone wishing to help the rescue efforts, whether it is through volunteering or donating, can email Frey at hersheylab1@gmail.com.

The picture shared ’round the world — Lucky Guy gets a ride with the Queen.

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