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May 10, 2018 02:57 PM

Gregory ain’t nothing but a hound dog … with a new lease on life!

A touching and celebratory photo of the beagle — who was once scheduled to be euthanized — has gone viral since his savior, a man named Joe Kirk, picked him up from Ohio’s Franklin County Dog Shelter on May 1 and drove away with Gregory towards a happier future.

NBC4 News reports that Kirk, who works at HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary in Ohio, treated Gregory to his “freedom ride.” The phrase has become popular on the pet rescue circuit as both a literal and symbolic experience for animals who have been saved from certain death.

Schenley Hutson-Kirk/HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary

Clearly, Gregory knew he’d found a friend in Kirk. The pup kept hugging the man during his mobile journey to HOUND, a special sanctuary where dogs can live and receive TLC, free from the threat of euthanasia, until they are adopted into a forever home.

According to HOUND’s Facebook post about the ride, Gregory seemed to understand that he was being saved from doggie death row — just two days before he was scheduled to be put down.

“The BEST Freedom Ride Picture EVER! Pulled from the Euthanasia List at FCDS today … ‘Gregory’ is one thankful and appreciative Beagle! He KNOWS he is SAFE!” the sanctuary posted, along with a heart-tugging photograph of Gregory cuddled up beside Kirk in the car.

Kirk told Today that it felt like he and Gregory had “known each other for years.”

Schenley Hutson-Kirk/HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary

Once the pup is given a clean bill of health by the vet (he currently has heartworm disease), Gregory will be available for adoption and hopefully headed to live the rest of his dog days with a loving family.

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Schenley Hutson-Kirk/HOUND Rescue and Sanctuary

“That is why we do what we do. That is what makes it all worthwhile, knowing that we are able to save the lives of these dogs in need,” said Schenley, according to Today. “And their appreciation and the love they give back is amazing. There’s nothing better.”

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