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June 2, 2022 — It’s not easy to pin Dr. Audrey Ruple down – she is one busy person! With her new academic appointment at Virginia Tech, her three children and nine pets, Dr. Ruple keeps lots of plates spinning. But her busy life hasn’t stopped her from devoting time and energy to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, both as a researcher and as a member of the Study’s Scientific Steering Committee (SSC).

Dr. Ruple’s expertise as a veterinary epidemiologist is a crucial piece of the SSC. In addition, she is part of the Executive Leadership Team of the Dog Aging Project, a National Institutes of Health-supported study investigating the aging process in dogs as a model for humans.

“The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study has been absolutely foundational in paving the way for many other studies like the Dog Aging Project,” said Dr. Ruple. “We need foundational projects we can build on to move science forward. We’re truly standing on the shoulders of giants!”

As Dr. Ruple settled into her first faculty position at Purdue University, she became interested in knowing more about the factors associated with Study participation. It’s no secret that retention and compliance rates for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study are high, surpassing most human studies, and Dr. Ruple wanted to know why.

She studied the differences in questionnaire responses between Study participants who dropped out after their first year and those who continued into their second year. She found a few simple questions were able to predict which owners would continue and which owners would be most likely to drop out.

“The results of this simple study informed the nomination process for the Dog Aging Project,” said Dr. Ruple. “This is just one example of how the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is helping other researchers.”

When asked what the key element in the Study’s success has been, Dr. Ruple is quick to point to the level of commitment displayed by the participants.

“This group of people haven’t just stayed engaged, they’ve stayed true to the science,” said Dr. Ruple. “It’s hopeful to me and a sign that our citizenry feels their participation is impactful.”

Dr. Ruple’s ties to the Morris Animal Foundation extend beyond her role with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. She also was the recipient of a Morris Animal Foundation cancer training grant at Colorado State University that assists students interested in science careers. Dr. Ruple noted that without the training grant, she wouldn’t have been able to realize her career goals. Thank you, Dr. Ruple, for all you do in support of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study to advance the health and well-being of dogs everywhere!