Two years ago, Old Man Red was 15 years old with a face full of white fur, a single tooth, and the kind of health issues one would expect to see in a little dog who had spent time living on the streets as a stray. He was not what most people would consider adoption material, but Cheryl Adler couldn’t wait to bring this elderly Miniature Pincher–Chihuahua home.
“He’s just a real love, very affectionate, very sweet — and I think, thankful,” she says, adding that she is grateful for the opportunity to give Old Man Red love and dignity in his final years.
Red’s connection to Adler and his forever home began back in 2013, when he made a new friend at Synergy Animal Rescue, a San Diego-based sanctuary and rehab for special needs animals.
Red was awaiting adoption at Synergy when the rescue pulled an emaciated Pit Bull mix from a high-kill shelter at the last minute and named her Ladybug. Thousands of Facebook supporters — including Adler — watched as the folks at Synergy gave Ladybug the love and care she had never before received in her short life.
Many of the pictures Synergy posted of Ladybug showed Old Man Red right there beside the much larger dog as she received treatment. It seemed like Old Man Red wanted three-year-old Ladybug to know that he was there if she needed him, but unfortunately, Red and the folks at Synergy couldn’t save Ladybug. The extreme neglect she suffered before she was rescued left her body in ruins, and in April of 2013 she was sedated and euthanized as advanced diabetes and kidney and liver problems ravaged her poor body.
On the other side of the country, in New York state, Adler was crying while reading the Facebook updates detailing Ladybug’s journey over the Rainbow Bridge. In the days that followed, she couldn’t stop thinking about the little old dog who showed Ladybug so much love in her final days.
At first, Adler was sure someone from California would come forward to adopt 15-year-old Red, but when no locals wanted the old dog, Adler — who was still quite upset about Ladybug’s death — asked her husband what he thought of adopting Red.
“He said to me, ‘Would you stop crying if I said yes?'” she recalls. “Then he said, ‘Okay, if nobody in California adopts him, we can adopt him.'”
With her partner on board, Adler started making calls to Carla Naden, founder and director of Synergy.
“At first I think she thought I was crazy because I said I would fly out to California to pick him up, and she was really very, very cautious,” explains Adler, who spent weeks providing proof that her home was the right place for Red, even sending videos of her house, her backyard, and her other dogs.
“Eventually I guess she realized that I was serious and that I really would like to adopt Old Man Red, and she agreed. This took probably a month or two.”
According to Adler, the wait for Red was well worth it, and in the end, she didn’t even have to travel all the way to California to pick him up. When the founder of Synergy needed to fly to Baltimore to see family, she brought Old Man Red with her, and Adler drove four hours to Maryland to meet the dog she’d fallen in love with online.
“He’s been a joy to us ever since,” she says. “He’s a happy, happy dog, and gets along quite well with the other three in our home.”
Adler’s 10-year-old Boxer, Ruby, her Black Lab-mutt, Ralph, and little Lilly the mini Dachshund accepted Old Man Red into their pack as the humans in the home accepted the elderly dog into their hearts.
“My family was very, very nervous about me getting him, because of his age,” says Adler, who can understand why her loved ones were hesitant to endorse the adoption at first.
“When something happens to him — as with any of my pets — it’s going to be very very difficult, emotionally, but I would still highly recommend adopting a senior dog to anyone.”
According to Adler, adopting Old Man Red was worth any future emotional cost, but it’s also been a lot of work. Because he only has one tooth, Old Man Red requires special food. He will also be on medication for the rest of his life to prevent sinus infections, as food can travel through the holes in his mouth left vacant by his missing teeth.
“It’s a constant effort to keep him as healthy as possible and keep his quality of life as good as possible.”
Old Man Red’s health issues don’t stop him from loving life — a life Adler documents on Facebook for almost a thousand of Red’s fans.
“He had a lot of people that were following him through Synergy when I adopted him, and I think I was probably one of the first people from that rescue who adopted so far away,” she explains, adding that she created the Old Man Red’s Facebook page so that Red’s California friends could keep up with him.
“I find that if for some reason I don’t get a chance to post very often, people start to worry about him, which is really very sweet.”
Old Man Red has made many connections thanks to his Facebook page, including one with a Canadian couple, who even flew to New York State to meet Adler and Red. The couple ended up staying for a week, and Adler is sure they’ll be friends for life.
“They plan on coming again this year to visit with us.”
Adler can’t guarantee that Old Man Red will still be around when that visit happens, but she can guarantee that Red won’t be her last senior rescue.
“I will definitely do it again. Even though I know it’s going to be really, really hard to lose him.”
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.