That’s because, for a long time, with no family in his life, the dogs had become like family to Ford, as had his neighbors in the Westchester Village neighborhood in the Bronx where he’d lived since 2009.
“This is the only place I have been able to call home in a while,” he said.
When the 56-year-old ex-Navy reservist was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, he really saw the best side of his local community.
“I knew no one when I moved into this apartment but all my neighbors became my good friends,” Ford explained. During his cancer treatment, “They brought me food, did my laundry and shopped for me,” he said.
In return he helped out his neighbors and watched over the seniors in the building. After two years of extensive treatment and surgery, Ford’s cancer went into remission. Soon after that, he took the advice of his doctor and adopted the two Pomeranians.
“The dogs were a lifesaver for me,” he said.
The day his apartment burned, Ford tried desperately to reach the dogs. Though he made two efforts to climb onto the fire escape and into his apartment, thick smoke and flames pushed him back. Ford suffered minor non-life threatening burns from his rescue attempts.
Within minutes after Ford’s fruitless efforts, firefighters were in the apartment extinguishing the blaze and bringing out the dogs, who were both unconscious.
“Their eyes were shut and they were barely breathing,” Ford said. “I don’t know what I would have done if they had perished in the fire.”
After a half hour of oxygen administered by a firefighter, the dogs awoke. It was a moment of huge relief for Ford, who realized he wouldn’t be able to relocate without his dogs at his side.
“The American Red Cross responder got on the phone and wouldn’t stop calling until he had found a place for me and my dogs to stay,” he recalled.
In addition to providing Ford and his dogs with temporary housing during repairs to the damaged apartment, the Red Cross was also able to provide emergency funds to help with urgent purchases such as food and clothing.
“I needed help right away and the Red Cross was there,” Ford said. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”