'My Rescue Dog Saved My Life, Then Tragedy Struck'

I adopted Red on November 26, 2019. At the time, I had moved from London to Amsterdam, for a fresh start. A woman named Charlie, who had been based in London, was the owner of five Pitbulls that were put under the Breed-Specific Legislation law, a law that regulates and bans certain dog breeds in an attempt to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals. Charlie's dogs were therefore muzzled, castrated, and micro-chipped, as they were seen as a threat because of their breed.

Charlie had wanted a better life for her dogs, so she had moved to Greece and opened her own private sanctuary with the intention of rescuing as many animals as she could. Red was one of them—he was found tied to a pole in 2019, with kids beating him with sticks. At the time, he was severely malnourished and had faced a significant amount of trauma.

When Charlie reached out and asked if I know of any friends who wanted to adopt Red, I immediately excluded myself from the opportunity as I had only been in Amsterdam for a month, but of course, the minute I saw a picture of Red's face, I instantly knew that it was meant to be.

Kerri and Red
Kerri and Red in July, 2022, in Horsey Beach. Kerri Aston

At the time, Charlie set up a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of transporting Red from Greece to Amsterdam. I posted it everywhere, and we raised 500 euros within a short period of time, but when I found out that Red was going to be transported on a lorry with several animals for five days, I insisted that I'd get him myself.

I'd never done anything like it in my life—normally, I couldn't attend the grocery store without company, as I had severe agoraphobia. I would go shopping with the intention of buying a list of items and leave with nothing due to the consistent, crippling anxiety that I experienced.

The fact that I had moved to Amsterdam for a fresh start and traveled for days alone to rescue Red, allowed me to realize that this journey was bigger than me—Red had to be with me. I thought to myself, "I have to suck it up and just do it for him." Little did I know that this journey was in fact transforming me, as well as saving Red.

The journey to Greece was 19 hours long, as Charlie lived in a small town in the north of Athens, called Lefkada. But with every step of the way, thinking of Red soothed my anxiety. As soon as I saw him, we instantly knew that we were meant to be. At the time, Charlie said, "It's your mommy," after which Red began licking my face. Getting Red was an incredible and surreal moment.

Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a long, yet unforgettable journey. In June 2020, I moved back to London. I had suffered from depression since the age of 15 was difficult for me. Then, as a young woman, I began taking contraception which worsened my depression. There were days when I couldn't move—I wanted to hide under a rock, let alone choose to live my life for someone else, like Red. He truly saved me. So, although Red was with me every step of the way, in February 2021, our lives almost changed forever.

After moving to London, Red and I had no place to stay, as there were no spare rooms in my family house. I was given the choice of flat sharing at the expense of losing Red and refused. So, we slept on my sister's floor for months. During that time, Red became lethargic. He was losing a dramatic amount of weight. One morning he was laying on the bed and I gave him a hug but to my surprise, he let out a loud yelp—I knew that something was wrong.

I immediately contacted the vet, and after several tests, we found out that he had a severe parasite disease called Leishmania—his lymph nodes were swollen, and the muscles in his forehead were completely destroyed. Whatever was happening to Red was eating him from the inside out, and I couldn't stand by and watch it win.

I set up another GoFundMe page, asking my followers for £700, ($853) as the drug that I needed to cure Red was £950 ($1,158) for a 28-day treatment. Within 45 minutes of setting up the page, I had gained £750 ($915). I woke up the following morning, and was shocked to see it had risen to £1,375 ($1676). My followers helped save my dog's life. Prior to this, 300 new Instagram followers had started watching Red's inspirational journey—I know that if it wasn't for their support, Red may not be here today.

Kerri and Red Cuddling
Kerri and Red cuddling in her family house in London, March, 2021. Kerri Aston

In May 2022, my friend offered us the opportunity to live in her house in Suffolk, England, and of course, Red and I moved there. This truly benefited us both, as my outlook on life is now completely different. I'm happier and I feel freer. The air here is fresh, the views are beautiful, and most importantly, Red loves it.

I often worry about what I will do when Red passes away—I know that I will lose myself initially, but I have to remember that Red is always going to be a part of me as having him with me has made me stronger.

Often, my friends tell me that Red would have never been here if it wasn't for me, but the truth is that I would not be here if it wasn't for him.

Kerri Aston is the proud dog owner of Red. She uses platforms, such as her Instagram account to share her inspirational journey, as well as to document Red's life.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Carine Harb.