Ralph Macchio was not interested in having another pet after the death of his family’s 14-year-old Shih Tzu, Ginger.
“My kids’ whole childhood was with this dog,” he tells PEOPLE of his 24-year-old daughter, Julia, and 21-year-old son, Daniel’s beloved dog. “So when she passed away, it was brutal.”
But when his wife, Phyllis, 56, sent him a photo of a Yorkshire terrier from the Kent Shelter in Long Island, everything changed.
“I said OK, let’s find out more information,” says Macchio, 55, who appears in the upcoming HBO drama, The Deuce. “She brought me back there, and when he came out he started licking me and was looking right into my eyes. There was a connection immediately.”
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Now 4-year-old Oliver and the former Karate Kid star are inseparable, with Macchio saying he feels like he “lucked out” with the gentle disposition of his new pup, who is believed to have suffered extreme neglect from a former owner with a chronic illness.
“If anything, he’s a little needy,” Macchio jokes.
Although he hadn’t adopted before, Macchio says he’s been “converted” since forming this special bond with Oliver.
“There are thousands if not more of these animals, so the concept of rescuing feels good, and as a family it feels like a positive thing,” he says. “It feels good to give this guy a happy home.”
Macchio has also converted Oliver … to the full-blown domestic lifestyle.
“We’re best buddies,” he says. “We watch football, we listen to music. What’s better than that?”