I've been a dog-lover my whole life. If I had the space and money, I would take in all the dogs that needed homes.
In May 2014, my boyfriend Ramiro had a surprise for me that would change my life forever.
A chocolate labrador retriever puppy, my favorite breed, melted my heart as she sat on the steps of our house one morning.
I immediately started making the house as comfortable and safe as possible. I bought her food, toys and held her like a baby.
She looked so scared and hid in corners of the house and stared at me while I cleaned. As I sang songs by one of my favorite artists, her ears would perk up. Her eyes looked brighter when I sang to her, so I called her JoJo.
When bathing her, I noticed my puppy was infested with ticks and her eyes were droopy.
I spent hours cleaning her coat and took her to the vet for her shots.
Soon, she was diagnosed with parvovirus and told she had it before she came to live with me. I cried and felt helpless.
JoJo was perfect. She loved the water and she had her very own pool she would play in. I had no problems walking her with a leash and we would run together at the park every weekend. Trips to Petco were her favorite since she liked to ride in the car. She would jump in the car and sit in the back seat by the window, ready for a road trip. She would sleep with me anytime and I always woke up to her pressing her cold nose on my cheek.
Everyone loved her, especially my mother who would spend time with her everyday. She would take her out to play while I was at work or school.
JoJo was only nine months when I graduated college, a huge accomplishment I had been waiting and working on for five years.
The day after graduation, I noticed JoJo was walking differently and scheduled an appointment with the vet. In hours, she developed several new symptoms. Her mouth started twitching and making a popping sound. She didn't eat and couldn't keep water down.
At the clinic, the veterinarian told me the condition might be neurological and told me she could die or fight it but, she would keep twitching.
I was given antibiotics that I had to give her for seven days. I took her home and make her comfortable since she was just laying down and having difficulty breathing at this point.
That night, I woke up around 3 a.m. and noticed JoJo was awake and whimpering. I called her to get up so I could let her outside and she struggled to stand. As she walked, I noticed she couldn't keep her balance so I led her with my hand on her collar. She got to the step that leads down to the back door and veered to the right. I hurried to catch her and held on to her as tears streamed down my face.
At that moment, I knew she wasn't going to make it. Something was terribly wrong with my JoJo and I couldn't do anything about it. She spent one last night with me in my bed and I called the vet as soon as they opened in the morning. I asked the vet to care for JoJo and treat her as best they could, since I had work and couldn't watch her.
She wasn't getting any better the next day (I would call every chance I could.)
Around 7 a.m. the next morning, I woke up to a phone call I knew was about JoJo. As I answered, I tried to stay positive but the tone of the veterinarian's voice said it all.
"JoJo passed away," he said.
I was so prepared for the news but it hurt anyway.
I didn't want to talk or move when I hung up the phone. Ramiro was inches away from me but I couldn't look at him. Instead, I said "it was about Jo."
Ramiro turned quickly to learn about the phone call and I just shut my eyes and shook my head. We cried for two hours together, holding each other and shared stories about her.
The hardest part of it all was telling people about it. Saying she died got easier but the first time was the hardest thing I've done - I had to break my mother's heart.
The sound of my mother wailing and holding her stomach as she tried to talk made it reality.
JoJo wasn't just a dog, a pet or an accessory. She was a part of my family and now there is a huge hole where she used to be.
Every time I would get home from work, she would run to me and that tail of hers would make noise on the door, the fridge and the washer machine.
I miss the noises of her tags jingling and the cooing sound she would make when she yawned.
The only thing that actually helps is the support of friends and family. If someone knows me, they know I don't like crying in front of others so I won't talk about it. A simple "I'm sorry," is comforting enough for me.
Maybe I'll forget about the sounds and the pain as the time passes but right now I would give anything to have her back.
Loss is such a difficult experience to endure. I've lost grandmothers, cousins and friends I've loved dearly and accepted it.
Losing someone you see everyday and suddenly, they're not there anymore is abnormal and haunting.
Lemony Snicket describes the feeling perfectly:
“It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try to readjust the way you thought of things."