Mojo is a 12-year old pug, with one eye and a very friendly, quirky personality. When Zoë first got him, he was 5 years old, still had both his eyes, and a different name.

Mojo came into my life initially as my friend Tyler’s dog. We worked together in a dog-friendly office. I hadn’t had a dog in many years, but I knew I wanted a pug. I loved him immediately and would steal him into my office. I had taken some pictures of them together. When I left that job, I kept in contact with Tyler. Not long afterwards, Tyler was in an unfortunate position where he needed to find the dog a new home. I sent him a message and said “Please I want the dog, you know I love your dog.” Tyler had to go through his own emotions, because it’s not an easy task to re-home a dog, especially if you really love that animal. So I told him, “I’m here, when you’re ready. I’d love to have him come live with me.”

The day Tyler came to drop him off, I promised him that Mojo would always be a part of his life, too. Since then, Tyler has taken him for longer visits, especially when I travel and needed a dog-sitter. I very much wanted him to feel like he was still connected to Mojo. Even to the point where I said he could always call him by his original name, which was Dexter. 

Tyler just got a tattoo of Mojo this summer and it really moved me to know that he still means that much to him. I’m sure Tyler is sad that he couldn’t keep the dog at that moment in his life, but he also still gets to experience him and their connection is still strong. And, in the tattoo Mojo has only one eye, which really moved me since the eye debacle happened after he came to live with me. To see the tattoo as representing the second phase of Mojo’s life was just a beautiful gesture towards the care I have given OUR dog.

Mojo is the definition of a quirky dog, as Zoë tells it:

He’s very protective, he barks at airplanes, it’s purely by hearing them since he can’t see them. He hears them indoors and starts barking at them. I didn’t know what it was for the first while. He barks at the sounds of rollerbladers and skateboarders even on the third floor of our building. He’ll be on the other side of the apartment, start barking, and run out on the balcony. It’s hilarious! He has to have the last bite of my meal, he hears the sound of my almost-empty plate and starts huffing and barking at me. He’s got a huge personality. He’s one of the friendliest dogs you will ever meet. I call him a people-pug, because he just loves humans. Total love and total stubborn pug!

Of course the story of how Mojo lost his right eye has to be told. This is how it happened:

I like to say that Mojo got into an argument with another dog over a hamburger and the other dog won.

Basically, my ex-girlfriend’s dog was aggressive with dogs. We had worked very hard to make sure they got along, which they did thankfully. But, one day we were making hamburgers on the barbecue and her dog was acting very food-obsessed, started to be super protective of the barbecue and the hamburgers on the flame. We don’t know exactly what happened, we were on the balcony and all of a sudden I heard Mojo loudly yelping in pain, turned around to find that his eye had popped out of his head.

I grabbed him, held him, went immediately into protection-mode, asking my ex to Google what we needed to do to fix it. And of course it was on a Sunday evening, so we ended up at an emergency vet. It wasn’t until we were there and they took him from me that I broke down.

The vet said, “We think we can save the eye, 9 times out of 10 we can put them back in and they’re fine.” I was a struggling photographer at that time in my life and I turned to my ex and said, “I don’t know what to do.” She responded, “What would you do if it was yourself?” “I would try to save the eye, of course,” I responded. She said to not let cost be an issue, she put it all on her credit cards and allowed me to pay it off slowly.

They did the surgery, we picked him up the next day, and they said to watch him and take him to our vet. Over the course of the next couple days I could tell the eye was not good. It was sitting in another direction and looked like it was dying. Sadly, the surgery didn’t take.

He also had neurological damage from whatever had happened. Since the injury was on the right, the neurological damage was on the left, his paws on the left side of his body were dragging. That was of concern so they sent me to a pet ophthalmologist. She didn’t think the surgery worked and sent me to see a pet neurologist, who wanted to do imaging. It was a really bad experience of being aggressively pushed to spend money, they locked me in a room and guilted me into more imaging. He ended up being 100% clear, which made me even more upset about them pushing me to spend more. I feel so many people in those situations get fleeced, which is why I share our story.

When we finally got in to see the regular vet, he told us it’s the opposite of the emergency vet, that only 1 in 10 eye surgeries work. Mojo had a second surgery remove his eye. Had we been able to see our own vet that horrible night, it would have been the best course of action for Mojo. He would have lost the eye, only had one surgery, and we would have saved thousands and thousands of dollars. I was very lucky that over half of the costs were covered by donations from friends. I paid the rest.

The neurological problem just figured itself out. The second surgery was a success and he’s mostly good with only one eye. I can tell he’s likely going to be blind at some point in his life, because basically can’t see at night. I’m constantly whistling at him and calling out to him at the dog park. He’s fine in safe spaces, but if he loses his vision completely, he’ll be on his leash all of the time. No big deal!

Zoë calls Mojo her velcro-dog because he’s just that. He’s always got to be cuddled up right next to her no matter where she is or what she’s doing. While Zoë and I spoke about Mojo and their story, he snored beside us on the couch the whole time.

He’s a velcro dog, sometimes that’s great and other times it’s slightly annoying. But, he also saved my life because he’s a velcro dog. So, I love that about him.

There was a point in my life were I wasn’t doing well, was very depressed. I had pretty much decided that I was done with life. I was going through all the motions of what do I do with my belongings, the letters am I needed to write, etc. I had been stockpiling pills and I knew that if the pills didn’t work there were two bridges that I could jump off of. l was ready. I’ve been ready a couple of times in my life.

I was lying in bed, he was cuddled up next to me, I was lying there crying and just hating life. I was staring at the ceiling and processing how many pills I had and next steps. All this stuff was churning in my head. And then Mojo snorted a little and twitched, he was right in the crook of my leg. All of a sudden I went “Oh no, I have to take care of this dog. I have to find him a home because I promised him that I would take care of him.”

I texted three different set of friends and a couple of days later one friend got back to me and said “I can take him for two weeks.” In between Mojo’s twitch and that little snort, that friend answering my texts, it was two days later. In that time, I’d stopped feeling suicidal. What happened was, pushing pause for a moment, before having an answer for Mojo in those fatal plans, just made me go in a different direction. It pulled me out of that space so I couldn’t go through with the continuation of my dialogue.

There was just this essence that he needed to be taken care of before I could leave the earth. He saved my life.

He’s an extension of me. He’s definitely my kid. He’s taught me a lot about myself. And he saves me daily still. I think that that’s one of the best gifts I have ever been given. (Zoë wrote about this experience for Huffington Post.)

Zoë, you are truly one of the most wonderful people I know. I feel honoured to have you in my life and to call you a friend. Thank you for opening up to me and trusting me to tell your story.