JJ is January’s Next Top Pawdel of the Month, the inaugural monthly winner of the Philippine’s Next Top Pawdel. Yet at 14 years old, he is long-lived for a dog and old enough to win our vote for his heartwarming stories. Long enough to comprise a life story of a teenager. You can even classify him as among the more mature or older ones. His warm fur and small size also make you want to cuddle him. Alexandra “Xandra” Castro, his beloved owner, says JJ does feel like a warm pillow when they hug. And she is only one of a handful of people who enjoy that privilege. Because despite his age and size, JJ is a very protective dog. He does not just defend his family, but he also comforts them almost the way a human being does.
“Masarap i-hug si JJ. He’s like a warm stuffed toy and very comfortable to sleep with,” confirms Xandra, who juggles her career as a high-powered laywer with her marriage and motherhood of two children. “But he is very affectionate only with certain people. He does it only with me and my oldest who is 13 years old. He is selective.”
JJ is also very “discerning” when it comes to the people who come in and out of Xandra’s life. During those 14 years (and counting) that he has been staying with Xandra, he clearly makes it known to her the friends and companions that he approves—and the others that he, as a protective dog, might be more reserved about.
Her previous dates were not so lucky. “I was single back then,” says Xandra. “Every time guys would go to my house, one of the litmus tests was how JJ would react to them. He really liked some of them—but there were others who he just could not stop barking at.
Xandra recalls with a smile that, fortunately, her husband got JJ’s stamp of approval when he started courting her. Her previous dates were not so lucky. “I was single back then,” says Xandra. “Every time guys would go to my house, one of the litmus tests was how JJ would react to them. He really liked some of them—but there were others who he just could not stop barking at. Some guys he ignored. My husband—who was my boyfriend then—JJ was fine with.”
One possible reason why JJ became a protective dog was because Xandra was very protective of him from the beginning. She first saw him in a pet shop near the Tiendesitas area while she, her mother, and grandfather were walking to a restaurant. There was something so endearing and vulnerable about the puppy that caused Xandra to enter the store and play with him for a while before heading off to dinner with her family. But she could not erase him from her mind.
Xandra narrates, “We could not stop talking about him during dinner and visited him again on the way back to the car. We were about to leave him, but hindi kaya. I had become too attached to him. Right there and then I purchased him. Naubos ang suweldo ko.” That choice would prove itself true over time—as JJ lived up to become among the most protective dogs in the family.
“We could not stop talking about him during dinner and visited him again on the way back to the car. We were about to leave him, but hindi kaya. I had become too attached to him. Right there and then I purchased him. Naubos ang suweldo ko.”
JJ, then four months old at the time of the purchase, became their baby. He and Xandra were inseparable and he moved with her every time she changed residences. First he stayed with her, her mother, and grandfather whiles she was studying for law school. Then, years later, as she began her practice as a lawyer and began looking for her own place, a “pet-friendly condo” was the first criterion in her search.
A single mom during that time that she first established her independence, Xandra and her 8-year-old daughter slept in one room, with JJ a few steps away. As the girl grew up “and moved to her own room without a yaya, one of the conditions is that JJ had to be there. JJ”- the family’s protective dog—“was her yaya.”
Again, years later, when Xandra married the man of her dreams, JJ’s being part of her new family “was not a question – he would move in with us.”
JJ was also with Xandra during the bad times, and not just the good ones. That cuddly and warm presence that the protective dog exuded became a source of comfort during her miscarriage. After the operation, Xandra stayed at home for months, recuperating often alone for hours while her husband went to work and her oldest child was studying in school. “Nakakabaliw,” Xandra describes those moments of solitude and sorrow. Fortunately, “JJ was my frequent companion and he was a great comfort. He stayed with me and licked my tears. He did it to the point that it was ticklish—and I’d laugh. JJ was a great cheerleader and upper at that time.”
JJ still teaches Xandra very important lessons up to this day, including him in the best family dogs category. One of them is to get quality rest, to balance her working life as a lawyer in Quisumbing Torres, one of the country’s most prestigious law firms. “I have a tendency to overwork especially now because we are working from home,” muses Xandra. “The to-do list will not end and I do have to remind myself to give myself a break. Before he sleeps at night, JJ would go to me, like telling me it is bedtime.”
JJ, Xandra’s protective dog, is not a slacker in that area and lives by what he preaches. “He sleeps 20 hours a day, it’s the secret to his long life,” Xandra says. “He’ll be turning 15 on February 12, the Chinese New Year. We make every year count. He is the longest living dog I have ever had.”
Philippines’ Next Top Pawdel
If you think you also have a heartwarming story that can be told through the lens of the camera – a story of unspoken love by your dog or cat — please join the Philippines’ Next Top Pawdel. Our pictures will not just bring out the beauty of your pet, or reveal what’s inside their unspeaking heart. It will also talk about your connection with them, your relationship, your love affair.
Tell us your story. We’d like to hear from you.
How to win?
- Answer the pre-qualifying questions of love for a chance to be the Next Top Pawdel of the Month.
- Monthly winners must have their winning pet’s portrait taken in full Pawdel pawllection at The Pet Visuals’ studio.
- Top Pawdels of the Month are entitled to a free 3-hour pet portrait session (both solo and accompanied).
- One (1) pet is equivalent to one single entry.
- Only one (1) qualified pet can be admitted in the pet portrait session.
- Top Pawdel of the Month winners are ineligible to join the succeeding monthly Top Pawdel.
- Top Pawdel of the Month is limited to an undisclosed number of entries each month.
- Once the monthly contest is closed, wait for the next month’s contest to reopen.
- Free 25 post-shoot processed images in full Pawdel pawllection.
- Monthly winners will be transported for free via Pawdel’s private service vehicle to The Pet Visuals’ studio. *pick-up and drop-off is limited to Metro Manila and nearby provinces only (Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan)
- The grand winner of the Philippines’ Next Top Pawdel will be selected by a panel of judges by rating the 12 Top Pawdels of the Month’s portraits on the merits of who best articulates their unspoken love through the lens of the camera.