Viviana Perestrelo, 29, and her partner Kevin Aspell, 33, adopted their six-year-old German Shepherd Jess from RSPCA Birmingham Animal Centre after she was signed over into the charity’s care when her previous owner could no longer care for her.

Viviana, who is originally Portugese, met her partner Kevin, from Luton, in Gran Canaria where they worked, him as a Commercial Captain and her as Cabin Crew. The couple and their two cats,

Aquilies and Maxi, then moved to Greenfield in Bedfordshire and decided to adopt an RSPCA rescue dog.

Viviana said: “As soon as I got to Jess’ kennel my heart skipped a beat. It was 100% love at first sight. 

“Just from looking at her, I knew she was the dog we were going to bring home. We adopted her there and then pending a home visit and one week later she was already part of the family.”

Jess was three-years-old when she was adopted and had been waiting to find a home for over a month.

Viviana said: “I don't know why her owner didn’t want her anymore, she’s an absolute angel. It took a while for her to trust us, and we had to do all her training from scratch but she’s too smart for her own good and she just loves the cats. We were the perfect family for 19 months but after seven years together, my partner Kev passed away in a car accident. He was driving through a storm and the roads were flooded. The car slid and he was killed instantly.”

Viviana explained that she hardly remembers the next days or weeks. She barely left the house, she couldn’t eat, she didn’t want to talk to anyone, or be around anyone - except for Jess.

“In a way, not being able to talk to Jess made me feel like I was in a bubble when she was with me. She didn’t talk about death, or inheritance, taxes, the mortgage, she just loved me and licked me. My family came to support me and I love them to bits but once my family left, I didn’t care about anything in the world, I really didn’t, but Jess was my responsibility. I had to get out of bed to feed her, let her out to go to the toilet, walk her. Her needs were getting me out of bed in the morning, her routine kept me grounded in the middle of all this mess.

“And she can’t speak but she knows.” Viviana explained. “We are both grieving. She’ll always sleep on his pillow and smells his shoes outside, she can’t forget him either. It broke my heart seeing her go to the door when she expected him to come home, and I couldn’t explain to her why he wasn’t coming home,” Viviana continued.

“I went through my worst times but my dog pulled me from a dark hole I didn't see an end to. I don't know how or where I'd be if I didn't have her in my life. She was there when I woke up alone, she was there when I had to cook myself dinner. She was always there when I came home, and she was there every time I cried. People say Jess is lucky that we adopted her but I believe we were the lucky ones to have found her. I thank the RSPCA for bringing her to me.”

Viviana wanted to give something back to the RSPCA which is why she decided to take on the London Landmarks half marathon which takes place on Sunday, 29 March. 

Viviana added: “I thought I would be the last person doing something like this but I’ve been trying to turn myself from an expert couch potato to a superior human capable of running 21km. It’s been quite a challenge. I’m just hoping I can do the whole thing on the day!”