- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Danielle Griffith hates Tuesdays now, each one that passes a reminder of her 8-year-old daughter who was killed more than a month ago.

As Christmas approached, the Griffith family felt an even more pronounced hole caused by Jayla Rodriguez’s death in a dog attack on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on a Tuesday late last month. Jayla was always the focus of her close maternal family’s holidays, her aunt, Camille Griffith, said in an interview. Without her, the entire Christmas season feels different, Danielle Griffith said.

“It’s really hard Christmas shopping, because she was always our purpose for Christmas,” said Jayla’s grandmother, Kathy Griffith.

Still, the family got Jayla at least two presents even though she isn’t here to open them: an archery bow and a Denver Broncos helmet. The Broncos were Jayla’s favorite football team, Danielle Griffith said, and the family plans to attend the Dec. 28 game in Denver with a banner that reads: “Broncos’ No. 1 Angel.” They say Jayla would like being noticed on camera at the stadium.

The Griffiths have adopted the Broncos as their favorite football team in memory of Jayla, who was buried in a Peyton Manning jersey on Nov. 26, a month ago. Danielle Griffith’s nails are painted blue and orange, the Broncos’ colors. It’s one of the many tributes Griffith has planned for her daughter, whom she says still should be with her.

“Now I feel like I don’t even have a purpose,” Danielle Griffith said. “It’s just hard for me to find what my purpose (is) now.”

Tribal police have said that Jayla was killed by a pack of dogs while sledding on Nov. 18. FBI Spokesman Kyle Loven said this week that an investigation into her death remains ongoing.

Danielle Griffith was doing homework that Tuesday evening at Oglala Lakota College when she heard about the attack. She now dreads that night each week.

“Every time it’s a Tuesday, it just means that’s a week longer since the last time I saw her,” Danielle Griffith said.

Other reminders are painful, too. It was hard to give their dog, Buppy, a bath for the first time since Jayla’s death, since it was her job. Griffith no longer wants to go ice skating, and she can’t sleep in the house she and Jayla shared. Sometimes, though, Griffith goes there to sit in Jayla’s Broncos-themed bedroom.

Griffith finds comfort in her memories and signs that Jayla is still with her. When she was putting up multicolored Christmas lights with her sister, eight lights in a row lit up blue, Jayla’s age and favorite color. Danielle and Camille Griffith are also making headway on Jayla’s Dream, an effort to improve animal control and start a shelter in her memory on the southwestern South Dakota reservation.

Danielle Griffith describes her daughter as a tomboy who was full of life and love for sports, singing and dancing and art. Jayla’s smile shines in the thousands of pictures her mother took of her. Danielle Griffith said she’s glad now that when her phone filled up with pictures, she deleted duplicates, apps and songs to make room for more photos of her daughter.

“I have thousands and thousands of pictures of her because Danielle … was one of those crazy moms,” Camille Griffith said. “Now I’m grateful.”

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