updated 07/26/2009 AT 6:30 PM ET
•originally published 07/27/2009 AT 4:45 AM ET
When Dancing with the Stars pros Karina Smirnoff and fiancé Maksim Chmerkovskiy made their Broadway debut last Saturday in the dance spectacular Burn the Floor, they knew exactly who’d be helping them wind down afterward: her family dog, Randy.
“Every night we go back to Randy to take away the stress,” Smirnoff tells PEOPLE Pets. “I love him, he’s very loving, and my favorite part about him is when you start getting angry or frustrated, he runs up to you and starts licking and kissing you everywhere, so he calms you down.”
The mixed-breed rescue pup lives with Smirnoff’s parents in New Jersey, where the couple are staying through August. “Randy has kept me relaxed and entertained. It’s nice to come home to undeniable love,” she says.
As an only child, Smirnoff grew up desperately wanting a dog and, she says, she tried everything to get her parents to adopt one. Instead, “they put me into every activity from ballet to piano, dancing to skating,” she says. “I always wanted a dog but I always had tasks.”
So when Smirnoff, now 31, left her parents’ New Jersey home for Los Angeles, she decided to get them a dog – a mixed-breed rescue named Tyson – to keep them company. “He filled up that emptiness,” she says. Sadly, Tyson was hit by a car and killed. “You never know how attached you get to a dog until you lose him. It was a full-on tragedy in my house,” she recalls. “I cried every day for months.”
After her family had time to grieve, Smirnoff adopted Randy – a pooch that reminded them of Tyson. “Randy, the new dog, looked just like him. He came in and rescued my parents.” Though Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy split their time between the east and west coasts, they’re happy to be able to stay in New Jersey with Randy and the family whenever they’re in town. “When I’m home he listens to me. But my mom is the goddess,” Smirnoff laughs. “She spends the most time with him, so her word is the first word for him, even before my dad.”
Now about 18 months old, Randy will make his media debut on Monday night, walking the catwalk at Animal Fair’s Paws for Style event in the Big Apple. “It’s a great cause, and we both get to wear designer wear,” gushes Smirnoff. “Although I’m really concerned because Randy is extremely strong and he gets so excited when he sees dogs and people – it’s hard to control him! He’ll be jumping and licking everyone. I have this picture in my mind where I’m in a gown and heels and Randy starts running and I experience a Sex and the City moment where I’m dragged across the catwalk.”
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