Eva Mendes learned a lot about being a mom from an unlikely place.
The actress and mother of two — who shares daughters Amada Lee, 2, and Esmeralda Amada, 4, with longtime partner Ryan Gosling — spoke to PEOPLE Thursday on the red carpet of New York & Co.’s Fall 2018 fashion show about how owning dogs prepared her for motherhood.
“You know what? It’s not that different. It really isn’t,” said Mendes, laughing. “The love that you have for your dog, and how you are with your dog, I think, is really similar to how you are with your children.”
“I really feel that, and people will probably get really mad with me for feeling that way, [but] it’s just so beautiful,” added the star, 44.
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Mendes explored the bond women have with their pets in Thursday’s show, which took place at the Palace Theater in Los Angeles. She took on her first acting gig in three years for the occasion, starring in a short video that opened the show as a dog owner mourning the passing of her pup. Mendes even walked the red carpet later with the film’s costar: a Husky rescue from Cesar Millan’s PACK Project.
As it turns out, the star pulled from her own experiences for the video. She has lost at least two dogs in her lifetime, including her beloved Belgian Malinois Hugo and Gosling’s loyal canine George, who died in December 2016 at the age of 17.
“He was so special,” Mendes said of Hugo. “I would just talk to him and I would treat him like a person, like, I think, most dog lovers do. I just have that bond that will be there … He may be gone, but that feeling has never left me. It is one of the most special presences in my life.”
“Hugo — who, again, I miss so much — he prepped me for motherhood,” continued the actress. “George, who I miss so much, prepped me for motherhood. It was the best training that I could have.”
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Mendes’ night out on Thursday came a day after daughter Esmeralda’s fourth birthday, which she and Gosling, 35, celebrated in a special yet low-key way.
“We had cake,” she said, when asked how they marked the occasion. “[We celebrated] as just family — and together, and in our house it is a lot. I am very fortunate to have my family very close by, and Ryan’s family visits all of the time, so we are always together.”
“On a birthday, we just add cake to it and it’s a party,” Mendes laughed.