The Dancing with the Stars judge, who shares two rescue dogs and two rescue cats with his girlfriend Hayley Erbert, is teaming up with Purina ONE to help rescue animals find forever homes this summer

By Morgan Smith
June 21, 2021 09:00 AM
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Like any proud pet parent, Derek Hough's camera roll is almost entirely made up of photos and videos of his four pets' cute and hilarious adventures. 

"It's getting to be a real problem," the Dancing with the Stars judge tells PEOPLE. "I'll be trying to find a photo, and it's just cat, cat, dog, dog, more cat, dog." 

Hough, 36, shares two rescue dogs and two rescue cats with his girlfriend, professional dancer Hayley Erbert: there's Romi, an older German shepherd/husky mix, Palo, an orange tabby cat, Luna, a one-year-old German shepherd/husky mix, and Lily, a grey, green-eyed cat. 

All of his animals have "big personalities," Hough says, but they love to play around the couple's California house together.

"No matter what's going on in your life, there's this, there's this love and look on their face which says, 'It's going to be okay,' he says. "Taking care of them, loving them, and playing with them remind me to be present."

derek hough
Credit: Courtesy of Purina ONE

Hough adds: "They're the loves of our lives."

The award-winning choreographer is on a mission to help other people discover the joy of adopting shelter animals. Hough has teamed up with Purina ONE for their 28-Day Challenge: for every pet owner who registers to take the 28-Day Challenge from June 18 through August 31, Purina ONE will donate $1 (up to $28,000) to the Petfinder Foundation. The donations will go to waiving adoption fees at shelters and rescue groups and to supporting adoptable animals. To participate in Purina ONE's 28-Day Challenge, all pet parents have to do is register online and commit to trying one of Purina ONE's food products with their pets for four weeks. 

derek hough
Credit: Courtesy of Purina ONE

"I know the joy, firsthand, that comes with the companionship of a rescue pet," Hough says. "Picturing an animal sitting in a shelter waiting for a home just breaks my heart, and that's what I love about this program because they're making it easier for pets to find their forever homes."

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has meant more quality time at home for Hough and his pets, too — time that's helped Hough and Erbert see new sides of their fur babies. 

"We've nicknamed Romi 'George Clooney' because he's starting to get a little grey in his face, but he's so cool and always just chilling, checking up on stuff around the house," Hough says of his oldest dog. 

derek hough
Credit: Courtesy of Purina ONE

Luna, the couple's "quarantine baby," as Hough jokes, is decidedly less chill. "We call her 'lunatic,' because she's always running around, ripping out plants, chasing things," he says. 

Palo, one of the pair's two cats, whom they rescued in a gutter a few years ago, likes to crash Hough and Erbert's yoga sessions. "He'll hop on our backs while we're in downward dog pose or walk between us while we're stretching, it's pretty funny," Hough explains.

They often refer to the kitty as "Prince Palo" because he "runs the house like it's his, and acts like we're lucky to be in his presence," Hough jokes.

The couple's other cat, Lily, prefers to lounge on their living room couch with "her belly hanging over the edge," and watch the other three. "She'll throw you a cool look over her shoulder like, 'Hello, darling," Hough says. 

Hough hopes his partnership with Purina ONE helps other people make similar, meaningful connections with rescue animals. He adds: "It's a zoo here, but we wouldn't have it any other way."

Interested pet parents can sign up for Purina ONE's 28-Day Challenge and learn more about the effort here