May 27, 2009 11:45 AM

Former Bachelor contestant Shayne Lamas may have gained notoriety for breaking off her engagement to British single Matt Grant, but deep down, the 23-year-old actress is a pet lover – just like the rest of us! Currently filming an E! reality show with her family (which includes her famous father, Lorenzo), Lamas says viewers will see a lot of her Westie-Bichon mix Madison when the tentatively titled The Lamas Family debuts this fall. She recently spoke to PEOPLE Pets about her dog’s love of the cameras and how hard it is to leave her “little best friend” behind when she travels for work.

Will your dog play a big part in your reality show?
Yes. The show is about my family – my parents, brother, sister and I are all a part of it. Basically, it follows my life and all the pieces that surround it, like my relationship with family and, of course, my Westie-Bichon mix Madison! We’re all in the entertainment business: My sister is recording an album right now, my brother is an actor, my dad is creating a motorcycle line. There’s a lot going on with our family, so E! approached us. I wasn’t ready to jump on the reality train, but it gave my whole family an opportunity to work together. It’s going to be funny, light and fresh. Our viewers will like it!

How did you and Madison find each other?
I got her as a gift about three years ago – she’s just 3 now. She was on my doorstep in a little basket, and was just the cutest little thing! She has the cutest brown eyes and she’s white and fluffy. I was 21 when I got her, and was like, “Oh my gosh, I have a dog now!” It changes your life when you have a pet – all of a sudden you become like a mom in a way. When you leave town you have to figure out who will watch her, and if you’re really attached to your pet, it’s like having a child. It was a big responsibility, but I took it.

She’s like me – she likes her pink bows and she likes to tan! I walk out and am like, “Are you tanning, Maddie?!” I’ll catch her out in my backyard in the sunlight, because she loves to tan. Whenever I take a picture with my phone, I say, “Photo shoot!” and she knows exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes if she’s not in the mood, she’ll run off. But if she’s up for it, she’ll sit there.

She’s like a little doll. I buy her all these clothes and dress her up. She’s athletic and goes on hikes, but she has a princess side about her and really gives you something back as a dog. She just loves you. She’s the greatest little thing ever.

Tell us about Madison’s personality.
She’s just hilarious – she knows when the camera is on and when it’s off. She’s so cute and funny, just like a little human. She senses when things are going on, and knows that when television cameras are at the house, something big is happening – she knows where the spotlight is! But she’s also like me, in that she’s very independent. She’s such a good little baby. I take her on hikes three times a week and try to keep her active. She’s athletic and just a great dog – I’m really, truly blessed to have found her.

Did you grow up with pets?
I grew up with dogs all my life. I just watched Marley & Me and cried my eyes out! It was so sad! That’s why I take Madison on hikes and keep her active. I want her to be around for a long time! I don’t know what I’ll do when she passes away. You know when people say they can’t go out because their dog died? I understand because it’s hard! My first dog passed away when I was 12, and I’ve never forgotten it. You’re used to having this little best friend, and taking care of him, and then he’s gone. It’s rough.

Is it hard to balance work with being a pet owner?
I’m gone every weekend, but Madison is really attached to my mother. And my sister has a little Maltese named Riley, so he and Madison are boyfriend and girlfriend. They hang out all the time. I know she’s safe because she has a little boyfriend and my mom! But it’s definitely hard. One time I left home for two months to film a movie in Oregon. My mom came up and surprised me because I missed Madison so much. When I don’t have her around it hurts my heart.

Do you travel a lot with Madison?
She travels with me sometimes, like when I can take her to the hotels. We go to San Diego to surf, and she hangs out on the beach all day. She kicks it in the sun – she loves it.

Do you think that having a dog keeps you grounded?
Absolutely. When you’re having a bad day, your dog’s always there. Your puppy is always there to love you and be there for you through anything. Through good times or bad times, you have this little best friend by your side. It’s love, and I can’t be out all night because I have her at home. It’s really a huge responsibility to be a pet owner, and you have to know that. It’s not just something you can flake out on – it’s an investment of time and love.

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