The former High School Musical star gushes about the spunky new love in her life

By Karen J. Quan
February 22, 2010 12:45 PM

When Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp star KayCee Stroh first welcomed a wee 2-month-old beagle into her home last year, little did she know how this little lady would affect her life.

“She’s very spunky,” Stroh tells “She is really quirky and really has got some spice to her. Every day is an adventure.”

Stroh pondered naming the young canine after her grandmother, Pyper. But it wasn’t until their first night home, when she and her husband, Ben Higginson, attempted to crate-train the pup, that they discovered the name fit like a glove.

“That girl started screaming and howling,” Stroh remembers. “We were like, you know what, Pyper it is. Because that girl’s got a mean set of pipes on her!”

And not only can Pyper make her voice heard in her new home, but she’s also made quite a place for herself – in Mommy and Daddy’s bed. “She has decided she likes to sleep underneath the covers,” says the 25-year-old, who’s best known for her breakout role as Martha Cox in the mega hit High School Musical. “She will tap you on the shoulder, make you lift up the sheets for her, and sleep in between your legs. She is like our little space heater.”

The cuddling is particularly poignant for Stroh – Pyper came into her life after a tragic year that saw the deaths of not one, but two family dogs.

In what can only be described as a freak accident, the actress returned to her family’s Utah home to find Ginger, her 8-year-old golden retriever, with her jaw stuck in the collar of their second dog, 4-year-old flat-coated black retriever, Kahlua. When the incident happened, authorities said Ginger tried to free herself, but the angled move broke Kahlua’s neck. Then later in the year, Ginger, who had been diagnosed with cancer, died.

Through the heartache, came a renewed desire to have a dog in her life. “I just missed little barks and toe nails scratching on the floor,” Stroh says. “And the jingle of collars.”

And so came Pyper, who has been helping Stroh keep on track with her new Fit Club lifestyle. “The thing that really pushes me through is Pyper,” she says. The energetic canine has developed a liking to daily walks around the neighborhood and the occasional hikes through L.A.’s Griffith Park.

“I’m getting exercise, but it’s for her,” says Stroh. “It’s unselfish love.”

Catch Stroh in Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp, which airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on VH1.

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