"I guess I am the quintessential 'break up with your boyfriend and then go get a dog' kind of girl now," the country star jokingly tells PEOPLE

By Tricia Despres
January 13, 2021 07:25 PM
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Lindsay Ell and Hendrix
| Credit: Lindsay Ell/Instagram

After what had already been quite the tiring year, Lindsay Ell faced the final weeks of 2020 with a slew of things not exactly going her way. For the first time in a long time, she would not be traveling to her native Calgary to enjoy the holidays with her family. The pandemic was also keeping her from being out on the road playing the music she loved. And then, there was the breakup between her and her boyfriend Adam Roa.

Christmas was starting to look downright bleak. But then, Hendrix arrived.

"I guess I am the quintessential 'break up with your boyfriend and then go get a dog' kind of girl now," jokes Ell during an exclusive interview with PEOPLE.

Hendrix happens to be a 1-year old Pomeranian that seemingly swept in and saved the day for Ell, who rescued her from a Louisiana shelter mere days before Christmas.

Hendrix and Lindsay Ell
| Credit: Lindsay Ell/Instagram

"Going through a breakup over the holidays and not being able to go home to see my family, I just knew that waking up Christmas morning was going to be so hard," remembers Ell, who recently scored her second No. 1 at Canadian country radio with her hit single "wAnt me back." "So I literally woke up one morning and said a little prayer that, 'If I am meant to have a dog, please send the right dog into my life.' Hours later, the girl that I had been in touch with from the shelter texted me about Hendrix."

That timely text was sent Dec. 21, and Ell and her bandmates drove down to Take Paws Rescue in New Orleans the very next day to pick up the dog that Ell would name after the legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

"I love the boys in my band. They drove down with me, and we literally picked up a po' boy, a beignet and a dog, and then we turned right back around," she tells PEOPLE with a laugh. "I was so worried about if Hendrix would like me, but thankfully, she was so happy.  She just kept on licking my face and couldn't stop moving her paws. She's such a sweet little thing."

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Granted, Ell has long been a dog person. Growing up in Canada, she always had Shelties, but also loved Pomeranians, so much so that she would ask for a calendar filled with pictures of Pomeranians for Christmas every year. But as Ell spent recent years pursuing a career that would ultimately have her on the road for nearly 230 shows in 2019, the guitarist always felt as if she wouldn't be able to give a dog the life it deserved.

But then, quarantine hit. And as Ell found herself off the road and with much more time on her hands, she began giving the idea of getting another dog some serious thought. She also ended up getting quite close to Roa's dog, Serendipity, throughout their relationship.

"I started getting used to having a dog around the house again," remembers Ell, who released her sophomore album heart theory back in August. "[Roa] had just the sweetest little dog. Being with him and having Serendipity around reminded me how much I loved having a dog; waking up to a dog and their sweet little face."

Lindsay Ell
| Credit: Nancy Kruh

And while Ell slowly got used to not having Roa around —"We just realized that we wanted different things, but I wish him all the best" — Ell says she just couldn't adjust to an empty house and knew that the time was right to add a dog to the mix.

"I wanted to rescue because I knew I wanted to find a little dog that really and truly needed a home," says Ell, who scored her first No. 1 at country radio in the U.S. with her duet alongside Brantley Gilbert for "What Happens in a Small Town." "And then when I found her, I knew I wanted to name her after one of my musical idols. Hendrix is a pretty badass name for a girl."

And while Ell certainly hopes to get back on the road during the latter part of this year, the extended respite will give her and Hendrix more time to get acquainted.

"We have puppy training tomorrow," explains Ell, who has already had a play date for Hendrix with Carly Pearce's Shih Tzu June. "She loves everyone she meets, but if I take her on the road with me, she has to at least know how to come and sit and stay and be able to listen to me. We have a lot to learn!"

Indeed, Ell admits that much of 2020 has been a learning process of sorts, but it also has been a time of immense personal growth for her. And Hendrix has a lot to do with that.

"I'm looking at 2020 as such a gift," she says. "It was chaotic and a hard year in so many ways, but looking back, I learned so much — being in a relationship and being home full time to fully immerse and commit to that, and understanding that I could get a dog and love and nurture something else, and learning that I can work hard and tour and play shows, but also have a balance in life. I'm grateful for all of it."