updated 04/03/2013 AT 7:00 AM ET
•originally published 04/03/2013 AT 9:30 AM ET
“In any other situation, I’d say yes, but not in this one,” the ballroom pro, 39, told PEOPLE backstage on Tuesday, right after the pair had been eliminated. “I’m so grateful to have met someone like Wynonna.”
Despite their early dismissal, Dovolani has a season’s worth of memories with Wynonna, 48, who got teary-eyed as she made her way through the press line.
“We laughed the entire time, our families bonded and her husband is such an inspiration to me,” Dovolani said. “I took him golfing with one leg, we went horseback riding together and he received his new prosthetic leg. There were so many life triumphs that I was a part of. Dancing with the Stars brought this woman in my life and I’m forever grateful.”
Wynonna, on the other hand, can’t help but feel a little guilty for being sent home so early in the competition, following a 15-point samba panned by the judges on Monday.
“I wanted to continue to be the best student for Tony’s sake,” she said, continuing to wipe away the tears. “I almost feel worse for him than I do myself. It’s just the way I feel.”
But as Dovolani put it, “You showed up every day on time, with a bright smile and a shake for me. I’ve had many different partners, but I can tell you – your heart, no one has had.”
Still, even her few weeks on ABC’s hit show will have an impact on Wynonna as she moves forward.
“I’ve already got numbers, and Tony and I are so bonded that that’s not even an issue,” she said. “Lisa [Vanderpump] and I are connected – Andy [Dick] and I. We all have something that no one else understands until you’ve been in this situation, and that’s that we’re all fighting for the same thing.”