When Melissa Rycroft gets married to Dallas insurance agent Tye Strickland, the one thing that will be emphasized is family. And that includes the reality star's 6-year-old Chihuahua, Riley.
"She's a big part of my life and she's a big part of Tye's life, so it seems natural that she would be at our wedding," says the former Bachelor
and Dancing with the Stars
contestant, musing what role Riley will fill at the couple's nuptials. "She might be my honorary maid of honor or maybe my ringbearer."
Or more likely, Rycroft, who is keeping the exact wedding date under wraps
, says, "she might walk down the aisle alongside my mom. They're very close."
In fact, Rycroft jokes that she's in a custody battle with her mother over the pup that she discovered when she was a sophomore in college.
"I was driving to school and there was a box of puppies on the side of the road and this girl sitting there with them," Rycroft explains. "She was so little. I picked her up and just fell in love with her. She became my little buddy and it was just the two of us for a long time."
After college Rycroft not only worked a full-time job by day, but she rehearsed and performed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at night and on weekends. Her mother, Mary, happily volunteered to watch the pup, who "loves to lay in her lap."
When Rycroft left Dallas to compete on The Bachelor
in 2008, and then Dancing With the Stars
this past spring, her mom stepped in as a pup-sitter. "I debated taking her to Los Angeles when I did Dancing with the Stars but realistically, I wasn't home enough to have her there with me," says Rycroft.
Now settled back in Dallas and working as a special correspondent for Good Morning America
, Rycroft and Riley are back in a groove together. But her mother, Rycroft jokes, will always have visitation rights. "Riley is the closest thing my mom is going to get to having a grandchild for a long time!"See more celebrities and their pets on PEOPLE Pets:EXCLUSIVE! Meet Cat Deeley's New Dog LilySonny with a Chance Star's Tiny Dog Is No Hollywood Diva