Jersey Shore’s Sammi ‘Sweetheart’: Dogs Are Family

Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola with her dog Kylie

Courtesy Sammi Sweetheart

updated 12/09/2011 AT 3:00 PM ET

originally published 12/12/2011 AT 9:00 AM ET

Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola spent over a decade in the loving company of a “sister” – one with four legs.

Abby, a cockapoo, was like a sibling to the Jersey Shore star, but last year, doctors discovered a tumor in her stomach, and the 11-year-old pup died soon afterward.

“It was a very devastating and traumatizing experience,” Giancola tells PEOPLE. “Abby was a part of my family, and it was a huge deal to say goodbye to her.”

Giancola and her family, still grieving from Abby’s loss, also had to cope with the strange feeling of no longer having a dog in the house. Enter Kylie, a cockapoo puppy that the Giancolas met soon after Abby’s death.

Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola with her dog Kylie

Courtesy Sammi Sweetheart

“She was a little puppy and was screeching a little bit,” Giancola says. “We were like, ‘This is the dog.’”

While the two dogs might physically resemble each other, that’s where the similarities end. Abby was “like a person, Kylie is – legit – a dog’s dog. It’s cool to have a bit of difference.”

Kylie, now a year old, will drink out of the toilet, bark at bigger dogs, and eat anything and everything. But she is also lovable, giving kisses and hugs constantly, and that makes her a bit of a star in the Giancola household.

“She’s treated like a celebrity in my family,” Giancola says. “She gets whatever she wants. My mom treats her like gold. This dog is spoiled.”

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