By Christopher Ameruoso
PetStyle's Entertainment Correspondent
They call it puppy love... and with good reason.
When we bring a pet into our lives, we want to believe it's forever. We prepare ourselves for the good, the bad and the ugly -- from wee wee pads to all-nighters to naughty nips. We fall in love with man -- and woman's -- best friend and can't imagine life without our four-legged friends. What we don't focus on is the short amount of time we really have with our pets. The average life expectancy of a canine is 9 to 12 years, but even then there are no guarantees.
And tragedy can strike even the biggest-hearted pet advocates. Just ask The Girls Next Door star Holly Madison. A close friend of mine, she recently experienced the agony of losing one of her beloved pets.
A huge advocate for animal rights, it's one of the blonde bombshell's biggest causes. Throughout the years, she has used her celebrity status to get the message out about animal rights. She's appeared in campaigns for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as well as doing many public service announcements including Last Chance for Animals.
During her time at the Playboy mansion, Hugh Heffner's number one gal grew attached to all creatures great and small.
Holly's personal dogs at the mansion were Duke and Duchess. Duke, a Chawawa, was as wise and as smart as they come. He was a star in his own right. This Hollywood dog demanded the attention of his owner and most of the staff at the Playboy mansion. As much attention that Duke demanded, he was also Madison's little funny boy.
After moving out of the mansion, Madison's goal was to relocate Duke and Duchess while she was transitioning into her Las Vegas home with boyfriend Criss Angel. During the move, she had elected to have family and friends keep guard of her precious pets to give them a stable environment while she was in transit.
Sadly, Duke escaped from the family home and made his way out into a snowstorm. I was notified by Holly about Duke's disappearance. I had faith that someone would find her dear dog, but as days went by, our anguish only grew.
I waited for the cell phone text from Holly with great anticipation saying that Duke was found.
Only it never came...
On January 4, 2009 at 4:18 pm, I received a text on my phone and Holly's name came up. I knew that it had to be an update on Duke. When I opened the message, I read the horrific words that left an emptiness in my heart, as it would for anybody who's ever lost a pet.
Unfortunately Duke was found dead. It is believed he became disoriented and got lost in the snow.
I could not express in words how terrible I felt about what happened and how Holly must have been feeling. There is little comfort to help people through such horrific news.
I recently shot an ad campaign with Holly, Duke and Duchess that appears on several billboards in Los Angeles. 'Please Adopt Don't Shop' is the campaign for 'Last Chance for Animals.' I will cherish the time I had working with Duke that day, amongst many other shoots that I have done with Holly and her pets.
Like all deaths, there are various stages of grief. I do get angry sometimes because I just don't understand life and what goes wrong. How can such terrible things happen to such beautiful creatures? Why did Duke have to wander off that day? Why did it have to be snowing? After my anger subsides, I like to celebrate the animal's life with some of the great photos that I had the privilege of shooting. So let's celebrate Duke.
Being a celebrity pet photographer and working with so many different people and their pets, I deal with this several times a year with a phone call from someone telling about the loss of their pet, and it is something I will never get used to. The greatest consolation I can offer is the photos that we shared with that person and their pets.
Whether it's a dog, cat, bird, hamster, fish or mouse, it is hard to lose our pets. If there was a way I could change the formula of life and let animals live the life that humans have I would.
What a much better place this world would be if we all learned the love, respect and loyalty that our pets could teach us. I want to stop telling people they are 'Gone Way Too Soon.'