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Jamie O'Neal loves hanging out with her prized pooch, on the road and off

Story By Danita Fisher • Photo by Chuck Jones

Jamie O'Neal knew she was living on the edge - she'd been playing practical jokes on tourmate Toby Keith, and Toby had promised to get even.

Halfway through her show one night, Jamie looked to the side of the stage and, to her horror, saw members of Toby's crew carrying away her beloved Maltese, Griffin.

Thinking Toby had made good on his threat, she ran immediately after the culprits. "But it dawned on me that the dog seemed a little smaller than Griffin - and I soon realized Toby had gotten a 'stunt double' to pull off a fake kidnapping!" Jamie then found the real Griffin safe and sound on her tour bus.

"Later," she laughs, "I did hear that Toby offered someone $1,000 to capture Griffin and shave the letters 'T.K.' into his fur." But that rumor has so far been unfounded, and Griffin remains T.K.-less.

Toby might be lucky he didn't harm a hair on Jamie's 4-year-old Griffin. "I'm a pretty paranoid mom," admits Jamie. "I always want to know where he is and I'm always worrying about him getting off the bus or getting out. If he gets up out of the bunk, I can't sleep."

There's a special reason Griffin is so precious to Jamie. She's been a Maltese owner since age 10, but she was devastated when her previous pooch, Dylan, died. "It was definitely the hardest thing I've ever been through in my life, because I hadn't lost anything before," she declares. "It just felt like the world had stopped."

Then Jamie's husband, Rodney Good, brought her a new friend: Griffin. "He just had the sweetest nature," she remembers with a smile. "You couldn't help but love him. He had me wrapped around his paw within about a week!

"We nicknamed him 'The Angel' - he just had that sweet spirit!" she adds. In fact, Jamie's No. 1 smash "When I Think About Angels" was dedicated to both Dylan and Griffin.

Griffin quickly made himself an important part of Jamie's household - and an entertaining one. "He has this thing he does whenever he gets home," she chuckles. "He runs in and rolls over on his back, slides across the carpet and does that little scratching thing with his hind leg that dogs do - which he never does on the bus because he's always unsure that someone might step on him."

That's not the only thing Griffin does to keep Jamie in stitches. His favorite snack is the doggie treat called Pupcorn, and, reveals Jamie, "He'll do anything for it. If you get out a piece of Pupcorn, Griffin will do all his tricks at once. He'll sit, lie, shake and then roll over, all in one go - to see if he'll get the piece of Pupcorn sooner!"

But food isn't the only reason Griffin does tricks. Jamie believes her prized pooch is a natural performer totally attracted to the spotlight and the sound of applause. "Griffin loves to do his little dance up on his hind feet while we all clap and cheer for him," notes Jamie. "I think he just loves the attention!"

Jamie believes in the power of pets to light up anyone's life. She saw it firsthand when she'd visit her grandmother, who had Alzheimer's disease. When Jamie placed Griffin in her grandma's lap, remembers Jamie, "There was an immediate change in the look on her face - she always seemed happier. I just feel like pets do such amazing things without even trying. They just can't help but soften your heart!"

The key, Jamie believes, is unconditional love. "Dogs love you no matter what," she explains. "No matter what their day has been like, they're still so happy to see you when you get home.

"And that always makes you feel better."