PAULA DEEN is heartbroken over losing the pet pooch that found her a husband.
The dog, an adorable Shih Tzu named Otis, was her constant companion, and The ENQUIRER was on hand when the 65-year-old Food Network star reminisced about him.
“Otis is the dog that literally changed my life,” said Paula, her voice cracking with emotion during an appearance in New York City.
“He found the daddy. He found Michael.”
Paula, who’s shed 30 pounds while battling Type 2 diabetes, was single when Otis escaped from her yard in Savannah, Ga.
“Otis ran away from me one day,” she recalled. “He was very adventurous and wanted to know what was on the other side of this big wall. He knew something good was around there.”
That “something good” was former tugboat captain Michael Groover.
“Otis was taking a poop on the neighbor’s lawn,” Paula laughed. “The neighbor turned out to be Michael.”
When Paula and Groover wed in 2004, their four-legged Cupid was the guest of honor, and Paula often shared thoughts about Otis with her fans.
“Sitting by the fireplace in my bathroom with Otis,” she wrote on Twitter in January. “It’s freezing in Savannah y’all today. Otis is wearing a cute dog sweater.”
Since Otis passed, Paula has added Lulu, a 5-month-old Havanese, to her family, and she expects the puppy to get up to the same kind of mischief as Otis.
Paula, the author of 14 cookbooks, said: “I can’t wait to see what Lulu finds!”