A few short months after the pandemic began and touring stopped, country music superstar Justin Moore lost something else that he doubted he would ever be able to live without.
He lost his dog Hank.
"Honestly, nothing can replace Hank … or at least that's where I am at right now,” the multi-platinum selling artist tells PEOPLE about the beloved West Highland-Scottish terrier who died this past June. "That's probably juvenile of me, I know, to say something like that. But it's the truth."
Indeed, anyone who has ever loved a dog knows that feeling all too well. Hank became somewhat nationally known back in 2015, when he ended up getting lost during a family vacation to Florida. Luckily, thanks to a number of frantic social media posts from Moore himself, Hank was ultimately found.
But earlier this year, as Hank turned 16 years old, his kidneys began to fail. And after a subsequent seizure, the Moore family made the heartbreaking decision to put him down on June 27. And while they all spent much time being distraught over his passing, Moore says the family soon began thinking about getting a new dog.
Well, that is, everyone except Moore.
"I was totally opposed to it," the 36-year-old explains emphatically. "I didn't want to think about loving something else after him for a while."
However, Moore says that his wife Kate, 35, disagreed.
"It sheds light on our different personalities," says Moore with a laugh. "She had to 'replace' him, if you will, right away. It was definitely a long discussion between the two of us. I guess it's a funny thing now, but my wife and I rarely fight, ever. I mean, it's normal for couples to argue, but yeah, this was a good one. But as with most battles in my household, I lost."
And now, in addition to a wife, four kids under the age of 12 and two Great Danes, Moore currently shares his Arkansas home with an adorable Aussie Doodle by the name of Fancy.
"She's a cute little dog but I said right off the bat, I'm not cleaning up poop or pee," jokes Moore, who is best known for chart-topping songs such as "Why We Drink," "The Ones That Didn't Make It Back Home” and “Small Town USA." "Hopefully I'll come around about her. I probably will."
Nevertheless, it's taken a little while for everyone to get used to the new puppy, but especially Moore's two Great Danes that go by the name of Johnny and June.
"The Great Danes are about 160-180 lbs. each and they are destructive as heck on their own. They are sweet, but they just don't understand how big they are. They think they are 10 lbs.!" Moore says of the soon to be 4-year-old dogs. "They will step on Fancy and not even notice. They create havoc. We also have four kids that run the show, so I would say it's controlled chaos around here —and I use the word 'controlled' in a very liberal fashion. It's a circus around our house."
For Moore, it's a circus that he hasn't even been able to escape from as of late, as the country star finds himself with more time than ever at home as the pandemic wreaked havoc on his touring plans for the year.
"This year has been difficult for everyone," reflects Moore, whose wife Kate has been putting in countless hours as of late working at her Arkansas-based children's store affectionately called This Little Piggy. "It has affected us greatly, with not being able to tour and earn money. But more important to me earning money is the fact that I haven't been able to pay my 20 employees. I know a lot of people have been affected a lot more, but it's still hard."
"We are looking forward to getting back to doing what we love. A great piece is missing not only in my life, but in the lives of my fans and crew. We are not completely ourselves unless we are out there doing what we love."
Counting one's blessings serves as the backbone of Moore's new single "We Didn't Have Much," a sentimental song he wrote alongside Jeremy Stover, Randy Montana and Paul DiGiovanni and a song that serves as the lead track of his sixth studio album, which is set to be released sometime next year.
"I had Tracy Lawrence on my podcast (The Justin Moore Podcast) and he was saying how this year has forced so many of us to live a more simplistic lifestyle, and that idea just hit home with me," recalls Moore. "When I heard [the song,] I knew we had to have it on the new record because it's really pertinent right now. Typically, if I can relate to a song, a lot of other people will as well. You have to count your blessings, no matter what."
And maybe, some sweet day, Moore will even see Fancy as a blessing.
"I haven't even held her yet," he admits sheepishly. "I guess I'm trying to prove a point, which is just ridiculous. But seriously, with the girls [daughters Rebecca Klein, Kennedy Faye and Ella Kole] and even [3½-year-old son Thomas] South, there is not a lot of opportunities to hold her. She is not lacking in love, that's for sure."
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