Steve Irwin’s son Robert wasn’t the only one undergoing surgery over the holidays: Julianne Hough also had medical issues to deal with, revealing that she recently had second procedure done to help with her endometriosis. Luckily, she had a little guardian angel around to help her heal (in addition to hubby Brooks Laich, of course: her pooch, Lexi).

Taking to social media with a look back at her first surgery back in 2008, she shared a heartwarming snap of her now 10-year-old pup snuggled up under her chin.

“FBF to when I had my first laparoscopy for my endometriosis back in 2008 when my angel baby Lexi was only a few months old,” Hough, 29, wrote.

She followed it up with a near-identical shot taken in late 2017, writing, “9 years later and not much has changed… except the size of her little head. My second laparoscopy for my endometriosis was over the holidays, and of course, who was right by my side? My guardian angel Lexi. Who else feels like their dog is their guardian angel?… Lexi always knows when I’m sick, feeling sad, or when I need her, and I don’t even know it… Dogs are just so incredible!!! I love my Lexi soooo much!!!!”

The former Dancing With the Stars judge has been plenty open about her struggles with the painful medical condition, which causes tissues which normally line your uterus to grow outside of it, telling Glamour in March of last year, “For the longest time I thought, ‘This is just the way my period is. I didn’t want to complain, so I’d just deal with it and ignore it.”

Then, in 2008, DWTS producers convinced her to go to the hospital when she found herself hunched over in a ball backstage after a wave of particularly debilitating abdominal pain. “It felt like a knife was being stabbed in me,” she told People. “It was awful.”

She was diagnosed with a cyst on her left ovary and massive amounts of scar tissue, which had spread to her appendix, right hip, bladder, and Fallopian tubes and required immediate surgery to avoid risk of a potential appendix rupture or infertility.

Following her initial surgery, it would be five days before she could eat solid food and two weeks before she could dance again.

Though Hough has yet to discuss her second surgery in detail, she frequently uses her star status as a platform to bring awareness of the condition to others, telling Glamour, “Being educated and understanding what I have makes me feel powerful. Not understanding, ignoring it, and saying I was fine put me in a weaker position… I realized how important it was for me to be open and bring awareness. I got a floodgate of commenters and followers — people were coming together and supporting each other. I feel really great about that. It gives me a reason to keep being open.”

Do your pets help you through tough times? Sound off over @BritandCo.

(Photo via Joe Scarnici/Getty + @juleshough)