Brantley Gilbert is opening up about the recent death of his dog companion, Alley, in People's Sexiest Man Alive issue, out this week.

Gilbert found Alley met more than a decade ago, when the "Country Must Be Country Wide" hitmaker was playing a show at a bar in south Georgia. "Her markings were gorgeous," he says, recalling his first impression. "People were getting ready to come inside and she was kind of hanging around, I guess because people had been giving her [food]."

Gilbert knew he could give her a better life — he rescued her from what he says was an abusive situation, when he witnessed a man throwing bottles at the dog in an alley.

"We had … let’s call it a conversation," the singer remembers, "After that she ran right up to me in the alley, so that’s what I named her, and she’s been with me ever since."

So he brought her back to his hotel room, then went to buy her some flea and tick medicine. Gilbert gave Alley a bath "three or four times" — his acts of kindness led to an instant connection between the two, from the first night.

"I put her in the bed on the floor, but when I woke up, she was in the bed with me," he says.

Flash-forward to more than a decade later to see Alley alongside Gilbert in People's Sexiest Man Alive issue. She died not long after the shoot. Gilbert says having those photos taken with one of his best girls will be a day he'll cherish forever.

"When People invited me to be photographed with Alley, we had just found out she had cancer," he explains "Sadly she passed away shortly after, but I do believe all dogs go to heaven and I know our sweet girl is there now."

Alley died with Gilbert, his wife Amber and their two kids by her side.

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