Dolly Parton Is Going to the Dogs! Her Fur-Powered 'Pet Gala' Special Hits Airwaves (Exclusive)

The two-hour show features a fetching array of canine couture, including Dolly-inspired fashions, and Lainey Wilson and Carly Pearce join the country icon for duets

<p>Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty</p> Dolly Parton at Dolly Parton

Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty

Dolly Parton at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

These are universal truths: Everybody loves Dolly Parton. And everybody loves dogs.

Could there possibly be anything else to match their lovability? Yes, as it turns out, there is: dogs dressed up like Dolly Parton.

No need to take our word for it. See the adorable proof for yourself on Dolly Parton’s Pet Gala, a two-hour special that airs Wednesday night.

The Dolly-inspired, fur-powered fashion show doesn’t occur until late in the broadcast, and it’s definitely worth the wait — not that there isn’t a sublime mixture of musical entertainment and canine couture leading up to this climactic moment.

On the pink carpet before the show’s taping at a Nashville studio earlier this month, Parton explained that the idea for the show spun out of her pet-clothing line, Doggy Parton, which she debuted in August 2022.

<p>Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty</p> Dolly Parton at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty

Dolly Parton at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

Related: Dolly Parton Debuts Doggy Parton, a New Line of Canine Apparel, Accessories and Toys

“I just liked to do something that has dogs,” she told PEOPLE, “because everybody loves their animals. Dogs truly are a man’s best friend.”

Though Parton herself is currently not a dog owner, she said dogs have been a part of her life since growing up in the mountains of east Tennessee. “We had yard dogs,” she recalled. “I’ve been with dogs ever since I was born.”

These days, her best fur pal is Billy the Kid, a French bulldog owned by her manager Danny Nozell that she considers her “god-dog.” Billy also was the inspiration for Parton’s 2023 children’s book, Billy the Kid Makes It Big, which is highlighted in one of the TV special’s segments.

Parton kicks off the show with something no Dolly fan will want to miss: a rare performance of “Puppy Love,” her first recorded song. She was just 11 years old when she wrote it with her uncle, Bill Owens, and two years later she cut it as a single in a Lake Charles, Louisiana, studio.

The first of five runway shows immediately follows, featuring leashed dogs of various sizes and breeds trotting out to show off their fashions. Actor-comedian Jane Lynch, who made a memorable turn as dog handler Christy Cummings in the beloved mockumentary Best in Show, is on hand to offer the color commentary before the live audience.

<p>Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty</p> Jane Lynch at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty

Jane Lynch at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

So what is it about humans that compels us to dress our dogs?

“Well, I think you just love ’em,” Parton offered before the show. “You just want to see how cute they look.”

Indeed, Avery, Cinnamon, Finn, Lala, Lemon, Suri, and the rest of the canine models all are fetching in their assorted outfits. Each of the runway shows has a different theme — patriotic and rock ’n’ roll, for instance — but clearly the pièce de résistance is the Dolly-inspired collection.

Related: Dolly Parton Hopes Fans 'Forgive' and 'Forget' Elle King's Drunken Grand Ole Opry Incident: 'She's a Great Girl'

Parton herself joins Lynch onstage to watch her life pass before her eyes on four legs. Fashion homages include Parton’s childhood Coat of Many Colors, her duetting years with Porter Wagoner, her movie-star turns in 9 to 5 and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and her memorable 2014 performance before a crowd of 180,000 at Glastonbury, England.

No fashion detail is spared, including blond wigs and ample cleavage. (Among their many attributes, dogs are exceptionally good sports.)

<p>Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty</p> PEOPLE's favorite Dolly dog

Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty

PEOPLE's favorite Dolly dog

Scattered throughout the runway shows are prerecorded segments that extol the world of dogs, many of which feature celebrity owners such as Drew Barrymore, Kristen Bell and Kristen Chenoweth. Social-media superstars Doug the Pug, Pooch of NYC, Noodles the Pooch, and Tika the Iggy make live appearances, and Rachel Smith of Entertainment Tonight is on hand to interview their owners.

<p>Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty</p> Kelly, Chris and Willie Janson at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty

Kelly, Chris and Willie Janson at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

A series of musical performances also take center stage: Chris Janson channels Elvis for “Hound Dog,” and his family dog, a two-year-old bloodhound, lazily joins him. “This is my actual dog, Willie, by the way,” announces Janson, who also performs brand-new single, “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.”

Harry Wayne "KC" Casey, of KC and the Sunshine Band, is on hand to sing party-hearty classic “Boogie Shoes,” and Parton bestows a spotlight on buzzy up-and-comer, folk-pop artist Joy Oladokun, who turns in a riveting performance of “If You Got a Problem.” Seventeen-year-old guitar phenom Grace Bowers also gets a moment to shine onstage, providing runway accompaniment.

<p>Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty</p> Dolly Parton and Joy Oladokun at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

Jon Morgan/CBS via Getty

Dolly Parton and Joy Oladokun at Dolly Parton's Pet Gala

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dolly show without her signature hits, and she doesn’t disappoint. Lainey Wilson is enlisted for a duet of “I Will Always Love You,” and Carly Pearce joins Parton on “9 to 5” and “Jolene.”

On the pink carpet, Pearce, who worked as a musical cast member at Dollywood theme park in her teens, was beaming in anticipation of the opportunity to finally perform with her idol. “To get to do it with two songs that have been in my set since I was 15 — it’s wild and truly an honor,” she told PEOPLE.

Related: Dolly Parton Says Dollywood Theme Park Was Inspired by the 'Most Perfect Place That God Has Created' (Exclusive)

She revealed that, in rehearsal, the two artists settled on the “9 to 5” version that Pearce has performed over the years. “Dolly liked it, and she wanted to do it, so that was crazy,” Pearce said. “She’s just as wonderful as everybody would think. There’s something magic about her, and getting to work with her has been such an emotional experience for me.”

Pearce is famously a dog owner; her two Shih Tzus, brother and sister Johnny and June, make frequent appearances on her socials, and they accompanied her on the pink carpet. They didn’t make the cut, though, for the TV show.

“We tested them out, and they don’t like the drums,” Pearce lamented about the onstage band. “But they’re gonna be side stage, cheering mom on.”

Pearce is proudly among the millions of dog owners who have fun dressing their pups. “I’d actually purchased a few Doggy Parton outfits,” she revealed, “totally not thinking that I’d ever be on a show with her.”

Dolly Parton’s Pet Gala airs at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST Wednesday on CBS. Subscribers of Paramount+ with Showtime will have access to stream it live via their local CBS affiliate on the service, as well as on demand. Paramount+ Essential subscribers will have on-demand access the day after the special airs.

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