How Elise Testone's Dog Helped Her Sing on Idol

05/03/2012 at 09:00 AM EDT

When Elise Testone found out her shepherd mix Leon was gravely ill while she was competing on American Idol, she did the only thing she could: she sang with heart.

"I just took that energy and I put it into the song," Testone tells PEOPLE of her rendition of Alicia Keys's "No One." "I think it helped, or made it okay."

Judge Jennifer Lopez wasn't the only one who noticed the emotion in her performance April 18; Testone received enough votes from viewers to last another week on the show.

Sadly, her Idol journey ended April 26, but her dog Leon, who she found roaming the streets of Coastal Carolina University six years ago, is on the road to recovery.

Watch the video to see Testone talk about her beloved pooch.

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