Tibetan lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984), exiled to Nepal where he founded Kopan Monastery, was one of the first Mahayana lamas to teach Tibetan buddhism to western students.
In the photo above, Lama Yeshe is on his death-bed with his dogs, a chihuahua named Lama and Pekingese named Yeshe. It is very common for monks, including lamas, to keep small dogs, and the Lhasa Apso breed originated in Tibetan monasteries.
Care of dogs is regarded as a way to express compassion, and additionally reminds all monks they are themselves no more deserving than are animals. The devotion dogs show to the monks who care for them is a lesson for monks' devotion to wisdom and the journey for enlightent. In Buddhist teachings it is sometimes said, "Dogs are Dharma."
The Venerable Lama Yeshe's Web Page
Lama Yeshe's Wisdom Archive