updated 02/11/2008 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/11/2008 AT 12:40 PM ET
It was animal instinct that drew Kate Walsh to movie executive Alex Young – with some help from her pet dog, Lucy.
“He met Lucy, and she immediately loved him, that’s one of the tests when you meet a guy,” says Walsh, who married Young on Sept. 1 – only seven months after he met Walsh and Lucy, a golden-haired mix of Basenji and Jindo.
“He was like Dr. Dolittle, recalls Walsh, 40. “He was on the couch with her, and she was on him.”
Walsh, formerly of Grey’s Anatomy and now starring on Private Practice, spoke to PEOPLE late last week at a temporary pet adoption center set up by Pedigree dog food inside a Times Square-area store, part of a nationwide effort to increase pet adoptions. (Some 4 million dogs go into shelters each year.)
“It’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, it’s just heartbreaking,” says Walsh. “I want to take all of them. I want to have a dog ranch. They’re the best thing in the world, our best pals.”
True to her word, Walsh sat with a sleepy brown and black puppy on her lap – an adorable addition she ended up adopting after checking with her husband first, according to a rep from Pedigree.
Of her husband, Walsh says: “He loves dogs as much as I do. When I’m out of town he’s usually spooning with Lucy.”
Walsh adopted Lucy the Dog (her full, formal name) as a puppy from an L.A. shelter. “It was love at first sight,” says the actress, who also revealed her nicknames for Lucy: Lu, Lulu, and Lou Diamond Phillips.
How’s that again? “It’s not a shout-out, it’s not disrespectful to Lou Diamond Phillips,” Walsh insists with a laugh. “I just like the sound of Lou Diamond Phillips.”
Cats Love Lucy
Walsh also shares her 1920 Spanish home in L.A. with two 3-year-old cats, Billy and Pablo – whom Lucy welcomed with open paws.
“She’s great with cats,” says Walsh, who grew up with adopted cats, dogs and a lizard. “They all sleep together like a pack. One of the cats is in love with Lucy. It’s a little weird. He’s like, ‘I love you, Lucy,’ and he purrs and kneads her.”
If only the rest of the world behaved like that.