Natalie Morales (center) with her family and new dog Zara
Courtesy of North Shore Animal League America
09/23/2011 at 06:00 PM EDT
As news anchor and cohost of the Today
show, Natalie Morales has a job full of surprises. But the biggest one of all came this week, when she walked into a backstage production area and met a dog named Zara
"Zara, she picked me," Morales tells PEOPLE. "I was playing with her and petting her, and she was so good with me already. I think she sort of said, 'Hey, I'm coming home with you.'"
Zara had come to Today
with North Shore Animal League America
to participate in a segment about pet safety and travel. The 1-year-old "muttigree" with a little spaniel and a little Lab had been rescued from a kill shelter in Georgia, and having already been trained, she showed off some tricks when she got to the studio.
"As soon as we got to the Today
show, Zara was a huge hit," says North Shore spokesperson Devera Lynn. "She sat, gave paw, and, most importantly, she gave kisses."
Morales, who looked ready to take Zara home right then and there, still had to talk things over with her husband and two sons, 7-year-old Josh and 3-year-old Luke. "I just had a little convincing to do," Morales says. "My husband wanted to be sure. But once he saw the pictures, I think he was sold, too. A little begging from my kids helped seal the deal."
Then, two days after first meeting Zara, Morales and her family were off to pick up their new family member and bring her home. Zara has already proven to be great with children, so the only question is how Morales's two rescue cats, Lexi and Emma, will welcome the new addition. Whatever happens, young Josh is ready to protect his new best friend
"Josh has already staked the claim that Zara's going to sleep in his room," Morales says. "Some of my best memories growing up were playing with and training my dog. I can't wait to see how my kids are with her."