11/13/2013 at 06:00 PM EST
wasn't quite ready to adopt a new dog. The CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
star was still mourning the loss of her old pet, who died in January, when a scruffy little mutt came into her life.
"When we found each other, I had just lost my dog of 14 years," she reveals in an interview with Sweden with Love
. Bexar (pronounced "bear") had been found roaming the streets of San Antonio, Texas, but it wasn't exactly love at first sight.
"I actually spent the first months kind of pushing her away a bit and she did the same to me … Then all of a sudden, it flipped, and now I'm completely in love with her," Fox, 45, admits. "She's the coolest, little scruffy dog I ever knew."
While Fox has fallen head over heels for the poodle mix, she's also passionate about saving other animals in her role as ambassador for Animal Defenders International. The actress was involved rescuing 25 lions from circuses in Bolivia, and was in the airport hangar when the plane carrying the big cats touched down in Colorado, en route to their new home at the Wild Animal Sanctuary.
Their arrival – which is the subject of the documentary Lion Ark
, premiering in N.Y.C. and L.A. on Nov. 15 – was an emotional experience. "Lions were roaring from one section of the hangar to the other, trying to find their family members," she says. "It's a sound like nothing you've ever heard before … You can feel those roars in your muscles and bones."
Fox, who celebrated the 300th episode of CSI
at the end of October, is very passionate about animal rescue. "If my life had gone in a different direction, this is something I might've gone into," she says. "Animal welfare has given me an anchor in life."