updated 02/03/2014 AT 7:30 PM ET
•originally published 02/03/2014 AT 2:15 PM ET
Pulling out of the Winter Olympics was devastating for skiing champion Lindsey Vonn – but, thankfully, the slow recovery from her knee injury hasn’t been too ruff.
“I get to spend time with my new dog,” she told PEOPLE at DirecTV’s Super Saturday Concert Event over the weekend. “He’s keeping me happy.”
The boxer-retriever mix named Leo – whom Vonn adopted from a shelter on Christmas Eve – has made a difficult turn of events so much easier for the athlete, especially since he knows exactly what she’s going through.
“When he was with his previous owner, he fell out of the bed of a truck and was hit by a car and he got six pins in his knee, so I immediately clicked with him,” Vonn says. “When I saw him and saw that he was limping and had a bad leg, I was like, ‘Yup, that’s my dog!’ We instantly had a connection because of our bad leg. It was meant to be.”
Even though the pooch “always has to be around me at all times,” Vonn’s boyfriend, Tiger Woods, isn’t jealous of the guy that’s come between them.
“Since he’s a dog lover, he understands,” she says, adding that Woods has two dogs of his own. “But he will join in on the cuddling, too!”