A mom-of-two’s trip out for some last-minute Christmas shopping took an unexpected turn when she decided to adopt a rescue dog.

Laura Catron, from Waxahachie in Texas, told Newsweek that in 13 years together, her husband Bryan has “never once” said no to her, so she felt confident he would also fall in love with Puddin, the 75-pound Great Pyrenees Labrador mix, she first laid eyes on during a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas adoption event at their local mall.

In truth, Catron and her family, which includes two young daughters aged 7 and 4, had more reason than most to want a dog this Christmas, having recently lost their 12-year-old collie Labrador, Smalls, and their boxer, Pj.

While Pj had been in declining health, Smalls died after being hit by a car. “It was so traumatic for us all, especially our girls,” Catron said. “Smalls was their best friend. After he passed I think it broke Pj’s heart because his health quickly declined and we had to put him to sleep.”

The family had discussed getting a puppy for Christmas, but that changed the minute Catron saw the 3-year-old Puddin.

“Puddin looked right at me and jumped on the gate to get to me. His face, demeanor, smile, everything reminded me of Smalls. So I petted him and walked away,” Catron said.

Though she kept walking away, Catron found herself returning to be by Puddin’s side. “I honestly had no intention of bringing him home, I was more just overwhelmed and missing my pup,” she said.

Woman brings rescue dog home from mall.
Puddin and Laura Catron. Laura went shopping for Christmas presents and came back with a dog.

“But when I sat down with him he sat in front of me and just stared me in the eye sand I looked at the handler and said, ‘Ma’am. This is my dog.'”

Within an hour, she had filled in the adoption paperwork and had Puddin in the backseat of her car alongside a few assorted presents. Catron recalls a million thoughts running through her head as she made the journey home.

“It was such a weird experience,” she said. “I was excited, but I was processing. ‘Would my husband bond immediately like I did? Would my kids? Good lord he is a horse!'”

Deep down, however, she felt confident her husband would give Puddin a chance, but “was nervous he wouldn’t have the same crazy bond” she did. Instead, Bryan’s reaction was one her daughters still remember now. “He just laughed and said, ‘Who gets a 75-pound, 3-year-old dog at the mall?'”

It may have been an impulsive decision, but people like Catron and her family are much needed at present. Each year 6.3 million pets enter U.S. shelters, which is an average of 17,260 a day, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The number of dogs and cats taken in by pet shelters hit 46,807 during January 2023, an increase of 1,744 compared with January 2022, the 24Pet “Shelter Watch Report” found.

Around 920,000 surrendered animals are euthanized every year. Shelters are striving to minimize euthanasia rates by promoting adoption campaigns, spaying and neutering programs, and behavior rehabilitation.

Catron and her family have helped Puddin avoid becoming just another statistic and the good news is that he’s fitting in perfectly with Catron remarking that it feels like Puddin has “been ours from the beginning.”

“He adores our 7 and 4 year old girls and has even been caught playing dress up with them way past bedtime,” she said.

“On Christmas, we all had matching Grinch-themed pajamas and luckily I was able to find a green furry monster costume that I was able to take some scissors and hot glue to so he was the Grinch! We ate popcorn, went to my grandparents’ house to read Santa Mouse and even went to look at Christmas lights!”

The only challenge has been finding a place for Puddin to sleep comfortably, on account of the fact he’s such a gentle giant. But Puddin is serving another purpose too.

“Puddin and Lola have a very special bond and we are looking into having him trained to be her Service Dog,” Catron explained. “She has a rare Congenital Heart Defect, so she tends to have a lot of episodes and he has been so quick to help her during them.”

Catron and her husband learned Lola, now 7, had a congenital heart defect during their 20-week sonogram. It’s a rare condition that is life threatening and requires surgical intervention.

“To say we were terrified is an understatement. Lola was born on October 4, 2016, and three days later she received her first open heart surgery,” she said. “We almost lost her several times and found out there is no cure, just bandaid operations to keep them going, ‘until next time.'”

Since then, Catron and her husband have moved heaven and earth to make Lola’s life the best it can possibly be. That included selling their farm and opting to live on an RV after their daughter said she wanted to “go camping all the time.” She’s also been using social media to raise awareness about her daughter’s condition.

“Congenital heart defect is so common, but unknown, and horribly underfunded. I decided to dedicate my life to be her voice until she found hers,” she said.

“That’s why we started all of our social platforms, including TikTok. We’ve been able to do amazing things and work with amazing groups all while telling our story.

“That’s why having Puddin join this crazy family has been such a blessing, he is already showing signs of understanding Lola’s anatomy. We hope to get him trained as her service dog soon. To be honest, I am not sure who rescued who anymore.”

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