While walking cross-country for charity, the singer adopts a dog

Advertisement

Soon after Jimmy Wayne adopted a dog last April, he took her for a walk. A really long walk – 40 miles, in fact.

The 37-year-old country star was in the middle of his 1,700-mile, seven-month cross-country trek for foster children when he met an adoptable dog in White Deer, Texas. A friend’s girlfriend had just rescued the pooch, named Ruby, and her littermates from an area kill shelter, and for Wayne, it was love at first sight.

Though her puppy pals were ignoring her, and wouldn’t let her cuddle or play with them, Wayne was smitten by Ruby. “She was like the ugly Christmas tree that nobody picked,” he tells PEOPLE. “She desperately needed a home, and I knew I could give her one.”

Wayne carried Ruby with him about 40 miles to his halfway-point rally in Amarillo, Texas, on April 23, then passed her off to a friend who took the pup back to the singer’s Nashville home. But whenever he left the walk to perform, which he did several times throughout his journey, the pooch would join him on his tour bus.

“She’s very therapeutic. She makes me laugh,” he says. “She even pooped in my shoe and I didn’t get mad! She’s a great little dog.”

Wayne started his walk, the Meet Me Halfway campaign, on Jan. 1, with the goal of raising awareness about foster programs and the children they benefit. The singer was homeless himself and in and out of foster programs for most of his youth until an elderly couple took him in at 16.

He says he decided to adopt Ruby because “she represents everything about this walk: the foster kids that nobody picks.”

She even made Wayne change his mind about small dogs, too. “The funny thing is I never wanted a small dog because of the stigma attached [to them],” he says. “Now that I’ve got Ruby, I [couldn’t] care less that she’ll probably never get much bigger than she is right now.”

Wayne’s walk ended in Phoenix on Aug. 1 – the singer walked the final five miles with a broken foot! – and Ruby was waiting eagerly, ready to give her owner a big puppy hug. “She helps me when I’m around her,” he says. “You can’t be selfish and self-absorbed when you have a dog, because they take your mind off all the hard stuff. She won me over completely.”

For more from Wayne and other hot country music stars, pick up the special PEOPLE Country, on newsstands now. For free iTunes music from country stars like Chuck Wicks and Justin Moore, go to people.com/free.