March 13, 2009 06:12 PM

Bonnie Hunt has always had a great love and respect for animals; it’s something her mother instilled in her at a very young age. So it’s no surprise that you often see furry friends on the set of The Bonnie Hunt Show – like, her own dog pit bull-Lab mix, Charlie, 9. Hunt wants to find a pal for Charlie (his best friend Buddy passed away late last year) and she frequently introduces him to potential partners on the show – all of them rescue dogs. Several dogs that weren’t right for Charlie have been adopted into loving homes. PEOPLE Pets chatted with Hunt about the dog that will make the perfect addition to their family.

Q: Tell us about Charlie’s personality.

A: Charlie, like all the dogs I have been fortunate enough to have in my life, is a character. When he was a pup, I’d often find him sleeping right in the center of the dining room table! Yep, I don’t know how he’d get up there, but I’d be looking all over the house for him and eventually would discover he was a “centerpiece”. There he would be, curled up in a perfect circle, under the warmth of the light just above the dining room table. Thankfully, he outgrew this behavior, especially after a few weeks of making sure I tilted all the chairs towards the table so he wouldn’t have a way up. The silliest thing he does now is actually quite clever. He likes to open the cabinet, find a box of cereal, take it in the back yard, shake it till some cereal falls out, then he runs to the corner of the yard and waits for birds to come down and eat the cereal so he can chase them all away. Brilliant, I think. Of course now I have to have rubber bands on all the cabinet door handles, except for the one to which I leave him access. I put the “almost empty” cereal boxes in there so he can keep his game and tradition with the birds going! I’ve shown video on our show of Charlie getting the cereal from the cabinet all on his own, it’s so fun to see him figure it all out.

Q: How did he become your pet?

A: My sister Mary found him, he was with a homeless woman. Charlie was a small pup, around 4-6 weeks old. The woman had found him on the street and had him in a small box. She couldn’t afford to feed or care for him, and offered him to my sister. Mary asked if I would want him since my dear dog Lacy had just passed away 6 weeks earlier. I was still missing Lacy and didn’t think that either I or my other dog Buddy were ready for a new puppy. Charlie was so weak, lacked nutrition; he was very sick and needed attention. I couldn’t imagine bringing him to a shelter, after all, an ill pit bull would most likely not get adopted. So my Mom and I took care of Charlie day and night. It was a lot of work, but as always, loving an animal through tough times is so fulfilling. He got stronger, healthy, chubby and has been a joy ever since.

Q: Where does Charlie like to sleep?

A: He sleeps at bottom of my bed, or on the sofa. He has the full run of the house.

Q: What are his favorite treats?

A: Charlie loves carrots and apples. I buy raw carrots, wash and peel them and he carries them out to the yard and enjoys the crunchiness! He loves apples, always make sure to core them, no seeds ever, and he really loves them.

Q: What type of dog do you think would be the perfect new friend for Charlie?

A: Any dog who needs us and who won’t jump on his back. Charlie has an old back injury, he got it the night my other dog Buddy passed away. I was carrying Buddy into the car trying to get to the vet, it was the middle of the night. Charlie was a good brother to Buddy and didn’t want to leave her side. He knew she was sick, and when I was placing her in the car instead of him waiting, he anxiously jumped into the car and twisted his back. He is now vulnerable to having muscle spasms and back pain.

Q: Why do you think it’s taken so long to find the perfect friend for him?

A: It’s been many reasons, the most distracting has been “time.” Not that there is ever a perfect time. God knows I wasn’t ready for any of my dogs when they came into my life. I trust that the new dog that is “meant to be” will find their way to us. Traveling as much as I have lately due to family commitments in Chicago and the obligatory publicity tour, well, I just know when the right dog comes along the timing will be there as well. Bringing rescue dogs on the show each week is not only for me to find Charlie a friend but also to remind and educate all of us about the many shelters filled with dogs who need loving homes. I know we will find a “no fence jumping, playful but easy on Charlie’s back, special, sweetie-pie of a dog who needs us as much as we need him, type of dog” soon enough.

Q: Can you tell us about your first pet?

A: The first dog I remember us having as a child was our little mutt named PT 109. He was a skinny little pup, with long legs, ran all over the house.

Q: How did you become such an animal lover?

A: My mom was always rescuing animals, dogs, cats, sick birds. Mom taught us a great respect and love for animals. My Grandma (Mom’s mom) even shared her land with a man who could not afford enough land in which to keep his horses. Grandma allowed him to build a stable on her property so he could keep and nurture his horses. Of course we also got to ride them or brush them whenever we were at Grandma’s house!

Check out Bonniehunt.com to see dogs from the show that are available for adoption!

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