October 17, 2016 12:28 PM

Sophia Bush didn’t mean to fall in love — it just happened.

The Chicago P.D. star was only planning to foster puppy Frankie “for a few weeks,” but the pooch ran away with her heart, and over the weekend, she adopted the mixed breed as her own.

It all started seven weeks ago, when the actress’s “best friend in life,” her beloved rescue Patch, passed away. “They always say if you’re really a dog person you’ll have that one dog in your life, of all of your dogs, that’s ‘the one,’ ” she told PEOPLE on Saturday at the Lipton Chef Fest at Navy Pier in Chicago. “That’s what Patch was for me.”

But not long after Patch’s passing, Bush heard about a dog his age who’d been surrendered at Chicago’s PAWS shelter. “I was like, ‘Nope, not happening,’ ” she said of leaving the dog to fate. So she decided to foster him.

“I called him my ‘sweet old man,’ and we coped together for a few weeks,” she shared — before finding him a “really great home.”

Something was still missing for Bush, though, especially since she grew up rescuing and raising dogs with her family. “My girlfriend Patti Murren, who works on Chicago Med, was like, ‘You know what’s really helpful? When you’re fostering a puppy, because they’re such a pain in the ass you won’t want to keep them,’ ” Bush recalled. “‘You can at least start helping them get potty trained and used to a house so whoever adopts them isn’t totally up a creek.’ I was like, ‘That’s a really good idea!’ ”

So Bush returned to PAWS and met a litter of puppies, fixating on one in particular.

“I figured I’d hang onto her for a couple of weeks and post her on Snapchat and find her a home,” she said. “And then the guys from PAWS called and mentioned they were starting to get a lot of questions about her. I was like, ‘I’m not sure I want you to tell people she’s adoptable yet.’ And one of my friends at work looked at me and was like, ‘You’re keeping that dog.’ And I was like, ‘You’re probably right.’ ”

Bush made it official, introducing Frankie on Instagram over the weekend. “We’re very bonded,” she said. “She’s a sweetheart, and really, really smart.”

She’s also become the “on-set mascot,” getting scooped up for lots of cuddles and walks. “The number of times I turn around and somebody’s got her … somebody will have brought her to set, or she’s out on a van ride or whatever. She’s a good morale booster. Everybody’s really happy.”

Especially Bush.

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