People Executive Editor Kate Coyne is the lucky mom to Slippers the 2017 Puppy Bowl puppy
Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

Several months ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone LESS in the market for a new puppy than I was. I was five months pregnant, with a late-in-life third child that still had my husband and our twin 10-year-old sons in a state of shock, and I was busy trying to comprehend all the ways in which my life was going to change.

But when a dear friend invited me to attend a taping of Animal Planet’s annual cuteapalooza known as The Puppy Bowl, I instantly said yes. What could go wrong just from playing with a handful of adorable puppies for a few hours? Sure, they’d all come to New York City for the big game via rescue groups nationwide, and therefore, many of them were available for adoption. No matter, I assured my husband: “It’s not like I’m going to bring one of them home,” I insisted. My husband, who has known me for over two decades, simply raised one eyebrow.

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

The trouble started the day of the taping, when my friend text-messaged me a photo of a dog in her arms. “This is Slippers,” she wrote. “She is dying to meet you.” I willed myself not to look at the photo for too long, but even in the thirty seconds in which I glanced at it, I was in trouble. Here was a dog that seemed closer to a muppet-Ewok hybrid than anything canine: huge ears covered in white tufts of fur, a tiny nose that seemed comprised of a chocolate chip, and inquisitive eyebrows that made her look like a tiny professor. “No! no! no! no! no!,” I mentally chanted to myself. “You’re not falling in love with that dog.” Did I mention I already HAVE a dog? A 68-lb. Border collie who nearly chewed us out of house and home during her early years but who has since settled into being a wonderful, docile creature? Returning to puppyhood after enduring the travails of training that pet seemed about as crazy as … well, having another baby 10 years after leaving behind potty-training and toddlerhood behind.

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

I wish I could say that when I arrived at the taping, I held my resolve for a good long time. But the truth is: I saw Slippers and something instantly began to melt. She was tiny, much smaller than the picture had lead me to believe, and she scampered into my arms almost instantly. I scooped her up, holding against my already-burgeoning belly, and the strangest instinct kicked in. Instantly I began to sway slowly back and forth, something I hadn’t done since my babies were little. Within two minutes, a passerby noticed us both and said, “Oh, look, she’s totally passed out. Most dogs here are too amped up to ever do that.” Sure enough, Slippers was now sound asleep in my arms. If I’m being completely truthful with myself, this was the moment she became mine.

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

It wasn’t quite so simple as that, of course: the head of her rescue organization, Dr. Tony Kremer, a truly dreamy vet who runs the Help Save Pets organization in Illinois, had brought Slippers to the Puppy Bowl and was determined to find her a good home. I was far from the only one who wanted her: none other than a high-ranking executive at Animal Planet was interested. But having that person one ahead of me on a list of prospective parents gave me the freedom to approach Dr. Tony and say, “Look, if it doesn’t work out for that person, please, please consider me next in line.” I hadn’t spoken to my husband, or even thought it through much beyond that, and I left that evening not quite sure if I would feel relief or dismay if the other person was the one to keep Slippers.

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

The next morning I got my answer: the Animal Planet exec hadn’t been able to sell her husband on the idea (checking with a spouse: what a quaint notion!) and Slippers was mine if I wanted her. Going on autopilot, I filled out countless forms detailing my background, offering my vet’s phone number, vowing to take excellent care of this little, 3-lb. puppy for the rest of her life, all the while telling myself not to listen to the voice in my head screaming “Are you crazy? You already have a dog! You are five months pregnant! Housebreaking is a total pain! What are you doing?”

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

Luckily, two hours later, I once again held Slippers in my arms and that voice quieted to barely a whisper. Dr. Tony offered her up to me, then came back five minutes later, his voice breaking, and asked, “Can I hold her one last time?” I knew exactly how he felt — the thought of ever parting with her already seemed heartbreaking to me. I watched him give her a few kisses and whisper, “Ok, be a good girl,” and realized I would remain devoted to keeping this little girl happy forever.

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

It seems the feeling is mutual. Slippers was renamed Moxie due to her fearless, curious and inquisitive nature, and she quickly became a part of our family, particularly beloved by my sons and willingly tolerated by the Border collie already in residence. Even the husband came around and now falls asleep each night with his “microbeast” nestled firmly against his side. As I moved through a high-risk pregnancy and all its attendant stresses and scares, it became clear that I had won the puppy jackpot. Holding her at the end of each day is like no sedative I have ever known. She needs to do virtually nothing to bring a smile to people’s faces — just her little body, wiggling almost entirely with glee when she encounters anyone at all, her trusting soul and happy bark and her honest-to-god smile (don’t tell me dogs can’t smile because she absolutely does) positively defies anyone to feel unhappy in her presence.

Credit: Courtesy Kate Coyne

As I enter the final weeks of pregnancy, I am so grateful for this little baby I’ve already been able to welcome, and the absolute joy she has brought. She’s also been sleeping through the night since her second evening at home; I doubt I will get so lucky with an infant. In the end, I never intended to rescue a dog the day I attended the Puppy Bowl, but as it turns out, I actually didn’t. This little ball of fluff saved me far more than I ever could have rescued her.

To see Slippers/Moxie in adorable action on the field, tune-in to the Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl on Feb. 5 at 3 pm ESt/ 12pm PST.