If you missed Maria Menounosguest-host appearance on “Live With Kelly and Michael” last week, you missed her gushing over one of her three dogs. “When I hug Benjamin, I feel like our hearts connect and melt and then we float into heaven. It is like the most unbelievable feeling in the whole world,” Menounos told Michael Strahan — only half joking — during the daytime talker.

Her love for canines — particularly rescue dogs — is the reason that L.A.-based rescue org Wags and Walks will honor Menounos at its fourth annual gala on April 24.

Wags and Walks founder Lesley Brog met the dog-loving performer at last year’s gala, when Menounos’ vet brought her as a guest. In the past year, Brog and Menounos have bonded, and the actress has bolstered the org’s social-media presence with weekly posts dubbed “Maria’s Monday Mutts.” Her posts feature a dog that is currently available for adoption through Wags and Walks. “There are so many gems at the shelter, and it is not because they are bad dogs. My rescues have been the greatest,” Menounos said.

Ironically her parents did not allow dogs in her house growing up. “I never had one as a child. My parents were very old-fashioned: strict, Greek parents who didn’t believe dogs belonged in the house. My mom would say, ‘When you have your own house, do whatever you want,’ so when I moved out, I got five dogs,” Menounos stated.

Today she continues to take in dogs that she sees wandering the streets, and her car is filled with leashes, treats and blankets. She admits she sometimes takes rescue to extremes. “I’ve run through bad traffic situations on the highway to rescue a stray dog,” she said. “Unfortunately, they are everywhere. My biggest week was rescuing six dogs.”

At the gala next month, Menounos says she will resist the urge to bring her three pups. “If I can hold one of the adoptable dogs and be photographed, then that is a win for the dog and for me.”
Indeed, as Brog’s Wags and Walks motto goes: Rescuing one dog does not change the world, but it changes the world for that one dog.

For tickets on the April 24 gala, click here.

To view dogs currently available for adoption in Los Angeles through Wags and Walks, click here.