updated 02/06/2012 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/06/2012 AT 10:00 AM ET
Santa was not kind to Alexa Vega last Christmas.
The dog-loving actress, 23, had been longing to get a puppy for over a year, but she couldn’t get her husband on board.
“He wasn’t too excited about the idea,” Vega tells PEOPLE. “He wanted to wait until we got a bigger place because he wanted a big dog.”
At Christmastime, she hinted strongly that she wanted a puppy, and he hinted back that a dog was on its way. When they began to exchange gifts, Vega’s husband called out into the hallway, saying, “Come here! Come here!”
Vega expected to hear a patter of footsteps, but the present turned out to be more practical joke than puppy.
“My first reaction was to start crying, it was awful,” she says. “But in the end, I realized I need to be able to meet with this puppy and have a connection. If he had picked out a puppy for me, it wouldn’t have been the same.”
A few weeks ago, the dog search began again in earnest, and Vega found the one she’d been waiting for: a 3-month-old Havanese mix named Ramona Flowers.
“As soon as I saw her, she jumped in my arms,” Vega says. “She was kissing me, and my husband said, ‘That’s it. It’s her.’”
Since joining her new family, Ramona has been house trained and enjoys playing fetch with her owners. Most of all, “she loves people,” Vega says. “Whenever we go on walks, she flocks to them. She’s just a bubbly little thing.”
“My husband says she’s me,” she adds. “If you’re not paying attention to her, she licks you and tries to get your attention.”
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