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Find out more about donating or adopting:Online: charlestonanimalsociety.orgShelter: 2455 Remount Road, North Charleston, SC 29406Phone: 747-4849

Awendaw — When George Gallager’s springer spaniel died two years ago, the animal lover swore he would never own another dog again.

After many years of companionship, the loss was just too painful.

But a Christmas surprise from the Charleston Animal Society and Gallager’s wife, Bobbie, nudged the Awendaw man into the loving paws of a stray, black Labrador mix that was lucky enough to find a home for the holidays.

Animal Society representatives dressed as Santa’s little helpers delivered 1-year-old LuAnn to the Gallagers’ Eden Road home on Christmas Eve morning.

Filled with shock, Gallager cautiously stepped from his home’s front door and onto his front porch, where the group awaited him.

Bobbie Gallager smiled as the dog wagged its tail with excitement and rambunctiously licked her husband’s white whiskers.

The woman said she immediately knew LuAnn would be a good fit for her family.

The couple’s rural property aside a dirt road provides plenty of space for the dog to roam free.

Plus, she said, “(Gallager) has so much love in his heart for animals. He’s such a kind, gentle man.”

Bobbie Gallager said she had a feeling her husband wanted another pet, despite his words to the contrary. When Gallager found a lost dog near their home, she said, he cared for the animal until its owner could be found. He also was saddened to see it go.

She secretly rescued LuAnn from the Animal Society with the help of her son. She hid dog food, treats and toys from her husband, determined not to spoil the surprise.

Monday’s delivery was one of nine the Animal Society planned for Christmas Eve and today. The shelter waived adoption fees on all adult dogs and cats through the initiative.

With 300 animals at the shelter, spokesman Kay Hyman said, the deliveries help find more animals their perfect match.

After minutes of bonding with LuAnn, Gallager said he was certain he’d found that match.

“It was a shock, but we couldn’t turn her away,” Gallager said, planning future fishing trips he said he’d love to take with the dog.

“It’s so heartwarming to think that someone whose heart has been empty for two years is going to have this surprise, and this dog is going to have a new home,” Kay Hyman said. “They could have purchased a dog. They could have had their choice of litters, but they chose us. They chose to rescue, and I think that’s the key message. They chose to save a life.”

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.