updated 07/11/2012 AT 11:55 AM ET
•originally published 07/11/2012 AT 9:00 AM ET
Eric Stonestreet’s best friend knew to bite the hand that would feed him.
“He scratched me, then bit my hand,” the Modern Family star tells PEOPLE of Coleman, the Jack Russell terrier/beagle mix he found at a shelter in 2000. “I knew I had to take him home, and he has been my best friend and right-hand man ever since.”
The two quickly became inseparable, and though Stonestreet’s career is the one that’s taken off, it’s Coleman who has the swelled head. (The dog has his own Twitter page with more than 3,000 followers.)
“Yes, he thinks he’s famous, and he wants to connect with his fans,” Stonestreet says with mock seriousness. “I need to get him a special iPad that he can use without scratching it with his claws.”
Stonestreet, 40, credits Coleman with helping him live a healthier lifestyle. “I spend a lot of time with him,” he says. “I get out and play with him and it’s like I’m 12 years old again – rolling around, running, playing. Coleman inspires me to get some fresh air, get some exercise. He has brought so much happiness into my life, and I think I have done the same for him.”
Coleman and Stonestreet will spend more quality time together Thursday when they fly to Alabama to unveil a new $500,000 public dog park sponsored by dog food company Beneful. The park includes splash pads, hiking paths and even a fetch football field with fire hydrant goalposts.
Stonestreet is promoting the third Beneful Dream Dog Park Contest, where one grand prize winner can win a dream dog park for his or her town. “I do it because I think it helps communities,” he says. “It’s good to have a nice, safe park where families and dogs can play.”
Plus, he says, it’s a great way to hook up. “It’s a good place to meet people,” he laughs. “Are ya single? Go to the dog park, you may find someone there. And you’ll know that you have at least one thing in common: your love of dogs!”
[RELATED_TEXT “Can’t get enough pet news? See more on PEOPLE Pets