My best celebrity encounter story? The time I meet (twice) my favourite character from Modern Family: Beatrice, who plays Jay Pritchett’s (Ed O’Neill) French Bulldog Stella. Yes Stella!
Sadly, Beatrice died mid-March 2020, days after the popular 11-year-old sitcom wrapped up its final episode. Cast members expressed condolences on social media. No surprise, the furry co-star was remarkably popular on set. Beatrice was 10 years old.
Beatrice, trained and represented by Good Dog Animals company based in California, started on Modern Family during the fourth season (affiliate link) and appeared regularly throughout the show until the end of Season 11 recently.
Cause of death hasn’t been revealed.
Another not-so-well-kept secret: Beatrice wasn’t the original Stella. Beatrice was an under-study of Brigitte, a young originally untrained puppy who was the dog who popularized the Modern Family Stella character Season 2 and 3. (That’s Brigitte learning to swim in Season 2). She was replaced after Season 3 due to contract disputes. (Yes, apparently dog actors have those too).
Brigitte, according to my research, is currently alive and well – fortunately.
I met the charming Beatrice, propped on her director’s chair and ready to be adored, three years in a row at SuperZoo, an annual pet-industry tradeshow in Las Vegas. Our first encounter led to a conversation with her real-life guardian, Guin Solomon (formally Dill) of Good Dog Animals.
Good Dog Animals
Guin, along with husband Steve Solomon, owns Good Dog Animals in Los Angeles that provides trained animals – mostly dogs – for television and film. Established in 2010, Good Dog Animals is one of the first places television shows call when they need their actors to be upstaged by a pooch – or other beast.
“Anything from an ant to an elephant, we can find,” Guin says. Good Dog Animals does not have exotics on its 20-acre property in California. However, there are many dogs living there and about 90 per cent are rescue dogs.
Other canine stars Good Dog Animals represents include Mick who played Stan on Dog with a Blog; Bean who played Audio on This is Us (affiliate link); and Zeke who’s made appearances on both shows and Modern Family.
“We go to pounds and rescues to adopt dogs,” she says, estimating she’s likely rescued hundreds of dogs since starting in the animal entertainment industry in 1997. “It’s a bit like being a casting agent,” she says. “You see tonnes of auditions and there’s something that draws you to a specific actor. It’s like that with dogs – you get a gut feeling. You develop an intuition and trust your gut.”
Guin admits, sometimes she doesn’t get it right: “Sometimes you begin training a dog and find out he’s nervous on set or not comfortable going from place to place. If changes cause stress, then we don’t continue training.” The bottom line, Guin assures me, is if the dog is not having fun doing what he’s doing, then she rehomes him to a family. “That opens up a spot at our facility for another rescue,” she says.
“Many animal groups out there are misrepresenting what happens with animals in the entertainment industry and part of my role at events like SuperZoo, is to educate people about how we train and treat our animals.”
“We spay and neuter all our dogs. … If I need a pure bred, there’s plenty out there to adopt…. We go to purebred rescues first.”
TV Pure Breed Celebrities
And that brings us back to Beatrice, who’s clearly adorable, photogenic and an attractive representative of her breed: A French Bulldog. Truthfully, I’m star-struck near her. She steals focus without effort.
Modern Family producers knew they wanted Stella to be a Frenchie, which is not without some issues. Not because Guin didn’t have one (she found two, after all) but because T.V. fame elevates the desirability of a breed, sometimes fueling unrealistic expectations. (Think Jack Russells after Fraiser).
“Frenchies are excellent dogs and when Modern Family aired, the popularity of Frenchies skyrocketed,” Guin says. “But part of what I do is be the voice of the breed … many people think they’ll get a Frenchie and she’ll be just like Stella on TV. That’s not necessarily the case. Not all are like her.”
Born in 2010, Beatrice got her start on Modern Family – she grew up on the show, according to Guin. Since then, she’s done dozens of jobs, sometimes as Stella and sometimes on other shows – for instance, she made a celebrity appearance at SuperZoo for Ruff Puppies, an artisan dog collar company, promoting and modelling sparkling Ruff Puppies products.
After airing the final episode early April, Modern Family will no doubt go into syndication for years – if not decades. Stella, of course, will always be my favourite character, and I’ll watch for her every time seasons four to eleven air, remembering my literal brush with greatness: the day I got to pet Beatrice, the famous Frenchie.
RIP sweet Beatrice (2010-2020).