Nolan Gould and his dog

Starting at the age of 3, Nolan Gould has been acting ever since. Now the teenager is part of the wildly popular Emmy-award-winning Modern Family. Playing the offbeat child Luke Dunphy, he marches to the rhythm of his own drum. He’s also acted in several movies, including “Friends with Benefits” and “Space Buddies.” In his spare time, this bright young man — he’s a member of Mensa — enjoys playing music, practicing parkour, camping, and, of course, spending time with his pets.

For Gould, his dogs provide comfort after a long day’s work. “They’re there to greet me at the door, bouncing up, saying ‘hi’ to me, kissing me, and licking me.” Oftentimes we might wish our pets could know what our day was like. In one sense, Gould has that wish granted. Daisy was once a movie star, too. “I feel like I share a common bond with my Golden Retriever because we actually worked on a movie together,” he says. “So I feel like we both kind of understand acting.”

Daisy acted as Gould’s dog in the Disney film “Space Buddies.” He says from the first moment he worked with her, he knew he loved her—and the affection was mutual. “The first thing we shot I was supposed to say good-bye to her because I was leaving for school, and the dog was supposed to follow me,” he says. “They were scared because she was a puppy, and they didn’t think that she would actually follow me. But she just liked me so much, because I was playing with her earlier, that as soon as I walked away, she followed right after me.”

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Modern Family's Nolan Gould and his dogs

Tremendous Gifts

Gould calls Daisy his “best Christmas gift” because he got her right around the holiday. “She was actually born on December 3rd, and when the movie was done they said, ‘Hey, you can keep Daisy if you want.’ I got her right about Christmas time.”

Rusty, Gould’s small mixed-breed dog, came into his life on quite a different path. The family had gone to a shelter to adopt a cat because they were living in an apartment at the time and didn’t think a dog would fit their lifestyle. “But we went there and we saw Rusty, and he was just so cute and had a great personality.” It turned out that apartment-living suited Rusty just fine. But now, in a house with a huge backyard he can play in, he’s even happier.

There’s also a cat in the family named Asia, and Gould says they all get along great. “The whole myth that cats and dogs don’t get along, that’s completely false,” he says, “because we introduced Daisy and the kitty together when they were both really young, so they’ve really bonded. Sometimes my cat will be just walking down the hallway and Daisy will be lying down, and the cat will come up and start licking Daisy’s face. So they get along really well. It’s very nice to have that peace in our house. They’re like three little kids together.”

Gould knows his pups routine so well that he can imagine what they’re doing while he’s away at work. “I do kind of get a little anxiety being away from them, that’s why I keep little pictures with me on my phone or on my iPad. So when I miss them, when I’m gone for five weeks shooting a movie, I just pull it up.” Luckily, there’s no separation anxiety for the dogs. His dog Rusty used to have issues, but now that Daisy’s around, he’s calm staying at home, Gould says.

Modern Family Cast

A Look at a Modern Everyday Family, With Pets

While the dogs don’t recognize Gould when Modern Family is on, they do enjoy watching TV with him. “Our cat wanders in every once in a while and looks at the TV, so does Rusty, and Daisy just sits there… mesmerized by it, especially the dog shows. She loves watching other dogs.”

During the day, while Gould’s being homeschooled, Daisy often sleeps under the table by his feet. Rusty and Asia aren’t far away, sleeping on a big pet bed in the dining room.

The dogs also love listening to music. “I’ll get out my stand-up bass or my banjo or something, and I’ll just be playing my little music and the dogs will come along. They’ll just lie down and watch me play and listen along.”

Part of Gould’s routine is taking regular walks with the dogs. While you’ll usually find him in casual clothes—a long-sleeved shirt and jeans—when he takes Daisy on long walks, he’ll switch to something even more comfortable. “With Daisy I usually wear exercise clothes, because I take her on anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour walk.” Sometimes instead of walking, Gould rides his scooter or bike, and Daisy runs alongside.

Daisy is also a fan of camping trips. One of Gould’s favorite places to camp is Red Rock, in the Mojave Desert. Even though it’s very hot there, Daisy enjoys hiking and also chilling out. Of course, she has plenty of water.

Gould says everyone in his family loves animals. But, for now, they won’t be adding anymore anytime soon. “I’m always petitioning my mom to try to get another pet in the family. So far it hasn’t worked because we have a lot of pets. But everybody in our family, we really, really enjoy their company.”

Nolan Gould

Strengthening the Bond

Of course, furry family members mean it’s not all play and no work. Gould happily participates in the everyday care of the animals. He’s currently working on the Dog Care Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. “So I have all these different things that I have to do which is really helping me bond,” he says.

As part of the Merit Badge, he regularly walks the dogs, and brushes and bathes them. He also tracks their weight and ensures that each one gets the right amount of food for its body size, which can be a challenge with two dogs of very different sizes.

“Daisy gobbles up her food, while Rusty slowly nibbles on his food throughout the day,” Gould says. “So one of the problems we would have is, Daisy would gobble up the food, and then Rusty would leave and she’d come and eat all his food. So we’re feeding them separately now.”

Training is another aspect of the Merit Badge. Daisy brought a few tricks with her from her days on the big screen. But Gould’s also taught her a few new things, such as how to lie down and roll over. She’ll also “speak” and “shake.”

While the experience of training has been fun, particularly when Gould gets to share Daisy’s tricks with his friends, he admits it takes a lot of motivation and patience. “Training is definitely difficult, but it’s something that you should do,” he says.

In addition to being part of his pets’ everyday care, Gould also participates in their wellness care, visiting the veterinarian regularly for checkups and vaccinations. “Just like how we have to go to the doctor to check up on things and make sure we’re all healthy, our pets have to go and we have to make sure they’re healthy,” he says.

Gould stresses the importance of regular veterinary care because unlike us, our pets can’t talk. “It’s very important to take our pets, especially, because with humans we can sense maybe there’s something wrong. If there’s something wrong with our pet, sometimes they can’t tell us and we might think they are OK, but really they can have a problem with them.”

Companions for Life

What about the future? Does Gould see pets as being part of his life? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” In fact, he says he’s already thinking about owning a big ranch when he retires and having a whole bunch of different kinds of dogs. “I’d like seven different kinds of dogs just on my ranch,” he says. “That would be my dream retirement.”

In other words, it would be a very difficult life without a pet, Gould says. “They’re like my family, so if I lost one of them, you know, it’d be like losing one of my family members. My dogs, they have their own personalities and habits that I just love, and I would hate to be without them.

“I think a dog is one of the best things that a kid like me could have,” Gould says. “They’re therapeutic, they’re great companions, and they’re going to be with you through the long run in life, however long they live.”