Lorraine Bracco with dog Elsie
Courtesy Doug Hyun
06/19/2012 at 04:35 PM EDT
When Lorraine Bracco goes to the Hollywood studio where she films Rizzoli & Isles
, she's always greeted with smiles.
"My dog Elsie comes everywhere with me. She is a star on the Paramount lot," Bracco tells PEOPLE. "There's nobody who walks by this dog that doesn't stop to talk to her, pet her. Anthony Hopkins waved to her [once]."
That magnetism has landed Elsie a role on the show, and you can spot the yellow Lab on June 26. The charming dog has a knack for performing: she was a trainee with Puppies Behind Bars
, a group that uses inmates to train service dogs for soldiers who return from war with post-traumatic stress disorder or other injuries.
As fate would have it, Elsie flunked her certification test because she was spooked by certain sounds, and that's when Bracco was selected from a five-year waiting list to adopt the dog that knows at least 35 commands.
"She can turn the lights on, she can get my keys. Sheis unbelievable," says Bracco, who adopted Elsie in January. "I went to [New York City suburb] Bedford's maximum security correction center to pick her up, so I met a lot of the inmates who trained the dogs."
When Rizzoli & Isles
executive producer Janet Tamaro saw the adorable 2-year-old in action, she wrote her into an upcoming script. Filming for the episode commenced in April and Bracco admits she morphed into a mom-ager.
"I was the stage mother of all stage mothers," Bracco laughs. "It was very funny. [Costar Bruce McGill] would yell at me, 'Go away, go away.' [I said] no because I know all the things she can do, so if she wasn't perfect at it, I'd be like, 'Do it again, do it again!'"
Elsie received a "significant" paycheck for her hard work, which Bracco has donated to Puppies Behind Bars – and which, no doubt, has made Elsie perform her cutest trick. "She does a full body wiggle when she's happy," she says.
Catch TNT's Rizzoli & Isles
Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.