Meet Kevin McHale's Special (Furry) Lady
09/10/2012 AT 02:30 PM EDT
Sophie, of course, is a 45-lb Wheaten terrier mix that the actor rescued in April via Los Angeles's Bark n' Bitches boutique.
"She's got all of my attention," McHale, 24, tells PEOPLE.com of the main female in his life, who often wraps her paws around him in what he describes as a canine take on a bear hug.
It's a special kind of love he's applying to an equally special cause. The actor has teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a campaign that encourages fans to adopt pets from shelters or, rather, "root for the underdog" – like Artie, the ballad-busting, wheelchair-rocking hallway outcast he portrays on the Fox musical series.
McHale's love for animals is mirrored by his fellow Gleeks, some of whom also take their dogs to work on the show (which is currently filming its fourth season). Sophie's favorite playmate? Heather Morris's pit bull Jenny.
It was Sophie's interaction with Jenny, after all, that helped convince McHale to adopt the pooch when he started fostering her in the spring. When the two dogs began playing, "I saw her light up." (But don't expect any canine guest stars: "We would get nothing done," he adds.)
Although she may be his leading lady right now, she's not always so ladylike. "She has a crazy growl," he says – but perhaps that's just her singing voice.
Still, McHale has no complaints about his pup – except when she gets lazy on runs, that is.
"Sophie, to me, is perfect," he adds. "I feel like she was human in a past life."