Martha Stewart: Living the Good Long Life With Pets
by Blaine Novak
Published on December 17, 2013
Martha Stewart’s path to living a good long life includes a plethora of pets — from her Himalayan cats and French Bulldogs to her singing red canaries and horses to her Chow Chows so often featured on magazine covers and books. While Stewart has made a study of living beautifully, part of that commitment involves offering the best care for the animals that share her life.
Whether you’ve seen this Emmy award–winning TV show host on television or read her how-to tips for living in magazines or books, you’ve likely invited her into your home to help you with lifestyle advice that ranges from cooking, gardening and crafting to organizing and entertaining. And in her latest book, Living the Good Long Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others (Clarkson Potter, 2013), Stewart created a guide for living your healthiest life, including her own 10 Golden Rules for Successful Aging.
“Pets are a very important part of my life,” Stewart says. So important that when Stewart is in New York City, she often bypasses her apartment there to go home and be with her animals in Bedford, N.Y. “I come home because I have my pets. And I want to see my pets and pet my pets and cuddle with them.” Stewart describes the experience of pet ownership as similar to having a young child in the house. Her Frenchies sleep in her bedroom, surrounding her with their attention and affection.
Martha Stewart walks with one of the horses on her farm in Bedford, N.Y.
When Stewart's Chow Chow Ghengis Khan isn't busy guarding the farm Stewart calls home, you can find him on the dog show circuit. In 2012, he won Best in Breed at the 136th Westminster Dog Show.
Stewart sits with her French Bulldog, Francesca. The pup writes her own blog, The Daily Wag, with Stewart's other Frenchie, Sharkie.
With treats in hand, Stewart stops to visit the donkeys. Looks like she's whipped up something delicious!
Frenchies Sharkie and Francesca take a stroll with Stewart.
Stewart's love for animals is evident as she poses with two striking residents of her farm.
One of Stewart's Himalayan cats relaxes in the sunshine. The first cat Stewart ever owned was named Chigi Toto who knew how to play fetch and answer the telephone.
Stewart has had a lifelong passion for animals and is always happy to see them when she comes home to the farm, saying, "I come home because I have my pets. And I want to see my pets and pet my pets and cuddle with them."
Her Chow Ghenghis Khan, or G.K., has his distinctive Chow way of being in the room. He goes into the doorway and sleeps with his back to the bed, facing the exit. G.K.’s guard dog mentality means he sleeps with his eyes facing out to the door. This normally quiet dog will come alert on his forelegs, ready to go, at the sound of an intruder. But he’s always a pet first. Stewart recalls a night recently where G.K. woke her at 3:30 a.m. for a restroom break.
“He came to the side of my bed and he whined. And I took him downstairs and took him outside. And we walked around, looking for this full moon, which was almost discreet. And so he went pee. And we came back inside. And I went back up to bed. But I don’t mind doing it. It’s just part of my existence. And they make me happy.”
A Lifelong Passion
Growing up as one of six children in a house in Nutley, N.J., Stewart recalls only having two pets during her childhood. The first was a bird named Blackie. “It was a giant crow my brother had found wounded and brought back to health. And Blackie was a fabulous bird.”
Her other pet was Shiner, a Fox Terrier her father gave away because he didn’t fit in as a kid-friendly house pet.
“The last time I saw Shiner, he was chained to a dog house in not a very nice neighborhood. And I was extremely unhappy about it.”
Stewart says she vowed then that she would someday have her own animals. And just after she got married she adopted a cat, Chigi Toto, named after the pope from the Chigi family in Florence. This amazing cat retrieved items Stewart threw for him, and he even learned to answer the telephone.
“One day I called home to reach my housekeeper, and my cat knocked the receiver off the hook and meowed into the receiver,” Stewart says. “And he did that a lot. He thought he was a human.”
And Chigi Toto is only one of the amazing animals Stewart has shared her life with. Her Chow Ghenghis Khan won Best of Breed in 2012 at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. And her Frenchies, Francesca and Sharkey, share the spotlight, penning their own popular blog called “The Daily Wag” on Stewart’s website.
Naming her pets is an affectionate ritual. Stewart christens them with both formal names and nicknames. She’s had a slew of cats named for composers, including Beethoven, and many pets have enjoyed noble names, such as Empress Wu.
“The names just depend on my mood at the time,” Martha says.
For her Chows, she often selects nicknames with double sounds, because she says it’s fun. For example, Stewart’s longtime companion Kublai Khan was also called Paw Paw, named for his big paws.
Committed to Their Care
When it’s time to choose a veterinarian, Stewart says she lets her pooches do the picking, and they don’t all go to the same doctor. “I look for the veterinarian that my dog wants to get out of the car and go into that office. I have had dogs who will not get out of the car at a certain office. The dog does not go to that doctor.”
While this means Stewart has different veterinarians for different pets, she always does her homework and researches the veterinarians before she lets her dogs make the final call. And she admits she’s drawn to animals with longer life spans. “I don’t like death, as most people don’t. So I have not gotten any giant dogs that have very short life spans. And I love those giant dogs, but they don’t live long enough.”
When Stewart can’t be with her pets, sitters watch after them. The role of animal sitter was one Stewart’s mother, Martha Kostyra, sometimes played before her death in 2007.
“My animals loved her, and she loved all of them,” Stewart says.
Another sign of Stewart’s affection for her pets is the language she speaks with her animals, and she says like most pet owners, she has a cat talk and a dog talk. “I’m not allowed to talk baby talk anymore with my two new grandchildren after the age of 1. It’s a new rule in the house,” Stewart says, laughing. “But there’s never a rule with animals. You can always baby talk to your animals.”
This article originally appeared in the winter issue of HealthyPet Magazine.
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