No one expected when Jon Stewart announced his retirement from The Daily Show that he’d be spending his time rubbing the bellies of pigs on a 12-acre farm in New Jersey. But thanks to his wife, Tracey, a veterinary technician and animal advocate whom he calls “the single most joyful, compassionate, empathetic, intelligent individual I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” he’s playing with the pigs and loving it. The Stewarts have even started a Facebook page for their porcine friends called “The Daily Squeal.”
But the mastermind, and massive heart, behind providing a safe home for endangered animals and making that home a New Jersey outpost for Farm Sanctuary is Tracey Stewart, author of Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better (Artisan; October 20, 2015). In this charmingly illustrated book, Stewart tells how she came to devote her career—and home—to animals. (The Stewarts live with two horses, two pigs, four dogs, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, two fish, one hamster and a bird.) Beginning with a pit bull named Enzo, who rescued her from a bad relationship, Stewart blends facts about how best to care for our furry, feathered and amphibian friends with stories of her own animal encounters.
I was excited to see the chapters on how to read the body language of cats, dogs, horses and, yes, pigs. Wouldn’t it be great to know what’s bothering your animal companion? Who wouldn’t like some warning that Kitty is feeling threatened by the cable guy? Or that Rover needs to stretch his legs and have a good play session so he doesn’t get into mischief? But Stewart doesn’t stop there, she lists what makes animals happy and unhappy (pigs hate mess, dogs love to play hide ‘n’ seek with treats), how to approach them, their special needs and what to plant in your garden for the health and happiness of your animal friends.
But the book isn’t limited to household and barnyard companions, Stewart also talks about kindness to wild animals whose contributions may go overlooked, including pollinators who are badly needed and the critters that not only keep insects in check but also clean up the messes we make.
Like Stewart’s husband we may not be ready to go vegan, but everyone can show a little more kindness to the animals around us. As she points out, “more often than not the rescued animal is the human, and the rescuer usually has four legs.”