Star Trek veteran Patrick Stewart may be one of the most recognizable names and faces on TV, film, and stage, but these days, he’s almost as well known for his incredible services to the dog community as he is for his services to acting. As anyone who’s ever glanced at his Instagram page will know, Stewart has, in recent years, turned his life over to providing a loving home to some of the country’s most needy dogs, and it’s a mission that’s doing more than just changing the lives of the many pooches he fosters. As he revealed to PEOPLE, Stewart’s commitment to providing shelter (however temporary) to dogs in need of a short term home has turned his life upside down (in a good way, of course). “I find my relationship to the world and to the news every day has been changed by Ginger (the adorable put bull he and his wife Sunny Ozell fostered back in 2017 from the LA-based shelter, Wags and Walks),” Stewart explained. “She brought such a quality of patience and tolerance and fun into our lives, that, in a very short space of time, it shifted my sense of where our world might be going.”
After offering his services to Wags and Walks in 2017, Stewart was initially trepidatious when he learned his first-ever foster dog would be a Pitbull. Like many of us, he’d bought hook, line, and sinker into the stereotype of the breed as aggressive, violent, and not at all the type of creature you’d want to share your home with. Fortunately, all the negative preconceptions went from his mind within just moments of meeting the affable Ginger. “Immediately upon meeting her, I found myself simply absorbed in her whether she was paying attention to me or not,” he revealed to PEOPLE. Despite Stewart being only a temporary caregiver to the Pitbull (he did try to adopt her, but unfortunately, the UK’s particular take on breed legislation made it impossible for the actor to offer her a permanent home), he still remembers the moments they shared fondly, and credits her as the inspiration behind his ongoing desire to provide a home too as many foster pets as he can.
With his new-found appreciation for Pitties (and, apparently, for life in general), Stewart has been keen to share the advantages of dog fostering to the wider world, regularly taking to Instagram to share updates about what he and his evolving family of four-legged friends are getting up to. But it’s not all walks in the park and waggy tails… there’s a serious side to what Stewart is doing that he’s just as eager to expound on.
Ever since his first foster dog, Ginger (who, before being rescued, was a breeding dog for a fighting ring), came into his life, Stewart’s eyes have been opened to a new world… one that most of us would be keen to avert our gaze from entirely, but which Stewart has decided to tackle head-on. For the past few years, the actor has been working in partnership with the ASPCA to stamp out one of the cruelest “sports” in the country- dogfighting. “Dogfighting is the ultimate betrayal of loving animals,” Stewart notes on the ASPCA website. “ We need to break the chain of violence associated with dogfighting and bring this brutal form of cruelty to an end”. To help support the mission, Stewart has applied a sprinkling of his stardust to its #GetTough campaign, actively encouraging his many fans and social media followers to lend their backing to the movement and help bring about an end to the cruel practice.
Fortunately, Stewart’s dedication to stamping out dogfighting hasn’t taken up so much of his time that he hasn’t got plenty to lavish on the string of foster dogs that call his home theirs (however temporarily). After Ginger came Lenny, his first senior foster dog who, like Ginger, was a Pitbull. Stewart was one of the first people to ever show the dog affection, which was returned ten-fold by the grateful Lenny. Sadly, Lenny started to show symptoms of illnesses within just a few days of arriving at his new home; while the actor initially suspected Lenny simply had a bad case of Kennel Cough, a trip to the vet confirmed that Lenny was suffering from Pneumonia, a consequence of the many years of maltreatment and neglect that had gone before. Despite receiving the very best medical care possible, Lenny’s condition quickly worsened, and within just five days of meeting Stewart for the first time, he had sadly passed.
The latest addition to the Stewart household is Ella, a beautiful Pittie who’s helping Stewart and his wife get over the loss of Lenny. Both the actor and Sunny are clearly already in love with the cute mutt, with Sunny revealing to her Instagram followers that she’s taking to calling their new pal Ella Bella Cinderella because “she is such a pretty princess.” Stewart (or sirpatstew, as his many followers know him) is clearly just as enamored with the cute pooch, flooding Instagram with snap after snap of the two “reading” lines to his new movie Picard, getting in some ZZ’s on the couch, going for walks, and generally just being as adorable as you’d want.
As you’d expect from someone who’s been relentlessly campaigning for Pitbull causes for the past few years, Stewart hasn’t missed out on the chance to use the flood of dog lovers hoping to catch a glimpse of Ella on his Instagram to promote his new cause: a petition for the UK’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to put an end to breed-specific legislation. If you want to lend your support to the cause, you can add your name to the petition over on the official bio of his Instagram page.