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For Tracey Stewart, Life After The 'Daily Show' Is All About The Animals

Tracey Stewart poses with Tweed and Gidget at Farm Sanctuary's Watkins Glen, N.Y., location. Stewart is the founder of the online magazine, <a href="http://moomah.com/themagazine">Moomah</a><em>.</em>
Heather Ainsworth
Tracey Stewart poses with Tweed and Gidget at Farm Sanctuary's Watkins Glen, N.Y., location. Stewart is the founder of the online magazine, Moomah.

The home that Tracey Stewart shares with her husband, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, is a crowded one. In addition to the couple and their two children, the Stewart household includes four dogs, four pigs, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, one parrot, one hamster and two fish (as well as three horses, though they live off-site).

"I'm crazy," Tracey Stewart, a former veterinary technician, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It means I have hoarding tendencies."

When Stewart recently ran out of room for rescue animals, she says, "I thought, 'Why not get a barn and be able to continue ... putting animals outside of my home instead of inside?' "

So the couple did just that: They bought a farm in New Jersey and announced plans to open a sanctuary for rescued farm animals that will be affiliated with the national animal rescue group, Farm Sanctuary.

The newest additions to the Stewart brood, two pigs named Anna and Maybelle, could be considered poster children for the farm rescue movement: They were found on the side of a road after possibly falling off a transport truck.

"We fell in love with them immediately," Stewart says of the pigs. "We realized they were going to be our first ambassadors ... and they're causing all kinds of havoc already."

Stewart is the author of the memoir Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better. (Lisel Ashlock, the artist who created the illustrations in the book, was also part of Stewart and Gross' conversation. You can hear her comments in the audio link above.)

Interview Highlights

On working with animals

I always worked in design. I had studied design at Drexel University, and I had taken on a lot of different jobs. I had done well in the jobs, but I kept moving from job to job, because I kept thinking it was the job that I wasn't liking. It wasn't until I started dating Jon that he would mention to me that he couldn't understand how such a passionate person was so uninspired at work. ... He knew that I always wanted to be a veterinarian when I was young and he had suggested to me that I go back to school for that. ... He thought that I needed a job that [made] me cry, and so when I did go back, and I did get that job [as a veterinary technician], he was absolutely right; it was the best job I ever had and I truly loved that job.

On the incident during a New York Times photo shoot

A steer named Ari, who is a good friend of mine, is in adolescence, and so I was standing with my back to him, probably longer than is normal for him, while we tried to capture a shot, and so he took that as my body language saying to him that I wanted him to mount me, and so he did. So I saw one hoof on one shoulder and another hoof on the other, and I felt his hot breath down my neck, and somebody pulled me out of there very quickly. It was funny because when it happened, it happened so quickly and everybody was worried that I was hurt, but I wasn't. But then two hours later, when I stood up, I realized that that steer weighed 1,500 pounds. So it took me about two weeks to get my back back to normal. I've had other back injuries in the past, and I've never had such a great story. So I was actually kind of excited for people finally to ask me why my back hurt.

On what surprises people about pigs

I think the thing that surprises all my friends is how clean they are. They do love to go into mud wallows, but that is actually because they don't sweat, so when they heat up, they like to go into the cool mud to cool themselves off. ... But then they equally love for you to clean all that mud off them, and when they were first staying with us they were staying in my garage until I could get their barn ready, and we would take a pan that goes underneath the dishwasher and we put cedar chips in it, and both of our pigs were litter box-trained within a day, because they actually don't like to be dirty and they're very organized. ...

The other thing that we were surprised about is that they're really fast. We started playing ball with them and running the bases and our neighbors would come over and not know what was going on. They're so much like our dogs, it's amazing.

On rescuing more and more animals

It is really hard. We'll go into a store to get hay for the rabbits and then there's a sign on a bird that says he's being bullied and someone needs to save him. And then I'll look down at my daughter and say, "What are we going to do?" And she starts rubbing her hands together like, "Oh Mommy! It's happening to Mommy. She's going to take the bird." And then I see her excitement and we take the bird. There's no rhyme or reason; there's no recipe. I think we always try to get to a point where there's harmony in the house, and then once there's harmony in the house, I go out to upset that again.

On how sanctuaries rescue farm animals

Usually a cruelty case comes to the attention of animal care and control, and at that point, they will call different sanctuaries to come up and assess the situation and ... they'll try to garner all their people and spread some of those animals out, and get them out of that bad situation. ...

Usually [Farm] Sanctuary is not willing to pay for an animal because then they are supporting that industry, so they'll wait. Sometimes animals are left in dead piles even though they're alive and so they'll go in and take them then.

On her advice for people who rescue dogs

I do always tell everybody, "Look, this is going to be a transition. There's going to be hiccups." Especially when you first are bringing a dog home from a shelter, there's going to be a week of adjustment. But you have to know, when you're getting a dog that it's going to be your responsibility, to be consistent, to find answers and to stick it out, and figure out how to right the wrongs that are happening in the house. I do always feel like it's never the dog, it's always our not knowing enough.

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.