Puppy Love

Our founder on how she’s raised her many pets through the years.

Martha Stewart Living - - Contents - PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY DOU­GLAS FRIED­MAN

For the past 40 years or so, I have been the proud and lov­ing owner of dozens of an­i­mals. At least 20 cats, 25 dogs, 10 chin­chillas, and scores of ca­naries and para­keets have lived hap­pily in my homes. And two ponies, three don­keys, 10 horses, many sheep and goats, and hun­dreds of chick­ens, geese, tur­keys, guinea fowl, quail, pea­cocks, and hom­ing pi­geons have pop­u­lated my sheds, barns, and st ables. Just think­ing about this amaz­ing group as­ton­ishes me, and I re­al­ize how much I’ve learned from car­ing for them all, and how much joy they’ve given me.

My first pet as a young, mar­ried woman and mother was an in­tel­li­gent city cat we adopted named Chigi-Toto, who was known to an­swer the phone on oc­ca­sion, of­ten con­fus­ing call­ers. My first dog was a beau­ti­ful keeshond named Lit­tle Bear. She had pups of her own that we shared with our friends.

Then I dis­cov­ered the chow chow, an an­cient breed from China that I came to love for its proud, nonob­se­quious na­ture and its in­grained pur­pose of guard­ing the home. While I ad­mired its in­de­pen­dence, I was also drawn to an­other breed, French bull­dogs, for the op­po­site rea­son: They are needy and love to cud­dle. Chows pre­fer to ob­serve and choose. Frenchies beg to learn, and learn they do. I now have two Frenchies and two chow chows.

Rais­ing an­i­mals is se­ri­ous busi­ness, and I try very hard to be a good owner to each and ev­ery one. Some re­spond in friendly ways, some are more aloof, and oth­ers don’t make a show of know­ing me at all. But I think they all un­der­stand that I care about their needs and rec­og­nize their prob­lems.

When I first got Lit­tle Bear, I wanted to learn more about dogs and read vo­ra­ciously about them, dis­cov­er­ing sev­eral habits that I st ill pract ice to­day to en­sure that my pets live full, healthy, act ive lives. For in­stance, when I get a new puppy or kit­ten (no older than eight weeks), I’ll bite it on its outer up­per lip to iden­tify with it as its mother. This method has worked well for me with each of my pup­pies; less so with my kit­tens. It’s also im­por­tant to be con­sis­tent with rules and rou­tines. You might con­sider tak­ing dogs to obe­di­ence class, so they can so­cial­ize with other pups, or hir­ing a trainer. Last ly, I raise them with clear phys­i­cal bound­aries. (I ad­mit that chow chows and Frenchies are not very fond of chick­ens or geese, and do not mix with them suc­cess­fully. But that’s what fences are for.)

Each of my pets takes a great deal of at­ten­tion, and some re­quire more train­ing than oth­ers. But the re­wards far out­weigh the ef­fort. I al­ways look for­ward to see­ing them when I re­turn home from a busy day and they ea­gerly greet me at the door.

French bull­dogs Bête Noire ( left) and Crème Brûlée take a break dur­ing train­ing.

SIT­TING PRETTY Martha holds Bête Noire’s leash and com­mands her to sit. The pup will get a treat to re­ward her good be­hav­ior.

ON THE MOVE Dogs need daily ex­er­cise, prefer­ably out­doors. Martha gives her pup­pies plenty of time to play and ex­plore.

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