The outlet reported in December 2019 that John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox in “Star Trek: Enterprise”) helped to raise money for the Hollywood Food Coalition. Allison Pill (Agnes Jurati from “Picard”), according to her Instagram account, cares about feeding Americans, supporting No Kid Hungry. Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) helped raise money for Feeding America — a coronavirus response fund to hunger — according to Trek Geeks.
Some of the “Star Trek” actors joined forces in June 2021, according to the Associated Press, to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan). And in a May 2020 tweet, Scott Bakula (Captain Jonathan Archer in “Star Trek: Enterprise”) supported coronavirus relief efforts through the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles.
Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Picard”) gives to a variety of charities as well, including supporting the International Rescue Committee to help refugees. But helping foster and champion pit bulls is his passion, for which he was honored in October 2021 by the ASPCA.
Stewart Wasn’t Always a Pit Bull Fan
Stewart told Conan O’Brien on “Conan” in 2017 that as a boy he had a dog, a border collie named Rover who died more than 50 years ago. His love of dogs though, he said, continued despite not owning one. That love of dogs even manifested when he and his wife, jazz singer Sunny Ozell, lived next to a pit bull terrified named Sadie, Stewart told People in 2017.
On first knowing the dog was a pit bull, Stewart told People, “I had a reaction, which I am now significantly ashamed of, because pit bulls to me meant only one thing: aggression, hostility, violence. I was uncomfortable with the idea of meeting this dog.”
Sadie changed his mind. “Immediately upon meeting [Sadie], something happened and I found myself simply absorbed in her whether she was paying attention to me or not,” he told People. “As we sat there, just the two of us on the sofa, I could feel my stress level and blood pressure going down, and the evening I had being adjusted.”
Ginger Made Stewart Want to Adopt
Because of this special connection with Sadie, Stewart and his wife decided to look into a pit bull of their own by fostering one. Of course, his first foster wasn’t just any pit bull — it was a former fighting dog named Ginger. This pit bull, Stewart told Conan, was even used to breed fighting dogs.
After seven days, Stewart wanted to adopt Ginger.
The British actor told People, “I find that my relationship to the world and to the news every day in the papers and on the television has been changed by Ginger, because she has brought such a quality of patience and tolerance and fun into our lives, that it has, in a very short space of time, shifted my sense of where our world might be going.”
He continued, “I literally find myself more optimistic than I was, and there is only Ginger to account for this. It is the impact of sharing my life for only seven or eight days with Ginger.”
Unfortunately, because Stewart travels back and forth from the Los Angeles area to the U.K., he couldn’t adopt Ginger. He talked with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” in January 2020 about how his home country has banned the breed.
Ginger was eventually adopted by another family, but that didn’t stop the Stewarts from fostering again or trying to change U.K. laws.
A Champion for Pitties
Because of his connection to Sadie and Ginger, Stewart understands the breed, including knowing what motivates them: a need to please.
He explained to People, “The [desire] to please is an absolute characteristic of pit bulls. It means that these dogs can be used and tampered with in a way that, in order to please their masters, [they become aggressive] fighting dogs.”
It’s this understanding of how to help pit bulls that has turned him from friend and foster parent to champion. He told StarTrek.com, “I’m now part of a campaign working in the U.K. to get this legislation changed because they are the most sensitive, the most loving, the most giving, the most affectionate creatures that you could ever possibly hope to meet.”
In fact, his love of the breed sparked the idea for Captain Picard in “Picard” to have a pit bull, he said on “The Late Show.” Soon the producers were convinced and Number One, not to be confused with Jonathan Frakes’ character, was added to the show. The dog’s name is Dinero.
Stewart told Variety in January 2020 that when he met Dinero, he knew it was Picard’s dog. He said Dinero had powerful jaws for an 80-pound pit bull that “only made [Dinero’s] smile bigger.”
“I’m hoping we shall see [Dinero] again,” Stewart told Variety.
Honored by the ASPCA
Stewart’s enthusiasm for pit bulls has earned him a reputation and some honors.
He’s been teaming up with the ASPCA for years to denounce dogfighting and working with the organization to stop puppy mills. During the coronavirus pandemic, he’s also worked to help the organization assist animals impacted by COVID.
For all of his work and dedication to dogs and pit bulls in particular, in October 2021, the ASPCA awarded Stewart with their 2021 Pit Bull Advocate & Protector Award.
In the ASPCA press release announcing the award, President and CEO Matt Bershadker said, “For years, Patrick has dedicated his time, energy, and popularity to demonstrating how pit bulls can make wonderful pets and helping us bring an end to dogfighting. He is an incredible voice and ally for these vulnerable dogs and uniquely deserving of [the award].”
Stewart was touched. “This is a most extraordinary honor, which gives Sunny and me much pleasure, even though the privilege of helping to protect and celebrate pit bulls is all we need,” Stewart said in the press release. “Our longing is that one day we shall be settled enough to welcome a pittie into our home for good — come that day.”
If you can’t get enough of reading about or seeing Stewart and pit bulls, don’t fret. There’s a Reddit group devoted to the topic where you can continue to get your pittie and Stewart fix. And Stewart posts about pit bulls often on social media.
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