18-year-old Australian-born singer Katja Glieson has quickly been taking over North America with her recent single, Look At Us, which has been climbing the music charts with its pop-friendly sound. But behind every star is a secret weapon, and we here at Animal Wellness just found out hers: Kestra, Katja’s White Samoyed!
Not only is Katja a star, but her dog Kestra has also starred in her own Farmers Pet Insurance TV commercials and has a massive social media following of her own too.
We sat down with Katja to learn more about her career, love of animals, her thoughts on Cats vs. Dogs, the upcoming Dolphocalypse, and her white fluffy secret weapon Kestra…
AW: Explain to us what you love most about animals.
KG: Animals are one of the most important things in my life. I feel as humans we exert so much of our power over this planet, so we have a responsibility to be respectful and take care of all walks of life. I am vegan, and made that conscious decision at the tender age of 8. That was when I first learned about the meat industry and where my food came from.
AW: Did you grow up with any pets?
KG: I was very lucky to grow up with a lot of pets! We always had dogs. We had a German Shepherd that my parents got many years before I was even born, he lived to be 19! When I was really little, a toddler, I vaguely remember we had a lot of cats as well, but I had a crazy neighbor that poisoned them all. It was absolutely horrific! That nasty man died, very angry and lonely. And while I never wish bad things on others, I hope he is getting itchy cat scratches in the afterlife.
AW: Tell us about your dog — AKA your ‘secret weapon’.
KG: Gladly! Kestra is my baby. She is a White Samoyed. I also think she might be 1/8th human. She certainly acts like she’s people. The other night she was trying to train me to give her treats! I had recently trained her for a commercial to put her head down. I now altered the reward to head scratches, but she wanted the treats again. So she would perform the command but when I went to scratch her head she would head butt my hand up and lick my fingers. And she did that for about 30 times! I realized she was trying to alter her training to get her way! Only a human could be that manipulative haha. She’s also an absolute superstar, sometimes I think she’s more popular than me on social media and in my music videos! She’s really great on set and I love having her featured in my videos. You can see her in both these videos:
AW: Why did you choose to have a dog over a cat?
KG: I find the love of a dog is so unconditional. I can get home from the most crazy, busy stressful day, or come home from the high of performing a live show, and she gives me this constant love and loyalty. She always seems to know my emotions. Cats are a little more don’t speak unless you are spoken to kinda animals.
AW: What is your favorite thing to do with your dog?
KG: I love taking Kestra hiking. Samoyeds have a lot of energy and love to explore. I like to choose off leash hiking trails like Runyon Canyon (in California). It’s dog friendly, and she is super social.
AW: What do you think is important for others looking at owning a dog to know beforehand?
KG: Make the decision as if you are choosing to have a child. I got Kestra when I was living in Australia. Even though she lived with my mother until I got settled in the US it wasn’t too log until I brought her over. Having a dog is a huge responsibility. When I tour, I either bring her with me and personally call all the hotels to ensure she can stay, or I hand pick her baby sitter. It’s also really really important to choose what breed is right for you. Before getting Kestra, I was looking into getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. While they are a little less high maintenance Samoyeds were really my perfect breed. Intelligent, fun, active yet independent enough to not be by your side 24/7 and can handle living without me if necessary. The one and only downsde to a Samoyed is the HAIR oh my goodness! The never ending white dog hair! Be prepared to never wear black again!
AW: What are your thoughts on people wearing fur?
KG: Faux Fur is great! Enjoy it! Real fur, is just so unnecessary and horrible. I really urge anyone who wears fur to just google a documentary on it. It’s so easy to educate yourself in this day and age. I am so grateful that I can get free information on the world and how things have always been done, and be able to make educated decisions on the little things in life. Knowledge is power, ignorance is not bliss. We are conscious, intelligent and empathetic beings. We are privileged to have a choice, we need to embrace our power and use it for good.
AW: You are also a vegan. Why did you choose a plant-based lifestyle?
KG: Okay, this is literally a scarred-for-life story. In elementary school, I went on a field trip — or excursion as we call it in Australia. We went to a traditional, family owned farm. The purpose was to learn about how people used to live in the “old days”. The family was showing us all how to milk a cow (which was really disgusting might I add — I will leave that for the calves to handle, thank you! We were all sitting on haystacks and I had terrible allergies. My head was exploding, I couldn’t see, and my face was so itchy. I just wanted to rip off my skin and scrape sandpaper all over my face. I went to find somewhere to wash my face. On my way back to the group I got lost and wandered into the wrong barn. This barn had a newly slaughtered cow. It was hanging by its neck on a hook with its insides split open. I never ate an animal again. Two years later I learned the truth about the dairy industry. Up until then, I believed the old wives tale that there are Dairy Cows that just produce milk forever and if they aren’t milked by the heroic farmer they will die.
AW: How does owning a dog help with your music career?
KG: Kestra has great taste in music. If she likes what she hears, she will lay by my side while I sing and record. If she doesn’t like it, she will either leave the room or bark at me. Well sometimes I am wrong about the barking, sometimes she is just telling me she wants food. Kestra is also a great emotional balancer. This music industry is hard and unforgiving. Kestra reminds me that there is a bigger world out there, and brings me back to earth, reminding me the most important thing in life is love and growth. She is one wise pup!
AW: How do you feel about people who abuse animals?
KG: I cannot comprehend it. But then again, I cannot comprehend child or spousal abuse either. I do understand the feeling of being so sad or hopeless, angry or powerless. But I never ever can understand how people can take it so far as to harming another. I guess some people take those negative emotions out on themselves, or take them out on others. Some of us find a way to express it in a heathy way; for me, writing music, performing, dancing, singing are all ways I let out those emotions. Some other people find self-destructive vices. One thing to remember though, is we all have the same emotions. We all feel powerless in our life. How we choose to get those feelings out is up to us. I really hope that those who choose to abuse animals, really reconsider their choice. That choice will only cause more pain and suffering in the world. There’s too much of that already. I always urge if anyone is a witness to animal abuse, to report it straight away. There is no excuse to harm another for any self-serving reason, whether it be for emotional reasons, fashion or diet.
AW: If you could come back in your next life as one animal, what would it be and why?
KG: I would love to be a Bottle Nose Dolphin. I, as a human, am afraid of the water, so I would love to be fearless and explore the world under the water. Dolphins are so intelligent. My ex-boyfriend had a phobia of them. He said he believed they are so smart one day they will take over the world. Maybe I will be around for the Dolphocalypse.