March 14th, 2017
So how is it owning a pig for a pet?
This is the question I get asked on a regular basis since we adopted our Juliana pig named Elly and brought her into our family home in the city. I have to admit, I was never prepared for the uncharted territory that would ensue upon her arrival. Even the simplest of tasks seem a bit more complex when navigating decisions for our new porcine friend.
Case in point 1: Pig Supplies
Pigs eat mini pig food. Target does not sell mini pig food. For this I turned to the friendly folks of Ross Mill Farms. A lovely foster home for parentless pigs set in the rolling hills of Bucks County PA. Their website boasts pics of happy, free range, piggy adoptee hopefuls. What isn’t there to love about that? I decide I like these people and order a 20 pound box of Champion Pig Food from them. The food promises good health and disposition. I find the latter claim entertaining! In finding other supplies for our porcine housemate I have attempted to shop local. Somehow I feel oddly left out of the fun when I visit PetSmart. There are giant graphics of proud owners nuzzling their cats and running through fields with their dogs. Entire color coded sections of the store are designated to canine and feline companions with small, dismal subsections for the reptile, fish and bird folks. But there is literally NOTHING for the pet pig. A few weeks back I found myself staring confused at the dog harnesses. It was going to be close to 70 in Chicago in February and I wanted to take my pig for a walk!!! Somehow none of these canine harnesses looked quite right for my new friends giant head. One of the associates sees me confused and asks if I need help.
Sales Associate – Are you finding everything ok?
Me – I’m trying to find a harness for my pig.. and I cant tell if any of these will fit over her giant head!
Sales Associate – Did you say your pig?
Me – Yes, I have a pig and I want to take her for a walk.
Sales Associate – Do you live here in the city?? How do you have a pig in the city?
Me – Yes, we live here in the city…. and Elly is our house pig.
Sales Associate – Sorry.. umm.. no one has ever asked me for a harness for their pig. Good luck with that.
I blindly buy 2 harnesses and drive home feeling confident! Upon returning, Elly takes one smug look at the “dog harness” and shoots out of the kitchen squealing! It takes myself, the husband, and the cheering support of our 7 year old daughter to chorale her back. In very little time, and with a very mad pig we determined that dogs and pigs are not anatomically similar! Epic fail! I drive back to the PetSmart and return the sack of harnesses to the same guy that had chatted with me earlier. This time he does not ask me any questions. Instead of perusing the canine section again, I decide to reach out to my pig loving friends on the PA farm. They have a picture of a happy hog on their website wearing his “comfort fit harness” and looking quite content. I order one in purple.. and another box of food for good measure. Upon its arrival it fits perfect.. and my stubborn porcine friend wears it around the house!
Case in Point 2: Veterinary Care
With every pet there is a need for a good vet! I needed to find one that would welcome our pig! After searching for “exotic vets” I decided to try “Dr. Sarah” at the Paws and Feathers Veterinary Clinic. Luckily for Elly, her care would be simple with a de-worming, minimal shots and a spay surgery. Why spay a city pig you ask? For starters, I have read literature on the raging PMS that little girl pigs get as they blossom into full blown lady pigs! While I never got to experience this phenomena in its entirety, our dear Elly was developing hormonal changes and mood swings that left her insistently trying to attract a neighborhood boy pig! How do lady pigs woo themselves a man? By peeing all over the house!! Little did she know that the nearest boar was easily 100 miles away, and no amount of stubborn urination was going to change that! In addition, near the start of her “big change,” her general demeanor had become more dramatic. I decide to reach out to Pig Breeder Jenna for advice.
Me – Do you think its time to spay Elly. She is almost 5 months and she’s acting like she’s lost her mind!
Pig Breeder Jenna – It’s possible she is starting to ovulate. I think now would be a good time to schedule her spay. It will help a lot with her mood swings!
Me – The pig is being super dramatic! She struts around the house swinging her lady hips and screaming about anything she does not like! Not to mention she has started peeing EVERYWHERE! I literally hired this little British rug enthusiast named Simon to save my rugs! He said they are literally FILLED with “organic matter”
Pig Breeder Jenna – A pig in heat is no joke! Elly’s mom Josie is a stubborn one as well. She is the head sow among my girls! The other pigs really respect her.
Me – Head sow? That’s a thing huh? Ughh
9am the following day I schedule Elly’s reproductive demise.
Case in Point 3: The nuances of owning a pig…
I get it. I really do. Having a pig is a strange idea to many. It is a pet that as a family we did a lot of research on before buying. We knew a pig was a huge commitment and wanted to understand what we were getting into! I don’t think any amount of research could have completely prepared us for the charade of antics that would follow. From the retaliation turds of Elly’s potty training weeks to ripping Mercy Watson’s photos off the covers of our daughters Kate DiCamillo books Elly has kept us on our toes. For reference, Mercy Watson is the famous “Porcine Wonder” depicted in a lovely series of children’s books. Mercy is mischievous and smart. Perhaps our Elly wanted a fellow swine role model? In addition to being an avid reader, our piggy companion also quickly learned how to open cupboard doors. Recently she opened and consumed my entire containers of both rice and nutritional yeast. This adventure ended with an enthusiastic puke on my couch cushion. Thanks pig. Good thing Target DOES sell baby locks. We have also found that our Elly is an enthusiastic early riser. And lately, she has taken to head butting our bedroom door at 5am. Why you ask? The pig wants food. Now any good mini-pig training literature will remind you that pigs are herd animals. It is important for the humans in the home to rank above the pig. Feeding an irate, head slamming pig at 5 in the morning does not reinforce good hierarchy. So we ignore her with pillows over our heads. Rumor has it this too will stop. One of my personal favorites in acquiring our pet pig was simultaneously hiring a new sitter for our 7 year old daughter. For the first time, I sat typing the online listing for part time employment confused on how to integrate “pig duty” into the verbiage. Finally I settled on household “responsibilities include caring for our pet pig.” There. I said it. And lo and behold, people still responded and one so enthusiastic about the kid AND the pig that we interviewed and hired her. I will never forget her first night and the stream of texts that I got.
Babysitter – So I think your pig likes me. I got your daughter to bed and now the pig and I are on the couch together snuggling. Every time I try to get up Elly runs after me moaning and groaning all miserable. She literally sounds like an angry kid and wont stop! I’m not sure what to do with her!
Me – Yeah, the pig turns into an angry toddler at night. You just have to tuck her back in under her blankets and tell her its bedtime.
Babysitter – Yeah I think I am just going to hold it next time.
Case in Point 4: Pigs are not small
I think this is the most controversial question about owning a pig and the most commonly asked. How big will she get?? Honestly? We don’t know. I recently showed a picture of our Elly to a customer of mine at work. She took a look at the pic and quickly said “Oh how cute! But why didn’t you get one of those tea cup pigs???” Well funny thing.. I went to where they sell unicorns and they were fresh out of pocket sized pigs! So we got this one instead! Mini pigs can range from 50 pounds to 300 pounds depending on the breed. There is absolutely no such thing as a pig that stays tiny. Farm hogs can weigh 600 plus pounds, so in the scope of “mini” these pigs are smaller than their rural cousins. Our pig will get however big she gets. Her parents were 3-4 year old “small-ish” Juliana pigs. I am assuming she will look like them. But honestly, we love our little lady. Her size is not our focus. She adds humor, and spunk, and snuggles to our home! Our daughter lights up every time she talks about her. She is our pet. And despite all the differences, we would not want it any other way.