Welcome home Elly!
January 1st, 2017
When my husband first passionately mentioned his desire for a pet pig about 2 years ago, I thought he had lost his mind. A pig?? Seriously?? I started feverishly reading about these porcine house pets online. For every happy story, there was a condemning article to follow. Pigs need constant attention, they NEVER stay small, they will eat your house if not properly stimulated, they are NOISY… grunting and squalling through their day! The naysayers may have completely scared us away from pig parenthood, but I kept an open mind since I had once owned and deeply loved a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed of dog also labeled as difficult and often abandoned by inexperienced owners. I agreed that once we had our own house, with our own yard we would get a pig. Knowing this was a couple years away I didn’t think much more about it.
Flash forward two years ahead. 2016 was a whirlwind of a year for us. My husband got promoted to the Sheriffs police force for Cook County and attended another 3 month training academy, our daughter entered the 1st grade, we not only bought a house but took on contracting a massive renovation that would literally consume 3 months of our lives. Exactly 4 weeks before Christmas, I get a gleeful text from the husband. The mini pig breeder that he has been in contact with has a little girl for us. She is ready now. I literally freeze when I see the cell phone pic of a swaddled baby pig. OK, wait just one minute here! 2 weeks BEFORE Christmas, and 3 weeks before our renovation is slated to complete we are actually buying and bringing home a baby pig?!?! We cant even pull that off as a Christmas gift! And how is our new porcine companion going to feel about a house full of Polish men with table saws and nail guns noisily clambering their way through the day? Despite my concern, I said yes. Maybe there is something about a grown man getting so excited about a baby pig, or maybe it was my own need for having a pet again, whatever it was we took the plunge.
We picked the piglet up on a freezing cold Wednesday in December. Despite our daughter begging to skip school to tag along we convinced her that we would greet her at the end of the day! Our first few days at home were definitely an adjustment. Little pigs grunt. They grunt all the time. Little pigs also are reminiscent of babies in the sense that they eat, sleep, poop and pee. Pig eats, pig poops. Pig drinks, pig pees. You get the picture. We rolled up all of our area rugs, set up the litter box, and committed to reminding the pig to go potty about every 30 minutes. Our first night together was startling. Who knew that baby pigs get epic lonely in the wee hours of the night??? I woke up to the sound of Elly barreling across our hardwood floors screaming at the top of her lungs! Who knew pigs could SCREAM?!?! I jump out of bed and confront the screeching pig mid run in the dining room. She sees me, immediately stops, and jumps around making a “HAHAHAHA” noise. I was told by the breeder that this sound in particular is how the pigs say “hello” to each other. Honestly pig, if you wanted to say “hello” you could have skipped the screaming and went straight for the more tolerable greeting. The small pig continues “HAHAHAHA” at me as I try going back to bed. I feel like she is mocking me somehow! This night time routine continues.
Now some people have asked how the rude nighttime awakenings have not pushed me over the edge, especially on work nights. In all honesty, I had an actual child that screamed at me for hours on end at night the first couple years of her life. Despite threats from our downtown condo association, neighbors beating on their walls and floors with broomsticks, and finally moving we survived that. Our daughter had raging colic and later obstructive sleep apnea. It was hell on earth for a while getting broken sleep for YEARS not days while continuing to hold down my 50 hour a week job. This pig is cake compared to that. I can handle a little late night squealing with a pretty good sense of humor. And luckily for me, refusing to feed the pig, pet the pig, or make eye contact with the pig has subsided her nighttime frenzies.
While Elly and I have become quite the besties over the past few weeks, our source of contention with each other comes with the potty training. I have to admit, I have no patience with animals going potty in the house. Elly is smart and learned quickly where she is suppose to go. She also does not appreciate being yelled at, and will retaliate with calculated naughty behavior if I loose my temper with her. Case in point. Ely gleefully took a pee on our newly refinished wood floors. I yell NO BAD PIG at her and haul her to her little box. She hangs her little head and gives me an evil sideways stare!! I shut her in the mudroom with her little box for a “time out” feeling like I had won. Minutes later I peek into the mudroom only to find that Ely has managed to open the door to our sunroom. Inside of the sunroom she has produced a purposeful turd on my rug! I yell at her again, put the poop in her litter box and shut the door. Certainly the pig will just sit in time out now, right?!?!?! Minutes later I nervously peek in the door to find that my porcine companion has reopened the sunroom door. I stomp inside and she has yet again squeezed out the most miniscule retaliation turd!! This “accident” was not the result of a pig needing to go.. NO.. this was Elly bearing down with all of her might trying to get anything she could onto my carpet as a big middle finger for scolding and locking her in a room!! FINE PIG. YOU WIN. We sit on the floor together. We weep, we hug, and she uses her litter box for the rest of the day no problem.
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Lessons from Elly!
January 24th, 2017
It has officially been more than a month since we brought home our porcine housemate. And while most days are a good time, there have been a few that leave me exhausted.
Case in point – Last Wednesday.
Wednesday is an early day for me.. an insanely early day that starts at about 3:30am. By the time I come home later in the afternoon I am pretty much a vegetable, interested in little more than TV and sleep. On this particular Wednesday.. Elly had different plans. Just as I flopped over on the couch with ONE WHOLE HOUR to rest before getting our daughter from school, Elly takes a squat and pees next to me on my area rug. “PIG!!! NOOOOOOO!” I shout! “BAD BAD PIG!!!” I haul her into our bathroom and shut her in there with her litter box! As I walk back to the couch Elly is angrily honking like a mad goose from inside the bathroom door. I throw a pillow over my head and sleep for exactly 38 minutes.
(39 minutes later)
I approach the bathroom door. Elly resumes honking like an enraged goose. I open the door and she has tipped over her litter box. Everything is covered in pine shavings. Oh well. I let the noisy pig out and go get the child from school. Upon returning home we start prepping to make pumpkin pie together. Elly still seems miffed. I take her outside. Pig pees. I bring her inside.. pig squeezes retaliation turd out at base of stairs. “PIG!! NOOOOOOOO!” I shout!! “BAD PIG!!!” I put her in our mudroom with the door shut and her litter box. The daughter and I make pie. Elly noisily moans, groans, cries, and honks from behind the door.
(45 minutes later)
The pie is baking… The child is doing her homework. Elly walks right next to me and takes a pee by my feet! ARGHHH! I decide to take desperate measures. I text pig breeder Jenna:
Me – Elly is being a pain! She is following me around peeing and leaving retaliation turds in the hopes that I step into them and fall to my death.
Pig Breeder Jenna – Pigs at this age are like pre-teens. She is MAD at you! You need to make nice with her!
Me – Seriously! How am I suppose to make nice with the pig! She is out to get me!!
Pig Breeder Jenna – If she is unhappy with you she is going to purposely seek revenge. Pigs don’t like being yelled at. Your going to have to make peace with her. I keep my pigs as happy as possible! happy pigs.. happy house!!
Me – Arrghh! Fine! I will feed her pumpkin and apologize!
(a short time later)
I feed Elly pumpkin. She is elated. 5 minutes later.. she pees by my feet! I holler at the pig and decide to take this moment to text the husband at work!
Me – The pig is being an asshole!!!!
Husband – You need to make nice with her! You two are always fighting!
Me – OMG
(Minutes later after a good mad cry while cleaning up the 5th pile of pee)
I muster up my friendly voice and hand feed the pig veggies and fruits. We talk.. share our hurt feelings with each other.. snuggle.. and retreat. I complain to her that it makes me SAD when she pees by my feet.. or on my rug for that matter! And that I know those turds were in spite not necessity! The pig walks over to her box.. smiles and pees in her litter. No more accidents. Fine pig. You win again!
So how is it owning a pig for a pet?
March 14th, 2017
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.
Let’s take the pig for a walk!
April 15th, 2017
Sleeping with Elly!
You can take the pig out of the barnyard but you can’t take the barnyard out of the pig. Or at least that seems to ring true in trying to wrap my brain around our pigs sleep schedule. When we first brought our piglet home she woke throughout the night like a newborn baby. Now before the parental brigade gears up to rebut my comparison, I have earned the privilege of using this statement with confidence as I have also endured sleepless nights with an actual newborn, not the porcine variety. Now back to my lack of sleep. When Elly spent her first nights in our home she woke us every couple of hours. But she didn’t just keep to herself, she woke with scream level squealing while barreling full speed through our house. I chalked this annoyance up to the poor porker being lonely and would sit with her, rubbing her belly until she fell back asleep. This lasted about a month.
4 weeks later:
The pig had adjusted to sleeping at night under a massive pile of blankets at the foot of our bed until about 3am. At the exact stroke of 3 she would leap to her feet honking and squealing for food. Knowing that pigs are extremely intelligent, as well as manipulative we threw pillows over our heads and tried our hardest to ignore her. If any one of us caved and got up to feed the pig, she would expect it every night!!
3am – HONKING
3:30am – ANGRY HONKING
4am – PATHETIC HONKING
4:30am – HOARSE HONKING
Did I mention that pigs honk like geese? Yes, in their rainbow of sounds “goose” is in fact one of them. Typically it’s used in times of great frustration. Starvation in the wee hours of the morning is one of them.
6am – The pig gets food! Hallelujah!
8 (painful) weeks later:
The pig is now sleeping until roughly 5 am. But forget porcine noise making, Elly grew wise to our bedroom door being the perfect distance from the foot of our bed to SLAM together!! The first night she literally sent me leaping to my feet looking for an intruder. Alas, the pig had used her robust snout to slam our door obnoxiously into the foot of our bed. “Elly NO” I sleepily shout and go back to sleep. Moments later she slams the door even harder! You asked for it pig! I shove her out of our room and shut the door. Elly groans, moans, honks, and “hooves” our bedroom door in retaliation. I throw a pillow over my head trying hard to zone her out and fall back asleep. The husband stays sleeping the entire time.
12 (sleepy) weeks later:
Elly is sleeping until about 15 minutes before my alarm goes off. While slamming our bedroom door has proven ineffective in getting an early breakfast, she has taken to lifting our under the bed totes with her iron snout and then dropping them. It creates a crazy loud noise that permeates from under the bed. The first night it happens I literally jump about 5 feet and start panicking. What was that?!?!?! Oh just our angry, morning driven pig wanting food. UGH! I shove the pig out of our room and realizing that I have 10 whole minutes left to sleep throw a pillow over my head and attempt to “rest” for a moment. We have come so far pig!!! Why?!?! I lazily get up and feed the hangry animal. She happily dances and honks at me with excitement. How can I stay mad at that?
The following night:
The pig curls up under a pile of stuffed animals in our daughters room. The husband and I tip toe into our bedroom hoping to not disturb her! We feel like we have won!! Not so fast though sleep deprived parents! The daughter wakes us up in the middle of the night. “The pig is being ANNOYING…”
My pig is smarter than your honor student…
April 28th, 2017
One of the largest adjustments in learning how to house a pig has involved combatting the pigs boredom. Pigs are super smart! So smart that they have been taught to play video games with joysticks, they can clean up their own toys, master complex tricks and even use tools (such as mirrors) to locate objects. One particular accomplishment of a swine herd, that I personally find hysterical, was discovered by Dr. Curtis at the University of Illinois. Pigs like to keep their living quarters very warm, and his porkers figured out how to turn the heat on in their cold barn on chilly nights! When the barn would reach the desired temperature, they shut the heat back off! HAH! Brilliant if you ask me! The pig rates 4th in total intelligence with humans in first place followed by apes, toothed whales and then pigs. But with the pigs smarts comes a dark side! Our porcine companions have the ability to be deceptive, manipulative, and vindictive! Studies have shown that pigs within their own herds will demonstrate these behaviors to accomplish their own needs!
This brings me to Elly! She looks pretty peaceful right?
Elly is a member of our family and lives in our bungalow in the city! When Elly gets bored, feels like she has been left home alone too long, is upset about not eating constantly, or just feels left out of the fun she gets into mischief!
How does a pig make trouble? Let me explain.
A few weeks back we had invited a contractor over to take a look at our basement bathroom. We needed some tile work done on our shower and were looking for a quote. Elly had been left home alone all day and was not interested in company. She wanted my sole, undivided, only for pigs attention. In a hurry to show the contractor our leaking shower I patted Elly on the head and rushed downstairs. The tile man starts talking about grout.. and flooring.. (insert lots of construction jargon here) … and then CRASH. We both pause for a moment. Me, knowing this is my disgruntled pig, continues in my conversation with the man. A few seconds later I hear Elly’s hooves above me.. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CRASH! I holler over to our daughter to please go check on the pig. The tile man looks startled but continues talking to me about leveling concrete. Again… CLICK, CLICK, CRASH! This time I stop mid sentence.. “Excuse me.. I need to go check on my pig!!” I run upstairs and find Elly has trotted her way around our dining room table and purposefully knocked every dining room chair over with a vengeful swipe of her beastly head! I pick up the chairs and haul the disgruntled pig downstairs with me. If the tile man was distracted before, now he has a honking pig joining the conversation. He gives me a quote and leaves and surprisingly agrees to set up a date to come back to complete the work sans pig.
We also struggle with the time she is left home alone! While many folks have good success with crateing their pigs while gone from home, we have always chosen to live dangerously by allowing her semi-free access. Sometimes this backfires. Like yesterday for example.
Wow… thanks a lot pig! If you wanted to paint a picture all you had to do was ask! The 1,000 beads on the floor is also a fun bonus. Were you trying to make a bracelet? We could have helped with that too. Oh wait, we were not home!
In addition to the play room, Elly also loves opening and emptying the drawers in our bathroom, opening our kitchen cupboards, knocking over any and all garbage cans, slamming doors and triumphantly throwing stuffed animals all over our daughters room. It’s not even an option tell our actual kid to clean up her mess because the pig made it! Elly will also take to “reading” books while we are gone. Her favorites are Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson books about a porcine wonder! She enjoyed them so much that she ate the picture of the pig right off the cover!
We now prioritize finding ways to keep our porcine honor student engaged. Elly loves going for walks and showing off her strut to the neighborhood. She does a fancy array of tricks and loves learning new ones! She will graze outside like a California cow in the sunshine for HOURS. At the end of the day it’s just about acknowledging the pigs genius and keeping her engaged. It just took us humans a bit to figure that out!