10 reasons why owning a pet pig is nothing like owning a dog!

One of the most common questions that I get asked since we adopted our pet Juliana pig named Elly comes from people wondering… “Is it JUST LIKE owning a dog??” The answer is a hard and fast no. Not at all. Not even close! I must admit, there was a time when researching whether a pet pig was the right choice for our urban family that I too thought a porker would feel similar to any of the canine companions that I had owned over the years. My last being a very boisterous Jack Russell Terrier that took intense training and patience throughout my college years. A pig could not possibly be more work than the terrier, right? Wrong.

  1. Going for a walk.

The first time I took young Elly for a walk was notably one of the most embarrassing moments I can recall over.. oh maybe the last 5 years. Again, I assumed walking my new porcine housemate would be JUST LIKE walking a dog. WRONG. Someone once compared walking a pig to flying a confused kite. The difference is, you may actually fare better with the kite! Pigs don’t like to be walked, you are just along for their ride. Their very SLOW ride. In fact, sometimes the pig may just flop over and do this!

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It may very well take you 2 hours to make it around one city block. Aside from the 50 new friends that the pig will make including random pedestrians, people on bikes, folks driving cars that pull over to see the pig, strangers taking videos of you walking the pig, and of course herds of children by parks yelling out PEPPA PIG you really wont make it far! Any experienced pig person will keep a bag of snacks handy for desperate times that involve MOVING the pig. Where there is food the pig will always follow. Of course my first walk with Elly did not include any experience, or for that matter a sack of food. So when I found myself planted in the dead center of a cross walk at a busy intersection with a pig uninterested in moving we were both in trouble! The cars were lining up and my face was quickly deepening into an embarrassing shade of red. I tugged HARD on the pig to get her to move. That was a big, this is not a dog mistake number 1! The animal bore down with all of her might and let out an ear-piercing barnyard SSQQQUUUEEAAALLLLLL! At this point concerned folks are running out of their homes and the people in their cars are simultaneously holding up their phones set to record. I don’t remember how long it took me to get that pig out of the crosswalk. But what I do remember was that it was embarrassing!!!

2. Pigs are crazy smart

Dogs are smart too. But pigs, are the fourth smartest mammals on the planet. You want to know who is first? Humans. I have to be honest, the pigs intelligence is one of the things I happen to LOVE most about my porcine friend. I love her ability to have complex thoughts and relationships. Pigs learn tricks crazy fast and thrive off of challenge. But they also get bored easily. Very easily. And will open kitchen cabinets, refrigerator doors, screen and storm doors, knock over trash cans, toss furniture across the room, or tear up any flooring that is not nailed or cemented down. And these are just a few examples! Pigs cannot be left alone for hours on end a day. A bored pig is a naughty pig

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3. Pigs have the memory of an elephant!

Be mean to a pig and it will never forgive you. Pigs are known to sport an amazing, uncanny ability to remember everything and everybody! If your mean to a pig it may very well choose to hold a grudge against you.. well… forever. I bought a couple of books on the training and care of my mini porker before bringing our Elly home. They all cautioned speaking “nicely” to the pig and also not “upsetting” the pig. I now understand this phenomenon. Yell at the pig and she may squeeze a retaliation turd on my rug, throw a chair across the room, or repeatedly slam our bedroom door at 5am. Not fun. Who said happy wife happy life?? It should be happy pig happy wife!

4. Pigs eat everything.

Literally. Everything.

We bought our daughter a container of pink MORPH. Some sort of hot pink, shape shifting fluff for making critters and creations. Elly of course, ate the container of MORPH and we spent 2 straight days trying to get the pig to poop it out! And once the pig was finally pooping, we were watching for it to turn hot pink. SO FUN. Luckily MORPH is all natural… so it did eventually… naturally come out! On a different occasion Elly scared the life out of us by swallowing a seeded grape whole! The supersized grape got lodged in the pigs trachea and the husband got to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her! The crazy animal was woozily passing out while I was frantically calling her emergency vet all while Googling “how to save my choking pig.” Luckily, there are actual directions online for saving the life of a pig with food lodged in its trachea. The pig survived and we stopped buying grapes.

5. You will never be alone. At least not in the kitchen.

Pigs are obsessed with all things food. And of course the sorcerer of food is the kitchen. The problem is, pigs can be pushy. Very pushy. In fact, their snout may permanently jam itself into your lower calf the entire time you make breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, do dishes, need a drink of water, or simply open your fridge with a thought of food. The pig also works to keep all intruders out of the kitchen by head butting and physically pushing the perpetrator out. The pig thinks she is protecting the hard-earned fruits of the herd.. unfortunately your grandma, the neighbor kid, the plumber, the babysitter, or anyone else for that matter may not be so understanding!

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6. Pigs are VERY, VERY, VERY noisy!

Dogs bark.

Pigs squeal, honk like geese, bark like dogs, scream when they are upset, slam doors, knock over furniture, and of course grunt and oink. They also make these amazing, for loved ones only, hot pants that sound like a breathy HAH HAH HAH and they sigh and make soft content moans and groans when they are happy. Mama pigs have been recorded singing to their baby pigs while they nurse! The pig is a complex animal with an amazing, intelligent array of sounds. Hopefully, if you live in a city, you have very understanding neighbors. Your neighbors will regularly hear the antics of your pig!

7. There is no such thing as a tea-cup pig.

Tea-cup Chihuahua, yes.

Tea-cup Pig, no.

Elly is a Juliana. This particular breed of pig is often marketed as a tea-cup pig. As a baby Elly looked like this! Pretty cute right! She weighed maybe 5 pounds.

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Elly is now almost 1 and a solid 75 pounds and still growing! According to the American Mini Pig Association a “mini pig” is any pig between 50-300 pounds full-grown. Many people buy mini pigs thinking they will stay the size of a tea-cup or a miniature dog. They just never do. A full size hog can weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds. Therefore a 100 pound pig is miniature in comparison. Pigs bond VERY strong with their families. Some get so depressed that they die when given up. Pig sanctuaries across the country are filled to the max with pigs that grew larger than expected. If you want a TINY pet buy a miniature Chihuahua, not a pig.

8. Pigs cannot walk down steep stairs.

We live in Chicago. 100 years ago when our neighborhood was built all of the homes were constructed with  steep stairs leading up to both front and back entrances. When we first trained Elly to go potty outside we carried her. When she got around 50 pounds carrying her became too hard. So we had this not so inexpensive ramp built to give our independent little lady a way outside! Owning a pig = ramps. Lots of ramps.

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9. Pigs are prey animals.

Dogs are predators, pigs are prey. Pigs are born cautious and leery of anyone approaching them! Young piglets have to be trained to enjoy being picked up. Some pigs may never like it. The first time we handled Elly she screamed and squealed and carried on with such intensity you would think we were pinching her. It takes patience, a gentle voice, lots of food, and slow movement to earn the trust of a pig! They will not love you just for being you. You will have to earn their respect and trust over time. Once a pig accepts you as a member of their herd, they are extremely faithful and loyal!

10. Pigs live 15-20 years.

That’s a LONG time! Fortunately, we really love our pig. She is sassy and always keeps us on our toes! Our daughter and the pig are inseparable. Its been a good match for us, but most that spend time with Elly would agree she is not the right fit for them! Understand what you’re jumping into when you purchase a pig, it’s definitely not a dog!

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*** Header photo credited to: http://www.ashleyletourneau.com/

An open letter to our pig sitter…

For the last official week of summer vacation we decided to take a quick family vacation up to the Wisconsin Dells. And while we assumed our pet pig Elly would enjoy the eateries of cheese country we sided with our better judgement that pigs and water slides do not mix and opted for pleading with a close family friend to “pig sit” in our absence. But this would not be the usual drop in animal care of feeding, watering, and walking. We needed a full-fledged porcine housemate. Fortunately for us, we had a long-term family friend willing to take on the challenge of caring for our portly porker.

The night before leaving town the husband mentioned to me that perhaps we should “write things out” detailing the daily care of Elly. I agreed. And the most hysterical list of piggy care emerged.

Hello! And thank you SO MUCH for caring for Elly while we are gone. While she is a loving, intelligent, passionate animal she has a few nuances we want to forewarn you about!

1. Elly has a biological timer that erupts at exactly 6am every day. It does not matter if this is a day you plan to wake up at 6am. The pig will spring to her feet and barrel across the house honking at the top of her lungs! She wants food. If you try to ignore her and lock her out of your room she will head-butt your door until you wake up. Sorry in advance. She is quite pleasant after she has been fed. 

2. You will need to take Elly potty in the morning. She will use her ramp out the back door to get into the backyard. Sometimes she does not want to go out to potty, so just grab a cucumber from the fridge and she will follow you out into the backyard. Just make sure you give her the cucumber. Because it will turn into a battle of the wills if you want her to relieve herself before eating.

3. Pigs are herd animals and can be territorial about their homes and favorite spaces (i.e. the kitchen). You will notice there is a large framed photo of the pig on our kitchen wall. That is because she actually owns and operates this particular room of the house. To earn the respect of the pig you will need to ask her to “earn” her food. You can do this byrequesting she spin for you, sit, or she can high-five. Only feed her after she performs. This will help you earn the respect of the pig.

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4. Elly likes to snuggle on the couch at night. But she has gotten a bit portly for jumping up onto it without help. If you find her pacing next to the sofa letting out an intermittent and disgruntled (GRRRUUUNNNTTTT) that means she needs help. Simply lift the pigs front hooves onto the sofa and then situate yourself behind her rump and firmly push up until she climbs her way onto a cushion. Once on the couch she likes her head situated under a pillow and her belly scratched. She also likes to spoon, but I don’t think you’re in that level of a relationship with her yet. 

5. There is beer in the fridge. Please drink it. Drink all of it if you need to. 

6. If for any reason the pig escapes the back yard and is refusing to come home, simply stand outside with a can of oats and shake it vigorously. The pig will always come home for oats. She can hear this sound a full city block away. 

7. You will find that Elly tips her water dish over many, many times a day. This is normal and she will especially make a point to tip it over any time you have just mopped and cleaned the floor. Unfortunately this is completely normal and pigs need fresh water, so go ahead and refill the bowl so that she can tip it over again later! Just keep a lot of towels handy for future spills. You will use a LOT of towels. 

Thank you SO MUCH for taking care of our sweet Elly! If you need anything at all let us know!!

Day 1:

The family – “How’s it going with the pig?”

The pig sitter – “Oh it’s going… ok I think. She keeps trying to push me out the door when I come home! She literally takes her snout and forcibly shoves me backwards out the door. I kind of think she does not want me here.”

The family – “She will come around! Keep making her spin for you and give her lots of treats.”

Day 2:

The family – “How’s it going today? Any better?

Pig sitter – “She wont spin.. or sit.. or do anything for me. She just mows me down and steals my food! I think she has eaten everything in the house. I am going to give her some space.”

The family – “Did you find the beer?”

Day 3:

The family – “Hey there how is it going?? Our daughter wants to face-time with the pig. Can we figure out a time for that?”

Pig sitter – “Umm sure we can try that. Right now Elly is guarding the stairs. I am in the basement and she has taken post at the top of the stairs so I can’t come up. Its kind of like we are married. She is sleeping upstairs and I am sleeping downstairs.

The family – (we check our security camera, the pig is in fact angrily pacing back and forth at the top of the stairs). “Oh my!! We are so sorry! Try going up the outside stairs…”

Pig Sitter – “I did.. and then she runs over and pushes me out the door.”

The final day:

The Family – “Hi good morning!!! We cant wait to see everyone later today!”

Pig Sitter – “Oh yes.. me too! Elly seems to have finally made marginal peace with me. Of course that finally happens now that your coming home.”

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We arrive home later that day. We excitedly prepare to embrace our porcine companion as we burst through the front door. Elly, on the other hand, is ticked that we vacationed without her. She barks at us, turns her back towards us and STOMPS away. No happy pig greetings, no tail wags, no wet snout kisses, just flat-out contempt. It took a solid day for our piggy friend to come around, and luckily we still have the friend that pig sat for us as well.

Now onto planning our next trip.. anyone know of any pig friendly family vacation destinations!?!?

 

Pig Headed

There is a reason the slang term “pig-headed” was coined. And even though the pig does have a peculiarly thick skull, the term refers to a person being painfully stubborn versus the latter. I may have just assumed this phrase was a happy coincidence until we adopted our pet Juliana pig Elly. Elly has been the epitome of a stubborn animal. From the retaliation turds of her potty training days to the way she oh so obstinately persists on her conquest for food the pig has her bases covered. In fact, I have learned that with pigs its more about persuasion, and convincing the pig that (insert – going potty, walking outside, coming back inside, moving out-of-the-way, ceasing disaster making…) was their idea all along.

Reflecting on our pigs stubborn nature brings me to a recent porcine well-being visit from our neighbor. Thank the good lord for awesome neighbors! While Elly has taken to making friends with all of the folks that live within proximity of us, our next door neighbor Shyanne has graciously offered to help feed and potty the starving animal when the husband and I both work late. Shyanne’s first visit with Elly as a wee-piglet involved the frightened animal bolting across the house squealing obnoxiously before hiding. It took a head of broccoli to convince the porker that she was a good Samaritan and meant no harm!

On a more recent visit to our home a mature Elly was feeling quite opinionated about the order of events. The pig wanted food before potty. Our well-meaning neighbor came in determined to take the porker potty first. Elly bore down in front of the refrigerator and let out a stubborn GROAN. She was NOT moving. Shyanne tried negotiating, asking, begging, and finally grabbed a broom and tried nudging the pig away from the fridge. Nothing. Elly started stamping her front hooves while honking DIRECTLY at the fridge. For those not familiar with the vast array of comical pig noises, they do in fact honk like a goose when frustrated! At this point neighbor Shyanne gets more assertive and shepherds the feisty pig out the back door using the broom for leverage. Elly is MAD. She storms down her ramp, stomps into the back yard, and squats to pee while thrashing her head aggressively back and forth! As she thrashes from left to right she rips grass out of the ground and chucks it across the back yard. This is NOT what she wants to do. Upon finishing up with her business the pig marches back inside and resumes her post in front of the fridge. HONK HONK HONK… Food NOW! The pig eats. The two resume as friends. I get a text.. “mission accomplished… your pig is so smart its scary.”

While Elly loves challenging myself.. my husband… the friendly neighbor… our extended family…  she is enamored with our daughter! These two just gush sonnets of love for each other! It’s enough to make you raise your hands up to the porcine gods in the sky and ask “WHHHYYYY… WHY NOT ME?!?!?!”

 

If we need the pig to do anything important we find the child. If the child is not present progress becomes a bit more difficult! Our daughter is especially helpful in herding our pig back home. Elly loves being outdoors. She loves the front yard in particular over the back. Of course the front yard does not have a fence. Elly has also recently discovered how to open our front storm door. If no one is paying attention she will just let herself out. Once outside she has her routines. She likes to take a poop in front of our elderly neighbors bushes. I am always perusing his grass with bags in case she snuck one out on me. She likes to eat our opposite neighbors grass. She also likes to fall over and nap in their grass! Thankfully they are nice people!

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Down the street a bit we have that neighbor that is not so great about mowing the lawn. Elly LOVES trotting about 4 houses down to their billowy yard to chomp grass. There is also a suspect weed that grows under these folks bushes that makes Elly go completely batty. Once she is down there gleefully munching under those bushes getting her home becomes a problem! I call.. I beg.. I offer food… I shake oatmeal cans. Nothing. In fact, below is how I convince Elly to finally come home! Enter the broccoli again!

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What do you think happens if our daughter comes outside and calls to the pig? She comes home. Every time. I can’t say it enough. The two of them have an inseparable, love bond with each other. Its special. And who am I to argue with that?

Speaking of inseparable love bonds, our daughter recently had her last day of school. And how better to celebrate than insisting on bringing her porcine BFF to an overcrowded movie night in the park to hang with her and her closest 20 school friends.. and their parents… and the other 1,000 people who showed up for the concert we didn’t know was happening. Oh and did I mention there were also 3 simultaneous baseball games happening as well. Lets just say the park was packed and the kids were stoked.

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We planned ahead and brought a grocery sack full of produce. First we tried sitting with all of the families from school. That didn’t work because the pig started helping herself to everyone’s picnic food. Within minutes she grabbed a piece of watermelon and bolted out of range to eat it alone. Except she was not alone because about 20 new child aged friends followed her. After determining our seating was not going to work, we then set up camp on the outskirts of the movie viewing area. This was better. Our attention seeking pig was able to meet and greet without all of the food distractions. All seemed to be going well until Elly slipped out of her harness and took off towards one of the baseball games. A couple excited kids followed her which caused her to run faster. The husband and I ran closely behind trying to catch up. Of course the pig made it into the outfield and planted herself firmly into the ground chomping grass. I was fumbling to get her harness back on to move her out-of-the-way when someone from behind home plate starting yelling loudly for us to GET OFF THE FIELD. I could feel the blood running from my face with embarrassment as I was trying to get Elly to walk a couple of feet backwards. The pig was NOT interested in cooperating. The person yelling from home base got louder.. and louder.. and was soon demanding I pick the pig up! For anyone that has ever lifted a stubborn pig, they are HEAVY and aside from being heavy SQUEAL! Not knowing what else to do I leaned over and heaved her up onto my chest. Elly started squealing with such fervor that everyone just stopped and watched aghast. This pig was not going out easy and it was going to take me dragging her off the field to get the confrontation to stop. Hot, sweaty, and mortified I got the pig out of their outfield. We retreated back to our post. Elly, deciding she had enough, buried herself under a blanket with only her snout exposed. She was done. At least for 30 minutes. Enter our (clueless to the past 10 excruciating minutes) child. “Oh look, the pigs sleeping.” Defeated.

1 – pig

0 – The adults

 

This little piggy went to the Logan Square farmers market.

Call me crazy but I decided that for Mothers Day we would all go visit the grand opening of the Logan Square Farmers market for the summer season. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE this farmers market. Located on a tree lined street along the boulevard in the heart of a burgeoning urban neighborhood you feel like you have stepped out of the city and into the Midwest regions agricultural bounty! These folks have everything from fresh produce, hand made soaps, honey, maple syrup, seedlings, musical performances, and my most favorite blueberry lavender frozen yogurt from our friends at Yoberri Gourmet! In fact, if I have to choose between eating this particular frozen yogurt versus the calorie consumption of an entire meal I’m definitely siding with the dessert.

What does this have to do with our pet pig Elly you ask? While pigs are not purveyors of dairy, we did cheat this one special day and indulged her in said yogurt. I assume it fulfilled her deepest ice cream desires as it does mine. Every. Single. Summer.

Now back to our trip to the market. I knew coming here would be a giant investment of time. Every person we met (and thousands turn out Sunday mornings) would want to meet our porcine friend. We decided to plan appropriately and show up immediately at the 9am opening. All of the vendors were just starting to set up shop and we had a decent run of the place to ourselves. Except of course, pigs don’t typically run, so we weaved slowly around the parked tables while Elly scavenged for food! Fortunately for us, the vendors were keen on our porky friend and offered her unsaleable veggies like these!

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Thanks for the DELICIOUS heirloom tomatoes!

While the veggies were definitely fantastic. All of the amazing people made the trip worth the effort and time! There is just something about a pig in the city that gets folks giddy. A young toddler girl got eyes the size of marbles while pointing at Elly exclaiming “PIG!!! PIG!!!” The wonderment on her face and her contagious smile left me feeling amazed right along with her. Her mom mentioned that she loves pigs, but has only seen them in books. She was thankful her daughter got to meet Elly. Grown ups alike were beyond stoked to chat about Elly. What does she eat? Where does she live? I heard they make great pets, is that true? I started to feel a bit like a recording, yet each person was a bit different with their own energy. Somehow I never truly tired of chatting about Elly and as a result we made some great new acquaintances!

Like these!

We spent 4 amazing hours just roaming. We made friends several times with the helpful guy manning the bike valet tent. Elly loved the long, plush grass under his shaded bicycle abode. She could have stayed there all day I think. At one point while I was paying for tomatoes, Elly (and the daughter) took off running into one of the produce tents. A well meaning shopper tried helping to get control over the rambunctious pig by aiding our daughter in tugging her leash. Elly squealed her loudest, barnyard SQQUEAAALLLL! Everyone stopped confused by the commotion! I thanked her and took over Elly’s lead. You can’t tug a stubborn pig.

One of the last people that we ran into was a local photographer. We actually met her friend first.

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She was very talkative and very excited to spend time with Elly. I enjoyed just sitting in the grass with her while her friend Ashley took these intriguing shots! You can check her other amazing work out at www.ashleyletourneau.com

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By the end of our day we had spent 4 hours in total meandering around the market. We bought ourselves some rhubarb and asparagus, about 6 different seedlings for our own small, city garden, and a honey wax candle in the shape of a panda for our daughter. We also made a lot of new friends. And in the end, isn’t that the real fun in visiting neighborhood markets? Until next time Logan Square.