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/

This little piggy goes to the vet!

While most vets treat mainly cats and dogs, ours specializes in the exotic categories of lizards, birds, snakes and of course pigs. To date, our Juliana pig Elly’s veterinary care has consisted of a spay surgery, an emergency trip to dislodge a grape out of the pigs trachea, and a general check up. While vaccinations are not required for a Chicago dwelling porker, we did decide to inoculate our porcine companion against a few pesky diseases.

Not so fast though! While vaccinating Fido would consist of simply phoning in an appointment, getting Elly her shots was a bit more complex. For starters, the vet does not keep pig vaccines on hand. Why? Because not many people have urban dwelling pigs! As a result, I found myself perusing farm veterinary supply websites searching for bottled pig vaccines for our vet to administer. I struggled to find single vaccinations, so I ended up with a jug suited to inoculate an entire herd of pigs! (P.S. I have extra).

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Now comes the fun part. Getting the stubborn pig to the vet. In retrospect, getting her there was the easy part. Actually getting the vaccine into the angry pig was a whole different ball game! We arrived with Elly full of hope and unrealistic expectations. I assumed they would give a quick jab in the rump and we would be on our way. Instead, pigs apparently receive injections behind their ears in the neck region. This was a game changer. Fortunately our vet was prepared with an assistant who had once worked on commercial pig farms, I was prepared with my unshakeable husband. Between the two of them I was sure magic would happen. I escorted our uneasy 7-year-old daughter out of the room and left the 3 of them to the mercy of Elly. Within moments we hear the pig angrily squealing. I assume they are getting the job done and attempt to zone out the noise. Elly gets louder, and louder, and as I uneasily look out the window I can see pedestrians scrunching their faces in confusion. I slip down a little lower in my seat and hope for an end to the pigs commotion and apologize to the confused faces in the waiting room. Soon I hear a ruckus like the exam room is being ransacked. Elly is squealing and squawking, I can hear the vet, her assistant, and the husband problem solving their next plan of attack. The daughter is nervously jumping around outside the door, reaching out to touch the handle, then nervously bouncing back. She pivots between reaching for the door and running back to plug her ears on the waiting room sofa. She squeezes her hands over her head while shouting “LALALALALA… IS IT OVER YET???” I assure her it will be over soon. But it wasn’t over. Not even close. In fact, they were in there for over an hour. I was struggling to figure out how 3 adults were having so much trouble with one lady pig. Finally, after 75 minutes I get word that the job has been completed. I grab our daughters hand and walk her into the exam room. Elly is angrily honking and stomping around the exam room. The vets assistant is bleeding from getting stabbed with the syringe, the vet is covered in sweat, some poor soul is cleaning pig poop off the floor, and the husband’s stomach is bruised and raw from being “hooved” by the ticked off porker. Everyone looks exhausted. We are told by the assistant that pigs often pass out if they get too upset, and its important that we keep a close eye on her for a bit to make sure she is stable before we go home. As I watch Elly angrily twitching her tail and clambering around the room, stomping her hooves and swiping her head I doubt she will fall over from stress. This little lady is red-hot mad! The vet looks defeated when she tells us to please return in 3 weeks for the booster. She warns us that our pet may be lethargic for the rest of the evening. Upon our return home, Elly spends her time knocking over chairs, rooting up the backyard, and generally showing zero sign of lethargy.

3 weeks later:

The husband and I spent countless hours brainstorming vaccination part 2. Perhaps he can wear his bullet proof vest to protect himself from the pigs hooves?? Maybe we can find the most delicious food imaginable to distract the pig?? Perhaps we can just throw a pillow case over the pig’s head and hope for the best??

This time the pig bears down in front of the veterinary office door and REFUSES to go in. She remembers this place from last time. She is NOT going in. After general pleading and bribing is a fail, I start heaving on the pigs rump to try to force her through the door. This makes the porker even more angry and she bears down harder and squeals. I look helplessly at the husband. He heaves her 65 pound physique onto his chest and hauls her inside. I am expecting everyone to look disappointed we came back.  Surprisingly the vet, and the same assistant look happy to see us. The assistant excitedly telling me that her syringe stabbed hand only took a few painful days to heal. How lovely. I think. It takes a lot of coaxing to get Elly back to the exam room but she does move along with the help of a sack of sliced grapes. The child and I resume our post in the waiting room. And lo and behold, we hear one LONG angry squeal and get word that its done! Fantastic! With several weeks to plan, 3 adults were able to conquer the pig! The staff spends 20 minutes feeding her veggies and fruit. And of course, the daughter snuggles her in the waiting room for being brave.

One year down. Only 15 more to go.