Sunday, December 10, 2017
Pets

A pet pig? How about a 650-pound pet pig named Esther the Wonder Pig

Time and again it's the same story. That cute little piglet turns out to be too much to handle.

"People say, 'We bought a pig a year and a half or two years ago, and the breeder told us it would not get larger than 40 pounds," said Jen Reid, manager of Marshall's Piggy Paradise at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. Then the animal grows to 150 or 250 pounds — or more.

That's what happened to Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter, whose Esther the Wonder Pig is now famous online. They've written a book (Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time, with Caprice Crane, Grand Central Publishing, 2016) about the tiny piglet who grew up to weigh 650 pounds.

Pigs are curious and strong. That became clear long before Esther was her full size.

"When Esther was about 250 or 300 pounds, she stuck her nose under the couch and lifted the whole thing in the air with us sitting on it," Jenkins said.

Their jaw strength is just as impressive. When she was only about 100 pounds, Esther got into a cupboard full of canned goods. "She crushed those cans like they were butter."

Pigs can be house-trained, but Walter calls their experience "memorable."

"We were going through a rainforest worth of paper towels," he says. "Imagine throwing 3 gallons of water on the floor — how many towels you'd need." They tried to train her to use a litter box indoors, but eventually even a kiddie pool wasn't big enough. When they switched to outdoors, she tried to train them: She'd ask to go out constantly, pretend to pee, and then come running for her treat.

Having a pig in the house changed everything — and not just in the house.

Before Esther, "the house was immaculate, the yard was immaculate," Jenkins said.

But one of a pig's fundamental needs is to root around in the dirt. "She didn't want to just eat the grass, she wanted to flip it over because she likes the roots," he said.

If none of that puts you off and you're still passionate about having a pig, first check zoning regulations. If they define pigs as livestock and you're not zoned for livestock, your pet is illegal — as Esther was, in their first home.

Then, be very careful about what you're getting. Candace Croney, associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue University, says it is possible to breed pigs in the 40- or 50-pound range that some breeders claim to offer, but you should ask about the parents' size and the average adult size of their previous litters.

Be prepared to maintain a healthy weight for a pet pig. Many of those that come to Best Friends Sanctuary are grossly overweight. Remember, said Croney, that pigs are both very smart and genetically programmed to spend most of their day looking for food.

"The ones that are really good pet pigs, that are offering us cute behaviors, will learn very quickly that that's how you get extra food out of people," she said. And because pigs were domesticated and bred to be meat animals, they tend to put on weight quickly.

Having pigs with other pets also can be a challenge. Pigs are social animals, but their interactions are particular to their species.

"They have little posturing, challenging matches — it's part of their innate behavior," Reid said. "And what we see is that only other pigs can relate with them in the same way. When they start doing that with people it turns into aggression, and when they try it with dogs, either the dog can get hurt, or it prompts an attack from the dog."

Jenkins and Walter agree that caution is ­essential.

"We've seen some sad and scary situations of pigs and dogs getting into fights," Walter said. Esther is used to the dogs she was raised with, but she's not allowed to play with them. When she wants to, the humans intervene and redirect her to play with them instead.

To meet pigs' social needs, Best Friends adopts them out only in pairs, or to homes where there is already a pig companion.

"From what we've seen and experienced here, pigs do best when they have the opportunity to live with other pigs," Reid said.

An apartment isn't a suitable home for a pig, she said by way of understatement, but you don't need a farm either. Pigs need the opportunity to go outside and root, but otherwise the match depends on the individual, as with any other pet.

     
   
Comments
Find A Friend: Bunny the Kitten

Find A Friend: Bunny the Kitten

Hippity hop, it’s a holiday Bunny. This young teenager and her siblings were rescued from disaster as Hurricane Irma was headed to town. All five kittens are now very healthy and loving purr-machines with beautiful soft coats and precious pink noses....
Published: 12/08/17

Watch: Puppies play at the Pass-a-Grille dog beach

Gogo, a Black Border Collie, and Juno, a Merle Australian Shepherd, had a blast the other day on the Pass-a-Grille dog beach, one of a few dog beaches near St. Petersburg.It opened last year on the southern tip of Pass-a-Grille and is free to the pub...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Hernando Pet of the Week for Dec. 8

Hernando Pet of the Week for Dec. 8

PET OF THE WEEKherpetoftheweek120817MooMoo is a 4-year-old stylish tuxedo girl. She loves to sip cider and bat at pine cones. MooMoo has been spayed, vaccinated and microchipped. Inquiries about adopting MooMoo or other dogs and cats can be made at t...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Petting zoos at the office are the latest perk for stressed-out employees

Petting zoos at the office are the latest perk for stressed-out employees

WASHINGTON — Chris Delaney typically unwinds from his job at Discovery Communications by taking leisurely weekend drives or flipping through stacks of vinyl at used record stores. But on a recent midweek afternoon, the broadcast ingest operator was r...
Published: 12/01/17
Find A Friend: Lilly the kitten

Find A Friend: Lilly the kitten

Can’t make it to Key West this holiday season? Bring home a Hemingway right here in Tampa Bay. Lilly is a 6-month-old kitty asking Santa for a permanent family. She’s got extra toes and lots of love to go around. Social and affectionate Lilly gets al...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/04/17
Hernando Pet of the Week for Dec. 1

Hernando Pet of the Week for Dec. 1

Jake is a handsome 2-year-old white and brown terrier mix currently living in foster care. He loves to fetch and play hide-and-seek with his ball. Jake is crate-trained and does well with other dogs, but he needs to be in an adult-only home. He is ne...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/29/17
Hernando Pet of the Week for Nov. 24

Hernando Pet of the Week for Nov. 24

For the months of November and December, $25 adoptions are available on select animals.Lexi is a 1-year-old black mouth cur mix that loves to play, fetch and just be silly. She would love to be part of an active family. Lexi has been spayed, vaccinat...
Updated one month ago
Find A Friend: Gia, the Schnauzer mix

Find A Friend: Gia, the Schnauzer mix

Time to improvise a familiar holiday jingle: "jhuh-jhuh-Gia!" This friendly face lasts a whole lot longer than those fuzzy animal planters, and she’s a lot more fun to dress up, too. Gia is a 3-year-old, 35-pound, Schnauzer mix in love with toys, peo...
Updated one month ago
Hernando Pet of the Week for Nov. 17

Hernando Pet of the Week for Nov. 17

Courtesy of Humane Society of the Nature CoastLilith is a 7-year-old tuxedo. She has been waiting patiently for seven months for someone to take her home. Lilith has been spayed, vaccinated and microchipped. Inquiries about adopting Lilith or other c...
Updated one month ago