Sunday, June 17, 2018
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: Sky the hound

Find A Friend: Sky the hound

It’s time to salute fathers, and Second Chance Friends has exactly what dear old Dad wants: a perky, young, blonde. Sky is a 2 and a half-year old fawn hound that came into rescue at the brink of starvation. Now a healthy 41 pounds, Sky deeply loves ...
Published: 06/15/18
Find A Friend: Charlie the Maine Coon Cat

Find A Friend: Charlie the Maine Coon Cat

There’s so much to celebrate, like Adopt-a-Cat Month and Father’s Day. In a proper salute to dads everywhere, Second Chance Friends proudly presents a very cool cat: Charlie, the man-sized Maine Coon. He’s large, rugged, golden-eyed, and so-o-o-o goo...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Find A Friend: Molly the Tortie Cat

Find A Friend: Molly the Tortie Cat

June is national Adopt-A-Cat month, and Molly’s ready. She’s all over this calendar celebration. Molly was rescued around Easter, just in time to give birth and TLC to five little ones. Now, it’s Molly’s turn to be a pampered inside kitty. The pretty...
Published: 06/07/18
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 15

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 15

Hernando County Animal ServicesNadaysha is a beautiful 2-1/2-year-old red female terrier mix. She is a sweet and shy dog. Nadaysha is being treated for flea allergies, and has been spayed, microchipped, vaccinated and has a 1-year county animal licen...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Find A Friend: Delilah the puppy

Find A Friend: Delilah the puppy

Dedicated volunteers for New Life Dog Rescue often have their hands full turning around the community’s neediest pets. But they also save and foster perfectly healthy pups, too, like Delilah. This 9-week-old, 10-pounder is the princess of spunk. She ...
Published: 06/05/18
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 8

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 8

Humane Society of the Nature CoastBonnet is a 2-year-old pit bull terrier. He’s a show stopper and is looking for a family to love. Inquiries about adopting Bonnet or other dogs and cats can be made at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast shelter a...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/06/18
Animal house? Colleges saying yes to pets

Animal house? Colleges saying yes to pets

Most dorm residents at Southeast Missouri State University will show up this fall with bedding, a laptop, a backpack and other typical accessories. A few dozen others will tote something furrier — and breathing: Their pets.The school in Cape Girardea...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/05/18
Find A Friend: Jewel the Cat

Find A Friend: Jewel the Cat

June is National Adopt-a-Cat-Month, and this one’s a diamond in the rough. She once lived as a stray where neighborhood kids had created a homemade collar out of fishing line, adorned with a shiny little bead. That led the community to give her a pro...
Updated one month ago
Find A Friend: Tabitha the Terrier Mix

Find A Friend: Tabitha the Terrier Mix

It’s more than nostalgia. There’s something bewitching about a baby-faced beauty named Tabitha. This white sock-wearing chestnut is an energetic little heartbreaker that loves to party and prance. Tabitha is spellbindingly cute, even as she learns pr...
Updated one month ago
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 1

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 1

Hernando County Animal ServicesElvira is a 7-year-old gray and white domestic short hair female. She was brought to the shelter after her owner died and no other family member could take her. She is very friendly and anxious to find a new family to l...
Updated one month ago