Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Autistic symptoms aside, this girl is ready to show her pet pig at county fair


Since December, 11-year-old Sinclaire Peeler has been raising a market hog for the upcoming Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show.

But Sinclaire is not just any girl, and the pig not just any pig.

At birth, Sinclaire, the daughter of Laura and Brian Peeler, was found to have a twisted gene, resulting in delayed development with autistic tendencies. Her cognizance and speech are severely limited.

Yet the bright-eyed tween is blessed with the most pleasant of dispositions, and an uncanny ability to communicate with her 4-H Club porker. Even before selecting the shoat, Sinclaire had selected its name: Belly Rub.

She wanted a pig that would bear such loving attention because over the past two years she had loved petting the 4-H project hogs her sisters Delaney, 16, and Madison, 18, cared for. Giving an animal a belly rub was the next step up from petting, she seemed to be saying.

When fellow members of her sisters' 4-H Club, All Creatures Great and Small, learned of Sinclaire's wish, they designated the "club pig" as Sinclaire's project.

Club leader Shannon Mobley explained that a club pig is one purchased with club funds, then turned over for care and management to a worthy young stockman.

"It means keeping the pig at Sinclaire's, but the whole club can come over and help her. She can have help with the pig whenever," Mobley said.

As for her daily chores, Sinclaire gave a smiling and emphatic nod when asked if she feeds him.

"Dinner," she said, pleased with her effort.

More than that, her mother added.

"She likes to feed the pig flowers," Laura Peeler said.

Indeed, on the short walk from the Peeler home to their hog pen, Sinclaire dashed off to pick a bouquet of wild flowers. Belly Rub bellied up to the fence to chomp up the offering. All three pigs — one each per Peeler sister — vied for Sinclaire's handful of additional treats, a trio of sugarcane stubs.

Due to her autistic tendencies, however, Sinclaire is not consistently loving with the porcines.

"She's rough," her mother said. "We like the pigs because they're tough. She's pulled on their ears. They think it's playing, and they love it. It's a perfect fit."

Delaney, dubbed manager of the family's hog endeavor, said she has introduced Sinclaire to the basics of show ring performance for competition at the fair, which opens Thursday.

"We're working with the cane," by which a pig is directed, Delaney said. "She's got the idea, but she gets distracted and wants to pet them."

Sinclaire and Belly Rub have bonded beyond the petting. Mom showed off a photo on her cellphone of Belly Rub posed in an unlikely sit, a satisfied Sinclaire squatting beside him, giving him a belly rub.

Still, in keeping with a 4-H axiom, "To Make the Best Better," Belly Rub and his pen mates are more than pets. After raising what Delaney called "mutt pigs" for two years, she set about obtaining project hogs from a commercial producer who selected stock with muscle and meat qualities sought by packers, consumers and show judges. The family found Delaney's aim in an offering by Juan Ortiz of Inverness, a producer of crossbred hogs with hybrid vigor.

Looking over the trio of hogs recently, Mobley, the 4-H leader, estimated the heavy-hammed, long-loined animals will be competitive if they reach the preferred and likely weight of 230 pounds to 275 pounds by show day, April 7.

Laura Peeler observed that Belly Rub is "tasty looking."

While assigning a club project to a developmentally challenged member marks a first for All Creatures Great and Small, the 4-Hers have gone a step further, voting to allow Sinclaire to keep any profit after selling her hog at the fair's junior livestock auction. Normally, the profit goes back into club coffers.

The Peeler family, however, will build on the club's generosity. It will donate returns on Belly Rub to Autism Speaks, a national organization researching a cure and treatment for the affliction.

Also, Duke Energy, for whom Brian Peeler is employed as a project engineer in Crystal River, will match the buyer's winning bid with a donation to Autism Speaks.

Mobley hopes the giving spirit exemplified by the 4-H members, the Peelers and the power company will prompt buyers to attend the April 10 livestock auction.

Added Laura Peeler: "And we hope it will make other clubs aware they can do this, too."

Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

New York TimesWASHINGTON — Congress brought an end to a three-day government shutdown on Monday as Senate Democrats buckled under pressure to adopt a short-term spending bill to fund government operations without first addressing the fate of young un...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Male bicyclist struck, killed by vehicle in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A male bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle on U.S. 19 on Monday night, according to Pinellas Park police.The incident took place at about 8:30 p.m. along the 8000 block of U.S. 19 N, near the Walmart Supercenter.The driver wa...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 22

Monday’s scoreboardBoys soccerPalm Harbor U. 3, Clearwater 0Boca Ciega 3, Indian Rocks Christian 1Girls soccerClass 4A, District 10: Countryside 7, Clearwater 0; Dixie Hollins 2, East Lake 0Class 3A, District 10: Osceola 14, Gibbs 0...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Jan. 22, midday:49 851 5049e_SRit11446Mon., Jan. 22, evening:05 733 5365e_SRit06330Fantasy 5Mon., Jan. 22...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Glass art shines at St. Petersburg’s new Imagine Museum

Glass art shines at St. Petersburg’s new Imagine Museum

ST. PETERSBURGThe bay area’s thriving glass art scene adds another member to its ranks today when the Imagine Museum officially opens in downtown St. Petersburg.Dedicated to the movement of studio glass, the museum is the brainchild of benefactor Tri...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Facebook vows progress in halting election meddling

Facebook said Monday that it fell short in preventing the social media network from being used for foreign meddling in the U.S. presidential election.New blog posts written by Facebook executives appear to be the most critical self-assessment yet of ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Judge: Victims of sports doc are ‘sister survivor warriors’

Judge: Victims of sports doc are ‘sister survivor warriors’

Associated PressLANSING, Mich. — The judge overseeing the sentencing of disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar said Monday that more than 120 girls and women who had given statements so far at the five-day hearing were "sister survivor warriors....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severs contract with CareerSource Pinellas

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severs contract with CareerSource Pinellas

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severed his agency’s contract with CareerSource Pinellas on Monday after learning that the jobs center told the state it helped 624 sheriff’s employees get hired since 2014.The sheriff said he has no record of CareerSou...
Updated: 5 hours ago

TexasVoter-fraud panel targeted Hispanics, documents showPresident Donald Trump’s voter-fraud commission specifically asked for records identifying all Texas voters with Hispanic surnames, according to newly released documents. Records made public by...
Updated: 5 hours ago