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Deputy puts a pig in a pokey

It was a day of high adventure for Petunia the Yorkshire pig and her pal, Sassafras the dog.

The two pets left Todd and Jane Wendt's home to wander over to the nearby Pasco County Sheriff's Office, where they made quite a scene Wednesday.

Petunia, 8 months old and 300 pounds, broke the gate on her pen for the first time ever about 9:45 a.m. Accompanied by Sassafras, a 9-month-old Boston terrier/chihuahua mix, Petunia galumphed along a dirt trail that leads south from Newbrook Lane to the parking lot of the Sheriff's Office.

She made straight for a grassy hill topped by a flagpole in front of the building and dug ruts in the ground. Sassafras yipped and jumped around the pig as Petunia grazed.

Enter Deputy Jerry Puig of Pasco's crime prevention unit, who saw the pig and took it upon himself to round her up. He tied a rope around Petunia's left front leg.

"I don't think she's going to take too kindly to this rope," Puig said.

He was right. Petunia squealed loudly.

The two animals already had attracted several onlookers, but after the pig went into a tantrum, at least a dozen deputies, detectives and office workers came outside to watch.

About 10 minutes later, Puig had led Petunia and Sassafras into a fenced-in area behind the county jail, where he locked up the animals. Sassafras had been registered with the county, so deputies used her identification tags to contact Jane Wendt and let her know her pig had been impounded.

"I was panicked," Wendt said. "She weighs 300 pounds and I was worried we'd have to pay a dollar a pound to get her back or something."

Wendt borrowed a trailer from a friend, hooked it to her car and drove to the Sheriff's Office. She found one peeved pig. Petunia had used her snout to cut a trench in the ground along the chain-link fence of her temporary prison.

Petunia didn't want to get into the trailer, Wendt said, but with some help from friends and Sheriff's Office workers, the pig was pushed aboard. Once home, Petunia refused to get out of the trailer, so they had to unhook the trailer and dump her from it.

Wednesday afternoon, Petunia was back in her cage.

The pig was a Father's Day present last year for Wendt's husband, a St. Petersburg postal worker. He asked for a pig after his pet Labrador retriever, Rusty, ran away. Petunia lives in Rusty's old doghouse, Wendt said.

The Wendts got Sassafras from the pound in September. Neither of the pets had wandered off before, Wendt said.

"I guess today they just decided to take a walk," she said. "It's been a wild day. At least we got her back. She's zonked. I hope she's resting comfortably. Sassafras is probably over there with her, talking about their adventure."

Wendt said she wishes she had had a video camera to record the event. She said she thinks it might have stood a chance at winning a prize on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Rosemary Eannel, a Sheriff's Office worker for the past five years, agreed.

"I feel it was one of the funniest things that's happened here ever," she said. "It's never happened before, and it'll probably never happen again."