Yes, it’s National Pig Day, and at our house, that’s reason to celebrate. What’s it all about, you ask? It’s about sweet piggies like ours.
Created in 1972 by sisters Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave, this day gives us an excuse to party and, according to the holiday founders “to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.” Hear, hear!
Our entry into the world of all things pigs started about 10 years ago, when my favorite girl could barely walk & talk. Bypassing the usual little-girl favorite animals of kittens and horses, she fell in love with pigs. It wasn’t long before she started asking for a pig, and every time she brought up this seemingly crazy subject, we’d tell her sorry, baby, but people don’t have pigs as pets. Problem solved, right?
Not so much.
Once my favorite girl realized she could look things up on the Internet, probably in 1st grade, she discovered that why yes, people certainly do have pigs as pets, and fine pets they are.
We were in very big trouble.
Every year, my favorite girl would have a pet pig at the top of her wish list for Christmas. When the blessed holiday came and went without a piggie under the tree, she began asking for a pet pig for her birthday. We put her off as long as we could, but knew that eventually, we would have a pet pig. When she made this list
we knew the deal was done.
My girl did her research (again), contacting local breeders via email with her list of preferences and inquiring as to whether they had a pig that met her criteria (her words, for real). She wanted a female, preferably black & white (in the pig world, this is called a tuxedo pig). She set her sights on this little beauty
and it was all over.
but quickly warmed up once she realized we were the keepers of the cherry tomatoes. That remains one of her most favorite foods, followed closely by wasabi peas. Yes, you read that right: our pig LOVES wasabi peas. She will be sleeping the sleep of the piggie dead, dreaming piggie dreams and snoring in her piggie way but will bolt upright the second she hears the can of wasabi peas being shaken.
Grass is delicious!
Our little piggie Piper turned one on Sunday, and we went a bit hog-wild celebrating her first birthday.
My favorite girl is quite the party planner, and this shindig was top-notch. She started planning the menu a week or so in advance and it underwent several revisions before she settled on grilled fruit kebabs, BBQ chicken sandwiches, twice-baked potatoes, Ramen-almond salad, and carrot cake.
Now, if you’re inclined to leave any comments pertaining to bacon bits or pulled pork, resist the urge or I’ll set the birthday pig on you, and let me assure you that she has no mercy when it comes to porky jokesters. She’s vicious when it comes to that.
Party preparations started early and lasted all weekend. The first order of business was to make a party wreath for the front door. We are fortunate to have an artist at the ready, and he created the focal point of the wreath. He’s also the creative genius behind the logo that graces the front page of this little blog.
Next came the gathering and placing of various pig-related decor:
And the custom-made bow for the birthday girl. Amazing how cute it turned out considering it was made from a $1.50 bow from the grocery store, a flower clip from the clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby, and a candle sticker from the scrapbooking aisle.
Making the party favor goodie bags kept my little social butterfly busy for awhile, and she was quite pleased with the results. She decorated the cookies herself with a pig snout and pig-shaped sprinkles delivered across state lines from Pennsylvania to Texas by our uber-thoughtful friend, Debbie.
Birthday gifts for our little piggie included all of her favorites: cucumbers, wasabi peas (yes, she likes it spicy!), and strawberries. Part of her birthday feast was a chunk of watermelon, which she thoroughly enjoyed and hastily demolished.
Two thumbs up for the twice-baked potatoes, which disappeared before I had a chance to snap a photo. My favorite girl has always had a huge love affair with potatoes, so it was no surprise to find them on the menu.
And then came the highlight of the evening: the birthday cake! We scooped out a little of the cake batter and added extra carrots to bake a special (and portion-controlled) cake for the birthday pig. Miss Piggie needed a little help blowing out the candle; we were afraid she’d eat the whole thing, flame and all!
Friday was a very exciting day for my favorite girl and her little piggie. They were asked by our fabulous school counselor, Mrs Prine, to be the Grand Marshals for the annual kindergarten Pig Parade at our school.
This is a big deal, as everyone in our school looks forward to the Pig Parade. We have a rather large school, with more than 800 kiddos, which meant a lot of exposure for our little piggie. Lucky for Macy and Piper, Mrs Prine is an animal lover with great ideas! Sadly, Mrs Prine missed the parade because she was a teeny bit busy welcoming her first grandbaby into this world. So Mrs Prine, this blog is for you; one day when Baby Jude is a little bit older, you can show him these pictures and tell him that this is what was happening in one corner of the world on the day he was born.
I had hoped to chronicle this special day earlier, but am having epic computer problems. I’m a Mac girl through and through, and something is seriously wrong with my iPhoto. This troubles me greatly; :iPhoto won’t import my latest photos because it doesn’t recognize them. Before my in-house IT guru could figure out the problem, I resorted to emailing myself each and every photo you see here, then manually importing them into my blog. Tedious and time-consuming, to say the least, so please…humor me and gaze upon these photos.
Letting our little piggie loose at school could have been a big ol’ mess, but instead it was a great time with just a little big of mess involved. This is a live piggie, after all, and our little piggie is a bit opinionated and sassy (we’re still trying to figure out how that could have happened).
So the deal is that every year, the kindergarten classes at our school have an at-home project to create a pig. Once everyone has created their porcine masterpieces, the piggie projects are carted up to school and the kindergarteners parade through the entire school carrying their creations while the rest of the school gazes appreciatively from a seated position in the hallway. Every single one of the kids in grades 1 through 5 sit in the hallway in a single-file line and watch the kinder kids proudly walk by with their pigs.
When it was Macy’s turn to take on this project, nothing could have tickled her more. She’s been a pig-lover her whole life, so having the chance to make and present a piggie was her idea of heaven. Being the queen of accessories, she gave her pig big hoop earrings and giant kissy lips.
This year’s crop of pig projects were mighty fine. I especially liked the eyelashes on this one.
This guy was very proud of his curly-tailed pig, and wanted to be sure I noticed his pig’s fluffy legs. He told me in a very loud voice that his pig has THE FLUFFIEST LEGS IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL! Indeed it does.
Just before the parade began, this guy was crying on the couch,unable to find his pig head-dress. After I inquired about his wooden pig, he cheered up and even managed to smile, although he never did find his head-dress.
At long last, it was time for the parade to start. Getting multiple classes of wiggly, excited 5- and 6-year-olds lined up and orderly seemed like an impossible feat, but those wonderful teachers at Austin Parkway Elementary know what they’re doing, and in short order the kids were ready to march. Note the long line of pig owners decked out in their head-dresses behind the Grand Marshals.
Piper was nonplussed about the whole affair. She was likely wondering how to get back into the hallway that contains all the lunch boxes and snack bags.
Hold the phone — in addition to the Grand Marshals, there’s another special guest: a certain middle schooler who made a return visit to his alma mater for the big occasion. This Big Kid walked the entire parade route in lockstep with his little sister, stopping to greet his former teachers and answer questions such as, “You are making straight A’s, right?” and “How many girlfriends do you have?” The best moment for him, however, came when the parade passed by the 2nd grade hallway, and one bold second-grader called out to the Big Kid, “I like your pig, little boy!” The Big Kid and I are still chuckling about that.
The parade meandered by each grade’s hallway, with our little piggie leading the way. Macy carried her most of the way, and yes she is a bit of a load. Our little piggie walked some on her leash, but made too many unscheduled stops to sniff and root at the carpet. She also proved to be a bit too tempting for some of the audience members to resist, and more than once a pair of small hands reached out to touch her before being reprimanded by the sharp-eyed teachers.
One of the moms directing traffic for the photo shoot decided it would be fun to have Piper in the picture, too, so she joined the kids on the hay bale. She was a very good sport about it and wasn’t the least bit bothered by all the hub-bub. In fact, she was so relaxed she took care of her morning doody off the back of the hay bale without hesitation. A bit later, she relieved herself on the hay bale, as well, thankfully in between photo opps and discreetly enough that no one noticed, and no one asked why I was flipping the hay bale over, either. Once her business was concluded, it didn’t take her long to realize she was on a giant block of hay, and she started chomping away. Each photo snapped by the kinder moms shows her stuffing her face with hay. She is a pig, after all.
A girl walks into a bar with a pig….
My latest adventure had all the makings of a great joke. Except it was reality.
Our little piggy needed to be spayed. Not because we worry about roving male pigs bursting in on her unannounced and leaving a litter of bastard piglets, but because female piggies can come into heat at 12 weeks of age (yes, you read that right — 12 weeks old; talk about babies having babies) and because they can come into heat every 3 weeks. While there was no need for piggie hygiene products, being in heat was bothersome nonetheless; there was the uncharacteristic bitchiness and the restlessness and the excessive friendliness on her part.
Our quest for a piggie vet was long and complicated. You’d think that living in the 4th largest city would make it easier to find a pig vet, but you would be wrong. After a tiresome, stressful, mostly unfruitful search, we hit pay-dirt, and scheduled our piggie’s hysterectomy. Silly me, I thought the worst part of this process would be surviving the period during which Piper was NPO–that girl likes her chow. I was rather nervous about making the 44-mile drive alone with a ravenous pig on her way to a painful and permanent sterility.
So focused was I on getting Piper to the vet on an empty stomach that I didn’t even think about getting her home. That was a whole ‘nother ordeal. Getting her to the vet was surprisingly easy. She’s like a tiny baby — wait, she is a baby — who falls asleep as soon as she gets in the car. So even though her tummy was rumbling, she snoozed all the way across town to the vet.
The vet techs swarmed around her and nearly came to blows over who got to hold her first, so I left her in good hands and with minimal trepidation. Even though I knew she was going to have to endure an unpleasant procedure, she was going to get plenty of love, so it was ok.
The pig-crazed receptionist called after a few hours to say the surgery was over, the piggie was awake, and all was well. She would be ready to go home by 5:00. I’m not sure how it is where you live, but 5:00 in Houston can be scary and treacherous.
It’s a big ol’ city, y’all. Stretching some 60 miles across, my fine city has some serious freeways, loops, toll roads, and beltways, but every one of them is jam-packed at rush hour. My 44-mile one-way trip from my humble abode to the piggie vet was a breeze this morning, but making that same trip at rush hour was a bear. A big, hungry bear with a slobbery mouth and razor-sharp teeth.
Much of the trip to pick her up was spent putzing along at speeds of less than 30 mph alternating with coming to a complete standstill. Any time an interchange loomed, the creeping and crawling slowed even more. I started to wonder why so slow? Don’t most of these drivers know where they’re going? Don’t they drive this route most every weekday? Don’t they know which lane to be in before they face the concrete jungle of freeway fly-overs?
All right, fine, it’s rush hour, and I’m resolved to it. I’ve got some good tunes and a full tank of gas, and plenty of cool AC to combat the 86-degree spring day. I’m not in rush-hour traffic often, so a little bit of patience was easy to muster. After an hour and 20 minutes, I arrived at the vet’s office ready to collect my pig and get on my merry way.
After the money changed hands, I took my pig and bid the vet techs good day. I bundled Piggie into a blanket and placed her quite gingerly into the passenger seat. I thought I was a mere hour’s drive away from a cold beer and the beginning of the weekend, but instead it was a slow descent into hell.
Piggie decided that she needed to ride in my lap, as she is wont to do. Fine, but let me get the blanket too, so she’s comfy for the long ride home. Doh! I didn’t realize that the blanket gave her a cushy 12 inches or so to project from my lap. My arms struggled to get around her and grip the steering wheel. I looked like a T-Rex trying to steer my little car with Piggie and her cushy bed in my lap.
If my steering radius was bad, my visibility was worse. With the porcine dumpling in my lap, I struggled to turn my head and shoulders enough to see the other 900,000 cars on the road, all of which seemed to be whizzing by me and changing lanes abruptly. Between little piggie groans and snores, I navigated the traffic on my stumpy arms, cursing the slowdowns and flying through the open stretches in a balls-out effort to get home ASAP.
At one point, about halfway home, Piper started acting like she needed to use the facilities. With no facilities in sight, I began to sweat. If she relieved herself in the car, it would be a really long ride home. No sooner did I start worrying about her needing to go, then I began to worry about needing to go myself. The last thing I wanted to do was try to swivel my head around my porky parcel to exit the beltway and find a restroom. And then what? Take her with me? I couldn’t very well leave her in the car, but nor could I imagine hauling her into the gas station to request the ladies’ room key. Better to just hold it and hustle home.
While the trip home seemed endless, it did finally end, and both Piper and I made it without incident. In her groggy, anesthesia-riddled state, she was actually in better shape than I. A bit rattled and rather cramped from driving with the use of just 6 inches of arms, I was very happy to be home in one piece. Just a day in the life, people.
This weekend,I was too busy squeezing every ounce of fun out of spring break to get back to the pig races. Fear not, faithful readers: pig race coverage begins now.
May I just say that one hasn’t lived — really lived — until one has witnessed a spectacle such as the annual pig races at the Houston Rodeo & Livestock Show. Just as this wasn’t our first rodeo, it wasn’t our first pig race, either. It was, however, our first pig race since we became owners of a pet pig, so the races took on a bit more significance now that we know and love a little piggie. Naturally, we thought of our little Piper while at the piggie raceway.
So here’s the set-up: a grandstand full of spectators, the pit crew, the emcee, and of course, the piggies. The emcee spoke of the fierce competition among the piggie racers for the big prize: an Oreo cookie. Macy & I nodded out heads knowingly at the flat-out determination and light ing-fast speed a piggie would display in pursuit of an Oreo. We giggled among ourselves at the idea of our little piggie losing her piggie mind over an Oreo.Our emcee. What a gig, right? Calling the pig races every hour on the hour, every day for 18 days.Each of the three races featured four piggie racers. In race #1, it was a fierce, four-way matchup between Kevin Bacon, Brad Pig, Simon Sowell, and Justin Bieboar.
The girls in the black t-shirts escorted the piggie racers to their gates. I know the pictures aren’t great, so just focus on the little pink blob coming down the ramp, just underneath the first girl’s hand.
The next race featured Jennifer Lo-pig, Britney Spare-Rib, Lindsay Lo-ham, and Christina Hogulara. I gotta give some mad props to the person who named the racers. They must have run out of clever names by the third race, though, because instead of hoggy celebs it was a college bedlam battle with the mighty University of Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and the Oklahoma Sooners. Not sure why they didn’t have the Arkansas Razorbacks, whose battle cry is Sooooo-ey pig.
After the third race, it was showtime for Swifty the Swimming Pig. We’ve been wondering how our little piggie will take to water, once it warms up enough for her to dip her hooves in the pool. If Swifty is any indication, Piper will do just fine You’ve heard the expression, when pigs fly, right? What about when pigs swim?
Here she is, ready to take her place at the edge of her pool.
She’s in place, ready to dive in.
In the 2 weeks since Piper has joined our family, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the piggie lifestyle. Here I will attempt to answer them, but keep in mind I’m no expert and am learning as I go.
WHERE DID YOU GET HER? Macy did her research and looked at hundreds of piggies online. Her favorite was this little girl, from Jensen Farms (click here to go to their website, but be forewarned: there are a few typos and usage mistakes, so if you’re the kind of person who is bugged by that, peace be with you. I’m still trying to figure out a way to edit their stuff without coming across as a weirdo/know-it-all/grammar stalker).
HOW MUCH DID SHE COST? That’s kinda personal, but suffice to say that the price goes up in direct proportion to how big the pig will be when full-grown. In other words, be very wary of a breeding selling “mini” pigs for $200. Compare the price of a piggie to the price of a purebred dog or cat and it doesn’t seem so outrageous. Plus, with a lifespan of up to 20 years, you’re gonna get your money’s worth.
HOW BIG WILL SHE GET? This little piggie is estimated to be between 15 and 20 lbs when full-grown. The best way to tell how big a piggie will be is to look at the parents’ weights. Piper’s dad is 12 lbs and her mom is 20 lbs at 3 years old. Female breeder pigs (piggie mamas) are kept heavier than non-breeding females, though, so keep that in mind. A breeder can’t ensure a piggie’s final size, so beware of any such claims. Like all mammals, piggies’ growth is dependent upon food and exercise. Feed her a lot, she’s gonna grow. Exercise her a lot, she won’t get too fat. The age-old, simple equation of calories in vs. calories out applies. Be careful, though, because they are good eaters and are quite appreciative of treats & snacks, so combine that with their all-around adorableness and it’s hard to resist feeding them as much as they want. Tammy, if you’re reading this: no more cookies for Piper!!
WHAT DOES SHE EAT? Pretty much anything. We bought pot-bellied pig food in a 25-lb bag at a feed store. Prices are comparable to dog food. I’ve never had a cat, so I can’t speak to how pig chow compares to cat food price wise.This one is by Manna Pro, and Purina makes one too. Check the nutrition label, though; the first bag we bought is for fattening up pigs to go to market. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. The pig chow has the right nutritional formula for her, but she also gets half a Flintstone’s vitamin every day. We have to chop it up and hide it in her food, but she’s worth it. For the pig chow, she gets 1/4 cup twice a day, along with whatever vegetable scraps we have around. Ok, the truth is, she gets a custom-blended tossed salad on top of her pig chow. When I’m making salad for lunch or dinner, I’ll throw the yucky parts of the lettuce, the stems of the spinach leaves, and the tops of tomatoes in a tupperware and save it for Piper’s bowl. She likes all three of the abovementioned veggies, plus carrots and cucumber. She doesn’t seem to like bell peppers or celery, but I’m guessing she would eat them if not offered her faves alongside. She loves strawberries and blackberries, and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen her eat an apple. I have videos of her eating but can’t figure out how to upload them. Stay tuned.
WHERE DOES SHE DO HER BUSINESS? In the backyard, like a dog, or in a litter box, like a cat. She seems to prefer the backyard but doesn’t like to go out in the cold (luckily she lives in Texas!). Whether outside or in the litter box, she is very focused and takes care of business as soon as her feet hit the grass or the pine shavings. If you do use a litter box for a piggie, don’t use kitty litter or any kind of pelleted litter because they can confuse it with their pig chow and get sick. No one wants to see a backed-up piggie.
DOES SHE GET ALONG WITH OTHER ANIMALS? Yep. Our researched indicated that piggies get along well with any animal. Our dogs, and our doggie BFFs, were divided into two camps regarding Piper: the “couldn’t care less” camp, and the “I want to investigate/prove my dominance” camp. She’s a bit leery of the dogs but I expect they’ll become good friends in time.
DOES SHE PLAY WITH TOYS? Piper has several dog toys, and an activity box. The box is an under-the-bed plastic storage container full of wiffle balls and tennis balls. We hide a handful of grape tomatoes in amongst the balls and she pushes the balls around to find the food. Piggies love a sandbox to root around in, and the “hide the tomatoes” game would work in a sandbox as well. Breeders advise giving piggies a section of yard to explore. So far she hasn’t shown any desire to dig, but she likes to push the dirt around with her snout.
DOES SHE DO TRICKS? Piggies are very smart and can learn lots of tricks. Piper is learning to give kisses on command, and she picks up new things easily. She learned to use the litter box in a day. We videotaped her finding tomatoes in her activity box, and while Macy was watching the video, Piper heard us saying “find it!” on the video and promptly jumped in the box to start looking. I’m hoping to train her to do the laundry and load the dishwasher.
DOES SHE NEED VACCINES? Nope, just a dewormer. She will need to be spayed before she’s 6 months old.
DOES SHE SHED? STINK? Neither. Piggies have hair, not fur, so they don’t shed or have dander, which means they’re great for people with allergies. She doesn’t stink, either, which is more than I can say for the two dogs in our house. Our breeder said her pigs get a bath once a year, if that. Piggies’ skin is a little dry, so Piper gets a slathering of baby lotion once a week. She also needs sunscreen if she’s outside (don’t we all?).
IS SHE FILTHY? Not unless someone is eating tzatziki nearby, in which case she tries to dive into the container and cover her body with the tasty dip. Her snout gets a little dirty after she roots in the yard or if she has a particularly juicy blackberry, but a quick swipe with a baby wipe or paper towel fixes her right up.
HOW EASY IS IT TO INCORPORATE A PIGGIE INTO YOUR LIFE? Very. She follows us around the house like a dog and loves to sit and nap in our laps. She can be left in her crate, or to roam Macy’s room, when we’re gone, and piggies like to go for walks on a leash. We’re working on the leash training, but so far she’s been easier to train in every area than the dogs. She was pretty needy the first day or so, but she’d been separated from her mama, had flown on a plane, gone for a long car ride, and thrown into a strange environment. I would have cried, too.
DO PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE CRAZY FOR HAVING A PIG IN THE HOUSE? Perhaps. But who cares? Actually, the general response to her has been overwhelmingly positive. She’s cute, neat, non-stinky, well-behaved, and loving. What’s crazy about that? Some homeowners associations and city ordinances prevent piggies, so check into that if you’re thinking of getting one. If you really, really want one and your area prohibits it, remember the old “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” rule. But you didn’t hear that from me!
HOW DO PIGGIES COMMUNICATE? They make a variety of different sounds: up to 20 different sounds, in fact, from grunting and snorting to woofing and crying. Check out this excerpt from a breeders’ “Piggie Manual:”
Whining- well, that is pretty straight forward–they want food, someone made them mad, or is messing with them.
“Ahhhh ahhhh ahhh”– is a familial greeting. It means they see you as family.
“oink, oink, reeeeeee”- means they are searching for someone or something and they are a bit nervous.
“Woof”- it sounds like a bark. This has two meanings. Excited in a good way, they will bark and run and play. If they say it in a higher pitch it means DANGER and they will run away.
“Ooof” (while blowing air) – usually means annoyed, but can mean nervousness
“Rarararaa grumble grumble”- means I AM NOT moving off the couch!
Teeth grinding- can be confusing, it can mean they are teething and have discomfort, in pain, and some do it for contentment
Continuous oinking- I call this “echo location”- they are just oinking to see if someone is around,
Screaming- this means they are mad because they are hungry, confined, or can’t find you.
Grunts- they have soooo many of these…. Most are happy grunts, they have different sounding ones
that come with belly rubs, when you get the “right spot”, petting, happy I am eating food grunts, etc.
Piper makes a “chuff chuff” sound when we pick her up; piggies don’t like to have their feet off the ground, so the transition from standing to being picked up and getting settled in one’s arms elicits the chuffing. There’s the “I need to potty” grunt that has a different intensity. She makes another specific grunt when she’s following us and trying to catch up. If she’s unhappy, say if someone is eating and not offering her a taste, she will give a little screech. She sighs and sneezes, which is just about the cutest thing ever. She also wags her tail like a dog when we say her name, when she’s eating, or if she’s just plain happy. Then there’s the “piggie flop” she does when she’s being scritched in the exact right spot: we’ll be scratching away and all the sudden she flops over onto her side. Whump! Piggie down!
ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO OWNING A PIGGIE? We’ve tried really hard to think of one. Not that our family is a piggie brain trust or anything, but even after a lot of thought and careful consideration, the only thing I can come up with is that her pee stinks.