Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | September 30, 2009

Pig tales

Becky Fenger"Kiss a pig; hug a swine. Some of them are good friends of mine." – Ray Stevens

There are still girls in this world who believe that kissing can make them pregnant. They are misinformed, of course, but the worst consequence of such training is purity and good health. There are tens of thousands who believe that handling or eating pork can give them swine flu. So many folks swallow this myth that some hog farmers are at risk of not surviving.
One thing that would help is if we didn't use the terms "swine flu" and "H1N1 virus" interchangeably. It's not technically correct, and it would be better for the pigs' reputation. Our partaking of delicious BBQ may not be good for the pigs' health, but for certain it will not give a diner the flu. So there.

I have been fond of pigs for many decades now. The first pig I purchased was from a pharmaceutical company that bred farm pigs to be smaller in size, the better to perform medical research on them. A pig's skin is so similar to humans that the oinkers provide valuable information for burn victims. Due to the genetic makeup of the lowly pig, there are many patients walking around now with pig valves in their hearts. (Singing "Pig O' My Heart?")

I named the pig Oliver, and delighted in his sense of playfulness and whimsy and preference for sleeping on the sofa. My husband would refer to pigs as "land-based sharks," which is pretty accurate. A pig will do a lot for food, and isn't shy about going straight for it – even if that means knocking you down on the way. A visitor to our house was well aware of the fact that a pig will go through you instead of around you, and brought Oliver apples to cement their friendship.

I lost my beloved Piggy Sue some time ago when her kidneys failed. She loved to sit on the top steps of the swimming pool in the summer, and would dive in for favorite treats (like an Oscar Mayer wiener). What grace; what extension! She was a good partner, always willing to join me for a nap. Piggy Sue fell into her final sleep in my arms.

Yes, a pig is hedonistic to the max. Given a choice, he will use a pillow every time and latch onto any creature comforts in sight. A blanket is a must for a pig. You've heard of "pigs in a blanket?" My friend's pot-bellied pig was obsessed with neatness, rolling up her blanket each morning and placing it in the corner for the day. The female porker had a day job of cheering up invalids.

The more I was around these porcine pets, the more I came to understand the words of Winston Churchill: "Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, but pigs treat you as equals!" And look you straight in the eye. I wish all my acquaintances did that.

The problem began when folks who never should have owned a pig in the first place fell victim to the pot-bellied fad and to the hype of unscrupulous sellers who told buyers that the little piggy would stay small if only they underfed it. Most of these pigs weigh 140 to 250 pounds – more if they have been sneakily bred to a farm pig. And it is the equivalent of living with a 3-year-old kid all their lives. Puppies grow into dogs and take on adult habits. A pig will stay a child all its life, which can reach 20 years.

As a result, there are hundreds and hundreds of discarded pot-bellied pigs waiting for a forever home. About 600 of them can be found at the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary north of Tucson (www.ironwoodpigs.org). God bless their hides.