Saturday, May 5, 2012

Life in a Zoo the Fictional Version: Freddy and Puddy

Some months after we had met our first live pot-bellied pigs, we heard about a pair in Virginia needing a home. They were a male and female, two years old. They had produced one litter, then the owner had neutered them. These pigs were black, the original color.

It seems the black ones were no longer in vogue and people were breeding for white or spotted pigs. So goes the way of novelty pets.  People get them for the novelty and then cast them aside when the novelty wears off. Fortunately for Freddy and Puddy, I was willing to drive eight hours one-way to give them a home!

When we unloaded them from their crates to the pen Joe had just built, they huddled in a back corner and eyed us suspiciously.  No offering of corn or treats would bring them around, so we left them alone to adjust to their new home. 

These two were so dignified and regal, I quickly dubbed them “Mr. and Mrs. Frederic J. Piggywig, Esq.”

I went out several times a day, sat in the pen, and talked to them. Eventually they would approach and take a slice of bread from my hand but would not allow me to touch them.

It didn’t take long before we were pals. They would rush over for petting and treats, and immediately flop onto their sides for a tummy rub. Sometimes I would tease them and not give them a rub. They would snuffle, grunt, and nudge me until I complied.

They taught me a lot about pigness. Pigs are creatures of comfort. They love a big soft cozy bed, the softer and cozier the better. 

Pigs consider themselves the center of the universe. They make up their own rules and expect the rest of us to do it their way.  What is there way? Anything and everything that leads to their own comfort and pleasure. 

They love food and treats, but unlike a horse or goat that will literally eat themselves to death, a pig will not.

A piglet’s life is pleasure and play. They play inventive games. If you toss them a ball, they will push it around with their snouts.  If you don’t give them things to play with and puzzles to think about, they will invent their own forms of mischief, usually to the aggravation of their keepers.

Adult pigs lead a more sedentary life. Mine spent their hot summer days basking in a plastic wading pool. Just their snouts and eyes above the waterline. 

They had a very large doghouse knee-deep in straw for bedding. At night they would root down into it and completely bury themselves.

The first morning after they arrived, they weren’t in their pen. My heart lurched when I glanced into their house and saw no sign of pigs.  I cried out to Joe that the pigs had escaped! We did a quick search of the compound, but could not find them anywhere.  Almost in tears, I went back to their pen. There stood Puddy. She had just emerged from the house. Through the door, I saw the hay shift and Freddy's snout appear.

We were eventually given a fine boned guinea piglet we dubbed ‘Hamlet”. He was a house pet belonging to a student at Auburn University.  He had been sold to her as a pot-belly, but at four months old, was already larger than a grown pot-belly. She just couldn’t keep an animal that large in her apartment, so he found a home with us.

Hamlet was a lot of fun, but he drove our dogs nuts. They never got a moment’s rest when he was around.  He would pester them, biting their feet and legs, pull on their tails, and make a general nuisance of himself.

Like all pigs, Hamlet was a creature of comfort.  I would often come into the living room to discover a pork sandwich in the floor. He would pull two cushions off the sofa and somehow manage to lay on one and get the other on top of himself. I never could figure out how he did that!

Joe finally exiled him to the compound when he found Hamlet not just asleep on our bed, but on his pillow.  When he swatted Hamlet and ordered him down, the pig refused to budge!

In The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple, the two pigs Freddy and Puddy are a combination of the personalities of the original Freddy, Puddy, and Hamlet.

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