Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Potbelly Pigs had become the rage several years ago, and people just had to have them! They were small (35 - 50 pound average) and they were introduced as house pets, were said to be very trainable to litter boxes, and were a novelty pet - not owned by everyone - and people were out to amaze their friends and neighbors! What FUN! - - - UNTIL - - - they they owned it for a short while. These pigs GREW, because people did not do their homework! Potbelly pigs will retain their smaller size only if fed small rations - 1 cup of "complete feed" per day, and perhaps a small treat here and there. They are so fun to feed! They can get up to 300 pounds in the blink of an eye!
Another problem folks ran into was how to train them. The pig is highly intelligent, but does not typically respond like a dog. Owners tended to give up in a short time. And piggies will run rampant! Eventually, the pig would get evicted to the yard, and ads would be posted for a free pig - and then, Potbelly Pig Adoption Centers came about.
When we lived in Illinois, my youngest son wanted one for his 4-H project. They had an Exotic Animal classification in the show book, and it seemed that would be a fun learning experience for him. He had previously won a Hampshire Hog in a "Greased Pig" catching contest, raising her up to 250 lbs for Fair Day - only to discover we had not looked at the rules thoroughly - Suzaleen was required to be entered in a CARCASS CLASS!!! That meant - - well - - you know....the funeral march would be played. We were saddened. But, an exotic animal would not have to be entered in such a morbid themed class, so we bought him a cute little piggy which he named "Johann".
Johann was spoiled, but was only allowed in the house for brief periods of supervised play, then it was back in the barn with him! He had a lovely clean pen filled with wood shavings, a corner for his feed, a corner for his sleep (with a heat lamp on cold nights), and his Poo Corner! We got him a harness, and tried to train him to walk on a leash. It was easier to housebreak him, let me tell you! But, I love animals and was determined to figure out what made that little boy tick! It finally came to me - Pigs do the opposite of what you want them to do! So, when I pulled forward on the leash, Johann would back up! Hmmmm...I tried my theory, and whatdoyouknow??? Pulling back on the leash and harness made Johann go FORWARD! PROGRESS!!! The rest was so very simple - pull right to go left, pull left to go right - I was ON TO SOMETHING!!!
Johann learned any new trick within 10 minutes or less. It was wonderful! We had him hoofing it down the road in his "Hog Togs" that my mom made for him - a lovely Green and White tee shirt with "the Fighting Irish" logo on it, and it fit perfectly! I sent her the sizes in the mail, and kind of traced his outline so she could see what shape it needed to be (Pigs have no neck, by the way!), and mom even added a button hole for the harness Dee to fit through for his walks! We even had that little guy trained to come when called, and to jump little hurdles we set up in the barn!
4-H had a day when kids would demonstrate and talk about their projects in front of their group, and the Union Grove Sodbusters got together in a school gymnasium for this event. We loaded Johann in a large old plastic cooler for the ride in back of our little hatchback car. He traveled fine - no lid on the cooler, just him peeping over the top edges! He looked quite dapper in his tee shirt and red leash. We kept him outside for the other presentations because he kept screeching so loudly, it was ear splitting, and ECHOED in the confines of the gym!!!
Finally my son's turn came. Johann began screeching loudly and leaping at my son, attacking the dragging, dangling shoe laces on his high-top sneakers (all the rage in fashions back then)! His friend came down from the bleachers to take the leash while Sean talked about Johann and what he had learned from raising the pig so far. Johann tried to get to the shoelaces, but since he was being held away from them, he had a new plan.....Johann caught Jeremy off guard, and leaped up 3 bleachers high, to get to another boy who had the high-top shoestrings dangling, and proceeded to attack THOSE laces, screeching loudly as ever before, and becoming a detriment to the lives of the rest of the children! Needless to say, I escorted that piggy back out to the car!
What we later discovered was, that those long laces, and anything dangling or wagging (like a dog's tail) was 'turning on' our piggy! It, for some reason unknown to us, was sexually exciting, arousing Johann to unbelieveable proportions, making him clearly "out of control"! We "fixed" that, by having HIM "fixed" - a $3.00 fee and a farm call from the local vet, vs. sending him in the pet door at the clinic for a charge of $145.00. Johann lived a happy porker life, outside, like piggies were intended to live, and he was much loved! We kept him until he died many years later, never thinking of surrendering him to a shelter or - heaven forbid! - sending him to slaughter. He taught us much about pigs in the animal kingdom, and whenever I am puzzled as to how to train an animal, I remember to 'think outside the box' because of Johann!