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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 4 September 2002 Issue

Pig leaves home, snorting and crying all the way
By Connie Bloom

Potbellied Piggie switches from blankets to hay, from house to barn, and gets roommate

Potbellied pigs are sensitive creatures and far from dumb. Piggie knew a change was coming from the minute Michael McCauley patted her cute behind to get her moving the last morning in their Springfield Township home together.

Tears rolled down her hairy snout, forming little puddles at her feet.

Yes, pigs cry.

"You're a good Piggie,'' he said softly over and over again, his own eyes rimmed with tears.

She grunted and snorted with every step. She fretted, ``Oh, oh, oh.''

McCauley joined in and they harmonized, ``Oh, oh, oh.''

"You're a good Piggie.''

He has been telling her that for nine years. At 170 pounds, Piggie had simply outgrown their home. She needed the quiet comforts of farm life and a little piggy companionship, both of which she could get on Carolyn Lane's Edge of Freedom Farm, conveniently located in Freedom Township.

Lane needed company for her potbelly, Oliver. He was hogging the whole historic bank barn and didn't need all that space. All Piggie and Oliver had to do was find one another. We were happy to oblige.

McCauley's plan was to guide Piggie from their bedroom to the front door and over a ramp into his pickup truck, then out to the farm. That way, she wouldn't see that her day bed under the dining room table was gone. She'd never know that the last bit of her favorite salad had been tossed, pardon the pun. For nine years, McCauley had hand-chopped broccoli, carrots and romaine lettuce for her to munch. It was a small measure of his ministrations to his endearing pet.

Most likely Piggie would think she was going to the vet, he thought initially. But she is smarter than that. Even the humans could feel the specter of permanent change weighing heavy in the air.

It sent Piggie lumbering toward her backyard potty underneath the suspended canoe. McCauley hadn't thought of that. The path to the potty was through the dining room. It was pain she didn't need.

She did her duty on a patch of land where memories were as thick as the poison ivy pushing its way through the chain link fence. A lot of history goes down the pike in nine years.

Portly pets

In 1994, Piggie wasn't the only porker at McCauley's place. He also raised Stinky, a potbelly that belonged to his girlfriend, who had no place to keep her pet. So he inherited Stinky, but then he rescued Piggie and added her to the mix.

The two of them acted like pigs. They continually fought over territory and food. They were always worried the other one was getting something more. Finally McCauley had to separate them.

With all that tender loving care, Stinky still liked to bite him. "I always had little cuts on me,'' he said.

Two years later, the girlfriend found a place to keep Stinky. By then she and McCauley had broken up. In 1997, the ex-girlfriend was murdered. The case is still open. It was an unspeakable trauma for McCauley. "Piggie was a part of all of that.'' Her presence was a comfort.

McCauley, 42, loves to show visitors his little Stinky cutout, a photograph mounted on a wooden block, and photo albums of his portly pets.

In the spring of '98, McCauley's grandfather passed away. Then his deeply depressed uncle committed suicide.  "He was only five years older than me,'' said McCauley. Piggie helped him through it.

That same year, Goodyear subcontracted McCauley's job and he was downsized.  That ended a 21-year association. The Goldsmith takeover debacle had taken its toll on employees and McCauley said he had had enough. Piggie was there to soothe him.

History like that you don't soon forget.

At the farm

Meanwhile, McCauley's Toyota truck soon arrived at the not-for-profit Edge of Freedom Farm near Ravenna, a picturesque 170 acres with horses, a newly planted fruit orchard, acres of green grass and an endless blue sky. The farm offers equine-facilitated services for people-oriented agencies dealing with rape crisis, aging, special or vocational education, family and group counseling and the like.

"They are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet,'' McCauley said of Tim and Carolyn Lane. A week earlier, McCauley built an enclosure for Piggie in the 1885 barn, to keep Oliver at a distance.

Piggie, out of the truck now, plodded heavily toward the barn, stalling, resting, complaining, growing too pink from the sun. Oliver came out to meet her, not happily. He tried to bite her three times, but his wedge-shaped mouth couldn't grasp Piggie's beach-ball-shaped body. Clever Mother Nature.

They looked like peas in a pod. Both black, both handsome and hairy, both short on leg and long on girth and attitude.

Piggie sighed, "Oh, oh, oh.''

A few days later, she was grunting and wagging her tail for breakfast. "She is eating and drinking well,'' said Carolyn Lane. "Oliver finishes his meal quicker than Piggie and becomes interested in her food but hasn't been able to get under the fence. Piggie doesn't seem overly interested in Oliver, but she did take a sniff when our black lab came in with me at breakfast time.''

A few days after that, Piggie had learned a little about farm life, sleeping in hay instead of her blankets.  "There were several indentations where she slept,'' said Lane.  "She will not be able to keep all her blankets during the winter months. They will become damp and actually make her cold.... She is adjusting very well.''

McCauley has been visiting regularly, bringing the pigs popcorn. "Oliver
loves the popcorn, but still wants to bite me. He's funny and feisty.''

The pig papa went Lake Erie fishing one day, the first time in nine years he wasn't home at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to care for Piggie.

Still, he has a hole in his heart. "It's not easy. I try not to think about it, but mostly, I think about her.''


Return to Animals in Print 4 Sep 2002 Issue

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