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The Story About Jeffrey - A Potbelly Pig
Including an Interesting Discussion of Human and Animal Psychology
In the spring of 1996 I was living in Georgia.
As a busy marketing executive I didn't have a lot of free time to make individual decisions about every pig call I got. So an arrangement was reached with the local animal control and my vet. If they got in a pig and it was an un-neutered male they just took it straight to the vet for neutering and when he was finished he would call me to come and pick him up. Such was the call one day to come and pick up a little white pig. "he's very small, they said" so I loaded the medium carrier and went to fetch him after work. Small was quite right. Jeffrey was only about 4 weeks old and hardly filled a shoe box . He was the sweetest little fellow I had ever taken in. He had been found on the steps of the Animal control building in a wire chicken cage.
My husband was quite ill with lung cancer at the time and was unable to go up and down the deck steps so Jeffrey decided to be the ambassador. When Ralph would come out to the deck Jeff would run across the yard from the barn and jump from step to step until he reached the deck and spend long hours "talking" with him. I would hear him with his little "oofs " and grunts as Ralph coughed or sighed or blew his nose. Jeff would comment on everything and toss his head up in the air with a nod or a wink. He was the best medicine Ralph had in those dark days.
After Ralph died and we moved back to the farm Jeffrey continued to grow and become the Chief Ear Ripper. Well, one can't be an ambassador of peace forever I guess. He was a growing boy and had to sow some wild oats. So he took up ear ripping. And got very good at it. For pigs twice his size he would get a running start and jump into the air and grab the ear in mid flight and HOLD ON. Though he is much older now he still grabs the occasional ear.
Jeff likes to play jokes on his friends Heidi, Waco and Princess Tundra. We take walks sometimes up to the spring which is quite a distance from the safety of the barn. He will get behind them as they are all cautiously following me into the cool shady area around the spring and suddenly jump out at them with a loud "oof oof oof" which is pig for " run like hell, the bears are after us!!" Once he has them all in flight he will sit down and laugh, yes, that's the only thing you can call it, a laugh. And look at me like he's really done something clever.
Which he has!
My boy Jeff is quite a piggy!
Dragonwood Pig Refuge
We wrote Peggy:
We enjoyed reading your touching article about Ralph and Jeffrey. Jeffrey seemed to be something of a nurse as well as a companion.
Did Jeffrey actually rip the ears of the other pigs, or was it just harmless play?
Pigs are wonderful, but not harmless. They take ear ripping VERY seriously. There isn't much vulnerable on a pig, but ears and snouts are very sensitive and ears are easy to rip. So when they decide to be mean to one another (and they pick those times on a very personal level) they go for blood.
They hurt each other but not seriously, lots of screaming and bleeding but then they quit and settle down to eating out of the same trough or sleeping side by side. That's just pig behavior. Some of it is territorial. but some is beyond my comprehension. I do notice "cabin fever" about this time of year.
Fortunately its warm here and the grass is growing so they are spreading out into the hills to graze and root for the good stuff. That mellows them. The close confinement of people or pigs brings out our worst! As for Jeffrey, it's very simple. When he was still very, very tiny I put him in with Jack and Polly who are two very mellow pigs. Jack is old and blind and Polly always babysat all the young pigs. But for some reason, completely out of character, Jack just reached over and bit the end off Jeffrey's ear. He [Jeffrey] resolved (I can read that boy's mind!) that he would get even and then some. He started ripping ears as soon as he could jump up and grab one and it went on for years. He doesn't do it any more. But he will bite a tail if its between him and the feed dish.
So that's the long answer to your short question! He did so much for Ralph that even if I didn't love him for himself, I would have to love him for Ralph. Ralph wasn't really a pig person, he liked them but wasn't obsessed like his wife! But he and Jeff had a special bond.
Human children who have been abused, quite often abuse others, just as Jeffery did. There is something very special about observing pig behavior in a natural environment, just as Jane Goodall observed the chimpanzees. Laboratory animal research and testing distorts these kinds of observations or are actually impossible to obtain, as laboratory animals are usually under extreme stress.
Our human behavior is more similar to that of pigs than most of us would like to admit.
When we made these comments to Peggy, she responded:
Yes, they are more like us than any other animal except perhaps the apes. Unfortunately (or maybe it's fortunate that we get the breadth of a character) they show both our best and our worst traits very blatantly. A lot like looking in a mirror, sometimes. I get frustrated and yell at them to get out from under my feet and one of them carries that order forward in its own frustration or mimicry and bites the pig in front of him to hurry up! Boy, do I get shamed!
People do the same thing; we blame the next guy!
If we can observe these similarities among pigs, apes and ourselves, then how can we justify eating any of these animals or wearing their skins? I believe the only logical answer is: we can't.
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