Pigs and how they are raised has gotten a lot of attention in the news lately. It got me to thinking about our pet pig. (More)
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This pig was an orphan piglet, maybe a week old when my dad brought him home from my aunt and uncles farm. My dad, total city man thought it would be fun to bring the pig home with him to suburbia. My uncle assured him the pig would live a week at most. Think, this is not like the commitment of pet ownership. I’m sure it was a long eight-hour ride from Nebraska to Minnesota with a squealing piglet.
I was in 7th grade and my sister in 1st grade. We each took the pig to show and tell. For most of our classmates, this was the first live piglet they had ever seen. He visited more than once, back by popular demand. Little pigs are very affectionate or at least seem not to mind being handled by kids. My sister and I dressed him in doll clothes and took him for rides in our wagon.
My mom read up on pigs, bought baby bottles and started feeding “Pete the Pig.” He started gaining weight and was quite attached to my mom. My dad built a little fenced-in area for him in the basement that went over the drain. My mom was a very light sleeper and could hear Pete squealing at night. She took bedding down stairs and slept by him and the squealing stopped. Mom was very compassionate.
My dad was very up front about the fact that this pig was an orphan and wouldn’t live more than a week. As one week grew into two and two into three it was easy to forget that the pig was living on borrowed time and being cared for by a family who really knew very little about his needs.
After two months and quite a bit of growth, Pete the Pig died. It was horrible and tragic. We gave him a funeral and the women of the family shed copious amounts of tears. We got out the Methodist Hymnal for the service and sang “Rock of Ages.” We made him a cross. Years later dad told me that he’d dug up the pig at night and taken him to the dump for sanitation reasons.
Also, even more years later I met a man at The World Bank cafeteria. Turns out he was “the world’s expert on pig farming in Africa.” The secret, according to him, was concrete slabs in the pig sty. I told him about our pet pig and how long he lived. I said, “Well at least we got the concrete part right.” The expert thought my uncle was probably right about the one week estimate. He had all sorts of questions, none of which I could answer.
I think of Pete when I read about pigs being kept in small spaces and overdosed on antibiotics. At least Pete had a good couple of months. He was well loved which is not how we raise our future bacon today, not that I could have eaten him.