Because of pigs...
Updated: Nov 26, 2021
The Night shift vegan
Me and Phoenix
Pigs changed my life. No, I do not mean in the ‘I found the best bacon’ sort of way. In fact, as a young girl I remember making the steadfast decision to not eat any pig product, which I carry into present day. This choice not coming with any expectation to later own pigs, however in retrospect, maybe a ‘foreshadowing,’ if you will.
My original understanding that people kept pigs as pets came from a post into the Peterborough buy-and-sell. After weeks and weeks of research I found myself on kijiji responding to an ad that lead me to Oshawa to meet a pig named Jackson. Jackson was being re-homed by a family whom had purchased him without consulting the animal by-laws and zoning regulations, which I would later learn is a huge contributor to the ‘pigs for rehome’ epidemic. Upon my arrival in Oshawa, I met an approximate 15-pound, dark brown, pot-bellied pig with the exact same birthday as me. To this day, I can still replay in my head the exact second I made eye contact with my best friend.
Upon weary discretion from friends and family, I returned a week later to retrieve the pig I now call Bullet. During my research before adopting Bullet, I learned that pigs establish a hierarchy within their litter as babies, but also within any sounder or drift of pigs they would later join. I assure you, this does not just apply to a pigs’ relationship with other pigs, but with humans as well. I could not have imagined being more humbled by an animal than having to prove to my sassy, stubborn 14-week-old pig, that I am the boss. Pigs do not fall in line with the ambition to please their owner (like a dog) -they demand equality or above. For me, this looked something like: challenging for space on the couch, stomping his hoof to demand dinner be made quicker or simply helping himself to dinner all together. You may have heard…pigs are smart. I am not talking, ‘sit for a treat’ smart, I’m talking ‘I will open your fridge and eat a weeks worth of groceries, smart’ or ‘I have watched you open this sliding door 100 times, so I’ll just open it myself now, smart.’ My 1000 square foot home suddenly felt too small for the two of us and I was constantly racing to pig proof my house before he beat me to the punch. Almost daily I was googling every grunt he made, in constant anxiety he was not getting everything he needed, only to learn he would have countless combinations of sounds I would later translate over time.
Bullets’ exposure to the public began at Harold Town Conservation Area, in Peterborough, where I would include him in my weekly hikes. I knew for certain that just because I did not have a dog, I would not lose out on the pleasures of bringing my companion animal out in public. As you can imagine, he was a real head-turner and was overwhelmingly well received. Thus began my journey into advocating for these intelligent, beautiful animals and turning down any inclinations that ‘teacup’ or ‘micro’ pigs exist.
Seven months into my journey with Bullet, I decided he needed a friend. As a typical herd animal, I read that pigs do better in pairs and I believed would ultimately relieve my anxiety about leaving him alone. Enter Pearl, a beautiful 13 week old, tri-coloured piglet with a distinct single black dot on her nose. I did not believe my heart could possibly be more full. Bullet had other thoughts of course. As I mentioned earlier, pigs will always establish a hierarchy with other pigs. After several weeks of making sure Pearl knew her place, their relationship blossomed before my eyes. Pearl joined us on our walks to Harold Town, and I had to do very little to train her, as she followed and copied everything Bullet did. Pearl had this ability to keep Bullets’ anxieties at bay and she would simply root his belly with her nose until he fell onto his side embracing the attention. Bullet was much more wary of strangers in the house, and you could witness Pearl put him at ease right before your eyes. Their bond was palpable.
In a twist of what I can only describe as a cruel and unfair fate, I had to put Pearl to rest after only 8 months. She suffered what can best be described as what horses experience when they have Colic. After invasive surgery to untwist Pearl’s lower intestine, she just could not withstand the trauma and I was forced to euthanize her after the hardest 48 hours of my life. Left with over $2000 dollars in vet bills, and no pig to bring home, I was absolutely beside myself. Bullet did not take it any better. I found him constantly curled up in the corner behind the living room chair, a place that he had never before gone for solace. Despite a pigs priority being food, their emotional intelligence often lead to Bullet consoling me rather than the reverse. As a result of the last 2 years I’ve spent raising and learning about pigs, I have transitioned into a plant based diet, built life long friendships with other pig parents and sanctuary founders.
As for Pearls impact on my life, I cannot describe it as anything except profound. Since her death, my brood of pigs has grown to 11 simply because I keep finding more and more room in my heart to love these animals whom are discounted as pets.
I encourage people to follow Bullet (and his siblings) on Instagram, as I believe that showcasing my pigs in a light other than how you are used to seeing them, gives people an insight into the true potential of a pig. Although I know I cannot change everyone’s mind, the very least I can do is speak for these animals, after everything they have done for me.