A Terrific, Radiant, Humble Happy Birthday

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If you had told me 15 years ago that I would someday have a pet hog, I would have…well, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. In fact, I would have likely just said, “Cool! When?”

Yeah, that’s how I roll.

I have always been “that kid,” and now “that person,” earning me nicknames like Horsey Girl, Chicken Girl, Dog Lady, Squirrel Mom, Bunny Mom, etc…so naturally, Pig Mom felt so very right.

It was May of 2002 when I got the call from Dave, a good friend who worked at the City of Tulsa Animal Shelter. I volunteered at the shelter on a regular basis at that time and Dave knew I was “that person.” He called with a special request for a foster home. Three pigs had just come to the shelter…yes, the shelter set up to house dogs and cats, but NOT pigs…and one was very young and very tiny. Dave was afraid the piglet would not survive if housed in the shelter.

Would I provide a foster home for a baby pig? Well, hell yes! There really wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. My only questions were:

  1. Where is she?
  2. When can I pick her up?

I would figure the rest out as I went along. A lack of plan seemed like the perfect plan.

Now, let’s set the stage here. At that time I did live on a small acreage that boasted a barn where my horse, a llama, and my growing donkey family lived. I also owned 75ish acres that I had hoped to move to. Hoped. But at THAT time I was in the middle of a divorce and everything seemed way, way up in the air. I wasn’t sure where I would be living over the course of the next six months. I wasn’t sure if I could keep my animals. I wasn’t sure about anything.

Was it a good time to take on a baby piglet? Well…sure! She was just a foster pig, right? (Yeah, I’m laughing too.)

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So skinny at first! It didn’t last long.

The piglet had been transferred to an area veterinarian for a checkup. Beyond being a bit malnourished and having a case of pig lice (ewwww!), she was proclaimed healthy. I did quickly learn that pig lice are species-specific and that they had treated her for them, so I parked my heebie-geebies at the door of the vet hospital and rushed in to claim my new little charge.

I believe I heard her before I actually laid eyes on her. Squealing all the way into the exam room, a tiny pink bundle was delivered into my waiting arms.

Oh my. She was adorable.

Big ears, a wrinkled little snout, button eyes and a pricelessly curly tail—it was love at first snort. She was truly no bigger than a football (forgive the cruel comparison!). She walked on tiny, cloven high-heeled feet. She loved to snuggle. She was all personality. I was completely smitten by my first pig encounter, beyond the destined-to-be-bacon pigs at the state fair.

I quickly ran to the feed store to purchase some appropriate food and then also hit the produce stand to buy some fruits and veggies I knew she might like—nothing but the best for my little bundle of joy.

I bedded her down in my spare bathroom because that somehow made sense at the time. The dogs met the pig and miraculously made friends. They even played together. It was quite a sight to see my Dalmatians racing around with a little pink bullet at their heels.

Within 24 hours I knew this pig would NOT return to the shelter. If the owner of the pigs returned to pay the fines and claim them, I knew she would be destined for slaughter. If she remained unclaimed, she would be sent to auction where her fate would likely be—you guessed it—slaughter. That was just not going to happen.

So I called Dave at the shelter and told him the pig was staying put and he needed to figure it out on his end. His answer (God love this man…I know I caused him stress) was to list the piglet as deceased. Yes, he wrote on her intake card that she had been too young and malnourished to survive. (By the way, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent…) We joked for years afterward that Spammy was the healthiest dead pig anyone had ever seen.

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A girl and her pig.

Now I had a pig. Wow. Now I had a PIG. My up-in-the-air plans officially needed to accommodate a pig that would swiftly turn into a full-fledged hog. A lack of planning on my part perhaps not such a good idea? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the piglet continued to charm everyone she met. Jim (who was not my partner quite yet, but soon would be—lucky, lucky me!) named her Spamela Anderson within the first few minutes of meeting her. GENIUS. A quick, quick wit. Just another reason why I fell for this man.

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Spammy and Monte demonstrating a good “stay.”

Spamela, affectionately known as Spammy, quickly became a beloved fixture in my home…well, actually in my barn. The “let the piggy live in the house” idea changed pretty quickly. Did you know that pigs like to back up against the walls of your bathroom to poop? Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Creating poop art on the walls issues aside (and in her defense she DID “go” on the papers we put out…well, her feet were on the papers), Spammy was clever. She learned tricks and behaviors just as easily as the dogs did. She liked to play, she liked to eat. Oh she really liked to eat. My tiny pink piggy swiftly grew into a beautiful, huge hog.

Now fast-forward 12 years.

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Spamela Anderson napping with Jerry Swinefeld. Friends at last!

Spammy and I have been together through a lot of life changes. Well, life changes on my side of the board, anyway. Her life, on the other hand, has been fairly stress-free and even keel.  She has always had a comfortable barn to snooze in. She has always had lovely mud to bathe in when the weather gets warm. She has always had plenty of good food to eat. She has always had room to roam and graze. She even eventually got a younger adopted brother that she wasn’t too sure about in the beginning, but grew to enjoy his company (except at dinner time—he’s such a pig!).

Spam and Monte

Spamela and Monte were best of friends. They played together until I decided she was just too big and might hurt him accidentally. It was sure fun to see them romp. Interesting side note, Monte would never accept one of those pig ear chews. Turned his nose completely up. What a loyal friend!

All these years later, we get to celebrate Spamela Anderson’s 12th birthday. So few pigs live to see this milestone, so it’s special. All the more special because, after a bit of research, I found that the average lifespan for Yorkshire pigs, who are actually allowed to live, is listed as six to 10 years. You go, Spammy!

This little piggy has lived a very good, long life. Together, we survived divorce, we survived figuring out where and how to live, and we survived changes in family, career, and lifestyle. Through it all, Spamela has been blissfully unaware, but she did play an important role in swaying many a decision and I am grateful for her not-so-silent influence (have you ever heard the noise a 600-plus pound hog can make at mealtime? Think roaring lion.).

Now Spammy’s years are showing. Her once impressive bulk has faded. She is a little slower to rise and enjoys naps a good deal of the time. She still meets each meal with the enthusiasm of a young porker and she still loves a good wallow in the mud. I know we don’t have a lot of time left together, but whatever time she graces us with, will be wonderful.

To borrow words from another famous pig story in which a clever spider named Charlotte documented the attributes of her porcine friend within her web, I would have to say that Spamela is, indeed,

“Some Pig,”

“Terrific,”

“Radiant,”

and

“Humble.”

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Portrait of a senior pig.

After all, she was a bit famous in these parts with articles documenting her life in magazines, newspapers, and even on the news. Through it all, she remained unaffected, and slightly mud-caked.

I would have to one-up dear Charlotte’s list, however. My last web-message for Spamela would have to be “Much-Loved.” And she is.

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to our dear Spamela Anderson. You are one very fine pig.

 

Following are more photos from the life and times of Spamela Anderson. Here’s to hoping we get to add many more.

 

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Yes, she would let me ride her. Sort of.

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We were our own little side show.

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She could heel better than most dogs.

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Hanging out with her horsey friends.

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Carrots. Always a favorite. She loves all fruits and veggies, but does not like cake…especially stuff like Twinkies. This could be a key to her long life.

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Spammy, at her full size, enjoying a visit from friends. She was quite impressively large in her prime.

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