Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals

Jun

21

Piggie tales 1… by Bronwen

Posted in: Di's diary18 Comments

I recently asked readers if they would like to share their stories about living with pigs. Thank you Bronwen for this beautiful story about Flora….

If I had never checked the mail that day I probably wouldn’t have a gorgeous pig called Flora in my life today.  It wasn’t what was in the mailbox that mobilized me into becoming a pet pig owner, but rather, who was passing by. Clip clop, clip clop. It was my neighbours, Michelle and Don, on their horses. We chatted about the weather, our animals and somehow about the fact that we both loved pigs. After a while our pig discussion began to gain momentum and our voices rose in excitement; we were hooked.

One of my favourite past times is the internet: I google information and pictures about animals that could possibly come to live at our house. And… coincidentally (there’s no such thing as a co-incidence) I had been flicking through webpages about miniature pigs just that very morning. My desire and my hesitancy had been equally matched at that point. I’d love one, but then, I thought, there were lots of things “I’d love”.
That was… until Michelle said, “If you get one, I’ll get one too.”
That was all the encouragement I needed: hesitancy was overturned and delight was running wild. “Okay!”. And, as they say, that was that. Don good naturedly rolled his eyes.

After exchanging a few emails with an owner in QLD, before the week was out we had ordered our two little girls. As we waited for them to be fully weaned and turn 10 weeks old we read up about their needs and named them. Flora and Blossom they were to be called.

On the appointed day Michelle, Bella (my daughter) and I drove into Sydney Airport to pick up our girls. For them to travel interstate they were required to have a special injection. They arrived in one large dog crate, cuddled up together. Frightened by the world they certainly were, but at least they had each other and, thankfully, the flight had been short.
The girls appeared different in looks and, as we later found out, in nature. Both were “Dalmatian”; that is black and white, and one had a ginger tinge to her hair while the other had a black patch over her eye. They were about 30 cms long and 15 cms high. The smaller one was shy and kept hiding behind the larger one. Looking back, I can’t guarantee that it was our Flora who was the shy one but that is how I imagine it. For certain though, she was the one with the black eye!
We had to tip the girls out of their crate as they were not too eager to leave their haven, no matter how bleak it was. Flora was given a dog basket filled with straw in the bathroom upstairs as her temporary home. She lasted a day or two before curiosity got the better of her and she began destroying the bathroom cupboard doors trying to find out what lay on the other side. We were meanwhile madly collecting fresh grass for her and feeding her the advised cooked pumpkin and avocado with a kiwi or two thrown in. The luxurious life that Queensland piggies live!

Little piggies, like toddlers want to have fun and are very curious. Before we knew it, it was time for Flora to leave the bathroom before it fell down around her ears and join the crew. Our two small dogs looked at Flora twice and then decided she was harmless. She followed their routine and within a couple of days was happily using the doggy door and heading outside to do her business like a good little pup.
Now this is not to say that the first few days were not stressful. They were. We just didn’t really know what it meant to be a pig. One thing that we did learn is that apart from being bullishly destructive (in a very sweet way) little piggies are very noisy. Flora didn’t stop snuffling and snorting and when you picked her up the squeal was unimaginable. We were told to keep picking her up so she would get used to it. We couldn’t find a reason big enough
to “get her used to it”. It was obvious that Flora didn’t want her four little high heel trotters lifted off the ground..

We spent most of the time trying to keep up with her and keep her out of trouble. Eventually she settled down. Outside there was a dog kennel filled with straw which we would throw grain into to distract her when we ‘d enough. This would keep her happy, oh… for at least 15 minutes. As it grew colder we bought her a little jacket. Her first winter she had two jackets as her size grew rapidly. She wasn’t so keen on the jackets, but we felt she appreciated the warmth. Piggies have a body temperature of 39 degrees celsius and a jacket would help to keep that level of lovely warmth up.

When Flora was a baby the loveliest time of day was evening when she would skip up onto the lounge, put her head in my lap and fall asleep, or when she’d stretch out on a dog bed in front of the fire, snuggled up with the Shitzu.

Flora
After a month or two we realised she’d outgrow the companionship of the little dogs. Such a genial personality really needed a friend of her own we decided. After a little research we considered a Husky to be a good match for Flora and there were two to be found at a shelter in the Western suburbs of Sydney. The Huskies were beautiful dogs but looked a little unmanageable, and we weren’t looking for more trouble. It wasn’t until a bouncy young black Labrador bounded out to show himself off (and poo on the floor in excitement) that we knew why we had come. We couldn’t say no and thought he was about the right size and hopefully the right temperament. Bella named him Jasper without a second thought.

Jasper arrived at our house to a less than enthusiastic greeting from his new mates; three frightened little figures huddled together on the lounge trying to get as far away from him as possible – one Shitzu, one Bischon Frise and one pig. Over the next few days they all adjusted to life together and Flora definitely took to Jasper, although Jasper was a little more reticent.
Jasper found out that piggy play is when you push really hard with your snout. Flora would spend all day, if she were allowed, pushing at poor Jasper. She’d push at his neck, his tummy, anywhere she could. And Jasper was pretty good, but there was a breaking point. He’d finally growl low and long and Flora would pull back and simply stand there, apparently uncomprehending and maybe even hurt by his rejection. Yet in those moments of stillness the cogs in her brain were gearing up to push again at the very next opportunity.

Flora and Jasper

Emotional; that is definitely a word I would use to describe Flora. She is never one to stare at you like a dog, instead she shyly peeks out from under her lashes catching a secret glimpse of the action when she can. Piggies can’t see very well, instead it is those lovely large ears with the downy fur that pick up on every sound in the neighbourhood and their snouts that track the natural world beneath our feet. You soon realise that Flora is pure emotion when you cuddle her. Why else would she emit such adorable soft squeals and sighs? As you feel her solid weight cradled in your arms, you imagine her floating off towards the skies, on perfect, white, fluffy clouds humming gently to herself “I’m in heaven….” with that twist of a smile on her lips.

Flora is basically a sensitive being. We never yell at her or push her around because

1. it is not necessary and

2. it would upset her.

There are always other ways around Flora. I’m sure it is not a stretch of the imagination for you to guess what Flora’s most favoured method of being controlled is. Food. Carrots, apples… food. When Flora gets into the pantry, the best way to get her out is not to yell and scream, but to calmly open the fridge door, grab a carrot and wave it under her nose. You’ll have her attention in no time. This is much preferred to the sharp, upset, heaving sounds that a pig under stress gives out. If Flora is in distress we all run to help, no one can stand hearing the blatant fear in her voice.

Flora is very clever and can gauge when is the best time to show fear and when is the best time to disappear. One night when she was little and it was after bedtime something in the house fell. All the animals scrambled around in a tizz making a hell of a noise. I could locate everyone but Flora. I searched under lounges, behind doors, anywhere I could think of, but she had miraculously vanished. I called and called to no avail – there was no response. Eventually, I found my little Houdini shoved in between the lounge chairs. She had known to stay very still in case of danger and she wasn’t coming out for anyone!

Talking about furniture, as Flora grew, her favourite piece of furniture and place to sleep became our monster-sized red beanbag. She loved to hurl her weight into its centre, letting all those little polystyrene balls fit to her stout body shape. “Heaven, I’m in heaven…”

Company-craving is another word I’d use to describe her. She absolutely adores a cuddle and will come and sit with you to keep you company no matter where you are. Call her name and you’ll get a grunt and movement in reply “I’m here and I’m coming”. If you’re looking for Flora outside, check out the other animals first as she is sure to be hanging out with someone (unless a particularly delicious walnut tree is in season). The horses, who treat her appallingly, get a raised snout from her with an attempted muzzle kiss every morning, and the chooks are now used to their largish friend who roams and digs around them. In fact, one chook in particular has taken a liking to Flora. It is Sheila our black Australorp who often follows Flora around, scavenging the remains of her goodies. I laughed to see smarty-pants Sheila eat the walnut that Flora had cracked with her ground down teeth – while Flora with her bad eyes-sight and snout to the ground searched high and low for it. Who said chooks are dumb?

When Flora was little the morning and evening cuddle on the lounge were a requirement and you could see her searching me out if they hadn’t been fulfilled. Yet, as she got older – and larger – the hard decision came to put her outside. To do this as kindly as possible, Jasper, her best mate, went out with her. Luckily, winter had passed and Flora was about 6 months old by then.
Flora and Jasper now share a kennel at the front door where they cuddle up on a bed beneath a pile of blankets. When it is cold Flora snuggles in so deeply that all you can see is a mound of blankets and hear an answering grunt when you wonder out loud if she’s really under there or not.
Flora really did enjoy living inside, but now that she is permanently outside you can see her pleasure and adventure in it (especially when she worked out how to get under the fence!). Pigs are curious and the natural world offers delights of every shape and size; in the different hours of the day and the changing of the seasons. There is always something there of interest for an enthusiastic girl like Flora.

There’s a lot to tell about pigs and their habits and the joys in sharing life with one. The final word that I think sums up piggies, or at least our Flora, is peaceful. If you go back to the image of the piggy gleefully sitting atop a cloud, floating by, watching the world with a smile – that’s her. She leads a life where, even if she’s treated a little badly (those horses are so naughty!), she forgives and forgets and returns each day to bless the world with her morning snout raised kiss. Never discouraged and never aggressive, Flora knows she can live a great life if that’s what she chooses, and she does.

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  1. Frans said on 21/06/2011 at 2:08 am

    Hi Bronwen,

    What a lovely article, well done!!!!

    Frans

  2. sue lobsey said on 21/06/2011 at 2:18 am

    How beautiful, I’d love to meet Flora one day.

  3. Kathleen Prasad said on 21/06/2011 at 2:45 am

    great article, Bronwen, she sounds so sweet!

  4. Bronwen said on 21/06/2011 at 5:26 am

    She is currently in her kennel cuddled up watching it snowing outside. eeek.That’s a new experience for her :-) .

  5. Diana said on 21/06/2011 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks Bronwen for a wonderful article. I love all of it but the bit that really makes me smile is where you say “We never yell at her or push her around because
    1. it is not necessary and
    2. it would upset her”
    If only all animals could have such loving homes and be treated with such respect!

  6. Mary Murray said on 21/06/2011 at 1:12 pm

    what a lovely artical about Flora reminds me of the goat we had, we named her snuggles and she loved playing with our german shepard and eating dog biscuits, cold chips and drinking cool drink. Our kids loves seeing the bubbles that came out of nose after drinking cool drink ( soda) she learnt how to open the gate and would run down the alley way with me running after to her try and get her back in the yard calling out here snuggles, come here snuggles. she also loved sitting up on the car roof sleeping in the sun it was a sad day when we had to give her away as she had grown to big to keep in our back yard. also it is not ture that goats eat every thing and any thing, anyway snuggles would only nibble on our best clothes and favourite plants. arent animals wonderful.

  7. Kris Azzarello said on 21/06/2011 at 1:51 pm

    Bronwyn,

    Wonderful article! Flora is an amazing pig and must be loving all the animals and people love she gets!

    Kris

  8. lily said on 23/06/2011 at 2:50 pm

    I cant help but think, that animals while lovely as pets, have been domesticated into being pets for humans. When really these animals are meant to be with their own kind. I feel terribly sad to hear of these animals being separated from their own kind and forced to become the pet of a human, who is transferring their need to love and be loved onto a poor unsuspecting and certainly generous animal. While no doubt the animals are often looked after well, they must miss their families more. And when I think of the types of animals domesticated and expected to take on human qualities or suffer the projections of humans onto them, as if they are human. Well, it just aint right. So please allow these animals you claim to love, the dignity of living in peace with their own kind.

  9. Bronwen said on 24/06/2011 at 1:11 am

    Yes, you’re right animals have always been domesticated for humans. Whether it be for food, clothes, milk or warmth or even love as you say. I find love to be the better motivation here.
    To live with their own kind in our society means to be hunted savagely as a wild animal and/or to be bred in a pigsty (sleeping in their shit) only to be eaten as pork.
    Maybe a bit of education about the beautiful qualities of pigs will help change the way our society treats them.

  10. Rebecca said on 25/06/2011 at 3:30 am

    I guess we could take them back to their family at the factory farm Lily. Except the parents are already dead and excreted through some unthinking human’s digestion system, so perhaps that’s not such a good idea after all.

    Comments above by Lily are quite nonsensical. If Di had a pet monkey hanging off her hip and a pet lion in the backyard you’d be on the money – enforcing the same ideals upon DOMESTIC animals, aka animals that are adapted and thrive in human presence as in the case of dogs, cats, horses etc, is well, ridiculous.

    There is no “being with their own kind” when it comes to pigs, cows, chickens, horses. Where exactly is this magical place? I guess Di could drop them off at her local factory farm or abbatoir where they could spend a few horrifying hours with their own kind before being strung up and killed, but I dare say she loves animals too much to do that.

  11. tina said on 26/06/2011 at 1:06 am

    What a lovely story and thank you for sharing your pics.

  12. lily said on 28/06/2011 at 3:14 am

    What I am talking about is the use of animals, whether that be for eating, as pets and even for breeding. Recently, I made a donation to help stop bear baiting in Pakistan. This is to help rehabilitate the bears so they could be healed and returned to live in their own habitat (land bought and set aside for this purpose). Rather than be cruelly used for entertainment purposes. While I certainly dont
    agree with breeding animals purely to be killed and eaten. What I do support is alternative methods that support the lives of animals and hail them as species equal to humans, not to be dominated completely for whatever purposes humans decide upon. For example: John, an environmental scientist who has planted a rainforest in Borneo to house and keep safe the Oranguatans for the future. He has planted around the rainforest, a Palm Sugar Forest, so the humans can use the palm sugar oil to create an income for the village and survival. Both the animals and the humans get a win/win here. This is a perfect example of creating a workable solution for a better world. Where we can live side by side in peace and harmony. There is no need to personally judge and attack another through your words Roberta. Every person has freedom of speech to choose their views and follow through on them. It is exactly this type of communication that humans undertake with each other, that creates separation and leads humans to turn to animals for safety and unconditional love. Hence, the huge business that the pet industry has become. Take puppy farms that treat animals cruelly for the purpose of breeding them, so humans may domesticate and hold these animals, as family pets. It is also great to have a dialogue on human behaviours which are blindly followed, (ie animals as pets) without consideration to the deeper impact on these animals, who are unable to speak up or defend themselves sufficiently. I dont believe this is nonsensical to put forward an alternative view and have it heard in respectful consideration.

  13. Rebecca said on 28/06/2011 at 3:55 am

    There is no Roberta here so I will assume you were referring to my comments. I don’t believe I was attacking anyone.
    I just don’t see the relevance of what you’re saying here. This website is not about wild animals. Pigs, horses, cows, goats can not be returned to the “wild” like orangutans and bears because they are domestic animals. The only options are them are sanctuary with humans, or death. The animals with Di and the other people on this website are happy, healthy and loved. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t believe this is the right website to be stating it – perhaps a blog that promotes pet monkeys, puppy mills, parrot breeding, farming etc are more appropriate as they are the ones needing education and compassion, not the people here who are nothing but animal lovers.

  14. Diana said on 28/06/2011 at 4:41 am

    I appreciate what you are saying Lily and I too would love to live in a better world – believe me but this can only happen if people begin to appreciate animals as sentient beings which sadly our society does not. I do believe however that we can learn and grow and one of the ways that this can happen is if people can get to know animals as individuals, complete with their own personalities not as a commodity or food source. The billions of domesticated animals in the world today can not be returned to the wild. What we can hope is to decrease human beings reliance on them, decrease their numbers (breeding) and demand ehtical treatment for those left. But that is not going to happen until people have the opportunity to get to know these animals and really appreciate them for what they are. The majority of people still think of farm animals as dumb brutes with high pain threshholds. Telling people what they should or shouldn’t do, eat/ believe doesn’t work – they either get angry and attack or deny. This website is my attempt to bridge that gap and help people understand and care for farm animals and I am not saying it is perfect but I am trying. We are all on different paths and we have different ways of trying to make a difference. This is my way.
    I also note your reference to dogs and puppy mills. I too am abhorred by these places but the dog has been domesticated for thousands of years and again can not be returned to the wild in our society. Even if we were to turn back time, I don’t know if things would be different. Ancestors of the domestic dog actually choose to live with tribes of people, coming in to scavenge at camp fires etc and the people began to realise that having the dogs around provided protection from other wild animals, so they stopped driving them away. These people didn’t decide to domesticate dogs because they wanted a furry companion it was something that happened / evolved because of mutual benefits.
    I don’t think of the animals I live with as pets, while they are not ‘free’ they are free to be who they are and are free from the fate that awaits most of their relatives. Their only obligation is to let me write about them, to share their magic and to try in my own way to a difference to the lives of other animals.

  15. lily said on 28/06/2011 at 5:17 am

    Thank you, Di. I note your website is about understanding and promoting compassion about animals and perhaps that can be extended to the human-imal too. Rebecca is certainly het up about her views and still unable to appreciate my point of view. I respect what you say, Di about the domestication of animals down the ages and I believe that also demand creates supply. Recently, I watched a vet show on TV. The vet was “assisting” a mother dog deliver about 10 puppies, his main concern was to deliver these puppies as quickly as possible, so “good homes” could be found for them. And “all would be well again”. Humans have long taken animals away from their mothers, with out understanding the full impact of this deed. They have even taken away babies from their mothers in the human kingdom also. My concern with this kind of thinking, is that what about the poor mother dog, who loses her puppies so quickly. How might she feel of this loss after 6 weeks of loving and caring for her babies. Part of love, understanding and compassion for animals and humanimals I believe is to consider the whole picture. By not doing so is to remain unaware of our impact here on this planet. If we are to care and love animals, then the impact humans have had in creating the current situation animals find themselves in, must be voiced. To understand and have compassion for all animals/beings, must come from the people seeking to offer it as well. By having all aspects/viewpoints, we can truly have the full picture and make more informed decisions about how these animals are to currently survive on our earth today.

  16. Rebecca said on 28/06/2011 at 6:31 am

    Actually our views are more aligned than you might think Lily. I’m vegan, believe all animal exploitation and use should stop completely, am against the breeding of animals for pets (because for every one taken care of, hundreds or thousands suffer), and believe wild animals should be in the wild and nowhere else.

    It was your comments about ‘returning’ animals, and I assume you were refering to pigs and other domestic animals as they are the subject here, to the wild, when these are not wild species at all. They have no resemblance to what they were originally domesticated from and the damage done to the environment from “feral” domestic animals is enormous. The best place for rescued farm animals and pets is in a safe haven like Diana is providing.

  17. lily said on 28/06/2011 at 8:08 am

    Roberta, Your assumptions may have misled you, I am afraid. My comments were purely general. And not related to pigs or any other species in particular.

    Its a lovely website, Di. Having wondered around it, I must say your property looks amazing, especially the secret garden discovered by you. And I loved the story about the man and his collie at the vet. How funny and what a great lesson! Au Revoir for now.

  18. Michele said on 04/07/2011 at 7:21 am

    And that’s exactly how sweet Flora is. Beautifully written Bronwen. Sharing!
    My Blossom is quite a character and we love her too.

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