Over the years, we’ve had many pets – fish, turtles, hermit crabs, lizards, a giant millipede, and our faithful dogs, Buddy and Luna.
Evan had a pet rat he took care of himself for two years. I never saw him cry harder than the day Mr. Nibbles died. After that, he got it into his head he wanted a pet pig.
We went to visit a woman in Townshend who had a pot belly pig with a fancy indoor bed. We have seven acres, so our pig would live outside.
One day we heard about a pig farmer in Brattleboro. We went to see his little piglets and they were pretty cute.
“Can we get them?” All the boys were excited.
The pig farmer grabbed two by the legs and plopped them in a bag. We gave the farmer all the cash we had on hand, about $80, put the bag in the car and drove away.
The bag ripped immediately and there were our new pigs. Everyone squealed with delight.
Everyone except Buddy and Luna. They were not happy about the new family members. They did not like the attention diverted from them. Buddy would look at me and then look away with a sad face. He let me know these new animals were not welcome.
Luna made an effort to get to know the pigs when Buddy wasn’t looking.
We started saving scraps to give the pigs in a “slop bucket.” Buddy and Luna noticed anything deposited there, which they considered a bucket of treats. They hadn’t eaten much people food and were dismayed at what the new pets were receiving. The hard stares, especially from Buddy, let us know that this practice WAS NOT FAIR.
Quickly the pigs grew. We had an old chicken coop that Richard turned into a pig palace. Over time, we created a routine, letting the pigs out to roam the yard, then lure them back in with the slop bucket.
The dogs were interested in the pigs rooting activity. From their perspective, it seemed the pigs were allowed to tear up the lawn, no questions asked. This appealed to Buddy and Luna. They started nosing their way into the dirt right behind the pigs. Something must have tasted good because they had red noses, skin rubbed off, by the end of the spring.
One day the pigs escaped and ran down the driveway. They went to the school across the street. The little kids were thrilled, but I was concerned, as the pigs were getting bigger and bigger.
Even though we had visited the pot belly pig, we hadn’t purchased miniature pigs. The pigs we had would grow HUGE, 500 pounds or more!
Once the pigs had the taste of freedom, they continued to try to escape from the yard. There was an apple tree down the road that became their favorite destination. We would grab a slop bucket and lure them back home. God forbid if we didn’t have old pasta or leftover food scraps to interest the runaways.
It was Evan’s job to feed the pigs. He was doing his best to take care of them the way he had with Mr. Nibbles. One day he brought in feed and the pigs knocked the bucket over. They were now about 150 pounds each, and had Evan backed up against a wall, oblivious as they scrambled to eat what was on the ground. I had red flags going off.
Taking care of the pigs became my job. I treated them like any other kid and put them on a schedule. Early morning feeding, exercise, recess, crap all over the yard time, then afternoon nap.
The pigs continued to grow and become more obnoxious. If they got loose, it was a challenge to lure them back to their pen. I was worried they were going to get too big for me to handle.
Eventually we decided to find them a new home. I cried the day the truck came to take them away.
Buddy and Luna breathed a sigh of relief. They were happy to see those pigs go.
But they never stopped rooting. Even now, as I type, I can look down at Luna’s nose, where she has rubbed the skin off from digging in the dirt this spring. She roots in the same places every year, digging up the yard, a habit acquired from those curious pets of long ago.