Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fine Swine and other Sanctuary Souls

Eddie is recuperating well from his neuter and dental,  so now I can get back to blogging.

During my recent visit to the mainland to see my mom, I popped over to Mission to visit my friend Janice at Hearts on Noses Mini Pig Sanctuary and to see the family of 12 pigs I fostered for nearly two years. (If you weren't a reader of the blog back then, and want to hear more about their antics while in my care, enter 'pigs' in the search box on this blog).

Hearts on Noses currently has approximately 40 pigs in their care - a few in foster homes, but mostly at the sanctuary. Most are 'mini-pigs' (specifically, potbellied), which will only grow to be about 100 - 150 pounds, compared to their 700-1000 pound kin, the full grown farm pig.

Many ended up at the sanctuary after being dumped by people who were sold a mini-pig by smooth-talking (but lying) breeders who claimed they would be about 20-30 pounds full grown, or by people who failed to check zoning regulations regarding the keeping of pigs, or those who simply didn't take the time to find out what having a pet pig would be like. Pigs are incredibly smart (in fact, as a species they are well above dogs in the intelligence hierarchy), but they are not the same as having a dog or a cat around the house, nor the same as having a horse in the barn.

They are, however, charming and funny and bright and talkative and...well....let's say 'food motivated".

And just like a grandma who spoils the grandkids by feeding them cookies and candies and cake and then leaves the parents to deal with the sugar-high, I went armed with marshmallows - a rare but favourite treat for piggies. (Okay, I also took a case of organic carrots for them, just to provide a healthy alternative. You know. In case any of the pigs were watching their weight and declined marshmallows. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!)

I arrived in the afternoon, in the pouring rain, when all the piggies were having a nap in their nice dry houses. I headed into the house to visit with Janice, who is recovering from major surgery, her mom and sister who I haven't seen since moving to the island almost three years ago, and Theresa, one of Janice's key volunteers.

First to greet me was Cotton - a house pig who has the most beautiful silvery bristles and the sweetest temperment.

Hi! I'm Cotton!  Didya bring me sumthing?

Snuggled in blankies at my feet

Mouse, another house pig, was in the kitchen being shy and aloof, but the sight of marshmallows being popped into Cotton's mouth provided the courage needed to enter the livingroom and say hello.

Ummm......excuse I smell marshmallows?

I do!  I do smell marshmallows!  Oh boy!!!!

While chatting with Janice and her family, I also shot some photos of Janice's dog, Buddy, who hasn't been feeling well lately


And her mom's dog Nikki, who is 16 years old and has one of those old dog faces I so love


No thank you, no marshmallows for me.

And Luke the cat who always sits so nicely for photos.

Well of course.  I rule the house, you know.

My fav photo of Luke, taken last year

The rain let up, so I headed outside to say hello to the rest of the piggies, including "my" herd. All were still snuggled in their houses, so I went into my herd's large (but currently very muddy due to the recent monsoons and snow there) yard, and knelt down by their door to whisper their names. Soon little snouties appeared through the burlap covering on the door.

Is someone out here?

Foster mama!  It's you!

I'm so happy to see you again!

Hey everyone, Foster Mama's here!
And then one emerged, then another, then another, and soon all twelve were out and crowding around me like old times.

Just look at those happy waggy tails!

It was great to see my piggies again - they are all full grown now and I have trouble telling them apart. But they still remember me, especially Whisper, Rob Roy and Fizzy who used to follow me everywhere and 'helped' with the barn work.

It wuz nice to see you too, Foster Mama!

Then on to say hi to the other pigs, while Janice's sister Nancy handed out the evening feeds. First I stopped to say hi to Comet,

What's for dessert?

then to farm piggy Rose,

Rose takes a nap

Yum, a baguette with my dinner.

and farm piggy Roscoe.

Never mind the photos, give me my dinner!

Then on to the other potbellied pigs, each in their own pigyard with one or more pig friends.

Is it our turn yet?

Then I went to inspect the new hay storage shed, built with grant money from the Vancouver Foundation - a nice dry and roomy space, but what caught my eye was this door which Janice salvaged from the dump!

Solid carved wood, gorgeous in detail,

And the other side was even lovelier!

Next time I'm taking my tools and bringing that home with me for MY front door! (Just joking, Janice!)

We had a fine visit, then I headed back across the river to my friends' home where I was staying - passing enroute my old property......but that's a story for another post.


georgia little pea said...

Thank you for the piggy story! I do love looking at them!

100 pounds isn't so much. Rufus was about that weight. Don't you just hate faddish pets? Poor babies to get dumped but at least they're not bacon (though I love my bacon too.)

Interesting that they recognise and remember you. I know that pigs are supposed to be heaps smarter than dogs but I never thought much about their emotional lives. Do they get walks and such at the shelter? Or do they just eat and sleep?

Good stuff. Thanks again x

Jean said...

GLP, each of the herds gets time to run around in the big pastures - about three acres I think. Their pens are also nice and big - the twelve I fostered have a pen bigger than my back yard at Crofton.
Potbellied pigs can be trained to walk on harness, so some pig owners with single indoor pigs do take them for walks. Usually when they have a herd, the pigs keep themselves amused pretty well. One of Janice's pigs sometimes goes to schools and other educational events - and even plays a toy piano!

Anonymous said...

This was delightful, thank you. As the caretaker and "mom" to six piggies, it was heartwarming.

47 said...

100 pounds isn't that bad, but I would definitely appreciate knowing that before getting a pig!

georgia little pea said...

...plays a toy're kidding! I demand video proof!

Just looking at your pics again, I'm wondering how Cotton sees through the bristles on his face hehe.

Janice Gillett said...

What a great blog Jean, i really enjoyed reading it and seeing all the pictures of the kids here. For proof of my piano player go to utube and call up hearts on noses i have a few movies posted there.

Theresa D'Onofrio said...

Great post, Jean. And lovely pictures! Peeking in at the herd of twelve... Little snouts snuffling at the fence boards... Love it!

I'm glad it worked out that we could meet while you were in town.

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to see pictures of the piggies again.
I also love that door. What a find.