In February of 2013, we were elated to receive a phone call from a gal named Kristina from Pleasanton, California regarding her Pot-bellied pig name Burt, who she was desperate to find a home for. The reason we were elated was because here at HartSong, we are great believers in the buddy system… everybody needs a “same species” buddy, a friend and a companion with which to share one’s life. Such was the case for all of the animals in our care except for Jesse, HartSong’s very old, 30-something Pot-Bellied pig. Even though she spent her days with her goat and sheep friends, Jesse remained without a pig friend.
Burt was in Kristina’s care since he was an eight week old piglet, grew up in suburbia and was used to life indoors with his animal buddies – five dogs and two cats. We all knew it was going to be quite an adjustment for Burt to become an outdoor pig, but Burt is after all a pig, and pigs like to root around in the dirt, roll in the mud and take long naps in the sun…RIGHT??? WRONG!!!
When Burt arrived, in the pasture he strolled with an endearing air of confidence. He seemed pretty content at first, sniffing all the new barnyard smells and gobbling up anything he could find of interest on the ground. Jesse, intrigued, decided to come have a look-see at the intruder in her enclosure. Much to our dismay, Jesse made it quite clear that she was not at all happy to have another pig in her space. In fact, the first thing she did was to try to bite Burt, but Burt, being a very agile eight month old pig, just grunted and went about exploring his new found digs.
But when nighttime came, Burt wanted nothing to do with his designated sleeping space in the straw with the other barnyard animals because he knew that Grumpy Old Jesse was in there. Instead, he made it quite clear that what he really wanted was for someone to open the gate so that he could make his way closer to…you guessed it, the house. Concerned that we had a very unhappy pig on my hands, we let him have his way and opened the gate from the goat pen that leads into our front yard. About 20 minutes later, he was found curled up on the entry rug on our front porch. Well that did it! I opened the front door and just as we expected, Burt strolled into the house like he owned the place. He soon determined the best spot to spend the night was under our dining room table. Quickly, we put down his favorite blankets, fed him a warm, healthy meal and finally everyone settled in for a well deserved, good night’s sleep.
Over the next few weeks, Burt transitioned from living in our home to the front yard. Burt found out that living life as an outdoor pig is actually quite enjoyable. He learned that knocking over the chicken water bowl creates the best mud hole EVER and that exploring the yard could result in finding a yummy apple or banana, previously and secretly hidden, for him to find. During the evening hours, Burt spent the night inside the chicken coop where we built him a mighty fine bed, complete with lots of straw and numerous soft blankets provided by his former mom.
As of this writing, Burt has transitioned from living in our home, to our front yard, and now to the pasture with the other barnyard animals, including Jesse! While maybe not friends, they are amicable companions. As is always the case with any animal going through a life changing transition, patience, understanding and empathy is the name of the game.