Written by Alicia Thomas, Committee Member – SPCA Louis Trichardt
After the completion of the movie “Babe”, actor and animal rights activist James Cromwell, who starred as the farmer, said: “I was so moved by the intelligence, sense of fun and personalities of the animals I worked with on “Babe”, that by the end of the film I was a vegetarian!”
Winston Churchill famously said: “Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.” And, indeed, pigs are extraordinarily intelligent. They are curious and insightful animals who are widely accepted as being smarter than children of at least three years of age, dogs, and even some primates.
They’re also extremely social animals; they form close bonds with other individuals and love close contact. They’re peaceful, rarely showing aggression, with the exception – as with many animals – of mother pigs (sows) if their young offspring are provoked or threatened.
Contrary to common belief, pigs are very clean animals, keeping their toilet area far away from where they lie down and eat. Even new-born piglets of only a few hours old will leave the nest to go to the toilet.
They have a tremendous sense of smell. The large round disk of cartilage at the tip of the snout is connected to muscle that gives it extra flexibility and strength for rooting in the ground.
A serious decision
All this being said, the decision to adopt and make a pig part of your family is one that should not be taken lightly; all the facts need to be taken into consideration and you need to be sure that you’ll be able to commit 100%.
And not any pig will do – every pig is different; each has his or her own personality. Meet your prospective new family member to make sure you have a connection with them. Remember, pigs can live as long as 15 to 20 years.
But the most important fact to take note of is that pigs (all pigs – there is no such thing as a micro-pig) DO NOT stay small: they eat, they grow, they eat some more and then grow some more! They can become extremely heavy, large animals that take up lots of space and need plenty of food; depending on species, pigs can grow to 50kg to over 300kg.
I needed him
Yes, I took these and many more facts into consideration, as I have always done with all my rescued adopted animals before. But, you see, the one thing about being involved in rescue is that you never really go out looking for another family member to adopt, they just kind of find you. That’s most likely because YOU need them even more than they need you.
So, when Wilbur was brought into our SPCA in September this year, just a little pink piglet of roughly 12 weeks old, I never could have guessed that I would be the one needing him and that he would be teaching me so many important life lessons…
Lemonade from lemons
Wilbur was picked up alongside a road in a very rural area, wandering alone, lost and clearly confused. Thankfully his rescuers brought him to our SPCA (Louis Trichardt).
On arrival, it quickly became clear that Wilbur wasn’t like other piglets – he was blind as a bat. Not that it made any difference to this darling piglet’s confidence, his appetite or his overall happy character. He was such a happy-go-lucky little guy.
We all soon realised that Wilbur is a prime example of how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons – nothing could get this boy down. Yet another valuable lesson learnt from one of these amazing creatures that share this wonderful planet, called earth, with us. He was showing what lovely animals pigs are.
Piggy of the heart
Wilbur stole the hearts of many, our volunteers and our staff… well, basically everyone who came to meet him. He confidently flopped onto his side for anyone who would offer him belly rubs and tickles.
Wilbur was checked by a veterinarian and given a clean bill of health; it was confirmed that he’d been born without eyes, something quite common when it comes to the inbreeding of pigs.
But Wilbur had claimed my heart from day one, knowing that he needed some extra care as a special-needs piggy. So, I completed the application form to adopt him. Then some convincing at home… but this was not my first rodeo and I had my amazing husband’s agreement in no time.
The home check was done, he was castrated and he joined our family within a few days.
Wilbur was ours and he was home!
It’s been two months now and we have not had one single regret adopting our darling Wilbur. He fit into our family right away; he has six other fur kids as siblings and they all get on like a house on fire, except when it’s feeding time. Wilbur’s first and true love is, and will always be, FOOD! He’ll do anything to get at it.
And he’s adjusted to his new surroundings perfectly: he navigates his way through the whole yard, his paddock, even the house. He roams around as if he can see the whole world.
It still amazes me to see him run at top speed, head on for the wall and then, just before the moment of impact, he stops and makes a turn to the left and walks right through the open gate, as if he could see it all along and just wanted his human mom to go a little bit crazy worrying that he would hurt himself.
We are searching and hoping to find Wilbur a friend of his own species soon – a companion that speaks his language and will also understand his special needs. We know that his perfect companion is still out there just waiting to be rescued too…
Wilbur has taught us so much about life – and he still does each day. Nothing gets him down and the fact that he can’t see has made no difference to his happy life whatsoever.
Wilbur lives every day to the fullest; he talks and grunts at the top of his voice, he sleeps in the sun and baths in his pool and when he eats, he eats to his heart’s content. You can see and hear how much he enjoys it, savouring every taste. I am forever grateful to have him in our lives to remind us of this every day!
I just have to look at my darling boy and I hear the words of Anthony Hopkins, as that’s just how Wilbur lives his life: “None of us are getting out of here alive, so stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you are carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s not time for anything else.”
A promise to a pig
To our dearest Wilbur, we promise to love and care for you for the rest of your happy days.
We promise to always allow you to be a PIG.
We promise to have your meals and snacks ready on time.
We promise to do everything in our power to help you when you might get sick or hurt.
We promise that you will always know how special you are to us, and most importantly that you will ALWAYS have a forever home with us.
We are so happy that you found us, Wilbur!