Written by Kerrie Bosse
Professional photography by Xany Jansen Van Vuuren
“Meet me at the gate in five minutes; I have a present for you,” said my now-husband (then fiancée), Sean, when I answered the phone.
Like most women, the word “present” had me up off my bum and at that gate in record time. I knew he’d been in Winterton for meetings, and I’d recently spotted a fantastic shop there, so my thoughts were in the home décor section and wondering what he’d seen me pick up and admire. What a clever, observant, loving man.
He drove in, stopped in front of me, and jumped out empty-handed. Okay, so maybe I have to go and get my present!
I walked closer to the Land Cruiser and was told that my present was in the back. My immediate thoughts were: it must be a big present!
On closer observation, I spotted a small, black shape – nothing familiar at all – and Sean went over and picked it up. There was a massive blood-curdling shriek and lots of squirming. This was no home décor – this was a home wrecker!
Found alongside the highway
In his arms was a black piglet. It was blind, stank like nothing I’ve ever smelled, and with the earsplitting noise that emanated from this tiny object, I’m pretty convinced the neighbours thought there was a serial killer running loose in our house.
My husband and his father had seen the piglet running around on the side of the N3 highway. They stopped and, with much difficulty, managed to catch him and load him on the back of the bakkie (pick-up truck).
His first experience in our home was a bath, and if you think that lifting him out of the vehicle was a noisy affair, bath time was blood curdling.
We have a young Collie-Australian-mix cattle dog named Bandit, and his reaction to this small wriggling racket was pure horror. He was terrified at first, backing off cautiously, and then, with a little more courage, decided to sniff the wet bundle. This only brought on more noise from the piglet, and it was difficult to see whom was the more frightened of the two.
A new family member
Christened Georgie by me and “Ngotshotsie” by my husband, we had a new addition to the family. He appeared to be about six days old, and now that he smelled a little more acceptable, we made him a bed, wrapped the shivering little boy up to keep him warm, and made some phone calls to the vets to find out what to feed him.
As with any pig, the administering of food is never a problem. We bottle-fed him a healthy combination, and he guzzled it down. The next trick was to fix his eyes. We applied drops in the one that looked completely blind and tried to unglue and open the eyelid of the other. Over a few days we managed to get the infected eye open and it didn’t appear to be blind.
Georgie settled in slowly, and Bandit’s fear turned into fascination. He was by no means a healthy piglet; coughing and wheezing, he had what looked like pneumonia. We didn’t know how long he’d been on the side of the road in the cold and rain. The most difficult part of his recovery or treatment was yet to come – an injection.
I think I’ve made it quite clear how loud Georgie is, how much he squirms, and what chaos reigns between humans, dog and piglet when these fits start. So, I say no more; I’m sure you can picture the scene when we had to inject him in the bottom.
A well-fed piglet
Georgie went from strength to strength, roaming the garden during the day with his “dog keeper” close on his trotters and sleeping in a box in the kitchen at night. We’d heard how clever pigs were and what great pets they made, and it certainly unrolled into what has been a wonderful experience.
I used to make his milk mixture in a bottle and then warm it for a few seconds in the microwave. It wasn’t long before he realised that the beeping noise of the microwave meant “food time”, and he’d rush through to the kitchen and stand on his back legs looking for his dinner.
Once his tummy was full he’d follow us into the lounge for the evening while we relaxed and watched television. Bandit always lay at our feet and slept, and a well-fed little piglet looking for some love and warmth would head straight to Bandit and lie on top of his head. This didn’t go down well; he’s a dog with long hair and feels the heat terribly. Bandit tried to be tolerant, and with his not-so-subtle movements, Georgie would slip down onto the dog’s neck and shoulders where he’d often fall asleep.
Some nights this cuddling would last an hour or so, but as time went by, Bandit grew more and more irritable and we realised his new little brother was really annoying him. I had a brilliant idea and went scratching for one of my old teddy bears. This little brown bear was placed near the dog to offer Georgie another cuddly body to lie on and then slowly moved further and further away to entice the pig to give Bandit some space. It worked! He loves his teddy, and most evenings you’ll find him lying right on top of it!
A hit with young and old
Georgie was a major hit leading into our wedding with all the overseas guests staying on the farm, especially my niece and nephew from Australia, who at first reacted like Bandit did and spent half the day running away from him. He was a curious baby and especially loved nibbling on toes, which caused major shrieking and much amusement.
Bottle time was always a battle between the kids as to who’d get to feed him. He was the source of so much joy that the flower girls even considered tying a blue bow around his neck and walking down the aisle with him. That’s when the practical and fairly stressed bride decided to put her foot down – I said a very big NO!
That’ll do, pig
Now five times the size he was when he arrived as my “little gift”, he spends his evenings inside, and you can barely see poor squashed teddy; just a flat little paw sticks out from time to time. He still attempts to lie on Bandit’s head, and at the size he is now, this is met with loud nipping protests and results in a sulking pig. Thank goodness he’s learnt a trick or two from Bandit and can let himself out of the swinging gauze kitchen door. It’s easy to tell if he has the grumps with us, as the sound of the banging door reverberates through the house.
Georgie is bigger and fatter, and, judging by his latest squeals, his lungs have at least trebled in size. His grunting tantrums reach high octaves around mealtime – definitely bordering on being a demanding brat – but we do love him dearly. He’s very partial to a tummy tickle and flops down on his side as soon as you rub his belly.
We’ve had builders in the yard for two weeks, and an open gate means a newfound freedom. Georgie has stumbled upon some mango trees near the neighbour’s yard, and he cannot wait to take off to slurp and chew on some of the fallen fruit. Getting him back into the garden requires major bribery.
It’s true what they say about a pig being an intelligent, wonderful pet. Our yard provides great entertainment, with a black-and-white dog, a black-and-white piglet, and a big old black rooster called Ralf. Tomorrow I’m collecting two little brown sausage dogs… I wonder what they’ll think of all of this!
P.S. The two new additions to the family have arrived safely… welcome to the madhouse!