For the last official week of summer vacation we decided to take a quick family vacation up to the Wisconsin Dells. And while we assumed our pet pig Elly would enjoy the eateries of cheese country we sided with our better judgement that pigs and water slides do not mix and opted for pleading with a close family friend to “pig sit” in our absence. But this would not be the usual drop in animal care of feeding, watering, and walking. We needed a full-fledged porcine housemate. Fortunately for us, we had a long-term family friend willing to take on the challenge of caring for our portly porker.
The night before leaving town the husband mentioned to me that perhaps we should “write things out” detailing the daily care of Elly. I agreed. And the most hysterical list of piggy care emerged.
Hello! And thank you SO MUCH for caring for Elly while we are gone. While she is a loving, intelligent, passionate animal she has a few nuances we want to forewarn you about!
1. Elly has a biological timer that erupts at exactly 6am every day. It does not matter if this is a day you plan to wake up at 6am. The pig will spring to her feet and barrel across the house honking at the top of her lungs! She wants food. If you try to ignore her and lock her out of your room she will head-butt your door until you wake up. Sorry in advance. She is quite pleasant after she has been fed.
2. You will need to take Elly potty in the morning. She will use her ramp out the back door to get into the backyard. Sometimes she does not want to go out to potty, so just grab a cucumber from the fridge and she will follow you out into the backyard. Just make sure you give her the cucumber. Because it will turn into a battle of the wills if you want her to relieve herself before eating.
3. Pigs are herd animals and can be territorial about their homes and favorite spaces (i.e. the kitchen). You will notice there is a large framed photo of the pig on our kitchen wall. That is because she actually owns and operates this particular room of the house. To earn the respect of the pig you will need to ask her to “earn” her food. You can do this byrequesting she spin for you, sit, or she can high-five. Only feed her after she performs. This will help you earn the respect of the pig.
4. Elly likes to snuggle on the couch at night. But she has gotten a bit portly for jumping up onto it without help. If you find her pacing next to the sofa letting out an intermittent and disgruntled (GRRRUUUNNNTTTT) that means she needs help. Simply lift the pigs front hooves onto the sofa and then situate yourself behind her rump and firmly push up until she climbs her way onto a cushion. Once on the couch she likes her head situated under a pillow and her belly scratched. She also likes to spoon, but I don’t think you’re in that level of a relationship with her yet.
5. There is beer in the fridge. Please drink it. Drink all of it if you need to.
6. If for any reason the pig escapes the back yard and is refusing to come home, simply stand outside with a can of oats and shake it vigorously. The pig will always come home for oats. She can hear this sound a full city block away.
7. You will find that Elly tips her water dish over many, many times a day. This is normal and she will especially make a point to tip it over any time you have just mopped and cleaned the floor. Unfortunately this is completely normal and pigs need fresh water, so go ahead and refill the bowl so that she can tip it over again later! Just keep a lot of towels handy for future spills. You will use a LOT of towels.
Thank you SO MUCH for taking care of our sweet Elly! If you need anything at all let us know!!
The family – “How’s it going with the pig?”
The pig sitter – “Oh it’s going… ok I think. She keeps trying to push me out the door when I come home! She literally takes her snout and forcibly shoves me backwards out the door. I kind of think she does not want me here.”
The family – “She will come around! Keep making her spin for you and give her lots of treats.”
The family – “How’s it going today? Any better?
Pig sitter – “She wont spin.. or sit.. or do anything for me. She just mows me down and steals my food! I think she has eaten everything in the house. I am going to give her some space.”
The family – “Did you find the beer?”
The family – “Hey there how is it going?? Our daughter wants to face-time with the pig. Can we figure out a time for that?”
Pig sitter – “Umm sure we can try that. Right now Elly is guarding the stairs. I am in the basement and she has taken post at the top of the stairs so I can’t come up. Its kind of like we are married. She is sleeping upstairs and I am sleeping downstairs.
The family – (we check our security camera, the pig is in fact angrily pacing back and forth at the top of the stairs). “Oh my!! We are so sorry! Try going up the outside stairs…”
Pig Sitter – “I did.. and then she runs over and pushes me out the door.”
The final day:
The Family – “Hi good morning!!! We cant wait to see everyone later today!”
Pig Sitter – “Oh yes.. me too! Elly seems to have finally made marginal peace with me. Of course that finally happens now that your coming home.”
We arrive home later that day. We excitedly prepare to embrace our porcine companion as we burst through the front door. Elly, on the other hand, is ticked that we vacationed without her. She barks at us, turns her back towards us and STOMPS away. No happy pig greetings, no tail wags, no wet snout kisses, just flat-out contempt. It took a solid day for our piggy friend to come around, and luckily we still have the friend that pig sat for us as well.
Now onto planning our next trip.. anyone know of any pig friendly family vacation destinations!?!?
This was so well written (and accurate) that I asked them if I could repost their blog on ours. Thankfully she said yes...but you should definitely follow their antics via their blog: Chicago Pig.
Carefully written by Missy Elsen, pig mom 08/2017
Chris Harrison has been a member of the pig community for quite some time and had a tragic situation occur last year, and since people are vacationing and looking for pig sitters, I felt it was important to share Milton's story with y'all.
Chris often shared stories of Milton's adventures. Milton was a great pig, and he was cherished by his family and often lovingly referred to as "big pig". As they journeyed down the path of pig parenthood, their family showed the rest of us how much he meant to them on a daily basis. EVERYTHING revolved around Milton. Milton felt the same way about his family as they did for him. There was a special love between them. Friends of Chris's were given the privilege of getting a glimpse of their family, as if you were part of it, because he posted pictures and stories of Milton all the time and we all came to know and love Milton in our pig group too. There wasn't a doubt in anyone's mind that Milton was a lucky pig that had a family that loved him very much. He was "one of the kids".
They were in the process of moving, Milton was about to be a super lucky pig because they were moving close to the beach and he would have a whole ocean as his playground. They found a "friend" (and I use the term friend loosely) to watch him while they completed their big move. This "friend" also had pigs, so she understood the complicated dynamics of introducing a pig to her pigs and it was decided to keep them separate since this would only be for a day, in order to be "pig-distraction free" so they could get everything moved into their new home. ONE DAY!
Unfortunately, this didn't go as planned. I remember it like it was yesterday, Chris posted a tribute to his BFF Milton on Facebook. I thought to myself, WHAT?!? He later explained what happened.
"Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support. My poor baby Milton had stayed overnight with a lady who was going to watch him while we moved. She had other piggies there along with various other animals. She was supposed to have kept Milton separate from the other pigs because of the territory issue. But, she did not. Two of her piggies attacked Milton. He suffered some injuries that were not able to be fixed. I caution everyone to not make the same mistake I did and absolutely know, without a doubt, someone will treat your piggy the way they should be treated before leaving them with others. My mistake has left me sad beyond belief and I am so overcome with guilt that I don't know how to handle it. These animals are the greatest things on earth. Love them and cherish them."
Milton passed away 02/01/2015 from pure ignorance. Whose fault was it? It certainly wasn't Milton's fault. It definitely wasn't Chris's fault. That leaves the 3rd party who accepted the responsibility to care for Milton and keep him safe. Milton paid for her mistake with his life. That wasn't fair. She made a promise to Chris and his family to watch over him and knew not to allow other pigs out around him, but she failed them and he was attacked. His injuries were so severe that there was no hope of recovery. They didn't just lose a pig, they lost a best friend and a family member. Chris decided that Milton's death would NOT be in vain, so he posted the story everywhere so people could, at the very least, learn from this situation. It wouldn't bring Milton back, but sharing it has prompted people to screen pig sitters better and has likely saved other pigs lives. No one will ever treat your pig like you do, it is like putting a newborn baby in the hands of strangers. Make sure you KNOW this person, you KNOW they're fully informed about pigs, they KNOW how introductions work, you KNOW that they have a safe place for your pig, secure and away from any others. This is NOT to say that no one can be trusted with your pig, this is meant to serve as a reminder to do diligence. Ask the questions you need to ask and make sure it is a good fit. But there are some amazing people and boarding facilities out there.
Milton was taken from this earth way too soon. A senseless death that was completely preventable. I know Milton is looking down on Chris and his family and proud that they were finally able to open their hearts and home to another pig, but no pig will EVER take Milton's place. He will always have a special place in their hearts as well as mine. Rest in paradise sweet baby, keep the others who were also taken too soon, company until it's time for all of us to meet again!
Milton lives on through memories and he will never be forgotten. His family has a special place in their home to honor Milton. Everything you "think" you know about pigs can change at the drop of a hat. Do not ever assume your pig will be ok. Never assume someone else knows better. Always ask questions. Know who you are dealing with. If you don't know someone on a personal level, get to know them before leaving your pig at their home. Accidents happen, but this was carelessness in addition to an accident. That shouldn't have happened. As I see people making posts asking if anyone knows of someone else who can watch their pig while they vacation, I think back to this story and will usually comment to please be selective over who watches their pig and remind them that not everyone will be as attentive as you are. We have a very small section with questions you can ask a potential boarding facility or person who may be up for the challenge. Now that you have read this, you will probably think of even more. That list also includes those who reached out to us and informed us that they'd be willing to piggy sit. We do not know the people who offered their information or services, but you can click here to see that page. Thanks to Chris Harrison and his family for sharing their story with us, their never ending love for Milton is still present and even though this was a tough lesson to learn, it was the love for Milton that taught the greatest lesson of all....One I will never forget and that is no matter where your pig is, that pig will forever remain in your heart and soul.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.