Baxter is a pet pig that has it made. He lives in a beautiful home and has his own downstairs bedroom with a specially constructed entrance to a backyard patio where he can lie on comfortable pillows and sunbathe at his leisure. His bedroom is furnished with a custom-made chaise lounge and he even has a Tempur-Pedic mattress with luxurious bedding to sleep on after a hard day of being adored by his family.
“He’s very spoiled,” admitted his owner who asked that her name and location not be given to protect her privacy.
Baxter’s owner fell in love with pigs when she was five and saw one for the first time in a movie. From that moment on, she longed for one as a pet. However, it took her 51 years to finally get one.
“I like things that are unusual,” she said, explaining why she wanted a Vietnamese miniature potbellied pig.
Baxter is almost four and nearly grown at 165-pounds. His owner describes herself as a “big animal lover.” She attended veterinary school, but didn’t finish because she kept fainting from the sight of blood. So, instead she’s devoted herself to caring for animals. In addition to Baxter, she has three Shar-Pei dogs, an aquarium of fish and may add a cat to her brood soon because they get along well with pigs.
She originally planned to adopt a pig from a rescue. However, two adoption opportunities fell through. She was so sad and disappointed that her husband went to a breeder and brought Baxter home as a surprise when he was five weeks old. She was delighted to get Baxter, but annoyed with her husband for going to a breeder and paying for a pig when there are so many that need homes and are up for adoption. Also, he was too young to have been taken from his mother at the age of five weeks. She’s since forgiven her husband.
She wants pig breeders shut down. “Way too many are being sold by breeders who want to make a buck,” she said. “Pigs are being sold for an exorbitant amount of money and are sent un-neutered.” She also wants pet shops to stop selling pigs because there are already too many in shelters that need to be adopted.
Baxter’s owner is extremely involved with the non-profit group Southern California Association for Miniature Potbellied Pigs (SCAMPP). It educates the public about pigs, helps them get adopted and provides useful information for pig owners. She said the public doesn’t realize what’s involved in responsibly owning a pig. They aren’t aware of the environment and training they need, the size they will become as adults or their life span. They typically live 15 to 20 years and can grow up to 250 pounds. She said “teacup” or 40 pound pigs don’t exist.
“If you really want one, do your homework,” she advises. She did a lot of research before getting Baxter so she knew what she was in for.
“Pigs are extremely intelligent. They have a mental capacity of a two to three year old,” she said.
Some of the commands Baxter knows are sit, stay, down, bow, kiss, wave and, shake hands. He can do figure 8s through his owner’s legs. She said pigs are easier to train than dogs and can learn a trick in about 15 minutes. They’re also litter box trained.
Baxter’s diet is closely monitored so he won’t get bigger than he should. He eats one cup of pig chow in the morning and another cup in the evening. During the day, he’s allowed to snack on leafy greens, zucchini, cucumbers and other vegetables. He only gets fruit occasionally as a treat because it can pack on pounds. He’s given Cheerios and apple flavored horse treats to get him to comply with a command.
“They’re pig crack,” Baxter’s owner joked as she tossed some apple treats on the floor for him. He quickly gobbled them down. He was two pounds when she got him and will gain about 20 more pounds before he’s fully grown.
“It’s too bad that pigs get a bad rap,” Baxter’s owner said. She added that most people have misconceptions about pigs and think they’re loud and dirty. She made Baxter into a therapy pet and takes him out on a leash in public to change misconceptions. He’s been to a library, rest home, shopping mall, fair and other events. He’s always had positive interactions with the public. He likes to get in the car to go places and meet people.
“He gives joy to people,” she said.
Baxter only gets bathed before he goes out in public because his owner wants him to look his best. She said pigs don’t actually need baths because they aren’t dirty animals. They don’t have sweat glands and only roll in mud as a form of sun protection.
Baxter’s hoofs are professionally trimmed. He hates it and squeals in protest because the groomers have to flip him on his back. His owner laughingly said that another pig owner she knows gives her pig a couple of beers before hoof trimming so it’s calmer during the procedure.
Baxter was neutered when he was 12 weeks old because pigs start breeding at the age of three months. “The sooner, the better,” his owner said concerning that subject.
She recommends pigs as pets if a person is able to handle their requirements. “They’re really quite fun,” she said, smiling.
For more information, visit scampp.com