Thank you, to everyone, who has allowed me to feature their pig over the last year. Thank you, also, to everyone who has submitted an interview and hasn’t been featured yet. I promise, I will get to you. As a tribute to the one year anniversary of our blog, I am going to do a special feature this week and tell you all about Miss Peony, the notable Queen Piggy.
We come to you from the Southwest. The painted desert. The valley. The reputable and beautiful – Scottsdale, Arizona. We are known for our sunsets, resorts, hiking, golf tournament, attractive demographic and extremely hot climate (although our winters quite possibly could be the best in the universe). My name is Lauren. I am first and foremost a mother to my beloved and amazing son, Winston (9 years old). Our animal kingdom houses Peony (2 year old pig), Asia (12 year old pug) and Crash (6 year old Sulcata tortoise).
Have I always wanted a pig? Oh, absolutely. Since I could remember. My siblings and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up while our parents were working. They lived just down the road from us (in New Jersey) and had a few acres of land. We called it the “farm.” They didn’t have any farm animals, though, not really sure why we called it the “farm”.. but we still do. They had some chickens. My grandparents spoiled us kids. Out of all three siblings, I spent the most time with them. I would ask my grandpa, every single weekend, if we could go and look at pigs, and I don’t mean the “mini” pigs we have now-a-days (I didn’t even know these guys existed back then). I’m talking straight up farm hog. Like Esther. So, he would take me, and we would stand and watch the pigs in their pens. I know if I begged hard enough, he would have said yes, because he never had the heart to say no to me, but I couldn’t. I know he didn’t want one, and I already had all my dogs there, and rabbits, and guinea pigs.. and.. and.. and… (I’ve always been obsessed with animals). To make a long story longer, I’ve been obsessed with pigs for virtually my whole life. I knew I would get one, one day. There wasn’t anyone that knew me that wasn’t aware of my love for them.
How did getting Peony even come about? It was a rainy day in 2014. I was sitting at breakfast with a very special friend. He is retired, and it just so happened my morning clients had cancelled that day . The world/morning was our oyster. I was asked what I wanted to do. My reply, “I want to try on vintage dresses at the dress store next door and than go and look at mini pigs.” Not your typical answer. We couldn’t find any pig farms to visit, but I did try on dresses. A few hours later we found ourself at lunch (yeah, I know, super productive day). The pig conversation continued. My special friend knew I had a breeder (in Oregon) that I have personally followed for 13 years. He told me to call her and see if she had any piglets available. I was very specific with what I wanted (a girl, and she had to be white with black spots). So, I called, and as it turned out, she had 2 females and 1 male – white with black spots. At that point, my friend said, “Get the pig. I want to buy you a pig. I was designing you jewelry as a thank you for standing by my side while my father died, and caring for him every day, but I want to buy you a pig now instead.” I almost fell over. With tears in my eyes, I said, “OK.” I was not ready for a pig. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into (the costs, the care, the education, relocating my home to a pig friendly space). BUT – I was told one time, you only live once. I knew I could make this work.
Where did she come from? Peony came from a farm in Dallas, Oregon. Her breeder is now retired, but bred pigs for 30 years. When I started “looking” for pigs 15 years ago online, my breeder was one of the only ones, so by default, I didn’t look elsewhere. I thought she was “cool,” too, because Paris Hilton (and other A-listers) had a pig from her. I found this breeder and stuck with her. I had no idea (until after the fact) that there were/are hundreds of other breeders in the country. I didn’t look, didn’t research, nada – nothing – no clue. Peony cost close to $6,000. I thought that was the norm. Now, with all this being said, I love my pig more anything, and her temperament is amazing and she is beautiful, but I will adopt my next pig. There are so many babies that need loving homes. I had no idea of this while I was buying Peony. So, I have no regrets, because I wouldn’t have my baby, but – so many pigs need homes. I just did not know. I wish I knew what I know now.
How old was Peony when she came home? I’l never forget the day I picked up P. Tax day. Haha. She was four months old – to the day. My breeder would not send her home to me, un-spayed. Her spay was contingent on her health and how she was growing. She also was very adamant about not pulling her from her mother too soon. Peony was ready to come home at 12 weeks, but I was traveling for a week, than home for a week, than traveling again. She wouldn’t send her to me until I could commit to being home for a designated period of time – as a pigs initial welcoming to their family/trust earning – is SUPER critical – and she did’t want me to have an unconfident, untrusting pig. I trusted my breeder, and went with the flow.
How were my first few weeks with a piglet? Honestly, I cried everyday. I also called my breeder 15 times a day for a month, and a local girlfriend that has a pig. I remember picking Peony up from the airport. I was instructed to not take her out right away, but to bring her home, and place her kennel right into the space/pen I created indoors for her. So, for all of you that think that you get this fluffy, loving, sweet and trusting piglet (like a puppy) – no… that is not the case. Let me be very clear. They are borderline scared to death of you. Once I lured Peony out of her kennel (at home and in her pen) I tried to pick her up. She screamed unlike anything I had every heard before and pooped all over me. I put her down and burst into tears. It was late. Everyone was asleep. I decided I wasn’t going to let this defeat me, and her and I would make this work. My breeder taught me tons of critical, daily trust exercises to do with Peony. I trained her with her special harness that she still uses and loves today (at almost 2 years old!) I did everything she said. She never told me to sleep in the pen with Peony, but Winston, Asia and I – did. For a week. I would be damned if this piggy wouldn’t trust me. All of that put aside, I have a very TRUSTING and confident pig. I remember the day it clicked for her. There was a shift, and I saw it. It was beautiful and special. Until you have a pig, it’s almost hard to explain.
Peony is always in the car with me. If you’re curios how I made her comfortable… I decided a few days after I had Peony that I wanted her to go everywhere with me. We had a long commute to school (almost 35 minutes each way), and then tons of driving after school for soccer. I almost felt like I didn’t have a choice. So, on day 3 or 4 after getting her, I picked her up and tried to put her in the kennel she arrived at the airport in (I cleaned it, thoroughly). I could not get her in it. She screamed and rejected that thing – it was so bad, I picked up the kennel and threw it out, and promised her I would never try to put her in that again. Peony was really tiny at the time (7 pounds) and loved this little donut bed I had gotten for her. So, I put her in that, and carried it/them to the car. Yes, she pooped (as pigs do that in new situations when they’re nervous/unsure). I had a pee-pee pad down, and so that made the clean up super easy. She pooped maybe the first 4 times, maybe 5, and never, ever again. Now, she loves the car. She rolls around with her head out the window, oinking and smiling at the passer-byes. Yes, we have lots of car/driving paparazzi moments.
What are her favorite things to do? Peony loves to EAT. Haha. She also loves to root around in the rocks outside (keeps her hooves almost next to perfect) and graze on the grass (I am beyond blessed she doesn’t “deep root” the lawn). She Loves To Learn. Pigs are like 2 year olds, eternally – and need to learn/be stimulated. We do tricks, puzzles, etc. The key to that – is to do it at the same time every single day. She also loves to do her therapy work. When she is “helping” others, I see sides of her that only emerge when she is at the hospital, working with special friends that really need her love.
Where does she sleep? Oh, I was warned – by my breeder and friend with pigs – that if I start this – I’m stuck for life. Peony sleeps in my bed. She actually puts herself to sleep after she eats dinner and roots around in the grass for a little. She comes in, drinks a little water, and stands at the baby gate to the bedroom hallway and “honks” until I open it. She swaggers down the hallway, jumps onto my bed and makes herself comfy. Note to anyone who may want to sleep with their pig – sometimes she wants to “prep” the bed. She unintentionally does it with her teeth. When you have all down pillows and comforters, that can get interesting. Enough said. We are on the replacement program, regularly. I wake up covered in feathers, a lot. I laugh, though. Life can be worse, right?
Does she have silly habits? She barks. If she hasn’t seen me in a while (like more than 2 hours), and I open the back door to call her in, the minute she lays eyes on me – she runs to me (or walks fast, lol) and barks. It’s this deep sound, and is designated for this time only. So, sweet moment -when our dog was in the hospital recently for a few days, Peony obviously missed her. When Asia, our pug, came home, Peony barked at her, too. I melted.
What do I feed her? Peony gets pellets at 5:30 AM and 4:00 PM. She usually gets a salad, mid-day. She also grazes for short periods of the cooler times of day. I don’t give her Cheerios anymore. I used to. Once I became more equipped as a pig-mom, and educated, I realized how bad they are for them. Pigs+Salt+Sugar are bad news. Now, I keep it green. Her absolute favorite snack, ever, is green juice. Second to that is strawberries. Her salads consist of greens, and veggies. I try to limit her fruit intake. Her sugar is limited. I also have 3 water dishes inside the house, and one outside. I change all of them 1-2 times a day. Pigs always have dirty snouts, and that accumulates in the water dish. Their mouths also house A LOT of bacteria, and so – I like to keep things fresh and clean for her. Other animals drink out of those dishes, also.
What does Peony do all day if I am not at home? Peony has a pretty strict routine. It’s just like a little baby – you keep them on a routine and they’re happy as a clam. Peony stopped using her litter box around 8 months old. She can hold her bladder, but since she drinks so much water, I try to not have her do that for more than 3 hours at a time. I don’t have her on a doggie door program – as we have animal predators in Arizona, and I couldn’t live with myself if she got eaten by a coyote. I can facilitate her schedule as of now. If/when/as that changes, I will hire a “dog” walker to come and check on her every few hours, and play/entertain – help maintain her schedule.
What is the best part of having a pig? Honestly, the joy. The joy in more ways than one. The joy she brings me personally, my family and friends, and all the people we meet and educate when we are out and about.
What is the biggest challenge? I think the biggest challenge I face with Peony is both a blessing and a curse. The rigid-ness of her schedule. Her schedule works great M-F (well, maybe I would like to have her sleep a little bit later), but it can be slightly cumbersome on the weekends and when I travel. Pigs have an internal clock unlike anything I’ve ever come across. Girl wakes up at 5:30 AM. Not 5:28, not 5:34. It’s unreal. Every single day. Her feeding times, same thing. Grazing times. Playing times. She wants her schedule the same exact way, every single day.
What is something most don’t know about pigs? Well, I think one thing would be the internal clock I spoke of in the last question. Secondly, PIGS DO NOT SWEAT, THEY GET SUNBURN and they DO NOT SMELL. Ok, so that was four things -but I can’t help it. They’re awesome pets, if you are committed to them. They are not for lazy pet people. They will suffer, and you will have an unpleasant pet experience. Peony needs constant water (to offset the no-sweating), daily sunscreen and regular attention to her skin and coat.
Any advice for those wanting a pig? I think I can say as most do – REALLY REALLY do your research – as far a caring for a pig goes. They are a HUGE responsibility and like a two year old – for the next 18-20 years. Their little hearts get shattered when they have to leave their home and it happens so often because people don’t do their research prior. They’re not necessarily outwardly affectionate, but their hearts get attached and they get used to you, love you, trust you and depend on you. Like I said earlier, I will adopt my next pig. There are too many babies that need homes. I have zero judgement from you if you buy from a breeder or adopt – just do your research there too. Commit to your pig. They are special if you take the opportunity to notice.
Peony has been on the news? Queen Piggy, as dubbed online by her 26,000 instagram fans – has definitely made some TV appearances. Locally, she has been on Fox news, and Channel 3. She is one of the spokesmodel pets for Waggle – an amazing app created by the production team of Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon. She has been featured on The Dodo. She recently had an Instagram video go “viral,” and we signed a licensing contract for that (things are moving along there). She is working with a production team out of San Francisco – on a rap song. She is head to head for, “Best Pet Instagram” for an amazing local magazine, Arizona Foothils – Best of Our Valley (vote here if you’d like). As her mama, I have partnered with the engineers of KONG (dog brand) -creating an amazing brand for pigs – hoof polish, snout gloss, organic healthy snacks, bows, harnesses, vitamin supplement, hair/coat supplements. etc. Check out Oink Company if you haven’t already.
Thank you, friends, for your love and support. Thank you for reading about all 62 pounds of Peony. If you have had the pleasure to meet her, or do one day, you’ll see what a gentle, sweet pig she is. I poured my heart and soul into raising her – to be a kind pig, with manners – that can bring JOY to everyone she meets. Pigs are so special. I feel honored that she chose Winston and I to be her family. If you would like me to feature your pig on this blog, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who don’t know, my plan with this blog doesn’t stop here. We will publish this into an amazing coffee table book for pigs. The process has already commenced. Love to all of you – and – hug a pig today if you can. XO Lauren and Peony