When I think of sweet things, I think of babies, huge rainbow lollipops, sprinkles, smiles and one of the cutest pigs I know, Eleanor VonPinkSnout. This 20 pound bundle of sugar is six months old and comes to us from Gilbert, Arizona. Ellie lives with her mommy, daddy, brother (7 years), sister (2 years) and Pepper, a Coopers Hawk, that her daddy recently acquired for his nature sport, Falconry.
PE🐽NY: Have you always wanted a pig? I wanted a piggy for a year or so before getting Ellie. At that time, my husband and I both worked full time, which was tough enough with two kiddos, so it was just unrealistic. Neither of us have ever owned a pig before, but I had read a lot about them and was aware of the commitment.
PE🐽NY: How did you finally decide on getting Ellie? We had two dogs and found out that our daughter was severely allergic to them (cats too). We tried everything to treat her allergies, but we ended up having to re-home our dogs to family friends. Even though we knew the families it was still a heartbreaking experience. I was upset that our children may not get the opportunity to experience the special kind of love pets bring to the home and voiced my concerns. One of our friends jokingly said, “What about a pig? They have hair, not fur.” From that point on, my obsession was born. I knew our family HAD to have a pig. I waited until the end of summer to start looking for a little piggy. I wanted to be sure that our family was done with summer vacations before making the commitment.
PE🐽NY: Where did Ellie come from? She came from a little farm out in the dairy lands of Maricopa, AZ. I found her through an ad on craigslist. I know, I know . . that is not the recommended route to take (because so many people get ripped off) but I felt confident in my abilities to ask the right questions. I always tell people I really lucked out with Ellie. The lady who sold her to me was very open and honest. I feel really fortunate. Ellie was five weeks old when we got her. I felt it was a little young, but I was comfortable with it since she was eating solid foods and I had done a lot of research for her care. I knew she was meant to be with us the moment I sat her in my passenger seat.
PE🐽NY: Are you still working full time? No. I am blessed to stay at home with my toddler and Ellie. I am in graduate school, but I only have class one night a week. My husband mans the ship during that time. I try not to leave her alone too much because I know she gets lonely and upset. They are herd animals, so I know that interaction is important to her well being.
PE🐽NY: What are Ellie’s favorite things to do? She loves to eat, play/root outside and cuddle. She also likes to go “bye-bye” in the car. A big part of her morning routine is taking her big brother to school. She cries when she cannot go so I have to distract her with a treat if I am leaving her home.
PE🐽NY: What does Ellie eat? Her primary diet consists of fresh fruits and veggies. She loves leafy greens like fresh spinach and kale. Ellie gets two little servings of pig chow each day and whatever else she can scavenge from the kitchen. I love to make her homemade treats and let her try little bits of the food I cook for our family. Her favorite snacks are grapes, apples and carrots. Her absolute favorite snacks are the sweet potato chips I make for her – she goes nuts for them!
PE🐽NY: Does Ellie have any silly habits? She loves to mess with stuff as we put it away because she thinks it’s a game. Ellie also loves to lay in warm laundry that is fresh out of the dryer. My favorite sound she makes is the piggy bark she does in anticipation of food or someone knocking at the door. Sometimes I think she is a dog!
PE🐽NY: Where does Ellie sleep at night? Ellie sleeps in bed with my husband and I. My husband is to blame for that one. He brought her up on the first night and she has been there ever since. He is actually in the process of building her a ramp so she can get up there by herself.
PE🐽NY: Ellie is currently recovering from eye surgery. What happened? Ellie had terrible entropion in her right eye, which was causing her a lot of discomfort and grumpiness. (Entropion happens when the eyelid, usually the lower lid, folds inward. It can be painful, as the eyelashes constantly rub against the eyeball. It can cause scarring and permanent vision loss. It is fairly common in pot-bellies and is hereditary.)
PE🐽NY: When/How did you discover that she had entropion? When Ellie was around five months old I noticed a shift in her personality and saw that she was very protective of her right eye. I looked at it closely and saw that her lashes were laying directly on her eyeball. I knew from my research that this was common in pigs, but it was unfortunate to have it happen to my girl. I took her to the vet and they confirmed my suspicions; they gave her some drops and oral medication to treat the immediate discomfort and recommended an eye tacking procedure as the initial step. (Eye tacking is where they stitch the eyelid up in hopes that the scar tissue will build up and keep it in place.) Ellie went through the eye tacking procedure and the recovery was minimal (drops, ointment and no scratching) but I could tell right away it did not give us the results needed. At her follow up, I was told she would need to undergo the more evasive crescent removal surgery.
PE🐽NY: What is crescent removal surgery and how did she do? The surgery consists of removing a crescent shaped piece of skin from her upper and lower eye lid and sewing the space together (kind of like an eye lift for pigs). The surgery was A LOT more intense. She was under anesthesia for about 30 minutes, had a ton of stitches and three different medications (oral and ointments). Luckily, this was the answer!!! She was a different pig after the anesthesia wore off. She doesn’t seem agitated anymore and is more comfortable with us being around her right side. Dr. Driggers of Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic in Gilbert did the surgery. He was, and is – amazing.
PE🐽NY: What is one pig fact that non pig owners (and owners) may be surprised to hear? Pigs are observational learners. I initially thought positive reinforcement with food was the only way to teach pigs, but I have seen Ellie do stuff as a result from watching us. In the mornings, we all kind of joke around by putting our morning breath in each other’s faces. Recently, I noticed Ellie starting to do it too! At first I thought she was just getting in my face because she was thirsty, but she would never drink any water. It finally occurred to me one morning when my husband blew his breath in my face and Ellie came up behind him and did the exact same thing! I was in shock! She thinks it’s a term of endearment and it is so funny!
PE🐽NY: Any advice for those wanting a pig? The best advice I can give to anyone who wants a pet piggy is to do the research before buying/adopting. PLEASE make sure that it is a good fit for your family. Pigs are A LOT more emotional than dogs which makes it very traumatic for them when things don’t work out with their families. They are also A LOT harder to re-home. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the cuteness, but it is a tremendous amount of work (we would have ten pigs if we had them based on cuteness). Take it from someone who waited over a year for her pig-cess. Sometimes the right time does not align with the want time. It is important to recognize the difference and do what is best.
Ellie Belly Pig-cess Piggy! Not only are you a brave little pig for handling your surgeries like a boss, YOU ARE A LUCKY PIGGY to have such a lovely family to love you, care for your well-being and bless you with a beautiful life. Pigs are sooooooo super special and your story is another tribute to that fact. Thank you for sharing your sweetness with all of us! We love following you on Instagram @elliebellypig and I am grateful for you being my Outstanding Pig of the Week. Love, PE🐽NY