Although I have known a few human pigs in my life, a real pig seemed a distant dream until I saw an ad on Craigslist in the spring of 2011.
You can buy anything on Craigslist. Once I bought a small cow, but that’s another story.
“Hamlette, fully grown, friendly, 25-pound micro-pig; $150 with crate.”
I’ve loved pigs since my childhood in Germany when Christmas brought a small marzipan porker with a coin in its mouth for good luck.
My human and I were spending too much time apart, and I figured adopting a pig might bring us closer.
Buying human tots seemed to work for the entitled girls and aging males in our circle and I thought the concept worth pursuing. As you know, pigs are said to be as smart as two-year-olds.
In retrospect, a boa constrictor might have been just as conducive to bonding, but I’ve never regretted rescuing Hamlette from a dilapidated house in the Hudson River town of Beacon.
Stuffed inside a dog carrier, she squealed nonstop for 45 minutes until I let her down in the sunroom. She looked around, spied the dog flap and disappeared into the flower beds, where she lay down briefly to recover from her ordeal, and then went on to do some unnecessary gardening.
The three beagles who had gaped at the newly installed and mysterious dog door finally grasped the concept and followed. For a brief while, they all shared treats, beds, outings.
You may know where this story is going. Hamlette would not stop growing. I feared the day when she wouldn’t fit through the human door.
So we ate her.
No we didn’t, though the thought crossed my mind.
I’d been snookered. Returning to Craigslist, I saw that the same smarty was selling another micro-pig also named Hamlette in Beacon, which really should drop its “e.”
There’s something called a “tea cup” pig which a breeder might sell with a size limit, but judging by my stack of books (please, no more), these seem to thrive mostly in England. And even there, people are forever being trapped inside kitchens and cars by sofa-sized pets.
A year later, I have a new human, a porcophile fortunately, who tends a growing archive. Here’s a headline from the Daily Mail: “Call This a Micro-Pig? Epidemic of Horrified Owners Whose Cute Little Piglets Have Turned Into Oversize Porkers.”
“There was nothing we could do from our cruise ship; we told her to call her older brothers and get them round for help,” said the mother of a young woman who was stuck in a garden shed with Pigwig, his feedbag and her cell phone.
Fortunately, in another moment of late midlife panic, I had also bought a rundown, tiny farm with two friends, one of whom arrived with the makings of a zoo: turkeys, goats, a weird bunch of donkeys and one lame horse.
Hamlette, in high dudgeon, was transported down the road to what has become known as The Sow and the Cow.
Then, thanks to a huge misunderstanding, a neighbor gave me two other pigs which, really, I had not asked for. But their faces begged me to save them and so I did. Welcome Venus and Mimi.
A visiting pig warden hustled them over through the woods, past the pond and a recycled girl-scout cabin which now housed three meth chickens, survivors of a drug bust.
Apparently you can hide the stench of cooking up some meth with chicken excrement. Who knew?
Hamlette’s expressive brown eyes narrowed with contempt as two hefty, squinting Vietnamese potbellied pigs squealed into view.
To refine George Orwell’s observation: “All pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others.”
Her superiority has been hard to ignore and somewhat heartbreaking. There are no schools for ambitious pigs.
And her talents are many. She can rise on her hind legs and beg, though she has yet to walk like Orwell’s Napoleon. She plays solitary soccer with a blue ball and has the shrieking range and neediness of many hysterical divas I have known.
The other week when I absentmindedly arrived without Fig Newtons, she had a meltdown. What? No roses? She found her ball and began banging it against the wall in frustration, before retiring to a corner in a sulk.
Hamlette, pray be happy, I sometimes say, brushing her bristles and drifting into soothing Shakespearese. See how your melancholy troubles me.
Lately her mood has brightened with the arrival of a goat who escaped a slaughterhouse and wandered the streets of Brooklyn.
Now he too resides at The Sow and the Cow. It’s getting crowded. How did the donkey population suddenly increase? We’re up to four. When did that midget with the long ears arrive? Is there some Underground Railroad for abused creatures? Did I ask for that mule?
Anyway, a glimpse of goat Tuffy (or his food?), through the wire fence, appears to have inflamed Hamlette. Even a sliding lock that defies some humans has not thwarted her from squeezing into the goat house. She rises on her legs and pushes with her strong snout.
The other morning, we found her fast asleep with Tuffy by her side. As she woke up and yawned extravagantly, she seemed happy.
(Manuela Hoelterhoff is executive editor of Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlight include Martin Gayford on art, Richard Vines on dining.