I don’t believe that anyone has ever wished for a duller life. Most of us hope that life will dazzle us or at least exceed our expectations, not slow to a crawl in a mundane kind of ennui. Then there’s me. As a kid growing up in rural neighborhoods, our family adopted a variety of pets including dogs, cats, birds, and the occasional lizard. Perhaps our most exotic animal was Baron, our Great Dane, who I would ride like a small horse when I was three. And the day our resident cat had kittens in our garage, we thrilled at the sight of a mother giving birth to her young. None of that prepared me for married life, however.
My wife’s childhood was filled with a similar assortment of pets, although beyond the dogs and cats her family’s animals also included monkeys, coatimundis, skunks, snakes, alligators and, I’m sure if they hadn’t become extinct, a unicorn or two. So it came as no surprise that when I first started dating my wife-to-be, she lived in a trailer with her black lab, Rose, and a chicken named Martha who slept on the back of her bed. Outside, her Appaloosa, Chelsea, roamed the small enclosed backyard. And this was just the beginning. As I write these words today, our house and backyard are home to six dogs, one cat, three horses, one desert tortoise, a pig nose turtle, two albino turtles, several green tree pythons, a rescue pig, and a mother-in-law. But this story is about Penny, the rescue pig, or to be more exact, the rescue Russian sow.
Penny, short for Penelope, arrived at our doorstep early in February of 2010. Scott, a friend of ours from karate classes, had been hunting wild boars on a ranch when he happened upon a dead sow, recently killed by a mountain lion. Glancing around the area, he noticed a small tail wiggling from under a rabbit hole. Upon closer inspection, the tail belonged to a day old piglet who had managed to save her life, much like Alice, down the rabbit hole. After digging her out, Scott freed the piglet and told her to be on her way. Pigs being notoriously stubborn flatly refused and followed Scott back to his truck. The sight of a tiny piglet following lamb-like the gun-toting hunter back to a truck usually reserved for carcasses held a certain ironic flare. However Scott had the last laugh. Who better to care for a day old piglet than the modern day Noah family of Rick and Francie. Upon Penny’s arrival, Francie broke out the baby bottle and proceeded to hand feed the piglet. After a few weeks, Penny fed herself but slept on the couch at night with my wife. Growing up in a household already dominated by dogs, it wasn’t long before Penny thought of herself as canine rather than porcine, and she regularly romped around the backyard, used the dog door, and ate and slept with the other dogs. Penny, like the proverbial lamb, followed Francie to school, where she played with the children and became the center of reading and writing activities. The trouble with pigs, of course, is that they rarely stay their cute and cuddly size for long. Soon Penny had grown too big for sleeping on the couch, traipsing through the house and even using the dog door. Our dogs, and particularly our wolf hybrid, began to see Penny as something other than another playmate. She smelled differently, she barked strangely, and she ate constantly. Probably the last straw, as far as I was concerned, occurred just after Memorial Day.
Like most holidays, stores around the country in a time-honored tradition held huge liquor sales. As I have always had a weakness for sales, I thought it was time to stock up on my Bud Lite supply. I purchased an eighteen pack and stored it upstairs. Normally, the beer would have made it directly to the refrigerator, but the dogs begged us to take them for a walk and they also demanded that Penny be left at home this time. Penny frequently walked with us and startled more than a few people and horses. A typical response went something like this, “Oh what a cute little PIG!!!” Penny also became more and more distracted on her walks as she spent longer breaks rooting through grass lawns and wallowing in mud puddles. So it was that we left Penny home by herself that day. When we returned, the house smelled slightly pungent, although I must say not totally unpleasant. The closer I came to my bedroom upstairs, the stronger the aroma became. By mistake, the bedroom door had been left open, and there on the rug lay the empty remains of eighteen Bud Lite cans. Penny had torn open the box, punctured each can and guzzled the contents. Now she lay on the couch, snoring like a sotted pig. My wife was much more philosophical about the event. “At least now you’ll have someone to drink with,” she said.
While this may have been the last straw for me, for Francie, Penny was still welcome to roam the living room, kitchen and downstairs area slipping on the pargo floors like a girl trying out high heels for the first time. Only after Penny destroyed much of the kitchen in search of tasty morsels and even cast a hungry eye on the snake habitats did Francie relent and banished Penny to an outside enclosure.
Today, Penny sleeps well, eats well, and plays hard. She wallows in her specially designed mud hole, waits impatiently for the apple tree to bear fruit, and loves to have her belly rubbed. After a few bites from her teething stage, our friends watch Penny from afar, and only Francie and I and a few dogs feel comfortable feeding and playing with our little summo. Whatever the future holds for Penny, we know that she has enriched our lives with her will to live, her fierce loyalty, and her undying love. Who could ask for a better teacher of life?
Check out Rick’s author page on Crimson Cloak’s website here!