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Sporky the Pig

Sporky the Pig

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Published by Jennifer Ball
For four years I owned a pig. This story is about understanding the mind of a pig, plus I believe everyone should be vicarious farmers at some point in their lives. In Chinese writing, a pig under a roof is home, and Sporky lived in my kitchen for two years, until we regained our senses and he moved into the garage...
For four years I owned a pig. This story is about understanding the mind of a pig, plus I believe everyone should be vicarious farmers at some point in their lives. In Chinese writing, a pig under a roof is home, and Sporky lived in my kitchen for two years, until we regained our senses and he moved into the garage...

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Published by: Jennifer Ball on Aug 19, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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— 1 —
Sporky the Pig
by Jennifer Ball
© 1991My pig discovered glass today. He understood that therewas some insurmountable clear space which he didn’tunderstand, nor could he get through. Nothing morecomplicated than a sliding glass door to you and me, butto a pig, a trick, an obstacle that prevented him from do-ing the thing he did best: eat. As I stood watching my pig
push and push on the glass and then nally move away
from the door, I could see that he was pouting, pretend-ing not to care. Because he could see me but was notable to root on me (the thing he did second best), he felthurt. So he sat down on his haunches, his usual beggingposition, and waited. Feeling like an unfeeling humanbeing, I slid the door open and then quickly stood asidefor his immediate take-off down the plastic runway intothe kitchen where he knew his food bowl awaited him. Compared to dinner, the discovery of glass was inconsequential.I bought a pig because I wasn’t yet ready for children. I wanted something small and
helpless, but something which wouldn’t require college or “quality time.” I gured, if the pig
didn’t work out, we could always have dinner. That’s not an option with children.As it turns out, there’s a lot of things they don’t tell you when you buy a miniature pig.For example, they don’t mention anything about rooting. Now, most people, if they thoughtabout it for awhile, would probably recall that pigs do indeed root. But a simple word like “root”doesn’t adequately encompass the total interest that pigs devote to the earth. For instance, a
novice like I used to be might think that they only root in France when looking for trufes. And
I even did research before I bought this pig. (My husband made me.) There I was with the ency-clopedias, taking down notes about their favoritefoods and their favorite places to be scratched(and the favored method of preparation), butnowhere do I have any scribbled account thatmentions rooting. And now, with half the linoleumgone from our kitchen, it seems that it might havebeen an important point to have noted.The pig farm did send us some literature, butthe literature also never mentioned anything abouta pig’s “airspace.” This could simply be becauseairspace is a much more common term in San
2 3 Diego than it is in Georgia. I my-self was unaware of the term untila friend said to me the other daythat she and her family almost gota ticket over the weekend. I knewthat they had spent the weekend inthe desert, an odd place to attractthe attention of the authorities Ithought. I asked her what hap-pened.“Oh, it started with the police
ying by in their helicopters, but
my father told them that they werein a private airspace and had betterleave.”I put the expression “privateairspace” away in my brain where Istore such words as “power tools,” “fecal material,” and “high-octane pig starter” (Sporky’s rec-ommended pig chow). I think of these words as immediate attention-getters. These are the kindsof words comedians use. I know. I used to date one.My friend’s father was the co-founder of a microchip company and is, consequently, quitewealthy. I suppose those kind of people can use terms like “private airspace” without feeling a
trie smarmy.“So did you get a ticket?” I nally asked, not really wanting to prompt her.
“They tried to give us a ticket for riding quads.”I already had had explained to me that quads are these sort of motorized tricycle-lookingthings. Although the tricycle ones (with three wheels) have been outlawed. Quads, logically, havefour wheels, and I suppose that makes them a little more steadfast.“Why would they give you a ticket for riding quads?”“Oh, they were mad because we were riding through a national park.” She made a tchingsound of incredible disgust.“Is that illegal?” I asked casually.“They just recently made it illegal.”“Why is that?”“Oh, they think it causes erosion.”“Does it?”“No! When the rains come, it washes all the tire tracks away.”These are the kind of conversations that make me want to own a pig in San Diego if onlyto educate the sheltered individuals who live here that there is a big world out there and maybethey should take a peek at it (along with the dictionary). Because of this exchange, I now thinkof everything within pig reach as “Sporky’s private airspace.” For example, the vacuum cord washanging there, taunting him, in Sporky’s private airspace, so he chomped it. He has a right to an-ything in his airspace for the simple reason that he will take it. Pigs aren’t creatures to hold backtheir emotions or their curiosity. “Pigs are very intelligent,” people often say to me. “Ah!” I saywisely (as I imagine Confucius might have done). “Intelligence isn’t necessarily something youwant in a pet.” Obviously, they haven’t had asmart enough animal to realize this. Sporkyhas managed to open every kitchen cabinetdespite the double child-proof locks (spilling
food coloring all over the kitchen oor and
then proceeding to walk through it perhaps ahundred times) and I wonder, is it intelligenceor simply persistence? If I had a sledgehammerfor a nose, what havoc would I wreak?Though the encyclopedias I consultedproved to be somewhat lacking in pertinent in-formation, they did have other interesting trivia.(I say trivia in deference to the non-pig owner; for myself, I now consider it essential informa-tion.) One source said that pigs don’t sweat and one said that they sweat through their nose. (Itrust the second reference: they do everything through their noses.) In fact, the reason why pigs
have the reputation of rolling in the mud—over eighty-ve degrees and they’ll even roll in their
own excrement to cool off—is because of their limited ability to sweat. The pig farm I boughthim from recommended buying a small pool for the pig. I went to a toy store in December. (Wegot him in November.) They looked at me strangely and said that pools won’t be in until sum-mer. I mean we live in San Diego for God’s sake. What good is living in San Diego if you can’tbuy a swimming pool for your pig year round?Everyone claims (especially the people at the pig farm) that pigs are very clean animals.That is, I interpret, clean on a sliding scale of ten being not befouling their sleeping area and onebeing rolling in excrement. I have standards of cleanliness that go off that chart. Not befoulingmy sleeping area means not eating crackers in bed. Any animal that lives to root cannot be nearly
4 5 as clean as an animal that perpetuallywashes itself with its tongue. But I’mallergic to those animals. So one learnsto accept a lower standard, and venturesthe occasional bath. Giving a pig a bathis an unusual situation and the peoplewho sold me the pig don’t address it atall which leads me to think that they musthave a much lower standard of cleanli-ness than I, making it logical that theywould call the pig a clean animal, beingpigs themselves.
The rst thing to do when giving the
pig a bath is to close the door once he’sin the bathroom. The need to close thedoor is indicative of how much pigs like to be bathed. I then move the garbage out of pig reach,start the water, and throw a banana in the tub. Now I lift Sporky, screaming and writhing (let itbe known that pigs can scream like you wouldn’t believe—something they never showed you
on “Green Acres”) into the tub, and then, as he ghts to get out with the banana (in the peel) inhis mouth, I pull the knob for the shower and push him into the spray. Long black hairs, akes of 
dandruff, and more dirt than I would want in my bed funnel toward the drain. Still squealing asif I were murdering him, he lunges toward the edge; I push him back and then lather him up withSelsun Blue. Pigs can have the worst dandruff in the world. The literature tells you to feed thempeanut oil and rub lotion into their skin, but it seems to have little effect. I know that pigs havereally similar skin to humans because I read in one encyclopedia that they use pig skin for burnvictims. (My husband, the chemist, also informs me that it is very common to use pigs for testing
new topical drugs.) I gured that dandruff shampoo couldn’t hurt (though I don’t have any statis
-tics on this so don’t sue me if you try it with your own pig) and it actually seems to help. What anice soft pig he is after a bath. The bathroom looks like hell, but the pig is a sweetheart pig.I have a lot of names for that pig, Sweetheart Pig being one of them. Mr. Piggly, Pig-wer, Troublemaker Pig (that’s for when he tears through the garbage and leaves it strewn on the
oor—he got himself trapped in the bathroom once and chomped through every single one of my
used tampons and then pottied on my bra), are all names I call him, but his real name is Sporkywhich we settled on after someone told us that Spork is a meat product similar to Spam. Theysaw it at a grocery store in North Carolina. I wanted to call him Vienna because he’s a miniaturepig, and my husband wanted to call him Gigantor after the cartoon, you know, “Gi-gan-tor, big-ger than big, stronger than strong . . .” I felt fairly unmoved by the song, but I think it must beone of those male-child-in-the-sixties things.I have a friend who also bought a miniature pig from the same company. She named herpig Frances. (Think about breakfast and the seventeenth century for a moment.) We got our pigstogether on a pig date the other day, and though we had a great time walking through a valley of nasturtiums, the pigs couldn’t seem to lose their territorial bent, despite the fact that this wasn’teven their territory. When close to each other, they would chomp their jaws for about a minute.Then they would foam at the mouth for another minute as if they had rabies. While this was go-ing on, the hair on their backs would begin to rise. And after all this had transpired, they wouldthen align like magnets and start to go after each other, but we had them on leashes and wouldn’tlet them. (Not till we have the video camera rolling.)My friend and I had entertained the idea that we might pig-sit for each other during sum-mer vacations, but this put a bit of a damper on the idea. I called the Georgia pig farm and askedthem what to do. I was told, “Oh, honey, they’ll go after each other, but they sure won’t kill eachother. One might just bite a hole in the other’s ear.” When I told my friend this, she gasped.
And I can’t blame her. One chomp and there goes a signicant investment.The pig people did say that after a ght or two, they’d be the best of friends. They just
need to learn who’s dominant. I would have sworn that it would be Sporky, but Frances was the
denite victor. (She’s got some signicant weight on him. We keep Sporky on a strict diet be
-cause we don’t want to alarm the neighbors. We told them that he’s a miniature pig, but now thathe’s 108 pounds—we weighed him when we were really drunk—we seem to have lied. Nowdon’t you go thinking he’s a hog—hogs are 120 pounds, thank you.)Eventually the pigs did six rounds. Poor Sporky was a mama’s boy. He kept trying to hidebehind my legs. But hey, he doesn’t have those feisty hormones running through his body any-more and no doubt he’s wondering why.Pigs are not the most athletic of animals, so after each round of a minute or less, they
would retire to opposite sides of the yard for ten to fteen minutes. We took this opportunity to
share in pig lore. For example, Frances’ owners asked us if Sporky had ever eaten anything thatwe thought would kill him. They told us that Frances ate part of a peanut butter jar once. Withthe peanut butter of course. That made the glass go down easier. See, Frances knows how to openthe refrigerator. They said they thought that she had also eaten Drano. I asked them why theykept Drano in the refrigerator.When Frances came to visit, she was kind enough to show Spork how to do the refrig-erator trick. The thing is, in our house, the freezer is on the bottom. One night I walked in the
kitchen, the freezer door was open and both pigs were staring into it trying to gure out what to
steal. The only way they know what’s good is through their noses. Since everything was frozen,they couldn’t smell anything. It was like they were watching pig TV.Frances’ owners also brought up the fact that when you take a miniature pig for a walk,you must be prepared to be bombarded with questions like,“Is that a pig?” (I now say that Spork is a dog that just lookslike a pig.) “Can I pet him?” “What does he eat?” (My hus-band likes to tell people that if you cut off Spork’s leg andthen fed it to him, he’d be unhappy about it, but he’d eat it.)
“Does he bite?” “Is he xed?” “What does his poop look
like?” (a subject that is intensely interesting to many people).“How much did he cost?” and on and on. I’m embarrassedto tell people how much he cost because most people in theirright mind would have bought scuba equipment or a vaca-tion to Hawaii. Our vacation to Hawaii now rototills the sideyard. My husband calls it “Spork’s Dirt and Rock Garden.”He’s very Japanese. I think of Spork as a “dirt processor.” Heeats soil (for the iron, the pig literature tells me), he poops itout, and we carry it away (so as not to offend the neighbors).My husband believes that the side yard is now an inch lower.

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