Anthony Johnson
 
Art Portfolio

The Piglet Chronicles...the real life story of a Piglet...

some whacky neighbours and a troop of naughty baboons.

 

A Knock at the Door

The buzzer went. Someone was at my gate. “Who could it be ?” I wondered. 

 

Living in the midst of a zoo of badly behaved baboons, some very weird looking insects, odd neighbours and other interesting animals, I live a relatively quiet life on my one acre of paradise clinging to the mountainside adjacent to the Table Mountain National Park, accompanied by a singing chorus of frogs that put me to sleep at night.

The neighbours in this otherwise quiet cul-de-sac are positively certifiable if not downright odd and since it’s a little way out of town, bordering on being “in the countryside” one could say, having an unexpected a visitor is an unusual occurrence.

 

With all properties by law being a minimum size of one acre there’s little feeling of community. It’s each man for himself. Every dog, horse, pony, cat, pig, duck, chicken, mouse and hamster. I was amused to hear that one of the neighbours was thinking of getting a cow…but thankfully decided against it.

I’m cautious not to become too friendly with any of them on the off chance that I may be afflicted by their peculiar eccentricities. Except for the few really oddballs, who are delightfully entertaining, irresistibly funny and have that charming characteristic of being able to laugh at themselves as hard as they laugh at others.

 

One of the next door neighbours had chopped all of his trees down to make way for an avocado plantation.  Avocados don’t grow in clay mud but that didn’t deter him. He was lean and about seventy years old. Fit as a fiddle, craggy faced and tanned from long hours of toil in the garden.

He also had a reputation with the girls. He’d remarried not long after his wife had passed away. His new wife was a nurse and someone who by some coincidence a friend of mine knew well.

Of course I got all of the gossip. She worked very long hours and she “simply couldn’t cope” and had to leave him.

 

After very long hours nursing she’d come back home in the dead of the night, exhausted and looking forward to a good night’s sleep…taking her shoes off and leaving them at the foot of the stairs so as not to wake him, tip toeing quietly up to the bedroom.

No such luck. There he sat. Bolt upright in bed. Ready for action.

I could just picture it. 

She’d survived two months with him and left utterly exhausted and “worn out”.

 

After she left him he joined the Botanical Society. A smart move on his part. Every few days another purple haired rinse drove past me as he escorted them to his pad, giving me a feeble and insincere wave as if to let his purple rinse know that he had marvellous relationships with his neighbours.

 

Everything was fine until one day I was forced to call the local health inspector when a rather nasty smell wafted across from the Avocado King’s direction, permeating the atmosphere and bringing with it an unusually large number of flies. 

He had a live-in gardener who he housed in the goat shed on the property. How much he’d learned at the Botanical Society was questionable.

I’d known him to be crafty, having moved the boundary peg along with the fencing fifteen metres to his advantage while I was away living in New York, having just bought the property and quite oblivious to the changes.

He hit upon the marvellous idea that his gardener’s waste could be used by training it directly onto his avocado plantation via an elaborately designed tracery of pipes emanating from the goat shed. I assume there were more pipes leading from his own house. Purple haired lovers arrived every week unknowingly contributing to his existing supply of fertiliser for his avocados. Having a new woman every week or two, he ensured that he had variety too.

The pee must have been separated from the poo, presumably by way of some sort of strainer, no doubt a household item, a supermarket deal on special that diverted pure pee into a hole in the ground. Free compost, free love, 4,000 avocado stumps, what more could there be to life ?.

You see my point about odd neighbours ?

 

He was known to be terribly mean, going away sometimes for days at a time, leaving his economy-sized Jack Russell in a small one metre square outdoor cage with a few dog cubes and a bowl of water. Save for a small piece of tin for shade, it was left outdoors, alone, locked up and exposed to the elements. It howled and howled for days on end. Poor little thing.

I hated it.

It gave me too many sleepless nights. I should have reported him. He used to underfeed he said because an underfed dog was far more alert as a watchdog. Not much of a watchdog… it yapped incessantly 24 hours a day or it was howling in a cage. I don’t think it could ever have had enough time to listen out for a burglar. It was too busy barking.

 

Someone I knew suggested a good trick to help a dog in need, something which he’d tried more than once. If you see or hear of a dog that is being ill treated then simply stop the car, entice it in with some food and give it away to a friend looking for a pet. No dog was safe in the neighbourhood. Many an ill treated pet was given away to a caring home and more than one dog was advertised as missing. The posters were very funny. Here was a picture of a dog or a cat, supposedly wandering around miserably and completely lost without a home, when, in reality, the animal pictured was enjoying royal treatment on the other side of town.

 

Then another marvellous idea struck the dashing looking silver haired neighbour aka “The Avocado King”. Why live in the house he’d just bought ? He was seventy, life was just starting. Why not build a little pad for himself on the plot and rent his house ?

That turned out to be an excellent idea because it pushed him another few hundred yards away from me. That was, until his tenants from hell arrived. 

You probably think I’m exaggerating so allow me to give you a little clue.

The tenant perpetually wore a tan coloured vinyl waistcoat which he never took off. He might have slept with it on as body armour. He could never have suspected that it would come in handy someday. He had very thick wiry red hair closer in texture to a pot scourer than anything I’d ever seen before.

It stood up vertically leaning marginally in whichever direction the wind was blowing. Having such electric bright red hair I thought he’d have made a very good traffic beacon.

 

He had a large dog matching his waistcoat in colour.

The dog was as disrespectful as he was, visiting every morning and pooing and peeing on my front lawn as if he owned the place. Any move on my part to send him back home was met with a viscous leap towards me with gnashing teeth ready to tear me apart. It was unsafe for me to walk outside in my own garden and that really had me pissed off.

 

“Oh but you can’t train a dog to know where the boundary is” said the Vinyl Waistcoat. “Dogs can’t be taught boundaries.” Like hell I thought.

“One week” I said to him…”and I’m putting poisoned meat on my lawn. Let’s see if that’ll train him”. 

 

He said I was making things up, it wasn’t true, he didn’t believe that it messed on my front lawn, if it did it wasn’t his dog, if it was his dog it only looked like his dog, it only pee’ed, it never poo’ed and if it poo’ed it was another dog. It wasn’t aggressive, ok maybe just a little aggressive, but if it was very aggressive it couldn’t have been his dog because his dog wasn’t very aggressive and if it was very aggressive it didn’t mean to be, I was imagining things and he said to call him if it ever did it again and he’d come and clean the mess up himself.

 

“Ok” I said and the very next morning I had reason to call him. Knowing full well who was knocking at the door at 8am., having just called him two minutes ago,I shouted from behind the door in a booming voice “who’s that ?” …and I heard a little mouse say “it’s me, I’ve come to clean up the dog shit”

 

I swung the front door open with vigorous force and there was the Vinyl Waistcoat bent over three inches shorter than I’d ever seen him, carrying a kiddies shovel and a plastic shopping bag in a gesture of reconciliation looking like a dog shit cleaner up’er.. “I’ve come to clean up the dog shit.” he whispered in a strained voice as though I’d been squeezing him by the throat.

 “Oh it’s you” I said gruffly, taking no notice of his pleading looks or his stupid kiddy spade as I slammed the door in his face. “Use the garden gate !” I shouted through the door and I reappeared in the garden seconds later showing him where to clean up. He lugged home a rather heavy shopping bag and soiled kiddie’s spade held slightly away from himself.

 

After that the dog magically knew where the boundary was. It never appeared to terrorise me on my own property again…and without the use of poison, which of course was just a threat on my part. Yea right you might be thinking, who’d believe that ridiculous threat. The man in the vinyl waistcoat did.

 

Even his wife did. She used to call the kids back indoors when they’d venture anywhere near the unfenced boundary between our two properties and I was around. “Come inside children” she’d say “and hurry up”. I never got to see their kids.I must have been viewed as the mad neighbour who might do anything to anyone who got in his way.

 

It was at about that time I discovered the real boss of the household. The one that should have had the red hair. His wife.

I’d bought half of a two acre plot that had been sub divided. We shared access that was on my property. I was still in the process of building my dream farmhouse on the hill when a very large truck carrying a ton of rotating cement got stuck in the only exit we shared.

 

The Waistcoat seized the opportunity for revenge on the turn and called to say that his wife was in sudden need of emergency medical treatment and that if I couldn’t unblock the driveway within the next five minutes he’d call a cab and send me the bill. People in vinyl waistcoats. Never trust them.

 

In the meantime, the avocado plantation manager, the silver haired owner of a vast tract of a magnificent 4,000 square metres of avocado stumps, had been treating his gardener with absolutely no respect. The Waistcoat and his wife who shared the gardener even more so.

They swore and cursed and treated him little better than the Jack Russel. Ah, revenge hath a place on earth.

 

Thank God I was away at the time. I’d had the good fortune of finding a very reliable couple to look after my house in my absence. A preacher and his wife. A very gentle natured and hitherto here-before very relaxed couple whom I’d assured that this was a safe and quiet neighbourhood without incidents. 

On returning I heard the horror story. 

Evidently the gardener had had enough abuse, being screamed at and called the K word more than once,  and intent on revenge, he strapped every available knife he could find in the kitchen to his arms and legs and he stuffed his pockets full of any weapon he could find.

He hopped into the Waistcoat’s bedroom cupboard where he hid, motionless and awaited the boss’s return. At the first sign of life he leapt out of the cupboard like a madman and slashed his way into the local history books.

The Waistcoat was stabbed and beaten and ran to the preacher and his wife fainting over the front doorstep of my house , “ bleeding all over the kitchen counter and the Persian Rugs” I was told.

The gardener vanished into thin air, the police were called and the hunt was on.

It was a few weeks later that I heard of a very unusual chance meeting. Bandaged to his eyeballs without much waistcoat showing and leisurely out shopping at the local cafe, the singular Vinyl Waistcoat in the neighbourhood bumped into the gardener while rounding the bend of an aisle. Probably the “crackers” aisle.

 

He pulled a gun on him immediately, screaming abuse and shouting. The police were called. He was promptly arrested for brandishing a firearm in public and he was told to keep quiet amid his wild accusations while he was thrown into the back of a police van and the gardener was free to go.

 

The following set of neighbours that bought the property were only marginally less interesting.

Avocado stumps flew left and right as the majordomo of the household wielded her newly purchased two stroke petrol weedeater in every direction from sunrise to sunset. The tentative low growl of the engine started earlier and earlier every day speeding up to full bore within minutes and screaming for the whole day except for the odd tea break. It became the source of much irritation to me and another neighbor across the road and ruined the otherwise tranquil neighbourhood.

The Weedeater never took weekends off. I spoke with another neighbour and we joked that we’d just wish that she would get caught up in the swirl of things and fly off on her noisy machine like a witch on a broom. They’d been over to dinner once to soften the blow of suffering another madcap neighbour moving in.

She’d lost some of her teeth in a previous scrap somewhere and made no bones about telling me that she hated her photograph being taken. On producing a camera to capture the jolly moment I was practically spat out of the room and I have a picture somewhere of her firing a deadly glance at the camera, her grey hair loosely hanging down to her waist. All she was miss sing was a pointy black hat.

To her credit, she transformed the garden into a paradise of indigenous plants and visiting birdlife.

While it was a selling point for the house it was the source of some irritation to the following buyer of the property.

Thankfully, they’re normal, as you’ve guessed, an uncommon trait in this vicinity.

 

One day I looked in wonder and disbelief at the sheer beauty of his garden through the hedge that I’d planted to screen off the Avocado King, the Vinyl Waistcoat and the Weedeater. By then the neighbours were completely screened off and to all intents and purposes invisible.

On the spot, overcome by the sight of this magnificent garden that lay hidden I brandished a chainsaw and demolished every last leaf of the hedge I’d planted to open up the view.

He raced to see me in a panic as I was on about tree number twenty two. He had a frantic look on his face. “Can we talk ?” he said.

I looked casually up from the chainsaw “Sure, anytime…” I said “come see me Saturday morning, I’m cutting trees down at the moment” and immediately went back to the task at hand with the deafening sound of my forestry chainsaw hacking left and right. Nobody could’ve interrupted me, it’s a terrible noise if you’ve ever been near one and besides, I had ear muffs on. I was deaf to the world. When I’d purchased the gear, all industrial forestry standard equipment, I was amused that he salesman asked me if I’d like ear muffs with or without a radio.

At the expense of the new neighbour’s displeasure, I was delighted at having expanded my garden view onto a sweeping paradise of unparalleled indigenous beauty.

He popped his head over the fence one day and politely asked me if I minded watering his plants with my borehole watering system. His plants were dying off he said and Council water cost far too much. It didn’t take me long to realise that if I didn’t, then my view would be ruined. I wasted no time in rearranging my watering system and to this day I water his garden.

 

Open Up will You ?

 

It happened to be my birthday. “Open up, it’s Glenn” he said.

 

Glenn was a landscape gardener turned life coach whom I’d recently met a few times through a girlfriend of mine.

 

He’d had the misfortune of being burgled by the same gang of thugs for the second time in one week, in two different houses.

The robbers, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, decided that he’d have to be killed since he might too easily recognise them in an identity parade. Too risky. He listened as they took a vote amongst themselves. Three to one in favour.

He was doomed.

They opened fire and shot him sixteen times in the body, arms and legs, making certain that they’d killed him.

 

Against all odds and having died five times on the operating table he lost his leg but survived. That was ten years ago.

His career as a landscape gardener ended.

He faced the challenge of rebuilding his life head on.

He studied in so many disciplines that his offices today don’t have the wall space for all of his degrees and diplomas.

Given his experience, he is, not surprisingly, one of South Africa’s top Life Coaches, training others to become qualified Life Coaches and with an International Corporate Client list longer than your arm. He’s one of the most indelible, charismatic, courageous and noteworthy characters I’ve ever met.

 

Glenn had admired one of my paintings and I agreed to an exchange with him. A painting in return for which he’d give me his time and expertise to help me create a vegetable garden in my quest to go green and become organically self sufficient. I also wanted his assistance to turn my frog pond, then just a muddy splash in the garden into a plant filtered fresh water swimming pool.

For the vegetable garden I needed to clear large tracts of grass before considering a single chive…there was simply too much of it and kikuyu grass is a killer to eradicate. Glenn suggested that a pig would root everything out where I wanted to plant vegetables. Either that or a few chickens.

 

Who’d want a chicken when you can have a pig I thought ? Apart from the distinctive advantage that pigs can bond with people ( we’ll leave the disadvantages, of which there are very few, out for the moment ) they work at ten times the speed of a chicken.  And I missed my dogs too.

My girlfriend was within earshot at the time and quietly ordered one through Glenn who claimed he knew a really nice guy who bred “teacup piglets”.

 

Buster, more Pig than Staffie

 

I’d always wanted a miniature pot belly pig ever since I had a diminutive very handsome and porky little black Staffie that I thought would pair well with a  pig.  He was more pig than Staffie. I imagined beach walks where people might stop and ask me which one the pig was.

 

He ate like a horse and his dinner used to vanish as though he’d performed a magic trick.

 

The first time it happened he threw up the entire meal within seconds. I raced to the kitchen to fetch a cloth to mop up. Even looking at dog sick makes me quite nauseous so the operation had to more or less be carried out blind.

Feeling ill I drifted back into the lounge with a dishcloth, feeling my way against the walls and opening my one eye just enough to have a blurry vision of what lay out there but there was no dog vomit in sight.

He was so greedy that he’d gobbled it up again. The double sampling of his food episodes didn’t last long and he always cleaned up every last bit, which, given my delicate constitution, had saved me from throwing up on several subsequent occasions.

At first I saw it as pure greed and desperation to satisfy his voracious appetite, then shrewdness, effectively getting two meals for the price of one, but afterwards I chose to see it as very good manners, very considerate and polite one might say. I’d just disappear for three minutes coming back to polished floors. He’d earned a treat but I could never risk it until an hour or so had gone by.

And a handy habit it proved to be when we went to visit another neighbour who had six cats.  Buster disappeared like a bloodhound on the scent. In two minutes he’d discovered the cat food in the kitchen and demolished 6 bowls of it, threw up, enjoying them all again a second time while erasing any trace he’d ever been anywhere in the vicinity.

 

Buster, the Staffie come pig, already had a friend, another Staffie called Bibi. The trouble was that Bibi suffered terminal depression made even worse by Buster’s exuberant nature and there was nothing that might have saved her except for specialised anti depressive medication for dogs..and that had a minimal chance of making her any better and a much better chance of crippling me financially. Besides which, my teeth needed doing, so what choice did I have ?

In fact Bibi was here first, a dog that had been ill treated, having been whipped with a hosepipe and locked in a garage for most of her days. Month after month her depression continued.

I decided to get her a companion and Buster arrived to cheer her up a bit.

 

I bought Buster as a puppy and he used to sleep in the crook of my neck with that lovely milk breath that puppy’s have.

It was only a little later on when he took to chewing stones in his spare time that his teeth were worn to the gums that  his sweet milky breath was not quite so sweet and milky.

I loved him none the less for it and he was always my very special companion. Bibi it seemed just tagged along, unwilling to join in any of the fun we had. The occasional tiff broke out between the two, Bibi just reasserting her status of being first lady of the household. She insisted on eating first or Buster would run the risk of snarling jaws and a nasty bite to the head. Despite her severe depression, she wasn’t going to give in to everything.

Nothing phased Buster though and he’d get his own back by lifting his leg and pissing on her whenever they were outside and he spotted the chance.

He was definitely more pig than Staffie.

 

Piglet Arrives at the Manor

 

I was somewhat surprised by Glenn’s sudden and unannounced arrival at my doorstep, especially on my birthday.

“I have a present for you” he announced. Gee whizz, a present from someone I hardly knew ? I was baffled and tried to think of every kind of plant he might have driven such a long distance from out of town to give me. And why me ? I barely knew him. He couldn’t possibly have known when my birthday was.

 

“It’s in the car” he said. Excited though a bit puzzled, off went to the car we went where he handed me a rolled towel inside of which I assumed a special plant lay hidden. “Handle her gently, she hasn’t travelled well” he said.

Dying to see what sort of plant I’d been given I opened the towel straight away and was promptly vomited on by a pig.

 

A cute little baby piglet. A “Teacup Piglet”, the most adorable little creature you could ever imagine. “She’s a girl” he said.

 

“It’s from your girlfriend. Better hurry. She needs food. She’s been throwing up on the car seat for the last two hours. She must be starving ”.

 

Never mind starving. Once safely inside the house I unwrapped this delicate little gem of nature and put her gently down on the floor where she stood trembling, in a state of total shock and gazing intently at nothing in particular. She looked very unbalanced and off colour and frightened to death. It dawned on me that she really did look “as sick as a pig” and as skinny as a rake…weighing no more than a few pounds and barely bigger than a sweet potato.

 

She was as black as an Alaskan sealskin and as beautiful as one of those swinging figures on a Greek vase. She had the legs of a ballerina and the figure of a top model. A Rolls Royce in her class one could say. A noble little head swayed precariously atop her skinny frame looking bewildered, unable to focus as if she’d been drugged…and very lost without mommy. More wild boar than pig I thought. A squeaky little specimen of nature the likes of which I’d never seen. Her ears stood up like a thoroughbred Doberman and she had thick coarse hair with a mane that stood a few inches high, as if professionally styled, running the length of her back, not surprisingly known as a mohawk to anyone in piggy circles.

 

I was at loss as to what to do with this little street muffin. Looks can be so deceptive. Behind that veneer of noble beauty was a real little pig and she was as strong and determined as she was skinny and good looking.

  

For lack of any alternatives I could think of, I settled her into the bathroom, begrudgingly flinging her my only clean towels as bedding, a water bowl and a mango.

She didn’t fancy mangoes…or bananas…or peaches…or plums or any kind of food I put in front of her. Fruit wasn’t her thing.

 

She didn’t fancy the towels, she wasn’t going to settle down and she showed her indignation by intentionally spilling the entire contents of her water bowl onto my wooden floors. (second generation flooring after a plumbing leak forced me to replace them resulting in a radical increase in my insurance).

She's a fussy eater this one I thought.

I raided the fridge looking for anything that even vaguely looked like food that I could tempt her with. I was cooking that day as I’d invited a few special friends over for dinner.

I had tons of scraps, but no, she refused to eat those too. What an insult that was to her.

 

Not only that but every time I approached her she charged me with a devilish glint in her eye and absolute venom on her mind attempting to bite me with her razor sharp teeth. All twenty four of them. She wasn’t going to accept me.

 

I didn’t look like a pig, I wasn’t her mother and that was that. Nothing was going to please her and I might as well get used to it. And yes, she was born a bully and she was going to let me know in no uncertain terms who was boss. I was nervous to even open the bathroom door after that.

 

Except once, just to check in on her before my guests arrived. And there she sat, in the bathtub, crestfallen, glaring furiously at me as if to say “now why the hell didn’t you leave the bathroom windows open just a bit wider so I could fly out ? I hate you, I hate this place and I’m not going to stay here…you can’t make me”.

I couldn’t believe that this little waif had managed to leap into the bath with the agility of a kangaroo. She sat motionless, as bad tempered as a bear with a headache.

Just as well pigs can’t fly. I’d never have been able to experience the dual pleasure of writing this story and the privilege to have met the queen. I’d heard of pigs flying past the window before, but never through it.

She lay brooding in moody silence as my guests arrived.

 

There’s always a Reason to have a Pig

 

Everyone listened in disbelief as I told them that there was a piglet in the house and if they needed to go the bathroom they’d have to share it with a pig. I wasn’t moving her. I was too terrified of being charged and bitten again. Let’s see if she’d recognise any of my friends as pigs I thought.

 

The three husbands thought I’d lost my marbles and never went to the bathroom the entire evening despite copious quantities of free flowing wine. Women are so much braver than men.

 

The girls were equally disdainful with comments like “What on earth are you doing with a pig?” “Sis, who’d want a pig ? What a stupid idea ! Who’s idea was it anyway ? What the hell are you going to do with a pig ? For God’s sake, why not a cat or a dog ?” No matter how much I tried to persuade them that pigs are brilliant pets, very clever, able to be house trained and with the remarkable ability to bond with people, very much more appealing than a dog or a chicken. They didn’t believe me. Why I made excuses, I don’t know.

Besides, pigs have a practical purpose too, I told them, they are experts at rooting out grass and that was something I wanted to do so that I could make space for planting vegetables, something I’d been wanting to do for years.

Never mind what they thought I said, it was here to do a job.

 

 Piglet at the Party

 

It didn’t take long.

Two of the girls couldn’t contain their curiosity, or perhaps it was their desperate urge to pee that outweighed the risk of going to the bathroom no matter how much I’d cautioned them. Either way, one by one, they went to visit the pig. One disappeared for 45 minutes and the other for over half an hour. Both returned looking as if they’d just found cloud nine.

Both said “We’ve bonded. What an adorable little girl”. Yes, contrary to my expectations, and to my great relief, Piglet had accepted them and cuddled with them and stolen their hearts. There was hope yet. With any luck they might just have softened hers towards me too.

 

One said she hadn’t enough water, the other said the towels were damp I must replace them and where the hell were my mothering skills ? Then another suggested letting her outside for some fresh air. Mothers again I thought, they always know best.

 

I compromised and let her loose in the studio giving her ample opportunity to greet everyone. She was very lively and social, peed in every corner of the room including all of the corners that didn’t exist (evidently there were a lot of them), running eagerly to meet everyone as fast as she could scramble over the polished floors, nibbling toes and snapping at any fingers that got in the way, slipping skidding and sliding all over the place.

 

Little did any of us know, but piglets love nibbling toes and sometimes sample them with the occasional jab of a few needle sharp teeth sending an instant lighting bolt up the leg. It’s something like having anything up to 24 injections all at once. Any loose limb within a flying leap of reach was a target.

 

That little trick I was later to discover is hard wired into them from birth, a ferocious will for survival amongst the herd. Pushing and biting their way to establish the pecking order gives them the best chance of becoming who they really were born to be. Fat as pigs and CEO in charge, shoving any lesser mortals aside and avoiding becoming the underfed runts of the litter. Regardless of any respect you may command in other circles, no piglet gives a hoot. Not too unlike the business world I thought.

Every piglet wants to be top dog and will stop at nothing to establish total domination. It’s in their DNA from birth. It’s Chairman of the Board or nothing. There are no grey areas with pigs.

 

Piglet gave the impression that she was not there to entertain anyone. You were there to entertain her.

She was such a self opinionated little gatecrasher. Had I given her a whip she might have used it. I’ve known a few women in my life like that.

 

The girlfriend’s sister labelled her “ a black bitch”.  She later donated a miniature dotted yellow party frock for the piglet to wear on special occasions (what an insult) and an elegantly designed black piggy size T-shirt for her to wear with “SECURITY” boldly printed on either side.

 

Poor little piggy. Life had hardly begun and people had all of these silly assumptions about her.

 

After causing enough damage inside I thought some fresh air and a break from the party might do her some good after all and restore a bit of peace back into the house.

Wary of losing her in the black void outside, I put a dog collar and lead around her neck and feigning some sort of semblance of normality casually escorted her to the lemon tree, to which I tied her. Where she promptly screamed blue murder and in a clown like fashioned bucking and no doubt swearing in piggy talk, ran around the tree so fast that she wound herself up in seconds, quite literally…and came to a crashing halt…screaming like there was no tomorrow. And I really mean “screaming”.

So loudly that the following day the next door neighbour , who lives a good 400 yards away, delicately mentioned he thought he’d heard an animal being slaughtered somewhere the night before. Had I heard it ? I received an email the next day saying “ Hi interesting people and great food, thank you. We had a really good time. How is piglet… boy can she scream. Loved your garden. Glad to see there was no garden gnome” The email said little else. I sensed a touch of humour and a hint that piggy and I might be a bit mentally off track…

It was at that point in time I realised I was going to have my hands full. This was no ordinary piglet.

A storm in a “Teacup” took on a whole new meaning for me.

 

The girls insisted on saying farewell to their adorable piglet, who by then lay buried under mud splattered towels in a filthy bathroom, utterly worn out after a long day, no water apart from puddles due to her insistence on upending the bowls to liberate the water, ego dented from her earlier attempt to escape through the window, downhearted that even the lemon tree wouldn’t let her go. She was trapped and could do nothing about it.

 

Baboons and their Tricks

 

Seventy five metres of my garden directly adjoins the Table Mountain National Park, complete with the two largest troops of thieving baboons in the Cape Peninsula and at that time, without a fence between us.

Baboons had wrecked everything on my property, swinging on my outdoor shower reducing it to a scrap of metal, hanging on the gutters effectively making them useless, tearing apart my prized lemon tree…of course they didn’t like lemons…they just tossed them aside while tearing the tree in two.

It was easy to know when they were around from the thundering noises on the roof as they clambered all over the house ignoring anything but a paintball gun, which was something I only discovered a bit later on.

 

The most infuriating experience I had was seeing five males on my rooftop simultaneously masturbating while looking scornfully at me eight metres below. They’d found the perfect lookout post to have a bit of afternoon fun. Stones that I lobbed at them made little difference. It was like a circus act. There they were, there they weren’t.

They ducked behind the rooftop for no longer than it took for the stones to whizz overhead after which they reappeared to resume their happy afternoon. Those buggers.

The females weren’t much more circumspect, openly displaying their enormous bright pink rear ends when on heat, only reserved for the grown ups. The juveniles had to be satisfied with wanking on the rooftops.

 

There were lots of funny incidents. My next door neighbour had had several burglaries and his alarm had been set off many times. He didn’t mind the baboons, regardless of the fact that every now and again I’d hear an almighty crash…another tile flung to the ground to catch a scorpion in hiding. Scorpions are a favourite baboon snack. The baboons didn’t seem to take into account that the roof tiles were original, very expensive hand baked terra cotta Italian imports…one scorpion was as good as another.

The neighbour returned home one day to find his alarm had once more been set off. He ran to the kitchen where he heard sounds. There he found a baby baboon handing out his rice and sugar supplies through the cat flap.

 

One day, before my purchase of an extreme paintball gun, capable of firing paintball bullets at hundreds of feet per second (or ceramic balls that could blow your brains out, or pepper balls that would sting for a week…ok so I tweaked it to fire a little faster with less of a parabolic curve for more accuracy)  I’d learned from neighbours (the non bunny hugging types of which there were one or two in my road), and the local forestry department who’s offices had been targeted by the baboons, that setting off fire crackers was a good deterrent.

Not one to dither, I called the local fireworks factory immediately in search of the biggest legal explosives available.

Army thunder flashes. Cool. I ordered two dozen and had them delivered via courier. Express.

It was winter and the weather was cold and miserable. The baboons arrived. Aaah…my chance at last. I’d waited a long time for this moment. A large gathering took place. Today was the day. Their winter conference and planning meeting for the upcoming raids.

I lit a large thunder flash taking heed of the warning on the box…”light it and give no more than three seconds before throwing”, anytime after which you can expect it to explode possibly losing a hand in the process. “Risk of Severe Personal Injury” was highlighted on the warning label.

 

A deafening crack sounded. Followed by complete silence save for the last few baboons softly scuttling away as fast and as noiselessly as they could.

Then there  was a series of soft crashing noises, like empty pinecones falling through the trees.

I’ve never forgiven myself. Every hibernating squirrel within earshot had been blasted out of hibernation and into a war zone. They never came back.

The fifty year old cork trees stand in silent witness to a disaster never to be repeated.

I’ve always wondered ever since if I’d caused them any psychological damage or whether in fact they ever managed to get back to sleep. Or mate. Or lead normal lives again. 

 

On another occasion my next door neighbour informed me that there was a gay troop of baboons roaming the neighbourhood.

He had come home one day to be told by his builder who was working on his house renovations that “the baboons were here again today”.

Having a humorous demeanour he asked if they had “been at it”

“Oh yes sir” he said “they have”. “But why do you look so shy when you’re telling me then?” he asked “Well sir,” he said “they were all males”

The neighbour’s pool was black with mud, because, as he told me, they came visiting once and made such a mess of his pool that he never cleaned it since, surrendering it to the baboons for their exclusive use in summer.

All because of his chestnut tree. They love chestnuts. His chestnut tree overhangs his pool and the baboons couldn’t resist raiding it when the fruit was ripe. Having gorged themselves on chestnuts they took a dip in the pool to cool off.

Problem. When you take a dip in the pool you get sorrowfully very wet. Baboons hate being wet.

Solution. Take advantage of the canopy overhanging the balcony and slide on your back to dry off. Both his canopy and pool were ruined. He never bothered replacing the canopy. It became a large towel for the baboons and it eventually fell apart from overuse. The pool is still a wreck.

 

 

On another occasion another next door neighbour (a real bunny hugger) reported that he was incensed because a troop of baboons had come marching through his house that day and helped themselves to everything in sight. Toothpaste and Yves Saint Laurent Night Cream were were all sampled with equal interest. The prize winning insult was the exit of the last baboon who, walking upright as they often do, grabbed a whole bowl of oranges on his way out of the front door.

Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror he stopped, just for brief moment to admire his beauty and calmly exited while being screamed at by the bunny hugger of whom he took absolutely no notice. I was told by the bunny hugger that to scare them one needs to turn on the hosepipe as a threat and they’d run. Yea right, by the time you get to the tap they’d be hundreds of metres away. He only ever made it as far as the tap, never having to waste a drop of water.

It was at my six year old son’s suggestion that I bought a paintball gun to use on the baboons.

I called the wholesaler. “It’s llegal, outrageous, against all moral principles, absolutely out of the question, no way, downright cruel, against the law, how could you, it’s out of the question” he said…he wouldn’t consider selling any of them to me.

Followed by a pause and then a short sentence “how many guns do you want ?”

 

A local councillor who lived a few houses away heard of my escapades to get the baboons off my property. She called me to tell my how unscrupulously immoral and cruel I was, along with a string of other insults.

We shared the services of a housekeeper.

Not two weeks went by and I heard from the housekeeper that the madam’s house had been raided by about one hundred and fifty baboons, scrawling their stinky skid marks on walls and furniture alike and leaving the house a total stinking wreck.

It took about three hours before I got the call. Same Councillor but no insults. “Can you please give me the name of that dealer you bought your paintball guns from ?” she politely enquired.

By that stage I had even more information for her, having tweaked the speed to just over three hundred and thirty feet per second in a ballistic test at the local gun shop and investing in a much larger capacity gas canister capable of firing five hundred rounds before needing a refill.

I invested in an ammunition clip that could store a hundred bullets all at once, very useful in rapid fire mode and easy to refill by the handful.

Relative to being raided by troops as large as two hundred screaming baboons, five hundred rounds was nothing.

My bunny hugging neighbour (the one whose toothpaste and night cream had found a new home on his roof after being tested out there by the marauding baboons) had previously scolded me and verbally whipped me for being so cruel. Hardly a week went by and he too called me in a panic.

“Come quickly” he said. “And bring your paintball gun”. “The baboons are tearing up the neighbour’s house. They’re away and left me to take care of their property . Hurry, please, they’re ruining the place”. Judging by the rash he had a habit of breaking into when anxious, I knew he was seriously panicked.

The baboons had arrived en masse, playing games like how fast they could pull the thatched roof to pieces and who pushed who into the pool. Hard as it is to believe, the mothers and their babies took turns on the waterside into the pool. They swarmed his house as if they’d actually seen the family pack and realised they were away on a holiday. Some passing tourists, taking photographs of this charade commented on how sweet they all looked.

Either way, they were having fun and no one was going to stop them. Except me.

After emptying a load of bullets I despairingly realised, as always, that no matter how good my aim, they’re so fast that the likelihood of actually hitting one was less than one percent, and even then, at such a distance as to hardly even touch them. It was all fun and games.

I returned to the neighbour’s house for a thank you cup of tea and a debriefing, having passed a weary looking baboon on his way back home sporting a fluorescent green blob dripping from the side of his face. Like in any other sport, there was no need to be concerned about an attack if someone’s in a car with their gear packed away, so we drove within a few feet of him. Fearless when I was in the car but terrified if I’d dare show him the gun.

Rules are rules and I never broke that one. It’s just not sporting to shoot while travelling in a car.

 

Piglet Calms Down

 

She slept like a log.

I don’t think a herd of buffalo thundering past would have woken piglet that night.

 

Piggy woke up very late. She never was a morning person.

Once up she took on a whole new personality. Her aggressive facade had faded somewhat.

 

Her appetite didn’t take long to recover either. She snorted and grunted relentlessly in constant search of food, practically hoovering the entire house in the process. Locating the kitchen was no problem and with her twitchy snout and extraordinarily good sense of smell she quickly discovered her favourite hang out.

She opened all of the cupboards and refused to come out until she’d had a thorough inspection and devoured anything in sight. Cardboard boxes included. Clean crockery just got a lick to make sure they were clean.

 

I’d had so many injections by that stage that I couldn’t muster up the courage to actually haul her out of cupboards. Food rules and it’s the only way you can get a pig to do anything. If only people were so easy to deal with.

Everything had to be moved up to counter height immediately and I was just pleased that I managed to get to my dishwashing powders and bleach before she did. While I wasn’t looking she’d opened the dishwasher and stood blissfully cleaning up from the night before.

 

She insisted on a full tour of the house sniffing in every corner and going anywhere that a door was left open….with a good few skids tumbles and knocks. She was toughening up quickly. She was quite a gymnast. She needed a bit of muscle on that scrawny frame.

 

She spent the day roaming freely around the studio. She loved climbing the stairs to my bedroom which she promptly approved of by pissing on the floor.

She must have clambered up the stairs about thirty times during that day to revisit.

What she was thinking I don’t know. Dreaming, I wouldn’t be surprised, of the upgrade she might one day apply for.

I threw some old pillows and more towels into her bathroom that night. That seemed to satisfy her for the moment.

 

 

 In an all out effort to please her I’d do practically anything. It struck me that since she appeared to be suffering severe separation anxiety from her mother that giving her a bottle might help to put her at ease and make her feel a bit more at home.

 

I called the chemist. “How old is baby ?” she said. “Baby is a pig” I said “the bigger the better”…

and I discovered something I never knew. Bottles and teats come in all shapes and sizes.

One has to consider anti-colic or not, environmental friendliness, flow rates, durability, weight, travelling convenience…the shape of the nipple and whether it should be the longer lasting but less flexible silicone or the less durable but more stretchy latex. With such a range available it can be difficult to know what to choose. Damaged teats are a choke hazard so I bought several to test out.

 

After some practice she got the hang of it and I learned to get just the right angle to hold it for maximum flow rate, minimum air intake, anti-colic and environmentally friendly. Flexible, but not too elastic.

However even the teat with the largest flow rate proved to be far too inadequate. I drilled a large hole in it which I reckoned would give her upwards of a quarter of a litre a minute or so. She never was one to waste time.

 

Pigs are very smart. Second only to dolphins. Piggy needed training. That’s for sure.

 

 

I trained her to jump up onto an old leather armchair and wait for me while I prepared her bottle. That became her armchair and she never let me sit in it again. Not unless I had food in exchange for the favour, in which case I could sit down first and then she’d leap onto my lap and nudge my hand open with her rubbery snout. She liked her milk warm, a little warmer than lukewarm but not too warm…just a little bit hot…but not too hot. Just a liiiitle bit hotter than warm, more on the side of warm than hot.

She was like a fussy eater at a restaurant ordering steak. Medium but a little bit rare. Not too rare, but not too cooked…just liiiitle bit more medium than rare.    

I guessed the accuracy of my temperatures by the speed at which she’d knock back the milk. I soon got it right.

 

It took me quite some time teaching her that obedience meant getting a bottle. “Go and sit in your chair” I said “and just wait for your bottle. No not that chair, this chair. No, not on the floor, up on the chair. No, not standing, sitting. No, not lying down, sitting up”. Off she’d trot and wait while I prepared her bottle, nose continually twitting to catch any whiff of anything else that might be on offer in the kitchen.

As soon as I’d taught her to be obedient and go and sit in her chair to wait for her bottle she took immediate advantage to teach me.  She used to jump up into it at any time of the day and look at me as if to say “What’s wrong with you ? Gimme my bottle now! Chair means bottle. Get moving will you ? I’m waiting.”

After learning the proper temperatures and correct proportion of milk to water she used to foam at the mouth in anticipation. It was the one thing I had some difficulty with. I didn’t like foam spilling all over my furniture and I soon devised a trick. After her bottle I put a dog biscuit cupped in my hand lined with a dishcloth and as soon as she found the prize she dived in snout and all cleaning her foaming snout in one action. Pigs stop at nothing for food. It was a kind of an automatic piggy mouthwash. The first few mouthwashes were without incident, but later she used to try and nip me. She hated that dishcloth no matter which one I tried. Small ones, big ones and regardless of colour, when she saw it coming she was ready to scream. I soon fixed the problem by putting five or six treats in the dishcloth. Yes that was ok. Then she allowed me to wipe her mouth, but nothing less than a small handful of treats was acceptable.

 

A few days and many gallons of milk later I thought I just couldn’t have her grow into a cow. So I visited the chemist again and purchased her an assortment of dummies. Anything to placate her. I used to dip them in honey and she loved that. From then on we were firm friends.

If she wasn’t getting food or her bottle she sure as hell wanted that dummy or else. I got so tired of holding the dummy for half the day. I needed time to work. I found a large solid block of wood and stapled a dummy to it and left it for her to froth over for hours at a time. Occasionally I’d pass by and slip a lick of honey on it. A visiting artist later complimented me on the piglet’s feeding post, oblivious of what it was and commenting on what an unusual sculpture it was.

 

I was beginning to like this little piggy. I was sure she’d settle in just fine. She had a personality of her own.

If she ran into the kitchen which by now was strictly out of bounds or I wanted her to come down from the bedroom where she’d be silently standing in reverie, I’d just call her and she’d come full tilt like a steam train, crashing over anything in her way in an attempt to beat all previous records to get to me. Then she’d stop dead in her tracks and look up at me as if to say “Ok I’m here now. Where’s the food ?”

 

She seemed to sense by the friendly tone in my voice that while I might not be her mother, I could just possibly be a substitute father or perhaps a friend or even a whipping post. You could just see that brain ticking off the options. At any cost I needed to avoid being the runt.

She moaned very gently as I brushed her hair as she fell asleep and silence was respected in the household when piglet was asleep. No sleep meant bad temper the next day. And that meant risking more injections.

She hated being scolded. She was unpredictable, except for being placated by food. Lots and lots of food and in ever increasing quantities..

 

Occasionally something got into her and she froze in mid step. Motionless on three trotters, the fourth one elegantly displayed like a pointer dog out hunting, listening and using those pointy ears as radar dishes, scanning the skies for any signal of food. Deep in thought and single minded in her attentiveness.

Then suddenly and without warning, she’d charge me with teeth gnashing in a very aggressive and intimidating display of bravado as though I’d ruined her concentration. Couldn’t I see she needed silence to do her job ?

I soon discovered that a quick threatening movement on my part sent her scrambling away in terror as fast she could manage on those dainty little trotters of hers. Then she’d find another gap of silence between the general noise of me going about my work and she’d once again resume her duties.

Dad had better give her room in which to work and a whole lot more. She demanded it. It was silence in court when piggy said so.

Gonna need to knock that out of her I thought.

 

Piglets have a way of sneaking unnoticed into your heart. They must know something we don’t. They hardly ever seem to fail.

 

Pigs aren’t for everyone though. I remember my mother once called to tell me how furious she was for having been made to wait at the vet with whom she’d made an appointment to euthanise her elderly dog. She never sent a dog to doggy heaven without holding it’s paw as it went to sleep.

On arrival she was promptly told she’d have to wait and having waited impatiently for half an hour was told that the vet had had an emergency that arrived shortly before she did. A pig in need of an operation.  And she’d have to wait a little longer. Dogs have a keen sense of impending doom and keeping her dog sorrowfully awaiting the fatal injection was tantamount to cruelty. Bugger the pig.

Anyhow, she related that all went fine. “Burial or Council dump ?” the vet asked…“Council dump’s fine” she replied.

She told me that they’d reversed the dog halfway into a trash bag before it sank. “So much easier” she explained, than “actually have to pick up a dead weight to put in a trash bag“

People and their pets can be so funny.

 

I remember once going to a vet with a friend of mine. His dog needed attention. His highly pedigreed Doberman had floppy ears, big problem…

We were in a very jolly mood. The door flew open and a Dalmation scrambled in dragging a little stick figure of a blonde girl behind it.

“Oooh’ we chanted “ can see what’s wrong with that one “it’s fulla spots !” we giggled.

She produced a brown paper bag, contents then unknown and plopped the large steamy parcel onto the counter saying “ Here’s the sample you wanted”. “Oh no” cried the secretary “ we only needed half a teaspoonful”. Blondes we thought. Real blondes are lot smarter than one gives them credit for. It’s the ones with dyed hair one needs to watch… low cell count on the upper floors. Or as a friend of mine once quipped “ One brain cell less and she’d have been a pot plant”.

 

Piglet had the most delectable looking trotters that any gourmand could ever wish to cook. She'd have made the most delicious little pot roast. Even the gardener wondered why on earth we were feeding her when she could be feeding us.

When I lived in Paris many moons ago I remember enjoying my favourite dish at one of Paris’s oldest and most established restaurants unceremoniously called “Au Pied de Cochon" (literally translated as “At the Foot of the Pig”) where I always had their speciality, naturally Pig's Trotters...slow cooked then roasted and deep fried in crumbs to crispy perfection…served with a Hollandaise sauce..

Given Piglet's good looks and by now well proportioned form I can't say I hadn’t thought about it...

 

To the Manor Born

 

I was still thinking of a name for her.

I thought I’d call her Tinker Bell…"sometimes ill-tempered, sometimes spoiled, and very jealous... at other times very helpful and kind "...she trotted around the studio like nobility.

I really wanted to get her outdoors in the daytime. I was determined not to let my house become a pigsty and she seemed determined to make it into one.

 

First things first, I needed to get her a proper harness. One that fitted.

I bought a small harness from the vet…the smallest they had. Thank God I tried it out in the studio first. She shot through it like a hoola hoop.

I don't know how she never escaped from the dog collar she had on the night of the party.

Off I went to the pet store and found a more suitable one just large enough to fit a parrot or a large budgie. After stapling it even smaller than it already was, it fitted.

She was tinier than I thought. I have to admit that I felt a bit of a nit in taking my time choosing just the right colours for her. She was a piglet and she couldn’t have cared less. One would think I’d gone shopping for a girlfriend.

 

The breeder said to make a pen for her. After the athletic jump into the bath on her first night in residence I needed to consider height as well as size.

I bought a considerable amount of fencing for ample playroom and constructed her a brand new very snazzy looking picket fence outdoor playpen and put her in it. The look of the playpen was more for my satisfaction than hers. I was sure she hadn’t the least interest in design.

No sooner had I looked away and she made a dash for it…jamming herself tightly in the gap of the fencing …grunting breathlessly and helplessly caught midway...one half in captivity and the other half…half way to freedom. Thank goodness I'd tied her new lead with snugly fitting body harness to the picket fence as added security. Just in case.

Because on her second attempt she managed to wriggle straight through it. So odd. Put up a boundary and she immediately wanted to cross it. Drop her lead over a stake in the garden and with no visible boundary she was quite content. Not unlike some people I know.

She’s a difficult girl I thought. So what’s new ?

It struck me that she might be giving me very good instructions on how to handle any future wife I might have the misfortune to meet.

The stake in the garden proved to be the best idea. She couldn’t wrap herself around it and there was nothing visible to escape from apart from the occasional brutal tug that snapped her back to reality if she happened to take fright and run. And I was to be seen hammering that stake into new ground every forty minutes. Pigs get bored easily.

I always placed her in part shade and part sun…together with a matching black and white furry toy penguin, which she seemed to like so much in the absence of other company but which she later tore to shreds in protest.

 

PICTURE OF PENGUIN HERE…

 

I had such a good laugh. I was mowing the lawn with my new tractor mower one day while Tinkerbell was tied to a lead on a stake at the very other end of the garden calmly enjoying another lazy day in the sun.

She must have been watching me and paying careful attention, because I let the clutch out a bit too fast for her liking and the tractor lurched forward...and she screamed blue murder, as if she’d eaten me as bacon in a previous lifetime and was dreading impending retribution. Whatever it was I was treating her like royalty but it only sank in a few days later. Only the best for piglet.

 

She loved having her hair brushed. She never complained about that and gave the occasional approving grunt when I got just the right spots…and moaned a bit when I didn't. I started to be able to discern the variations in her different tones and what they meant. She was teaching me piggy language.

 

She was a one of a kind and a pleasure to be with, every day a bit more relaxed with me, eating out of my hand without a care in the world. She’d taken to sniffing me often, probably just to make sure I was real. I really treated her so well. Soon I reaped the rewards of showing her loving kindness and my tremendous respect for her high born status. Although in truth it was the fight in her that I respected more than any breeding she may or not have had.

I had made a very faithful and happy friend…all be it a piglet. She jealously guarded me when guests visited and could never resist the odd finger snack.

 

I loved my piglet.

 

After disdainfully sniffing at the tatty pillows on the third night and having suffered two nights away from her mother I thought I'd treat her to lessen the blow...I put her next to me on the Egyptian Cotton and Goose Down pillows and allowed her to dream of days gone by. Just for a few minutes. She turned to face me placing both her front and hind legs fully extended to make her look as slim and long as possible and had a little yawn. She inched her way very slowly and surreptitiously closer and closer in a leopard crawl style until she had her head was on my neck and promptly fell asleep.

I didn’t have the heart to wake her. For the first time ever I slept on my back for the entire night, for the benefit of a good night’s sleep for piglet, which is something I’d never do or have done for any girlfriend.

 

Piggy liked Egyptian Cotton and Goose Down. That was much more her style. No more tatty pillows for her.

She wasn’t going to sleep in her bathroom anymore. Screamed the house down when I dared take here there the next night to sleep. Wouldn’t stop crying. Two nights in the bathroom and she’d had enough.

Piglet enjoyed luxury, couldn’t I see that ?

She was a card and she knew what she wanted. She was going to twist me around her little trotter or hammer me until I gave in.

 

Piggy had arrived and was in residence, enthroned on a pink Polotech blanket in the master bedroom at 116 Zwaanswyk Road…where she could alert the butler for any need by a simple grunt in the middle of the night.

I had to be very alert, a single grunt signalled a need to pee. Pigs don’t like to soil their own bedding (yes it was her bedding now). I needn’t have worried. She never once pee’d on the bed although I was often to be found wandering around the garden stark naked at 2 am. softly grunting to piggy to ask her to please hurry up. It was raining and I didn’t like getting wet. Neither did she, but being the lady she was, she always took her time.

 

Tinkerbell Hates Mud

 

I thought Piggy might enjoy a little dirt. I took her down to the bottom plot of my garden where there’s a large area of sludge. She’s gonna like this I thought. I wanted to see her happy and frolicking in the mud. Anything to make her feel at home, even if that meant putting her in the muck. The sun would dry it off soon enough.

Excuse me, no mud for nobility thank you.

She grunted her disapproval as she tentatively made her way out of the muddy area like a cat on needles and I was obliged to race her back home to rinse her toes and restore her dignity. I don’t think she thought she ever considered herself  a pig. She never went near mud ever again.

 

She had a very fiery personality and and a good few red hairs betraying a monster little temper behind that beguiling and deceptively innocent facade.

I’d had enough of my ex wife telling me what to do and I needed to show her who was boss around here.

I wasn’t going to cope having a miniature farm animal ruling the roost at 116 Zwaanswyk Road.

 

I called the breeder. He casually informed me that a piglet’s personality is well developed very early on and unlikely to change.

She was proving to be “as stubborn as a pig” and I was just going to have to get used to her.

Oh dear. I’d better find out what other characteristics she might assume to be perfectly normal.

Fat as a pig.

Greedy as a pig.

Pig out.

Making a pig of oneself.

Eating like a pig.

As happy as a pig in shit.

Pig’s arse !

Squealing like a stuck pig.

Sweating like a pig.

Going hog wild.

Going the whole hog.

 

The list goes on and on…and she was ticking them off at a trotting pace.

 

Friends warned me that unscrupulous breeders sold farm pigs posing as Teacup Piglets and in all likelihood she’d turn into a big fat aggressive 300 pound monster pig like their neighbour’s pet pig.

“But the problem is that by the time it’s too fat you’ll  love it so much that you can’t part with it. “ they said. “and our neighbour gets dragged off for a walk to the beach every day by his oversized pet, who, if not all goes according to plan, attacks him. Guests aren’t welcome in their house anymore either. She attacks them too.”

I took no notice. I’d read that they all go through an adolescent stage. So what.

So unfair I thought.

People had it all wrong. That was their pig. This was mine.

This piggy was just my little angel in disguise and no one else seemed to see that.

 

But the name Tinkerbell didn’t stick. It really didn’t suit her. She was too feisty for that.

She may have thought she was a lady in waiting or a princess but she behaved like a rogue. Ever crafty and always on the lookout for trouble.

 

So her name changed to Oinker ( Piglet and Piggy were her nicknames ).

Maybe not the best names, but better than “Ollie” I thought, a large pet pig born with one ball that we were to meet a few days later.

 

Piglet Reveals Her Inner Beauty

 

I went through volumes of information on the internet in an all out attempt to learn everything I could about pigs as pets.

I was amused to come across a front page magazine cover of Paris Hilton photographed reclining on a couch with her “Teacup Pig “. All two hundred pounds of it.

At around fourteen months old it grew rather larger than she’d expected. It took up most of the frame, as large as the couch it was reclining in while making Paris Hilton look very diminutive. It stole the limelight in the picture of course, that’s for sure. It was as ugly as sin.

 

In comparison, who could argue that here was a little princess, unlike any other, simply enjoying the fresh air in our rural garden and fully aware of her stunningly good looks… trim and in shape on her two percent low fat milk and water diet. That wasn’t all she ate though. That was usually just a little starter before her main meal followed by another bottle of milk before bedtime.

 

Piglet Visits the Vet

 

Piglet started to itch all over. I read up on it and asked around and was told she must have mange and she needed annual injections in any case and it should be done as soon as possible.

 

I got ready for an operatic performance at the vet. I had to call around because not all vets take pigs due to the disruption caused in the waiting area, terrifying clients and animals alike.

 

“Off to the vet for deworming and injections piglet” I told her..”now behave will you ?”

Oh dear...she screamed louder than a jet engine in full throttle on take off... earplugs might have been a good idea...problem is I suffered just as much as she did.

I couldn’t bear it when she was in such distress. The vet was fine. He was elderly and used to animals screaming and probably a little hard of hearing because of it. 

 

The screaming performance was worthy of an Agatha Christie murder mystery...if not the highest and longest note hit by any opera performer in history...she was born a star performer…no question of a doubt about it...

 

I asked the vet about giving the piglet treats…he said the best would be to let it loose into the wife's garden, “‘cause it would rip up the whole bloody lot, flowers, bulbs, plants, roots, everything…and that would be the best treat for piglet ever”.

 

After the dramatic performance I went to the Pet Store to look for some toys for the little angel...and found a very nice little rubber feeder..two parts that screwed together into a clam shell type device into which one puts the food...when it gets rolled around then a few bits pop out. If too many bits pop out then you screw the clam shell more tightly closed.

I have to report she learned to use it in one easy step, about three seconds it took her and she pushed it happily around the garden as if it were some brainless toy I’d bought her. No effort on her part as she nudged the empty shell disdainfully back towards me for a refill. She's a smart one this little piggy I thought.

I nearly fell apart laughing when I was at the Pet Shop waiting to pay when the seemingly missing cashier surfaced from below the chest high counter like a goldfish coming up for air. I couldn't help noticing his most prominent feature, a long snout with a bulbous end that would do any piglet proud…not unlike some of the toys I’d been looking at. It could have been Oinker's brother...I was a bit startled when he spoke…eyebrows askew as if to ask me if I thought he was human or not...I couldn't look him in the eye...I could only talk to his nose to avoid packing up in hysterics…he informed me that that while dogs look up to their owners and cats look down on their owners, pigs see people as their equal.. I paid and ran out of the shop as fast as I could…having noticed the badge on his tee shirt saying "Perky Pets”.

I killed myself laughing in the car park.

 

In my ongoing research into anything piggy related I came across a site called www.pigs4ever.com, full of poems, stories and photographs about people and their adorable piglets...next to my little Oinker they all looked ugly...I won't comment on the questionable genes of their owners, an assorted riff-raff of seemingly dubious backgrounds...let alone the startling similarity between owner and pig…they all looked a bit odd, but I did relate to one comment made..."if you've ever had a pig as a pet then you wonder why on earth anyone would want a puppy"....

An eccentric friend of mine once remarked in reference to someone quite rude that all you can expect from a pig is a grunt..well..this little pig had one whole lot more to offer...and this story is far from over...

 

Piglet Learns to Swim

 

Summer had arrived and with the hot weather it was time to teach piglet to swim. By now I had a very large pond filled with frogs and with a fresh mountain stream to feed it. They love it. They sing their thanks to me every night of the year. I even had a puff adder that popped in one day for a dip. The Egyptian Geese return every year in summer to enjoy the occasional splash, spending the season to breed before migrating north. A beautiful blue crane is a regular visitor keeping the snake and frog population down and it’s fascinating to see the snakes make S shapes as they wriggle down her slender neck.

Contrary to their reputation, pigs don’t sweat. Pigs don’t have sweat glands. When they get hot they get very hot. Being black Piglet nearly cooked in the midday sun. I was pleased she was black. Paler skinned piggies get sunburn and that’s another whole problem to deal with. I was sure that piglet would love to swim in the pond.

 

For safety’s sake and to avoid any trauma I jumped into the icy pond first and enticed her in with her bottle…well..the word entice is not entirely accurate…holding it out for a fraction of a second before a dramatic and fearless dive into the pool would be closer to the truth…this little piggy was afraid of nothing. Either that or she was as greedy as a you know what for her bottle.

I quickly rescued her from the sudden shock of a plunge into the depths of the icy mountain water by gently guiding her back to the top step, where she stood happily belly height in water suckling on her bottle..not for long though, she finished an entire bottle in 8 seconds flat...after which she very happily trotted up the steps and onto the lawn, grunting gleefully. Piglet turned out to be a champion swimmer and enjoyed it so much that in no time at all she followed me the length and breadth of the pond with only a snout as a snorkel, eyes only sometimes visible, gliding gracefully and almost invisibly like an alligator stalking prey. She was completely at home and I think she knew that with dad she was always safe.

 

She must have been a Shiatsu Master in one of her previous lives. Born from their constant need to root, she was obsessed with massage. “Rooting” the fleshy parts of my body and then prodding full force into every tight tendon affected by stress…my neck, my shoulders and a good few prods to my stomach. She never missed a spot. I liked to think that she enjoyed giving me a massage. My little Oinker was the smartest little piglet I knew. I didn't know any other piglets then but judging by the motley crew of piglets and their owners posted on the internet my little Oinker was born a beauty queen with brains...

 

One night I thought I’d treat  her to dessert…so I pureed some fruit and yoghurt..she was a little hesitant with her first portion…

but gee whizz..on giving her a second portion she leapt into the bowl as if it were bottomless.

I expected she might be licking her trotters next…

 

Piglet Goes for a Walk

 

Now that she was trained to accept the harness and lead it was time her first forest walk.

What an experience that proved to be.

The weather was sunny and there were lots of dogs out. She got on very well with the dogs...she sniffed at them as though they were the riff raff of the animal world...and I met quite a few young lasses too, rather tasty looking.

Should've got a pig a long time ago.

Lo and behold...I was approached by a young couple with two dogs, very bouncy and full of energy...the dogs that is...although the woman was also bouncy... in a beach ball sort of way..large as a house. The husband was so thin I could hardly see him…he blended in with the surrounding twigs…and their other pet..a pig...yes...a Miniature Pot Belly or so they told me. Pull the other leg will you. It looked a lot like a wild boar. Ferocious and fat.

Only weighs twenty five kilos they said. Yea right I thought, try sixty five kg's on an optimistic scale. It had on a bright blue harness which must have taken 8 yards of webbing to make. What a beast. It was at least the size of the prize hogs they hunt in the forests of Siberia. It looked positively feral. I was petrified.

I told the twig and the beach ball so. “Not to worry” they said “. “Our Ollie is very laid back, although he once knocked a bull mastiff out cold with a single blow”.

Piggy was very brave and said hello, nose to nose.

 

The Pig, the twig, the beach ball and their two hounds. All five of them slept in the same bed they said, the pig on her side of the bed resting it's head on her shoulder in sleep mode. Just as well. Hubby would risk being smothered by that beast. How they put up with it I don’t know.

It must have made enormous farts. I can just imagine the bed had a large dip in it where the pig sleeps (along with the beach ball). They delighted in telling me all sorts of tales, but when it came to the pig and water she swelled with pride, just a tad larger than she already was and said that they'd bought it a plastic  kiddy pool and "it knows how to blow bubbles"...well wow..that blew me away…what a feat…never knew that a pig that knows how to blow bubbles could ever be such a source of pride...oh well, I said mine swims and that shut them up.

They said their "Ollie", who was born with one ball, nearly drowned once because pigs panic when they dive into a pool and their heads disappear underwater. Hate to say it but I was surprised that Ollie never hit the bottom and stayed there. I never figured out the relevance of the one ball.

Ollie looked so fat I asked if he was capable of running.”Oh yes our Ollie can run” the twig piped up and promptly removed the lead and chased it around a bit with the childlike joy of someone mildly retarded.

I asked them how on earth they managed to transport such a large mammal. “Oh that’s not a problem” they said. We have a truck”.

Before saying cheerio they had a word of advice. Never leave any food around not intended for the pig. Ollie had once eaten an entire bag of dog food and was constipated for a week. They thought he might die and raced him to vet 25 kg. heavier than he’d been when he woke up that fateful morning. Just as well they had a truck.

 

Never a dull moment in piggy world.

 

Piglet, a Born Beauty

 

I made a note to myself.

“Piglet is the most adorable little girl in the world...a real character....

She put herself to bed tonight after an exhausting day lazing in the grass and enjoying endless cuddles from her dad...flops over at the slightest tickle..she's loves any sort of massage...Swedish, shiatsu, Jin shin ju...she loves them all...still trying to figure out which kind she likes the best...have to learn more piggy vocabulary....she sure lets me know what suits her...butts me away forcefully with her nose when she doesn't want me..or doesn't like anything..and grunts snorts and farts to communicate her ultimate desires...she's training me well..what a free spirit she is...

she loves her dad though...whenever I lie down anywhere she takes the opportunity for a snuggle and tucks herself amid grunts and snorts and plenty of sniffing and reshuffling for ultimate comfort into my armpit and just at the right angle to allow me to give her a little tummy tickle while she dreams in hedonistic piggy bliss…her beautiful eyes with those enviably long eyelashes glazing over as she gives me a last tender loving look before drifting off...

 

I love my little piggy...even if she grows to a 500 pound hefalump I'll love her no less...she's already indicated her absolute willingness and decided intention to be a faithful companion...for better or worse..in health and in sickness..until  death do we part...

Since pigs live between 12 and 30 years, and since she'll be getting lots of love from me, I look forward to celebrating my 80th birthday with her, together with other lesser mortals…

 

Given some of the people I know, her intelligence was remarkable…10 weeks old and she understood English…better than a lot of people I’d met...and let me tell you...everything was negotiated...she didn’t just accept anything...she considered it carefully on three trotters...the fourth one raised to alert me of her pending decision and imminent reply...frozen in a pose as if to say...let me see if I understand you correctly..because I'm not taking one more step if you mean what I think you mean...and if she realized I meant what I said…and if she’d been naughty...she’d scramble for her life only to stop 19 meters further on and grunt hello again...as if to say ...ok..we'll call it quits,I know what you mean...now will you please take me for a run around the plot..because I'm bored with all of this nonsense ..just lets get on with the day shall we ?

 

This was one very special little piggy with the courage of a lion…a character larger than a buffalo…and a heart bigger than the moon...who couldn't love this inimitable little bundle of joy ?”

 

My Fairy Princess

 

Piglet was happy as a fairy princess …and dad very proud of her...discovered a little trick with her…tickle her on her tummy while she's standing up and her eyes glaze over and she drops sideways to the ground in a hedonistic stupor and falls asleep…totally relaxed and trusting…she follows me around the house without a lead, upstairs..downstairs, everywhere I go…soon it'll be time to take the lead off for outside too but will give it another week or two…

Happily I discovered that by tying her to a stake in the garden which I moved 10 times a day to prevent boredom...she snuffles away at everything….and makes sure I know she wants attention whenever I come close…running as close to me to greet me as her lead will allow…and then squeals if I don't take her for a little walk with me to wherever I'm going….she doesn't mind where…as long as she's with dad…

don't have to force her along…she'll trot happily along wherever i lead her…Tinkerbell seemed like a very appropriate name at the time...

 

Another note to myself ”Girlfriend’s dog made good friends with the pig today and it's so lovely to see the two of them, lying face to face opposite each other blissfully enjoying the sunshine…. noses touching…piglet certainly not scared of anything…she's a feisty little girl with a few red hairs on her face and a temperament to match…I have two feisty girls in my life, Oinker and the girlfriend. A male friend of mine lamented that he should have bought me a crash helmet for my birthday...the girlfriend had been a gift from hell, and the piglet only threatened to add to my troubles.

Let me rephrase. The girlfriend, through various episodes over the course of a single year, had given me, apart from some of the most memorable and trying, not to say exciting and sometimes dangerous times of my life.....enough material to fill two thrillers….and now the piglet. A gentle softening of the blows I’d suffered I thought. A calming of the seas. What bliss. She's just the cutest thing ever…

 

A friend emailed her good wishes and piglet responded with a thank you grunt after I’d read it to her before rearranging her blankets to suit her figure…she’s very piggy sexy..and with such a gorgeous face…she was born a beauty queen…

 

PICTURE HERE…

 

I wrote an email to a friend : “don't want to bore you…but just for the record..I asked piglet for a snout kiss…her snout was a bit dry…

against my natural inclination I spat at her..OMG….she loves it..responds like a pig…seems to prefer it to a pillow fight…

 

She's just the cutest thing ever…and i see she wags her tail when i encourage her or talk to her …she's so adorable…

Parents are 25 kg. so she'll be no lapdog, but not a 300 pound hefalump either…she's growing so fast I have to adjust her harness every day…she must be happy

 

Piggy on the Farm

 

Piglet calling me..must go..speak later

 

All greetings to piglet are welcome and will be passed on.

And piglet wishes you a good evening and a relaxing day tomorrow…and health and happiness for the year ahead.

If I could read her mind I think she’d be saying “tell your pals to straighten out their thoughts about pigs before their next taste of bacon will you ?”.

 

The Final Episode

 

After a few more weeks it dawned on me that piglet was no teacup piglet. Just as I’d heard, they breed ordinary farm pigs and starve them like little concentration camp survivors until a sale is made, after which they’re quickly weened from their mothers at around 3 to 4 weeks, and you’re told not to feed them more than half a cup of pellets a day, because they’re just greedy little pigs and they need no more to survive or they’ll grow too large…ha, ha, ha…this was a fully bred wild pig from the Transkei and it became so aggressive that it would attack at the slightest chance. It was terrifyingly strong as a pig and really a wild boar not even a pig… no wonder it looked like a wild boar..it was one…and they have a reputation for being ferocious. Although it loved me it would scream if I left it alone for more than 3 minutes. That was a problem.

It chewed through dozens of dummies with honey at it’s post that I’d stapled full of dummies to keep it from getting bored but this piglet was turning into a monster that I couldn’t cope with at all…all it wanted was food food and more food all day long and it screamed blue murder if I wasn’t constantly feeding it and giving it attention.

I called the vet to give it away. Of course my mother had the most practical solution, which was to let the gardener have it. “One quick slice across the throat and it’ll be in the pot for dinner” she said . But that didn’t seem fair and I didn’t want the guilt I might suffer as a result.

The vet advised it would be impossible to give away unless I had it spayed  another R900 please )…and that the last pig she’d rescued from a flat in Sea Point where it was found living in the bath, too fat to move out of the bath, and the owners just fed it there and let it sit and mess there. Too large to take for a walk, it just got fatter and fatter until the bath seemed like it was going to burst, which is when the vet was called to the rescue.

I managed to find a farm that already had 8 rescue pigs and after saying I’d just have to give it to the SPCA for adoption if they insisted on having it spayed ( no I wasn’t going to spend another R 900 on having it spayed), the rescue farm took the pig and I visited a few months later to find a huge 85 kilogram monster of a feral boar, so aggressive that it had twice stacked the farmer and they thought they might just have to put her down.

Sad to say, but this is not an uncommon story. The teacup piglet was originally bred in England, the result of breeding a successive line of runts for 7 litters in a row, after which the chances are still there for a fully grown pig, but often a true teacup piglet that doesn’t grow more than a kilogram or two, is born.There are no teacup piglets in South Africa.

No breeder will guarantee that their piglet will be a teacup sized piglet.

Everyone in South Africa is being coned and ripped off to the tune of R 3,500 for a “miniature piglet” they call them here.

Breeders are dishonest and unscrupulous and will do anything to make maximum money.

A single pig in one successful year of breeding will produce enough to make R 85,000 out of her pups in a single year. No wonder the breeders are prepared to lie. It’s all about greed for money, nothing else, and certainly nothing to do at all with caring about animals or pigs.