The Mercury, LINDA SMITH | January 04, 2012
PORCINE PALS: Lower Longley teenager Rhiannon Jenkins with Sophie, one of her two rescued adult miniatures.
PAULINE Mary is as happy as a pig in mud.
When the seven-month-old miniature pig is not lazing about indoors with her owners Marie and Len Archer, the spoilt swine loves playing under the hose and frolicking in the dirt.
The pampered porker sleeps inside on a bed in the corner of the dining room – which she drags in front of the woodheater when she needs some extra warmth – is house-trained and understands a raft of human words.
“We have to spell out words like F-O-O-D because otherwise she knows it’s meal time and starts slobbering everywhere,” explains Mrs Archer, who got Pauline Mary as a tiny six-week-old piglet.
Back then the pig weighed just 2kg but has now grown to 25kg and still has more growing to do.
“She’ll grow to the size of a big labrador,” Mrs Archer says. “But a fat, pig-shaped one,” she adds with a laugh.
It cost the former wildlife carer $1000 to have Pauline Mary vaccinated, desexed, microchipped, vet-checked and transported to Tasmania from a breeder in NSW but she says it was well worth the outlay as the pig has been a fabulous pet.
Mrs Archer fractured both her arms in a fall a few months ago, and says Pauline Mary has been a constant source of joy and love during her painful recovery.
“Pauline, come to mummy,” Mrs Archer coos as she poses for a photo with her beloved pig.
Mrs Archer first owned a pig 30 years ago. She was amazed by how intelligent and entertaining they are, and pledged to have another one someday.
So with the help of her husband, she converted part of their 5ha property at Taranna, on the Tasman Peninsula, into a pig yard and Pauline Mary has quickly grown accustomed to her indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
Many parts of the yard which were once lush and green are now dirty and dusty, as Pauline Mary takes any chance she can to roll in the mud.
“We’re very used to mud,” says Mrs Archer, pointing to the dirty snout marks smeared across the rear sliding glass door, a result of Pauline Mary’s tapping when she wants to come inside.
A baby gate in the kitchen keeps the pig away from dangerous electrical cables and other hazards in the living room, and the pig likes to mingle with the couple’s two cats and two dogs when she’s not having tummy rubs or chowing down on mixed grains and freshly chopped fruit and vegetables.
When Pauline Mary is naughty, Mrs Archer – a vegetarian – threatens to “turn her into a pork chop”.
The Archers are among a growing number of Tasmanians with pigs as pets.
The intelligent animals make loving pets in the right environment, and can be taught to walk on a lead and even perform tricks.
But, sadly, many Tasmanians are getting a pig without realising what’s involved and later abandoning the animals or giving their pet away tobe eaten.
Brightside Farm Sanctuary owner Emma Haswell has numerous unwanted pigs at her Huon Valley refuge and is regularly rescuing unwanted pigs from suburban back yards as owners grow tired of them or struggle to meet their demands.
“It’s a desperate story,” she says. “They are beautiful, intelligent, lovely pets but at the same time you have to have the right set up – you have to have land and you have to have Fort Knox fences.
“They get bored easily, they dig like tractors and they live as long as dogs, but you can’t just re-home them in the same way as a dog. There are responsible people out there but there are also people who don’t have a clue.”
Miniature pigs start off small and cute, but can weigh up to 80kg when fully grown, and while this is far less than a 250kg commercial pig it is still much bigger than a dog, which is where unsuspecting owners run into trouble.
“You have cases where the pig is friends with the kids, they’ve played soccer together in the back yard for four years and then the novelty wears off, the pig gets too big and you see ads in the paper that say ‘mini pig for sale – pet or spit’,” Ms Haswell says.
“People are happy for their pet to be eaten – it’s just awful.”
Fortunately there are some loving people out there willing to give abandoned pigs a new home.
Lower Longley teenager Rhiannon Jenkins is the proud owner of two rescued adult miniature pigs, including one from Brightside.
She got three-year-old Sophie and four-year-old Mary (who she has decided to rename Coco) about four weeks ago, and she has already grown attached to the pair who enjoy running through the grass and swimming in the dam on her parents’ 48ha property.
The 17-year-old year 12 student at Guilford Young College is a strict vegetarian and “just fell in love with pigs” when she started learning about factory farming and animal rights four years ago.
Her family runs Peace of Mind boarding kennels and cattery and Rhiannon owns dogs, cats, horses, ducks and chickens but says pigs are unlike any animal she has ever known.
She is teaching Sophie to walk on a lead, and eventually hopes to take her for walks at Kingston Beach.
Pig fan Marie Archer with Pauline Mary, which she says is a fabulous pet.