From farm animal to family member
By Susan Baldani
Atticus, named for the noble Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, is a 400-pound pet pig who loves watermelon, pumpkins, and carrots. He also enjoys getting lots of love and attention from his humans.
His owner Jaime and her 5-year-old son live on 1.5 acres in Williamson County. Along with his two dog siblings George Clooney and Merci, cat sister Kiki, and goldfish Goldie, Atticus is a beloved member of the family.
“I love animals, and even though I’m originally a city girl, I’ve always loved farm animals,” said Jaime.
After she saw an ad for pet pigs, her interest was piqued. A friend introduced her to someone who had pet pigs so she could learn more about them.
When a family friend’s pig had a litter of piglets, Jaime went out and met Atticus and his parents so she could see how big he was really going to be.
“I waited until Atticus was 3 months old and 22 pounds before I brought him home,” she said. “Now, he’s 7 ½ years old and 400 pounds.”
Jaime said pigs can live 15 to 20 years, so it’s a big commitment. Just like with any other pet, it’s important to do your research before adopting.
“Atticus is a Vietnamese potbellied pig and at 400 pounds is considered mini,” said Jaime. “This is why so many pigs need to be rescued; there is no such thing as a teacup pig. Those are babies and then they get big. Adopting a pig is not something to do on a whim.”
Getting Atticus was the right decision for her and her family. Since she did her research, Jaime was well prepared for the care and responsibility of owning a pig.
“He’s super sweet to my son, and of course, I’m his mommy, so he loves me,” she said. “Pigs have the intelligence of 2-to-3-year-old children, and they’re stubborn, so you have to earn their love and attention. Sometimes he runs to you for scratches and other times he’ll stand 3 feet from you and grunt at you, expecting you to come to him.”
Jaime also mentioned that pigs are highly intelligent. She taught Atticus to sit down and turn around in less than 5 minutes. Of course, it was all food motivated. And Atticus, like most pigs, is extremely sensitive, so if you yell, you can hurt his feelings. She said he also holds grudges.
Not one for toys, Atticus instead prefers to nose around the property. He has a special designated area in her backyard, with a sturdy pig house about the size of a large doghouse, and a lovely fenced in back yard. He lives mainly outside, but will come in when it’s very cold or really hot, or when the lawn is being mown.
Jaime puts down hay throughout his pen, which is about 30’ x 30’, and Atticus also has access to the screened-in back porch. He doesn’t like to go for walks; he would rather just hang out in the yard. And like a true pig, he likes to root around his pen.
“You want to keep them busy since they’re like toddlers, so I’ll sprinkle grapes or Cheerios throughout his pen, and he likes to find them,” she said. “I try to keep [the snacks] low in sugar.”
Like most other pets, Atticus takes naps during the day. Around 7:00 p.m., when he usually goes to sleep, he’ll retreat into his pig house or lie in front of it. In the morning, if Jaime isn’t awake by 8:30 a.m., he bangs on the back door, looking for his breakfast.
His vet comes to the house twice a year and the only maintenance he really needs, Jaime said, is to get his hooves trimmed. And since he’s a boy, his tusk also has to be tended to.
Besides pig food, which she soaks in water to ensure he stays hydrated, he also gets healthy scraps.
“My next-door neighbor is in love with Atticus, thank you Lord, because you always want your neighbors to love your pet, especially when it’s a pig. So, she brings him her leftover watermelon and carrots. All the neighbors actually love Atticus.”
If you’re thinking about adopting a pig, besides doing your research, Jaime recommends seeking out a reputable, local rescue organization and support the people who are out there every day rescuing animals. Also, be sure to check your town’s ordinances and/or your homeowner’s association’s regulations, since some places may not allow pet pigs.
Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Franklin, TN.