Hello, this is Bill Crain from Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary in nearby Poughquag.
A few months ago, a pot-bellied pig came to our farm sanctuary. Pot-bellied pigs are related to the standard breeds but are smaller. This pig was particularly small because he was only two months old.
All our staff members adored him, and he liked everyone. When people gave him a pat on the back, he rolled over for a belly rub. The word soon got out that there was a cute little pig at our farm, and visitors poured in. We named him Leo, after Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer, pacifist, and vegetarian.
Leo was brought to us by a family in Queens, who purchased him as a pet. The family became very attached to Leo, and Leo became attached to them. But the family had to leave him alone during the day, and he sometimes cried. This disturbed the neighbors, who complained to the landlord. The landlord found out that Queens, like the rest of New York City, forbids residents to keep pigs, and he gave the family two weeks to get rid of him.
The family felt terrible. They didn’t want to lose Leo, and they couldn’t find Leo a new home. As the landlord’s deadline approached, the family thought they had found someone to take care of the pig, but the prospect fell through. The family contacted us and told us their plight. They didn’t want to take the pig to an auction where he would be sold for meat. Our farm wasn’t set up to care for a pig, but the situation was so urgent that we said we’d adopt him.
So the family put Leo in their car and drove him to our farm. The mother, however, stayed home. She felt the trip would be too emotional for her. She was certain she would cry the entire time and fall apart. After two months went by, she did decide to visit Leo at our farm, and she was thrilled to see him thriving. Leo seemed to remember her, too.
Although Leo is widely adored, he also gets into considerable mischief. He sneaks into chickens’ aviaries and eats their food. He knocks over garbage cans in search of scraps. He crawls under gates and scampers around so vigorously that he frightens the turkeys and sheep. Staff members must constantly keep on the lookout for him. If he’s not in sight, it’s a good bet he’s causing trouble.
The staff members do their best to control Leo’s behavior, but it’s difficult. If, for example, he’s in an aviary eating chickens’ food, it’s difficult to get him to leave. The staff try to shoo him out, but he ignores them. Occasionally a staff member resorts to picking him up and carrying him out, and he squeals loudly in anger.
We have had a few troublesome animals like Leo on our farm, and I have noticed that these animals soon respond surprisingly well to one or two particular individuals. In each case, the individual is exceptionally devoted to the animal.
For Leo, this person is Donna. Whenever Donna calls, Leo comes to her. Even if he’s eating other animals’ food, he stops and runs to her. I asked Donna, “What is your trick?” She said, “I don’t have any trick. I just love Leo so much that I see little hearts in the air whenever he’s near. I spend as much time with him as I possibly can.” And Leo loves Donna so much he always responds to her call.
Bill Crain is the cofounder of Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary in Poughquag and the author of the book, The Emotional Lives of Animals and Children: Insights from a Farm Sanctuary. Visit the farm’s website, www.safehavenfarmsanctuary.org