This is a great true tale from Rick Stepp-Bolling, one of our fantastic authors.
This post proves we writers do have other areas of our lives, besides squirrelling ourselves away with a keyboard and acting like unsociable hermits.
This story is full of humour, humility and humanity
I don’t believe anyone ever wished for a duller life. Most of us hope life will dazzle us or at least exceed our expectations, not slow to a crawl in a mundane kind of ennui.
Then there’s me.
As a kid growing up in rural neighborhoods, our family adopted a variety of pets including dogs, cats, birds, and the occasional lizard. Perhaps our most exotic animal was Baron, our Great Dane, who I would ride like a small horse when I was three; and the day our resident cat had kittens in our garage, we thrilled at the sight of a mother giving birth to her young.
None of that prepared me for married life, however.
My wife’s childhood was filled with a similar assortment of pets, although beyond the dogs and cats her family’s animals also included monkeys, coatimundis, skunks, snakes, alligators and, I’m sure if they hadn’t become extinct, a unicorn or two.
So, it came as no surprise when I first started dating my wife-to-be, she lived in a trailer with her black lab, Rose and a chicken named Martha who slept on the back of her bed. Outside, her Appaloosa, Chelsea, roamed the small enclosed backyard.
This was just the beginning.
As I write these words today, our house and backyard are home to five dogs, two cats, three horses, two desert tortoises, two chickens, three fish, two recovering India Star turtles, one gecko, one bearded dragon, one blue tree monitor, over forty snakes, largely green tree and ball pythons, a rescue pig, and a mother-in-law.
This story is about Penny, the rescue pig, or to be more exact, the rescue Russian Boar.
Penny, short for Penelope, arrived at our doorstep early in February of 2010. Scott, a friend of ours from karate classes, was hunting wild boars in an area north of L.A. when he happened upon a dead sow, recently killed by a mountain lion.
Glancing around, he noticed a small tail wiggling from a rabbit hole. Upon closer inspection, the tail belonged to a day-old piglet who managed to save her life, much like Alice, down the rabbit hole.
After digging her out, Scott freed the piglet and told her to be on her way. Pigs being notoriously stubborn, flatly refused and followed Scott back to his truck. The sight of a tiny piglet following lamb-like the gun-toting hunter back to a truck usually reserved for carcasses held a certain ironic flare.
However, Scott had the last laugh.
Who better to care for a day-old piglet than the modern-day Noah family of Rick and Francie?
Upon Penny’s arrival, Francie broke out the baby bottle and proceeded to hand feed the piglet. After a few weeks, Penny fed herself but slept on the couch at night with my wife.
Growing up in a household already dominated by dogs, it wasn’t long before Penny thought of herself as canine rather than porcine; she regularly romped around the backyard, used the dog door, and ate and slept with the other dogs. Penny, like the proverbial lamb, followed Francie to school, where she played with the children and became the centre of reading and writing activities.
The trouble with pigs, of course, is they rarely stay their cute and cuddly size for long. Soon Penny had grown too big for sleeping on the couch, traipsing through the house and even using the dog door. Our dogs, and particularly our wolf hybrid, began to see Penny as something other than another playmate. She smelled differently, she barked strangely, and she ate constantly.
Probably the last straw, as far as I was concerned, occurred just after Memorial Day.
Like most holidays, stores around the country in a time-honoured tradition held huge liquor sales. As I have always had a weakness for sales, I thought it was time to stock up on my Bud Lite supply. I purchased an eighteen pack and stored it upstairs. Normally, the beer would have made it directly to the refrigerator, but the dogs begged us to take them for a walk and they also demanded that Penny be left at home this time.
Penny frequently walked with us and startled more than a few people and horses. A typical response went something like this, “Oh what a cute little PIG!!!”
Penny also became more and more distracted on her walks as she spent longer breaks rooting through grass lawns and wallowing in mud puddles. So it was we left Penny home by herself that day.
When we returned, the house smelled slightly pungent, although I must say not totally unpleasant. The closer I came to my bedroom upstairs, the stronger the aroma became. By mistake, the bedroom door had been left open, and there on the rug lay the empty remains of eighteen Bud Lite cans. Penny had torn open the box, punctured each can and guzzled the contents. Now she lay on the couch, snoring like a sotted pig.
My wife was much more philosophical about the event. “At least now you’ll have someone to drink with,” she said.
While this may have been the last straw for me, for Francie, Penny was still welcome to roam the living room, kitchen and downstairs area slipping on the Pergo floors like a girl trying out high heels for the first time.
Only after Penny destroyed much of the kitchen in search of tasty morsels and, cast a hungry eye on the snake habitats, did Francie relent and banish Penny to an outside enclosure.
Another Penny story was recently added to our growing list of “she did what?”
As I was leaving our house early one Wednesday, I noticed five police vans and several medical units exiting the freeway. I thought a drug raid may well be in progress.
When I returned home from golf, I told Francie about the sighting. She said, “Funny you should say that,” and I knew a story was unfolding.
Francie fed the dogs and let Penny roam the backyard. It was still dark out when she heard someone scraping the gate open. She rushed outside thinking Penny had pushed the gate open and was on her way to visit our neighbors.
Instead, she ran into two SWAT team policemen clothed in bulletproof vests and carrying rifles as they walked into our backyard. The first thing she thought to do was yell, “Pig!” I’m not sure that phrase was still a demeaning one for police officers, but the first policeman was almost next to Penny when she turned and saw the man coming at her.
She gave him her best snort and charged.
The two policemen made a hasty retreat out the gate as my wife assured them she would put Penny away. Later she learned they were a backup team in case our neighbor, who was receiving an arrest warrant, decided to jump the wall and make a run for it.
He said he dealt with dogs, goats, and horses, but never a 600-pound pig before. “You sure won’t get many people trying to break into your house,” he added.
Today, Penny sleeps well, eats well, and plays hard. She wallows in her specially designed mud hole, waits impatiently for the apple tree to bear fruit, and loves to have her belly rubbed.
After a few bites from her teething stage, our friends watch Penny from afar, and only Francie and I and a few dogs feel comfortable feeding and playing with our little sumo.
Whatever the future holds for Penny, we know she has enriched our lives with her will to live, her fierce loyalty, and her undying love.
Who could ask for a better teacher of life?
and find out more about Rick and his books, HERE