Rachael Pitchford had Ruby, a 2-year-old potbellied pig whom Pitchford refers to as her “pig daughter,” but Pitchford felt that Ruby needed a friend and was on the lookout for another rescue pig to adopt.
“Pigs are very social animals, and do better in pairs or a herd,” Pitchford said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s unfair to only house one pig, as they get super lonely and long for companionship.”
Pitchford decided to write a post on Facebook to a group for pig lovers, saying that she was interested in fostering or adopting a pig. She was shocked at the response she got.
“A woman wrote to me stating she had been ‘overrun’ by potbellies and all would be taken to auction … and was wondering if I’d like one,” Pitchford said.
Pitchford was surprised by this and thought, if the pigs went to auction, she worried someone would buy them under the false belief that they were teacup pigs. There really is no such thing since so-called teacup pigs sold by breeders are often juvenile potbellied pigs who are underfed and malnourished. They eventually grow up to be very large animals. Another fear Pitchford had was someone would buy the pigs to eat them.
Pitchford reached out to three rescue groups, Broken Shovels Farm, Hog Haven Farm and Rescued Friends Animal Sanctuary and asked them to help. All three groups teamed up with Pitchford to rescue all of the animals.
There were 14 pigs who needed to be rescued, including three newborn piglets — Figs, Persimmon and Durian — who went to Broken Shovels Farm.
Because the owner refused to surrender their mom to the rescue group, Andrea Davis, founder of Broken Shovels Farm, had to bottle-feed the piglets to keep them alive. The piglets were too young to leave their mom.
Pitchford and Ruby went to visit the newborns at Broken Shovels Farm, and Pitchford couldn’t believe how Ruby reacted.
“I walked Ruby into the room with the piglets, and she calmly approached them in their nursery trough,” Pitchford said. “She showed a lot of interest and was wagging her tail and grinding her teeth, which is something she does when [we] cuddle.”
Then Ruby went quiet and still. “She didn’t act fussy whatsoever, which is strange for her,” Pitchford said. “She was absolutely taking on a motherly role with the piglets. She’s naturally pretty sassy, and it was as if I was in the room with a completely different girl.”
When Pitchford and Davis let the piglets out of their trough, Figs made a beeline for Ruby.
“They went snout to snout and kissed each other,” Pitchford said.
Pitchford and Ruby stayed the night, and Ruby would go into the piglets’ room every few minutes to check on them.
“At one point, she tried crawling into the trough with them, though she wouldn’t fit,” Pitchford said. “She’d become extremely concerned when any of them squealed.”
“Pigs are super intelligent,” she added. “I feel like she had a deep understanding that they needed her comfort.”
Because Ruby and Figs have such a strong connection, Pitchford plans to adopt Figs once he’s grown up and ready to be rehomed. Pitchford and Ruby make frequent visits so she can play “mom” to them and give them the comfort their own parent would have.
“It was so heartwarming to see Ruby connecting with the piglets in a way I’d never seen before,” Pitchford said. “It was extremely beneficial to not only the piglets, but to Ruby. It was like she had found her purpose.”
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