Life of a Pig
April 18, 2008
I’m twelve years old and have never known another pig since I don’t remember suckling my mother but with enduring clarity I recall my first home, in the back yard of a family in the San Fernando Valley. I was a twenty-pound piglet then and enjoyed the kids and their friends patting me while cooing how cuddly I was. My cuteness evidently declined as I gained some seventy pounds in several months and my suburban hosts began to call my snout an “appalling tool” and accuse me of destroying their yard. I did not. I remodeled it, digging up grass to extract slithery worms, who few creatures relate to anyway, and removing flowers while ridding the beds of aggravating weeds. Rather than praising me, or at least empathizing, the lady of the house waved a frying pan in front of my snout, threatened to turn me into ham or bacon, and hissed I was lucky some fools had agreed to take me.
Good riddance to you, too, madam. For your traffic, noise, and smog in the hyperactive Valley I moved to the exclusive canyons of Calabasas and roamed acres as a creature free to root where he pleased. And I had companions, horses, lots of them. I ignored the dogs, who generally howled like lunatics, and attempted ultimate expressions of love with the horses, mounting their legs in anatomically impossible efforts that prompted the stallions to shake or kick me away. Though I butted them back their displeasure usually proved fleeting, and with body language they beckoned me to return to their stalls for quiet companionship and the brotherhood of beasts. At last I had someone who wanted me there and who was always available. Regrettably, my new owners were even more fanatical in their love of horses than most humans are about dogs, and they said, “Oscar, your libido is out of control and your too-long tusks are going to rip their legs.” Accordingly, I was taken to the veterinarian who lopped off my testicles, though not before putting me to sleep, and the same day sawed off my tusks at the gum line.
“Are pigs that horny?” a concerned visitor asked the lady of the house.
“All males are,” she replied.
I gather human males aren’t subjected to emasculation but I don’t complain for I understand the dining room table beckons most of my brethren. I by contrast am permitted to heed my genetic programming and almost constantly seek food. It’s easy every morning about nine when, like Pavlov’s dogs, I get up salivating at the essential sound of an all terrain vehicle coming down the canyon road from the window-dominated house perched above. The man, the woman, or one of their helpers get out and give me pig pellets of compressed grain and also offer leftovers of chips, French fries, melon rinds, and whatever else they have. My equine friends, confident I’m too short to reach into their troughs, then welcome me to stand below and eat wheat, oats, and molasses that fall from their mouths. We do this twice a day. I suppose it isn’t surprising I’ve bloated to three hundred pounds.
My owners say my arthritis wouldn’t be so bad if I’d lose weight. Maybe they should feed me less but doubtless know that even on short aching legs I’d just go over to neighbors’ houses and eat their gardens and food fallen from horses’ mouths. I’m inherently incapable of being anything but a pig, and why should I try? I want to enjoy the last three years one my age can be expected to have. I may not get even that. People whisper that Oscar must be ailing since he never comes up to the house to visit anymore. If they try to lead me up the hill with a rope around my neck I scream so loud they stop right away. They instead lure me by placing a potato chip on the ground every several feet all the way onto the ramp of the horse trailer that takes me to the vet. During my recent visit he trimmed my toenails, cut my continuously-growing tusks – a tri-annual task – wormed and x-rayed me and prescribed pain tablets I take three times a day. The visit cost $313. I heard my owners say there aren’t going to be any more bills like that. They soon added the most important reason would be to prevent me from suffering.
Forget euthanasia. I’m okay. Arthritis doesn’t overwhelm my love of eating and hanging with horses, and I always enjoy my midday naps. People should realize that. A recent visitor watched me at rest on my side and mistook my grunting and labored breathing from small lungs as irrefutable signs of physical and psychic distress. In fact, my prognosis is excellent. Unlike many pigs, I’ve never had bronchitis or pneumonia. And only my two front legs are arthritic. My snout’s still a bulldozer. Whether I want a customized spot in the mud to get cooler and avoid sunburn or a hole to shield myself from the rain, I can quickly root out what I need to relax.
For most of my twelve years in Calabasas I’ve been sheltered by a modified doghouse, where I rapidly ripped out the carpet and shredded the blankets, or by crawling under the hay room. I’m thankful for that and not jealous of George Clooney’s late pig, Max, who lived most of his nineteen years in a mansion with the actor and sometimes slept with him. I’ve never been in the house of my owners, and at this stage might not sleep with them if they asked. But I’d probably snooze with George.