09-18-14 potbelly 01

It was a normal weekday afternoon with clear blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. After seven years of driving across the valley every single school night, I have a heavily ingrained habit. That particular night, I had responded automatically and it took me a bit to realize that I was essentially heading in the wrong direction.

My daughter and I were laughing, as I drove down a neighborhood street that we don’t normally take to get home. I had caught my “mistake” just in time so it wasn’t too big of a hassle or waste of time, but it did put us in a 25mph zone and being a speed demon and all, I was having a difficult time keeping it at that limit.

However, that slow rate of travel allowed us ample time to look at the somewhat dilapidated neighborhood and see things that we had never really seen before, given that we rarely travel that road. As we talked, we drove by a church with seemingly acres of lush, green grass and right in the middle of it, thoroughly enjoying munching on that grass, was a black potbelly pig.

This siting was so out of the ordinary that it took us both about four seconds to register that it was, in fact, a pig. By the time we realized it was, in fact, a pig, we had passed the road that we could have turned on to get out and observe the pig up close and personal. So we went around the block and parked in front of the church, getting out, feeling excited as though we were going to the county fair, although there were no crates, cages, or fences.

By the time we made it back, two little boys who were about six years old, had found our pig. They were standing by her, wide eyed and excited, just watching her root around in the grass, pulling it up by giant chunks and turning over divots of ground that she didn’t much care for as she searched for the perfect bite.

It occurred to none of us that we should be afraid of this animal.

We rallied around the pig, sitting down on the ground to be on her level and just watched her with fascination. She was a contented pig, oblivious to pretty much everything but the grass she was chowing down on. A small collection of young boys started gathering around us, the only girl being my teenage daughter. She kneeled on the ground near the pig and grinned when the pig walked right up to her and laid down in front of her, her snout pressed up against my daughter’s knees and giving my daughter full permission to pet her. I’m pretty sure that if pigs could purr, this pig would have, as she soaked in the loving touch of my daughter’s hands.

“I want a pig,” my daughter said in her little-girl-who-so-loves-all-animals voice. And I could see why. This pig was really damn cute!

Eventually, some of the boys left to report to their mother that there was a wild pig in the neighborhood. Moments after they left, a very slender woman came jogging towards us, with an energy that was a curious mix of knowing, calm-panic, and determination.

“I’m trained in animal rescue,” she said, holding up a pathetically short and slender dog leash.

“Great,” I said.

It hadn’t occurred to me that this pig needed rescuing.

09-18-14 potbelly pig

She approached the contented pig, which was oblivious to the impending entrapment, and dropped the looped leash around her head. The minute she tightened that noose around the pig’s throat, all hell broke loose. If you’ve never heard the sound of a screaming, pissed off pig, you cannot imagine it. If you have heard that sound, you’ll never forget it.

It was in that moment, when this woman began to attempt to rescue the pig that I began to see the dangerous side of the once gentle animal. Miss Potbelly screamed and kicked and shook her head violently, baring her teeth to show the wicked-looking, upwardly curving tusks on each side of her mouth.

I hadn’t noticed those before.

And in her struggle to break free – which took all of about three seconds, at most – she immediately began foaming at the mouth, adding to the terrifying warning signals that this beast was going to turn violent in any minute. I was close enough to Miss Potbelly to see that her eyes were now watering. Is she crying?

“Call animal control and tell them we have an emergency!” Rescue Woman yelled at me above the screams of the wildly struggling animal.

Interestingly, there had been no cause for alarm until the rescuer showed up.

The panic in her yelled command struck my adrenals and I felt the appropriate fear response dump into my system. Suddenly, my calm demeanor was amped up by adrenaline that pumped through my system, causing my heart to race and my breathing to restrict.

I noticed I felt angry and I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

My daughter got up off the ground, away from the now violent pig, and with tears in her eyes, said to me, “We could have called animal control and had them come without the need to terrify the crap out of that pig. She was doing just fine eating the grass. Now she’s angry and scared.”

I agreed.

Animal Control Man showed up within ten minutes. We had gotten our piggy calmed back down and, although she had a loose lead around her neck, the Rescue Woman wasn’t tugging on her anymore and was allowing her to root around in the grass contentedly. However, every time the lead touched the pig’s body in any way, she went haywire and began bucking like a rodeo bronco, causing the tiny woman to be flung about in an attempt to keep the pig safe.

Rescue Woman estimated the pig to be about 60 pounds. I estimated that to be more than half of what the woman weighed. And when you add the power of anger to that weight, the pig became pretty unruly. And, every time the pig broke loose of any leads, she would run for all she was worth to get away from the demons that were dogging her heels, often running toward the street and causing humans to jump into oncoming traffic to protect her.

Potbelly pigs run surprisingly fast.

The chase to get Miss Potbelly detained lasted a good fifteen minutes with Rescue Woman and Animal Control Man chasing after her and trying a myriad of leads and leashes to contain the now really pissed and foamy pig.

“Those are dog leads,” my daughter said, clearly distraught, “They’re not going to work on a pig because a pig’s neck and head are designed very differently than a dog’s!”

I could only nod, feeling so helpless, as I watched my piggy being chased around until she was breathing heavily and backing herself into a corner, head lowered, shuffling at the ground like a bull who was ready to charge. Her tusks were clearly bared and she meant business. She was mad as all hell.

In a blink, Animal Control Man, in conjunction with a young woman from Grantsville who wrestled pigs for fun in her teens, was able to get two leads around the pig’s neck and then in the ruckus that followed that endeavor, Animal Control Man expertly slid his professional line under the two front legs of the pig so that he had a loop securely around the fatty part of Miss Potbelly’s belly.

Miss Potbelly didn’t like that one bit. She bucked and screamed and kicked. She snapped at anyone that was near her, flinging her head about and causing foam to land on any surface near her. She struggled and she strained and she ran about, causing Animal Control Man to be literally dragged along behind her as he tried to get her to calm down.

It’s hard to calm a wild animal that knows it is trapped.

Rescue Woman started herding the large group of young boys that had gathered to witness the wrangling of the pig. Pig Wrestler was helping her. Animal Control Man was being nearly flung about by the wild boar and that left me to be traffic control. I dashed out into the center of the street and held up my hand, confident that everyone would stop – and they did.

It was interesting to watch the faces of the many driver’s as this gaggle of boys being herded by two women and a man struggling with a pissed off pig all came out of the alley where the pig had run. I could see them all going, “What the…” as the parade weaved, bobbed, and twisted across the road, as everyone in our band of rescuers followed the erratic behavior of Miss Potbelly, trying to keep her within the ever changing “circle” of humans surrounding her.

Getting Miss Potbelly into the truck was another ten-minute process involving a twisty-turny dance between she and Animal Control Man, as she bucked and kicked and screamed and foamed. He dropped a large towel over her face to shield her eyes and for him to use as a wrap to restrain her. She promptly threw it off. Several times. But, finally he wrestled her to the ground, she angrily struggling against the forced submissiveness the entire way.

With a heave and a grunt, Animal Control Man lifted Miss Potbelly into the truck and she spun around, slamming against the metal cage and snapping at anything she could get her tusks near. She screamed some more, the sound multiplying and echoing in her metallic surroundings, multiplying my tears.

As I drove home that night, pondering the whole experience, I realized something… pigs and humans are a lot a like…

  • If the situation is not apparently dangerous, there is no need to be afraid.
  • Even if it could be dangerous, if you use your common sense and care, it doesn’t have to be dangerous.
  • If you allow a potentially dangerous creature to simply be then there is nothing for that potentially dangerous creature to fight against, so there is no danger.
  • Sometimes, rescuers can invoke violence.
  • Rescuers can make the situation worse.
  • What works for some doesn’t work for others.
  • If you enter a situation like you know everything, there is a really good chance that you will call in strong opposition.
  • Anyone who gets cornered or trapped will fight back. It is survival instinct.
  • Fear and pain is often expressed with crying and screaming.
  • Some situations call for gentle handling, some call for more aggressive handling. Knowing the difference is key.
  • What looks like “helping” to someone can look “abusive” to another.
  • When a rescuer is trying to help, it can be experienced as terrifying and abusive to the person being helped.
  • Just because one sees the situation in one way does not mean that anyone else sees it that way.

And, just in case you’re not following the reference… “rescuers” can land on the “hero” corner of the Villain-Victim-Hero Drama Triangle, if they’re unclear or uninformed.

I don’t know what fate lies in store for Miss Potbelly. I hope that we did the right thing by her. I hope that wherever she ends up, there is a lot of moist grass and soil for her to root around in. I hope that whomever she belonged to claims her back and loves on her because she was pretty traumatized by the whole thing.

Hell, I was pretty traumatized by the whole thing.

© Angie Millgate

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