Last updated: December 06. 2013 3:21PM - 1459 Views
By Earlene Scott for The Times-Gazette



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Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, fish, mice, and snakes, are all common pets found in area homes, but common was not what Chelsea McDonald had in mind as she researched numerous references for information about miniature pigs.


An animal lover since childhood, McDonald, a 2010 graduate of McClain High School, goes “hog wild” into any subject she researches. She found common themes emerging concerning miniature pigs: they are easy to train, intelligent, affectionate and loving, mix well with family groups and other pets, and don’t shed.


McDonald knew she wanted another family pet after losing two favorite cats to “old age.” Gracelynn Mae, her two-year old daughter also loves animals. Any new pet additions to the family must acclimate to a young child as well as the remaining dogs in the family. The decision was finally made and Chelsea knew a miniature pig would be perfect for the whole family. It also happened that a stuffed pig was Gracelynn Mae’s most favorite toy.


Taz, a real live piglet, soon came to join the family. The bond between Gracelynn Mae and Taz was almost immediate.


Taz was already named when he moved to his permanent family and it is apparent he knows his name. When called and told to come, Taz comes. This approximately 6-month-old little cutie can also sit, stay, and beg by standing on his hind legs, when given the command. He really likes to go for walks, too.


In addition, he cuddles, gives hugs, loves the outdoors, walks with a leash, and is working on learning to “shake.” He is also house broken and goes to the door and stands there as an alert to tell McDonald that he needs to go outside. At that time, on goes his harness and leash, just as a prudent owner would prepare and take a dog outdoors.


Training a miniature pig is much like training a dog. They respond to repetitive commands, positive reinforcement, and lots of affection. Taz is not fond of baths but can be enticed by food to cooperate. However McDonald has not exposed him to a rain or mud puddle.


He eats specifically designed commercial pig pellets, and is never fed cat, dog, or people food. His special care needs include keeping him clean and rubbing his skin with baby oil. Hoof conditioner is used on him so that his hooves don’t split or crack. His hoofs also get filed down as needed.


Veterinarian visits are much like a visit for any other pet. The doctors carefully check to make sure the piglet’s diet and weight are monitored and appropriate. It is important to control the amount of food because Taz is not expected to be able to do that for himself. The veterinarian also educates owners on proper grooming and care, provides immunizations as needed and makes sure the piglet’s teeth are emerging correctly.


Taz has teeth but has never bitten or tried to bite inappropriately. He sometimes gets snacks from McDonald or her daughter’s hand. Both mom and daughter help with feeding and grooming needs. The life expectancy of a miniature pig is about the same as a dog and Gracelynn Mae can look forward to many years with her special pet.


Naps for Gracelynn Mae and Taz are part of the daily routine. Sometimes they fall asleep cuddled together. Those quiet moments are cherished. Early in the summer mornings or later in the day during winter months, McDonald, her daughter, and Taz are often seen on their daily walk.


Taz by turns walks, then stops and sniffs at anything that catches his attention. Sometimes he runs just a little too fast for a 2-year-old to keep up. But he quickly stops and runs directly back to his favorite girl and back to the safety and comfort of the walking routine. Both youngster and piglet squeal with delight but it won’t be long before Taz will want a longer leash.


Others in the area have been surprised to see a pig going for a walk and on a leash. Not believing their eyes, they frequently ask McDonald, “Is that really a pig?”


Happily, they are assured that it is indeed a pig. Almost all observers want to stop and pet the pig.


For now, McDonald is thrilled with Taz and the special relationship developing between Gracelynn Mae and her pet. The whole family has fallen in love with him. Most of their extended family welcomes them to bring Taz along on visits. He is well behaved and enjoys receiving attention. When the family leaves and can’t take Taz with them, he remains home in his indoor pen.


The rules for raising and training Taz mimic what you do when you have a young puppy to train.


McDonald was asked, “What advice do you have for someone looking for the perfect pet?”


McDonald’s immediate reply was, “Get a miniature pig. They’re awesome!”


When full-grown, Taz will be about the size of a small beagle and weigh between 20-35 pounds. He is referred to as a “Tea Cup” miniature as opposed to an even smaller version of miniature pigs called “Nanos.” Both species make good pets and a few lucky boys and girls in the area just might be surprised on Christmas morning with their very own piglet to love.


Christmas morning in Greenfield won’t be a disappointment for Taz either. He will receive his very own little bed. It resembles a small cave and will give him plenty of private time and a place for taking the naps he loves. Who knows, there may even be a few squeaky toys inside waiting for him.

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