. . . is like mixing oil with water. Pigs hate the cold, but they hate snow even more.
All our pot-bellies have overhead heaters in their pens. If you ever think of getting a pot-belly, you need to keep them inside the house just as you would an inside dog or, if he or she is to be outside, you need to provide heat--they are, after all, tropical animals.
We start up the heaters in late fall when the temperature drops below fifty degrees, and we throw in a couple of extra blankets for them to cuddle into--so that their very sensitive schnozzles stay warm and moist. The phrase, "Pig in a blanket" wasn't coined for no reason at all: pigs love snuggling into blankets.
I'll never forget when, may years ago, I first brought my first baby pig, Lowell, home. By the time the cold weather came, he had grown as round as my Electrolux vacuum cleaner. He was only half as long as the cleaner, but he was a solid cylinder that hoovered up hay scraps and other delectables just as the vacuum sucked up dirt. Pigs and vacuums have a lot in common.
Anyway, when late fall approached, I threw a couple of old blankets in little Lowell's pen in the barn. And I had also sifted through old clothes and dumped a couple pairs of old holey sweatpants in along with the blankets. Right away Lowell sidled over to the pile of old clothes and blankets and began his inspection: rooting and arranging the articles in pig-order. For pigs, everything has its place.
Later that evening I went out to do a barn check--making sure none of the horses had colic. As I looked around at each horse standing quietly in a stall, I heard a high whining coming from the corner. Lowell.
"Lowell?" I yelled, running over to his pen. I could see nothing but blankets in the twilight of the barn, but he had to be there underneath them somewhere. "Lowell!" I called, digging through the blankets. "Where are you?"
But all I heard was a very distressed, high-pitched whine that translated to, "Help!!! For cryin' out loud, help me!"
I flipped blankets from his pen, and as the squealing became more intense, I still couldn't make out the figure of my juvenile pot-belly. I knew he was there somewhere, but he was camouflaged within the tangle of old clothes and blankets. So, I continued to dig.
Soon I discovered what I could best describe as one leg of a sweatpant straining at the seams, filled to the brim--with my pig. Yep--Lowell had crawled down one leg of one of my old sweatpants and had gotten stuck in it. The pant leg resembled a over-stuffed sausage, and Lowell's muffled whine was originating from it.
With frantic speed, I went to work extricating the pig, but I had to work like hell--he was really stuck, and he was angry. Pigs don't tend to take responsibility for their own actions, being more likely to blame someone else for their predicaments. Lowell was so annoyed with me for having set him up with pants he could get caught in.
"Okay, okay," I tried to reassure him. "I'm working as fast as I can." Speed is very important to an irritated pig. The more I worked at the sweatpant, the more he yelled, "Hurry up! You got me into this thing, now get me out!" Finally, I accordioned the leg up and over his body, and he popped out. He grunted as if to say, "What the hell took you so long!" and I told him, "I can't help it you got stuck. Don't blame me because your belly is bigger than my thigh!" He glared once at me and went to the corner.
That happened about 15 years ago. Lowell is so big now, he'd never get even his head caught in a pant's leg. Still, he does demand he have clean blankets, and he adores his overhead heater, as do the other six pot-bellies that share the barn with him.
Even during a cold afternoon in the winter, the younger pigs, Skippy, Lillie, Ivy Mae, and Annie venture from their heated pens to snack on some hay in the barn. On sunny days they'll find a sheltered area in the sun and sun-bathe there until the sun fades into the west. Then they walk back to their pens and take a nap beneath their heaters until dinnertime. All--from a pig's perspective--is right with the world.
But what pot-bellies won't do is go for a walk in the snow. They detest cold, wet anything between their toes. And, when they venture out to check out their sun-bathing spots, if their trek is hampered by a layer of snow that had fallen overnight, they stand back several feet from the white stuff and begin complaining.
And, of course, the snow's being there is all my fault. "Wree-wree-wree," Skippy says, staring at the snow. In other words, "What did you mess up my yard for? You know I don't like walking in that stuff." And then I try to reason with him. "It's not my fault Skippy! I didn't do it. It came from the sky!" But he won't listen to reason and continues babbling and whining in pig language. "I DON'T LIKE IT! GET RID OF IT! GET RID OF IT ALL--NOW!"
I try to calm him by patting his shoulder and assuring him it'll all be gone in a few weeks, but it serves no comfort. He hates snow, and he wants it gone.
I'll be glad when spring comes. At least I won't get the blame for spreading around pig-feet- clenching snow. But then the spring rains will come. And those will be my fault, too. Pigs don't like rain either.