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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tucker the Pig

Stroganoff. What does stroganoff have to do with Tucker the Pig... well, I'm going to tell you. If you are a great foodie who loves his stroganoff, prepare to gag. Why? Because you are not going to like how I make stroganoff, not one little bit. If you are a Russian foodie, you should probably have a proper receptacle ready, in case it becomes necessary.

I learned how to make stroganoff from my mother. I'm not sure where she learned how to make it, but I'm pretty sure it was off of a can of Campbell's soup. A can of Campbell's tomato soup to be exact. That's right... I make stroganoff with tomato soup. Hamburger, sour cream and tomato soup. Why? That's how I grew up eating it. That is what I think of when I think of stroganoff. It is how I like it, it is how my husband likes it, it is how my son likes it. When I was a kid, I had no idea it was made any other way. I know better now, but I still like it the way I grew up eating it. It is still stroganoff to me. However, it is not stroganoff to everyone. I don't expect anyone to ever accept my version of stroganoff, but it doesn't mean I can't still have it.

How many of you have grown up thinking of pigs as livestock? An animal that lives on a farm until the day it is taken to market and made into bacon. You like bacon, I love bacon! I grew up in Iowa. We have more pigs than people. Pigs were a bad smell you passed on a country road and then meat that you ate for dinner that night.

That is a pattern of thinking that has become a big problem for Tucker the Pig. Tucker is a KuneKune pig who lives with his family in Brandermill,Virginia. He is a registered emotional support animal that lives with his family Mark and Kim Johnson and their children. A few neighbors have a problem with that. Just a few though. Out of 3800 houses in the subdivision and 84 in the Johnson's neighborhood 3 people have complained. Most are big fans of Tucker's and enjoy having him in the neighborhood.

Mark has had PTSD for several years due to the loss of his seventeen month old child. He had nightmares and insomnia. He was having problems functioning. His son was also starting to have some emotional issues as well, secluding himself, becoming depressed. A doctor suggested to Mark that a companion animal might help them both. They looked into dogs, though Kim has allergies to dogs. They looked into the "hypoallergenic" dogs, like the famed Portuguese water dogs that the First Family has. Kim's allergies stem from chemicals in a dog's saliva and urine rather than dander, so even those make her eyes swell and turn her nose into a faucet.

After a lot of research, Kim started looking into pet pigs. There are three species of pigs that are common as pets, the Pot Belly, the Juliana, and the KuneKune. Kim and Mark had decided that a pig would be a good choice for them. They learned what they could about keeping pigs as pets, and originally decided on a Juliana. They found a breeder and went to pick out a pig. The Pot Bellies and the Julianas were a little stand offish. Tucker, he ran right up to them. Though they knew he would be a larger pig than a Juliana, they decided he would go home with them. As Mark put it, "he chose us."

KuneKunes are a very friendly breed of pig. They love anyone and anything. Tucker gets along with people, dogs, cats, anyone. They give unconditional love that makes them great pets and even better therapy animals.  It is part of the breed's nature. A nature that almost brought the breed to extinction. Instead of the natural fear of people that most prey animals have, KuneKunes would run right up to people, who in turn would kill them and eat them. The population of the breed, that is from New Zealand,  fell to about fifty world wide. According to the British KuneKune Pig Society two men, Michael Willis and John Simister, realized the future of the breed was bleak and decided to buy at many pigs as they could. They found 18, and are likely the reason that the breed still exists today. Thanks to breeders and families that love the pigs, the population in the US is about 300, and about 3000 world wide. Without breeders the breed would likely be extinct.

While a KuneKune is never going to win the big boar contest at the state fair, they are not tiny pigs. Boars can reach the size of 250 pounds. Tucker, at almost two years old and 165 pounds is nearly full grown. Just like people though, even though the full height is reached, his weight could still increase. Even at that size he is no larger than the St. Bernard neighbor dog, and certainly smaller than the Mastiff dog down the street.

Yet, Tucker is still a pig. As such, he is different. In our society, there are people, sometimes just a few, that just don't like things that are different. Sometimes, those few have very loud voices. Often they don't take the time to learn about the thing that is different. They make assumptions based on old beliefs. They decide that they already know all they need to know, and that is all that matters.

Pigs have had a bad wrap since, well... biblical times. In those times, pork could not be preserved. A fresh kill could be eaten, if properly cooked. However, if not properly cooked, or if a carcass were kept for a day, the meat could sicken and even kill a person who ate it. Cooking practices being what they were, many people got sick from eating pork. The stigma of the pig being "a demon killing people," stuck with the species for a very long time. People believed pigs to be dirty and diseased. It took a very long time for people to start eating pork the way we do today. Even as we have, the idea of pigs being filthy is still there.

One of Tucker's detractors is an older gentleman. He simply does not like pigs. He doesn't want a pig in his neighborhood. He is one of the three that spoke against Tucker to the city council. He really has no argument against Tucker, except that Tucker is a pig. Tucker has never destroyed any property. Tucker is not out roaming the streets alone. Tucker is not a noise nuisance. Tucker spends a most of his day in the house, like any other pet. But the man does not like pigs, so no one should be able to have one in his neighborhood.

Here's the thing, there are people who simply do not like dogs, or cats, yet because they are traditional pets, you don't have city council meetings about them unless they have been a nuisance of some sort.  A dog needs to bite someone, or destroy property before the city council would even consider talking about the pet, much less threaten to make the family get rid of it.

That is what happened to Tucker. Because one person didn't like pigs, and two others were afraid that Tucker would "drive down property values," the Johnson's were told to get rid of him. They fought! They started more research. They learned that, of course, pigs were considered livestock and not allowed within the city limits unless the property had three acres of land. The Johnson's property did not. They requested a conditional use permit to redefine their property as a stock farm. One person that objected to this was afraid it would set a precedent, if they let the Johnsons get to keep the pig "what would be next? Zebras, ostriches, elephants?"

Here is a funny thing about the zoning laws in the community. Yes, pigs are considered livestock, but so are rabbits. Yes, I said rabbits. However, while you cannot have a pet pig or a pet rabbit, you can have up to six chickens in your yard. They are considered companion animals. A chicken, a companion animal.

The Johnsons didn't think to look into zoning laws before getting Tucker. "I was thinking in terms of a pet, I didn't even think it would be a problem." Mark said. The breeder he bought Tucker from did not bring up the subject either. The breeder should have. The breeder of any kind of animal should be sure that the animal they are selling is going into a home where it can stay. Randy's ordeal has taught us that. Though Dawn Blackburn advised Randy's family to ask their landlord and had been told by the family that the landlord gave permission. Dawn has now decided to do landlord checks herself in the future for prospective buyers that are renters.

The insistence of many people including the Humane Society of Missouri, in Randy's case, to consider even pet pigs as livestock is ludicrous.

According to the USDA the definition of livestock is Livestock are domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as foodfiber and labor. Other than being a domesticated animal, neither Tucker nor Randy fit into this description. 

The ASPCA defines companion animals as The ASPCA believes that companion animals should be domesticated or domestic-bred animals whose physical, emotional, behavioral and social needs can be readily met as companions in the home, or in close daily relationship with humans. Tucker and Randy both completely fits this description. 

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of thedisability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or other medical professional, the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability. To be afforded protection under United States federal law, a person must meet the federal definition of disability and must have a note from a physician or other medical professional stating that the person has that disability and that the emotional support animal provides a benefit for the individual with the disability. An animal does not need specific training to become an emotional support animal. As defined by  Wisch, Rebecca (20013). "FAQs on Emotional Support Animals"The Animal Legal & Historical Center. Michigan State University College of Law. Retrieved 1 March 2014.  

Tucker is a pet. Randy is a pet. Whether they are  normal pets, or your idea of a pet, or not your idea of a pet, Tucker is a pet to the Johnsons and Randy is a pet to Dawn. Just like tomato soup stroganoff is stroganoff to me. Tucker fits the definition of an emotional support animal. Just because he comes in the package of a pig does not change that fact. As a matter of fact, pigs are the number two most popular emotional support animal after dogs. He is intelligent, he is lovable, he loves his people and just about everyone else. He provides comfort, he plays and snuggles.  As long as he continues to get social interaction, love and training he will continue to be a great pet. The same as a dog. 

On January 14 the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow Tucker to stay with the Johnsons, under certain conditions. These conditions include things like he can't be out of the house without a leash unless in his fenced yard. He can only be out of the house for a certain amount of time per day. His poo, though less pungent than a dog's due to Tucker's vegan diet, must be cleaned up everyday. A dog can poo wherever it wants, and there is no law saying it must be cleaned up. If these and a few other conditions are meant, they will revisit the decision in one year. Hopefully, at that point they will allow him to stay permanently. Stay where he is loved, stay where he is needed. 

Randy is still in quarantine at the Longmeadow Rescue Ranch. "Pigs have the intelligence of a three to four year old child," said Mark Johnson. "Keeping Randy in isolation is like keeping a child in isolation. We are as afraid as Dawn is, that he is just not going to come out the same pig as he went in." 

"It is amazing how smart and intelligent he is," Mark said, speaking of Tucker. "He knows everything we talk about. He knows the names of his food. He knows the names of friends that come to visit. He gets excited when we tell him someone is coming to visit and he will follow them to the door as they go to leave. It's like he saying, 'why are you leaving, stay a little longer.' He knows the word goodbye." 

Upcoming projects for the Johnsons include an interview on the talk show "The Doctors" sometime in February. Mark, Kim and Tucker will all be on. Kim is also planning on writing children's books revolving around Tucker. Tucker is an important member of the Johnson family. The same way your cat or dog is important in yours. 

If Dawn is ever able to bring Randy home again, he will be an important part of her family. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If Cows Are Smart, I Don't Want to Know

Since starting on this journey with Dawn to free Randy from the Longmeadow Rescue Ranch, I have learned a LOT. Not just about how to make memes either.

I have learned so much about the intelligence, sensitivity, and how loving pigs are. They are as smart as a three year old child. A THREE. YEAR. OLD. CHILD! They trust. Not automatically, they are born afraid that everything is going to eat them. Which when you think about it, is pretty darn smart of them. They can be taught, taught to trust. They can learn that a human can be looked to, for love, for companionship, and they won't be eaten.

Dogs are born, usually, trusting anyone that pats them on the head. Cats are born, usually, knowing that humans are servants and if they treat us just nice enough we keep their bowls filled and their litter clean. Pigs aren't born that way. They learn. THEY LEARN!

Trust isn't something that comes quickly to a pig. It takes work. A lot of work. Once a point is reached, the switch turns on and they trust. They not only trust, but they love their families just as much as any dog or cat. Maybe even more. Can you imagine starting out life sure you were going to be eaten, yet learn to trust and love the very person you were sure was going to eat you.

Is it piggy Stockholm syndrome? I don't think so. When humans develop Stockholm syndrome it doesn't go away very quickly. When a pig has a reason to lose trust, it can happen in an instant. Once the trust is gone, it could be gone forever. That's why everyday that Randy is left alone, being treated like livestock is so incredibly heart wrenching to Dawn. She is so afraid that her sweet little Randy may have already turned that corner.

I've learned that pigs have hearts that break. They can actually become depressed when they are taken from the family they love. They are a herd animal. Whether that family is a bunch of pigs or a bunch of humans, they mourn if they lose that family.

All of what I have learned about pet pigs, I cannot separate from livestock pigs. Does a farm pig have the same abilities? Is a pet pig so far removed from a farm pig? Does a farm pig know when it is going to slaughter? Esther the Wonder Pig makes me think farm pigs are just as smart as pet pigs. Just a different turn of events kept her in a house, instead of on a plate.

I haven't been able to bring myself to eat pork for ten days now. I see a slice of bacon and I think of Randy. We have had pizza twice, and I can't get myself to eat my beloved pepperoni. I have actually been eating veggie pizza. VEGGIE PIZZA! I refuse to eat beef on pizza. Hamburger has no place on pizza. Just like cheddar cheese has no place on pizza. Don't argue with me on this, you won't win. Okay, okay, taco pizza can have both hamburger and cheddar cheese, but that's it!

I don't know how long this inability to eat pork will last. Well... because...  you know.. BACON! For now though, apparently, I am a reluctant, semi kosher non-Jew.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do a Random Act of Kindness for Randy

As you know, I have been trying to help my friend Dawn Blackburn in her relentless pursuit to bring her beloved piglet, Randy, home from the Longmeadow Rescue Ranch a division of the Humane Society of Missouri. If you missed the details you can get them here. If you would like to learn more about Dawn Blackburn, you can do that here.

As a part of trying to get the word out, especially, but not exclusively, in the St. Louis area we have decided to start a Random Act of Kindness Campaign. I say not exclusively, because, we have a petition going on to try and convince Longmeadow that it is not only, but most importantly, in Randy's best interest to go home, but theirs as well. The more signatures we get the more likely they will listen. At this point we are just 14 shy of 1500 signatures. There are signatures from all over the United States and many from all over the world. Sweden, South Africa, Canada, The United Kingdom, Scotland, just to name a few. We need more though. We need to convince them that this is turning in to a public relations nightmare. That their donations are going to be affected. They don't seem to give two oinks about what is best for Randy, despite being told by at least three veterinarians, being held in isolation in a livestock facility will be detrimental to Randy's health. Including the Veterinarian for the Missouri Dept. of Agriculture. They still refuse to listen. 

Anyway, I digress. This is the mission, should you choose to accept it. Print off the random act of kindness cards. I admit I am not tech savvy. I'm not sure if you can print them off directly from my blog, if I could figure out how to make it easier I would. Here is how I'm doing it. I have an iPhone, so it might be different with other phones. I have saved the photo off Bring Randy the Pig Home page on Facebook to my phone. From there I can save it to my computer and print it off. Except, my printer doesn't work. Soooo..... I am going to send the photo to Walgreens photo, have them print it as an 8x10 photo. I'll have copies made from there. Hopefully, those of you who would like to do this won't have to go to that extent, but not everyone has a printer. I'm just using Walgreens because I have an app for them. There are lots of other places. 

Now, that you have cards in hand, go to it! When you are in line at a drive thru, give the cashier and extra 5 bucks for the person behind you. Give the cashier two of the cards. Ask them to give the person you are paying for the cards. That way they have one to keep and one to pay it forward with. 

Other things you could do, help a frazzled mother load her groceries in the car, so she can hold her screaming baby. Give her two cards, ask her to pay it forward. Clean the snow off a neighbors drive, tape two cards to their front door, in an envelope that says, Pay It Forward. Give the kids' school bus driver a few of the cookies you just baked, with of course, two cards and a kind "pay it forward." 

I think the biggest thing that will help this campaign work is, just give them the card and say "pay it forward and thank you." Don't try to explain it to them. That frazzled mom needs to get her kids home. The bus driver needs to stay on schedule. We don't want to get preachy, just get the word out. If people ask, give short explanations. Like, "I'm trying to help get a little pet piglet back home to his family." Use words like family instead of owner. Use the words "his" and "him" instead of it. Make him sound endearing, like a family dog or cat. Not like a farm animal. Not all people understand that pigs can be pets. We need to quickly make them understand that that is exactly what Randy is, without pressure. We want them to like us enough to look at the card. And maybe, just maybe, one card will end up in one hand, that can be that one voice that can #bringRandythePigHome.

Thank you al for your support. 

If you haven't already, please sign the petition. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Learned How to Make Memes, Not Necessarily a Good Thing

I wish there was good news to tell you, hopefully soon.

Please, sign the petition. We can get Randy home!!

Bring Randy the Pig Home


Did you Meeeeeettttttt..... NORMAN!


Once upon a time there was a little juliana mini piggy named Prince JP. JP lived in the kingdom of Blackburn. JP was a lonely little pig and decided he wanted to take a bride. After a long exhausting search he met a princess named Anna Mae. She came from a mysterious kingdom from far far away. A kingdom named Alderaan. (What? I can't add a bit of Star Wars in here? It's my story!!!) 

At first Anna Mae wanted nothing to do with JP. He tried to impress her by being very macho and domineering. When the trained human servant named Jim would come around JP would puff up, scowl and run at Jim.  He would then, feeling very proud of himself,  turn to Princess Anna Mae, only to see her rolling her eyes in disgust. 

Prince JP thought long and hard about what to do to get the beautiful Anna Mae to love him. The other trained human servant Dawn came up and JP was a complete gentleman. He treated the human servant with kindness, Anna Mae was pleased. 

As weeks went by Anna Mae and JP spent more time together. She continued to rebuff him, but as he showed off she couldn't help but notice. After several months they became friends. They were friends for a very long time. Until one day, Anna Mae realized that under the ridiculous macho exterior hid a silly, warm pig. Two years later they were married and lived happily ever.......

Oh wait, Norman....

Early the morning of August 25, 2013, Anna Mae woke up to a sunny day. She and JP had been excitedly waiting for her first litter of piglets to be born. She had fixed up the kingdom preparing. This morning she felt funny. Perhaps today was the day the babies would be born. They had picked out many names. She was just waiting to find out which they would use. 

Later that five babies were finally born. Having a love for cartoons they named their beautiful babies Sponge Bob, Pearl, Puff, Patrick and Squidward. (I'm not making that up.) All were very healthy except little Squidward. He was born with a bad hernia and had to have surgery when he was only a day old. The human servant Dawn had to come everyday and give him shots for ten days. Dawn hated having to hurt Squidward, but it had to be done to keep him healthy. He  was a very tiny pig, but he was strong enough to make sure the human Dawn knew he was not pleased with her. 

Once the shots were finally done, the human Dawn worked very hard to gain Squidward's trust again. Being much like his mother,  Squidward rebuffed Dawn at every turn. She was relentless. As days wore on and Squidward realized that Dawn was no longer going to give him any more nasty shots. He would watch her as she cared for his brothers and sisters. She was kind and patient with them. She would play with them and give them treats. She was especially kind to Patrick. Patrick was very shy. He didn't enjoy doing tricks when the others were around. She would take him aside and play with him. She gave him the time he needed to feel more confident. 

Squidward watched and then one day realized the evil shots did make him feel better. He could now run and play with his siblings. He was getting bigger very quickly and catching up with the rest. Maybe he could trust Dawn again. Finally, Squidward jumped into a play session with the rest and mastered all of the skills Dawn was teaching them faster than anyone else. Dawn was so happy and excited she cried. Squidward learned to love Dawn very much, and shhhhh, don't tell anyone, but she became his favorite human servant. 

Who wouldn't like coming home to these faces
greeting you at your back door.

Squidward and the others played together in the Kingdom of Blackburn all summer. They grew and learned and played. They spent time playing in the yard with other strange looking four legged creatures. Two were small and had long white hair, the boy made a strange barking noise every time he heard something outside. The girl would just sit on the couch sleeping. There were other furry barky things as well, some big, some small. There were also these other animals. They seemed to think they were smarter than everyone else. They were furry with long tails. They weren't as noisy as the barky things, but they sure were conceited. Though, they were also warm and snuggly. 

There were these other creatures as well. They only had two legs like the human servants, but they were round and feathery. Squidward was fascinated by these strange quirky things. He enjoyed spending the afternoon startling them so they would run their goofy run and make a loud BAAK BAAK sound. They were funny. 

In their own special part of the kingdom were majestic, magical beings. They were bigger even than the human servants. The human servants would ride on their backs occasionally. They were beautiful. Squidward was to afraid to get very close to these amazing beasts. He watched them from afar. 

The time went by very quickly for Squidward. He found himself growing up faster than he could imagine. He had learned much from Dawn and Jim. He grew smarter every day. Soon it was time that he and his siblings were ready to go out into the world and find their own kingdoms. Except for Patrick. He was still very timid. It was decided it would be best for him to stay in the Kingdom of Blackburn, with the very kind human servants Dawn and Jim. They loved all of the piglets, and would miss them dearly, Patrick would have his hands full loving them and making sure they were ok. 

Squidward found his way to the Kingdom of Carter. It was a very strange kingdom. Browner than the greens he knew in his former kingdom. It was in a place he heard a human call Texas. He met two new human servants. Misty and Shane, they told him he could call them mom and dad. This felt a little strange at first. He had left his mom and dad behind with Dawn and Jim. He slowly warmed up to the idea though. They were very kind to him and let him get used to them at his pace. This made it much easier on him. He could tell they knew how to be very good human servants.... errrr, mom and dad. 

They also did something else. They started calling him Norman. He wasn't sure why. Did Dawn and Jim forget to tell them his name was Squidward? It didn't take long for the name Norman to grow on him though. Squidward really isn't a very pleasant name. He decided he liked his new name Norman very much. Very much indeed. 

Norman's new mom and dad liked to play a lot of the same games as Dawn and Jim. They would let him show off his skills and give him treats. They showed him new things to learn and he loved it very much.  Learning new things was exciting. He learned new tricks in about two hours. He did so well at it, his mom and dad started taking him places to show off. Norman realized he loved showing off. He could do 21 tricks and his mom and dad still had more to teach him.

Mom and Dad started taking him to charity events. He especially likes doing this. He would get to make other human servants smile, and help them at the same time. He did a 5K walk called the Mutt Strut to help raise money for other animals for the Dallas SPCA. There were lots of other barky things at that event. Norman actually rode in a wagon. A 5K is an awful long way for such tiny legs. He was the only pig out of thousands of participants. 

He especially likes going to daycares and birthday parties, teaching children how wonderful pigs are. He loves watching them giggle and laugh as he does his tricks.  He thinks that is his favorite thing to do. 

One day he was thinking, if he made people so happy maybe he should find a way to make people who need some happiness feel better, too. He decided he wanted to become a pet therapy pig. His mom and dad thought this was a wonderful idea! They helped him find out what he needed to learn and do to make his dream come true. They found there were very specific things he needed to learn and very important ways he needed to act. He would have to have a physical and pass behavior tests. They are very particular about who they give official pet therapy badges to, and Norman was determined to get one. 
This is one page of things required of a therapy pet

Norman worked very hard. He became the Rocky Balboa of the pig world. He jumped his hurdles, and he ran his stairs. He would not be stopped. He would wear the pet therapy badge and wear it proudly. His mom had to take classes, too. He was very proud of her. She did very well. They worked together day after day until the day came when it was time to be tested. 

Norman and Mom found their way to the testing area. They were both a little nervous. They knew they had practiced very well together. The knew what was expected and had studied hard. They waited, just a bit impatiently, for the handlers to come. There would be two handlers to test him. At least they is what they were told. Suddenly, through the door came two, then three, no, five handlers to test Norman. None of them had ever worked with a pig before. They were so excited that they couldn't decide which two should get to do the tests, so they all came. They loved Norman. He passed with flying colors. He beamed with pride and looked forward to getting to make more people smile. 

All that was left was the health screening. He was a very healthy pig. His Mom and Dad made sure he was kept up on all of his shots, which he still to this day hates. They feed him a very healthy diet, though he'd like more acorns like Patrick gets to have. He knew he would pass the health screening just fine, and he was right. 

He knows that his Mom and Dad are very proud of him. He is very happy to live with them and wouldn't trade them for anything. He also knows that if Dawn hadn't been such a great loving human servant for him in the Kingdom of Blackburn he never would have done so well with Mom and Dad. He still loves her very much. 

Norman is also very sad that his brother Randy has been stuck, all alone, at Longmeadows Rescue Ranch. He shouldn't be there. He's NOT livestock, he's family! He should be home with Dawn, Jim, Patrick and all of the other strange beings in the Kingdom of Blackburn. 

Please, go and sign this petition. Norman wants Randy to be home again. Norman helps so many people, please help him get Randy home!

Bring Randy the Pig Home                                                         #bringRandythePigHome

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Meet Dawn Blackburn

Dawn is in the middle, I'm the one in purple,
And our great friend Kelley is on the other side of Dawn.
The little one is my granddaughter Kahlen.
She photobombed us at my daughter's wedding.

Since I have been trying so hard to get you to support Dawn Blackburn in her fight to get Randy the Pig  back from Humane Society of Missouri and Longmeadow Rescue Ranch. I thought, those of you who have never met her or don't know her personally might like a little insight into who she is. 

I have known Dawn since seventh grade. We first met in Mrs. Hagen's language arts class, or it might have been social studies, seventh grade was over 35 years ago. Somehow, we both decided that a certain desk was our own. We disagreed over whose desk it was for most of that semester. I would try my hardest to get to class first to lay claim to my territory. It was all in good fun, and I still say it was my desk. 

Dawn was a tiny little thing. She had ears that stuck out. Her ears grew before the rest of her, and they were a cause of much distress to her. Being as tiny as she was, she was bullied by some of the meanest girls I have ever known in my life. They were hateful girls who took great joy in bullying anyone they thought was "beneath" them. One time one of them even picked Dawn up and threw her over a couple of rows of seats in the school auditorium. What they didn't know about Dawn was that she was the dynamite that came in small packages. While they made her life miserable, as well as mine, she was never held down by them. She came back up, even stronger, every time they knocked her down. She would not be stopped by anyone, least of all a bunch of girls who were not worth the time of day it took to say their names. 

Our real deep and lasting friendship didn't really start until ninth grade when my best friend Tari moved to Kansas City and I was feeling a little lost. Somehow, Dawn, Kelley, another friend Kathy and I formed in to a group of friends that still lasts to this day. 

The four of us spent most of our time together, including working at an Orange Julius throughout high school together. Our sophomore year of high school we were split between two different schools. Kelley and I were at Lincoln and Dawn and Kathy were at Des Moines Tech. Kelley and I both wanted to go to Tech, but both of our mothers had reservations about it. (In our junior year Kelley and I won over our mothers and transferred to Tech.) Still even during this time, when many kids would drift away from each other being at different schools, our bonds grew tighter and deeper. We all spent the afternoons after school at Dawn's house. Her mom would make us oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, (still my favorite to this day) and we would drink Pepsi. Dawn would let her dog Jiggs, a pekinese, drink out of her pop glass, which would set the rest of us gagging. Even then Dawn loved her animals, now, though she knows better than letting her animals drink Pepsi. I think she would still let them drink out of her glass though. 

During high school I spent much more time at Dawn's house than I did my own. Dawn's mom was one for taking in strays, animal or human. Probably where Dawn gets it. Dawn's barn seems to attract cats. She will have them spayed or neutered and let them live in her barn chasing mice. While she loves animals she doesn't want to contribute to the population of feral cats. When she finds a feral mother with a litter of kittens, she will do her best to socialize the kittens so that they will be adoptable. She has the kittens spayed and neutered, and does her best to find them homes. Though occasionally one or two end up as pets that stay in the house. Ricky the cat is one example. He was supposed to be a barn cat... He had other ideas. 

Patrick the Pig and Ricky the Cat

After we graduated high school and all went our separate ways our friendship stayed a solid rock that we all depended on. As we all started our own families and working full-time we drifted some and would lose touch now and again. Dawn moved from Des Moines to St. Louis but even through distance and occasional lapses in communication our friendships stayed strong. 

Dawn has always been there for me. ALWAYS! She was the maid of honor in my wedding. When my mother died in 1988, Dawn came up with small child in tow, and was there for me. When I would get mad at my husband and want to run away, Dawn would open her home to me even when I would just show up on her door step with my three kids. Dawn was there to help me with all three of my children's weddings, bridal showers and baby showers. She was there for me when my brother died a year and a half ago. If I need her, she is there. She is like that for all of her friends. 

Now, don't get me wrong. She is no saint. She has a stubborn streak a mile wide. (Sorry, Dawn, but you know it's true.) It has served her well many times. Fighting for Randy is one example of where her stubbornness is going to pay off. Other times, well, I'm sure her husband Jim would have a lot of examples where her stubbornness gets in the way a bit. He is pretty darn stubborn himself... soooo.... 

You get the two of them working on something together, and they are unstoppable! (Just get out of the way if they aren't on the same side... It's safer that way.) 

Dawn spent several years breeding a pair of Maltese dogs named Izabelle and Pig. She only had the one breeding pair. Not a puppy mill. Just like with the pigs, she worked with the puppies. She and her family held and loved them. Dawn got them potty trained, and even trained to ring a bell when they needed to go out. Her puppies transitioned very easily to new homes. I know this, because Bazinga is one of her babies. 

Bazinga really wants his step brother
Randy to get to go home
When Izabelle started showing signs that she was no longer happy having puppies, Dawn spayed her and neutered Pig. They happily lounge around the house all day, playing with piggies and chasing cats. 

When Izabelle was done having puppies, Dawn started studying and researching mini pigs. She learned the proper care for a piglet. She learned about their socialization needs. She learned that spaying and neutering baby piglets is very necessary to assure that they stay good pets. Especially with the males. Males being males can get domineering and territorial if they are not fixed at a very young age. She found out what shots they need, how often they need wormed. She became a mini pig expert. 

She also learned about the plague of bad breeders out there. She became an advocate for good breeders and a crusader against bad ones. She has on her website what to look for in bad breeders. The tricks they use to keep piglets small, including starving them. She is and will always be an out spoken opponent of bad breeders and their practices. 

It is those bad breeders that have gotten Randy into the predicament he is still in today. The humane society has decided that all breeders are spawn of the devil and refuses to work with any. They refuse to even consider that any breeder could be a good, honest, generous person who loves her animals with all of her heart. After all they sell animals for MONEY! Gasp!! As I stated in my last post, the director of the humane society has a salary of over $230,000 a year. She seems to be making a whole lot of money off of unfortunate animals. Much more than Dawn would even dream of. 

Dawn would very much like to work with, not for,  Longmeadow in revising their "policy" regarding pet pigs. They need someone who knows what a PET pig needs. How they need to be treated, what they need beyond the physical needs of food, water and shelter. They cannot be treated like livestock and expect to be able to adopt them out. 

Dawn would also very much like to work with Longmeadow to help find homes for the pigs they have now.  Good, loving, forever homes. She is part of a network of many very good breeders and mini pig families. If they worked with her every pig they have that still is able to be rehabilitated and adopted out as pets, would be. 

Even after every thing they have done to her. The harsh, hostile way they have treated her. The way they have held Randy hostage based on a policy they will not produce in writing, she still wants to work with them for the benefit of the pigs in their care. That, my friends, IS Dawn Blackburn. 

Yet, the "Humane" Society of Missouri, and Longmeadow Rescue Ranch still refuse to work with her. Why? Because she is an evil breeder....

Dawn's ever so evil pig mill....   Greg in this video is Randy. Greg was his original name. 

Dawn refused to lay down when she was a tiny seventh grader being bullied at McCombs Junior High. I can promise you, she will not be bullied now. Her tiny pig, will be rescued. 

This photo is by Jodi Kemp
one of Dawn's hundreds of supporters

And The Mission Continues

Heels dug in, that is the only way to describe the attitude of The Humane Society Of Missouri. They have possession of poor Randy the Pig and they will release him to no one. Several veterinarians have tried, to no avail. I am absolutely baffled by their response. 

Today Dawn went to the Longmeadow facility where Randy has been moved to. It is a division of the Humane Society of Missouri, and as such, also have their heels dug in. When Dawn asked the director why she couldn't take Randy home, she was told it was against their policy. Dawn asked to see the policy, politely, she was told they were not required to provide their policy to anyone. 

Dawn asked if she could at least see Randy, and was told no. It was against policy. 

Dawn told me about the Longmeadows. This is a "rescue" facility. A "non-profit" that is always asking for donations. A place that, you would kind of expect to be adequate but maybe a bit run down due to tight funds. Apparently, they have a LOT more funding then they let on. 

Longmeadows is basically a rescue for abused and neglected farm animals and livestock, (another reason why a PET pig should not be there.) They have many horses, the animals are well cared for. Very well cared for. The facility that is always crying poor has an indoor riding arena, a covered picnic pavilion, concert floors in all of the barns, and more. It s a multi million dollar facility. A facility any state fair would kill to have. I'm from Iowa, we take our state fair very seriously, and from what Dawn described, even our state fair would be very jealous of this place. 

Longmeadows has other pigs that they are "trying" to find homes for. However, their barn is up a hill away from the main buildings. Dawn said it too was a nice barn. The pigs are taken care of well physically. They have proper food, water and shelter. However, these are PET pigs. They need social interaction. They need to be played with and loved on. Dawn agreed with the director that the pigs were being well taken care of physically. They were smaller than her pig, Patrick, but Patrick really likes his acorns so that was not worrisome. Then Dawn asked the director how often someone went up the hill to play with an interact with the pigs. She already knew the answer by the way the pigs reacted to her. One was starving for love and came right up to her begging for some attention. Another had turned a sad corner and snapped at her. She worries whether that poor guy can be rehabilitated and become a pet again. The response she got from the director to her direct question was, "it's time for you to leave." It's very sad to learn how little they know about caring for these pigs.

Longmeadows main mission as it appeared to Dawn is with horses. Which is great, horses need rescued quite often, too. The other animals seem to be an after thought, something they can use for cute pictures on their website. They do try to adopt them out, but again that seems to be more of an after thought as well. Their hours that they are open to the public are not conducive to adopting out a lot of animals. Their website states they are only open 12 to 3 on Fridays, and 11 to 3 on Saturday. They are open to the public for seven hours a week. S.E.V.E.N hours a WEEK! How many animals are they going to be able to adopt out being open seven hours a week? 

Now, Longmeadows is not a sanctuary, it is a kill facility. Animals they can't place aren't necessarily going to happily live out their days in bliss there. Apparently, though, euthanizing is preferred to them than working with breeders, even great breeders like Dawn. How can we know for sure though, they don't need to provide their policies to anyone. 

As far as them being a struggling facility in desperate need of donations, the director of Longmeadows makes over $236,000 a year, Dawn, after expenses, after selling 9 piglets last year, made less than $1,000... for the whole year. Hmmm.... just who is profiting off of animals here? Bad Dawn, you evil breeder. 

Again I will ask you for help. One of Longmeadows major corporate sponsors is Petco. I love Petco. I shop there all of the time. I don't fault them for the, perhaps, questionable "policies" of the Humane Society of Missouri and its adjunct facilities. However, since they won't work with anyone to release Randy it is time to start yanking at their purse strings. Please, e-mail Petco, post to its social media sites. Tweet them, post to their Facebook wall, Google+ them, whatever social media you use, find them and let them know what their corporate dollars are being used for. Petco

Also, please contact the media. Again, use social media. Post especially to St. Louis media outlets. FOX2Now kdnl30 Don't forget the newspaper. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch & Go ahead and try national outlets too, but I can't imagine them being worried about one little pig. You never know though. Don't think that just because you don't live in the St. Louis area that you shouldn't post. Do it anyway. It can't hurt. 

Keep Posting to Humane Society of Missouri, and also Longmeadow Rescue Ranch. Maybe they will get so sick of hearing from us they will give up Randy in exhaustion. You can try calling, but they don't answer their phone and they don't return messages. 

We need to keep the pressure up and make this grow. 

Don't forget to use the hashtag #bringRandythePigHome Thank you all for all of your help and support. 

One more thing, while I hate what they are doing to Randy, I would ask one thing. There are, as I said, several other mini pigs at their facility. Some are pot bellie, and one Dawn said looked like a Julianna. If you know someone who knows pigs, how to care for a pet pig, and would love a new additions to their family let them know about these babies. Not to help Longmeadow, but to help these piggies get with happy families and out of this place that doesn't understand them. 

Dawn says she thinks this one is a Julianna piglet. Seems very friendly
and ready to be loved. 

Dawn says she thinks these little guys are about 3 months old
that is a guess. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bring Randy the Pig Home

I know It has been forever since I posted. I just haven't been able to find words to write. It's not that I haven't had inspiration, how much more inspiring can my daughter's wedding be. I just couldn't find words. I guess that's what writer's block is like. I'm not a writer, but I guess it is the same feeling. 

Today I started feeling my words returning. A post about Valerie's wedding will be coming. This post is more time pressing though. 

My friend Dawn Blackburn raises Juliana mini pigs.  She is a responsible breeder. She has only one male and two females that she breeds. The females have only one or two litters a year. While she does make money from her piglets, it is not how she makes her living. 

Her piggies are a part of her family. Each new litter becomes a part of her everyday life. She and her family socialize with the piglets. They work with them to potty train them. She teaches them tricks. She loves and snuggles them. From the time they are old enough to leave their mommy for a short time they are in her house scampering about. She invests time and energy into each piglet as well as providing for basic needs. 

Dawn works out of her home as a graphic designer. When there is a litter of piggies, they are at her feet snoozing as she works. There is a constant clickity click of piggy feet on her hardwood floors as they play. They are her babies.  

When the time comes, that they are old enough, trained enough and socialized enough, she starts looking for forever homes for her babies. This is not a process taken lightly. Her website is full of information about what to expect when raising a mini pig as a pet. There is an entire page explaining that raising a mini pig is NOT for everyone. It is not like having a cat or a dog. Pigs are very smart. Being so smart, they feel stress very profoundly. If a family doesn't have the time and desire to put into raising a pig, she would rather they didn't even contact her. 

As cute as a mini pig can be, they do not stay tiny. Dawn is the first to warn people against going to a breeder advertising "teacup" piglets. They don't exist. If a breeder is claiming their pigs stay smaller than 60 pounds, run away. There are a lot of unscrupulous breeders out there, just like puppy mills. Some will actually starve a baby piglet to keep them small until they are sold. Once these piglets are eating, they grow exponentially and someone may find they were actually sold a full sized farm pig. This is a horrible, sad situation. Occasionally, the new family finds a way to make it work. Most do not. These animals end up in shelters, and rescue farms. Not really farm stock, but not really a pet either. 

Dawn does not do any of these horrid things. She researched and learned before she even considered buying a pig, let alone breeding. She knew what to expect. She learned how to raise piglets so they would be great pets. 

One of her piglets, Patrick, didn't socialize well. He was timid, he would stay behind during training sessions. He just wasn't eager to learn like the rest. Dawn decided that Patrick would not do well with a move to a new family. If she were a mill type of breeder, she wouldn't have cared about that and would have sold him anyway, or not had him fixed and used him to breed. Worse yet, a very bad breeder, probably would have just put him down. Not Dawn, Patrick lives with Dawn and family. He is spoiled rotten, eats too many acorns, and loves laying on his big pillow snuggled with other animals. 

Which leads me to the urgent situation at hand. 

A young man came to Dawn and wanted to buy one of her piglets. She interviewed him, and found that he really needed to do more research before she could feel comfortable selling him a pig. He came back. He had called his landlord, his city and his county to be sure it was ok and legal for him to own a pet piglet. Dawn interviewed him again. He had the right answers, asked the right questions. Dawn sold him a piglet out of a litter nick named The Brady Bunch, three girls and three boys.The piglet's name was Greg.  Contracts were signed. A clause in the contract stated that if for any reason the young man could no longer care for the piglet, he should be returned to Dawn.  She always has that clause in her contracts. She never ever wants one of her piglets to end up in a shelter. 

The young man took him home. Greg's name was changed to Randy. Dawn received pictures and texts from the young man. He and Randy were bonding well and happy. 

A few days ago, out of the blue, Dawn received a call from the Humane Society of Missouri. They had a pig with a microchip registered to her name. It was Randy. First thing she did was to call the young man, she was afraid Randy had gotten lost. He said his life circumstances had changed abruptly and he had to give up Randy. He had forgotten that he could take him back to Dawn and surrendered him to the humane society instead. 

Immediately, she called the humane society back and said she would gladly come and get Randy. They seemed at this point to be willing to work with her. They didn't have the proper facility nor the knowledge to take care of Randy. Then suddenly, it took a drastic turn. The lady asked Dawn what her relationship to Randy was. Dawn told her she was his breeder. The woman became out right hostile to Dawn. "We don't work with breeders!" From that point on, Randy became a matter of principle rather than a living being with needs. 

Now, I do understand their reasoning for not working with breeders, to a point. Missouri is thick with puppy mills. The state is full of the type of breeders that I wrote of earlier. I can understand them not wanting to return an animal to a horrid breeder. I really can, but there are always exceptions. Randy is one. 

Pigs stress very easily. They mourn losses. They grieve. If they are in a stressful situation for a prolonged time they can develop very serious, even life threatening conditions very quickly. They can actually fall down and die from being over stressed. People without knowledge of how to care for a pig can compound the stress of being in a strange scary place. Do they know not to pick him up off the floor? Pigs are terrified of not having their feet on something solid. They admitted themselves they know nothing about pigs. Yet, they refuse to release Randy to Dawn who knows how to care for him and loves him. They won't even talk to her. They won't take a few minutes to even look her up online, or Facebook to find out that she is a good, honest, loving person, who just wants to get her pig back.

Here is how you can help if you would like. The Humane Society of Missouri has a Facebook page. Please, post to it, encouraging them to let Randy go home. They also have a Twitter page, @hsmo and please use the hashtag #bringRandythePigHome. On Instagram they are @hsmopets again, please use hashtag #bringRandythePigHome. 

Randy also had a Facebook page, like it, and keep up with developments in his story. 

Patrick the pig wants his little brother to come home.