Our three scruffy pigs stared through the paddock gate, transfixed by a vision of loveliness: Giggles the majestic polka-dotted kunekune pig. She was above them, standing on the back of a trailer.
She clearly wanted nothing to do with our motley pigs nearby.
The trailer had been tilted down so Giggles could walk out, but she wasn’t moving
“Come on,” Leelee said, waving a carrot in front of Giggles. “Yummy carrot!”
Anyone could see that Giggles was no ordinary pig. She was so impossibly clean that her hairy coat – white with black spots – shimmered in the late afternoon sun. Her tidy little trotters looked like she’d just come from a piggy pedicure. She occupied that metal trailer with a sense of pride, as though it were her royal palanquin. All she needed was a diamond-encrusted tiara, and the picture would have been complete.
Giggles belongs to our friends Leelee and the Wolf of the Martinborough Art Department, and she is probably the most pampered pig in paradise. She not only gets regular baths, but she gets the occasional olive oil rub-down to make her coarse hair smooth and silky. I’m telling you, this pig could be a shampoo model.
As Leelee wiggled the carrot, I looked over at our three pet kunekune pigs – Kowhai the happy-go-lucky boar, Mrs D the aloof and sultry sow, and Dougal the kind but dim-witted eunuch. I sighed. Even when they’re looking their best our pigs are hopelessly disheveled and dusty, and sometimes spotted with mud. They are outdoor pigs through and through.
Suddenly Kowhai, in an obvious attempt to impress the lovely young sow before him, snorted loudly. Then he blew snot in her direction.
Giggles squealed in horror.
“It’s okay, Giggles,” Leelee said in her calmest pig-whisperer voice. “They’re nice pigs. You’ll have a great time with them. It’s just a week.”
Emergency: Pig-sitters needed
Several days earlier, Leelee and the Wolf came to CJ and me needing help. They were about to take a trip to Sydney, but their house-sitter had cancelled at the last minute. Giggles is used to constant company, and they didn’t want to leave her alone. They asked if they could bring her over to our place and leave her with our pigs.
Our pigs don’t get pampered. They have a very basic little pig house, and they all pile in together to sleep. Watching them come out in the morning is a bit like watching a line of circus clowns stream out of a tiny Volkswagen bug.
Giggles, however, is an indoor pig. At night she sleeps on a bed of her very own in Leelee and the Wolf’s room. How would she handle slumming it outdoors with the lowly peasants? One thing that was certain was this: she wasn’t about to sleep indoors with us.
To make things even more complicated, Giggles is also almost entirely deaf. We can call our pigs and they’ll come running, but not Giggles. How would we handle her?
Nevertheless, our friends needed help. So CJ and I found ourselves in a preposterous situation. We were about to babysit a pampered, hearing-impaired, porcine princess.
Princess in the paddock
It took several carrots and some gentle nudging before Leelee and the Wolf managed to coax Giggles down off the trailer and into the paddock with our pigs. Then we all stood back to see what would happen.
Giggles kept her distance. Every time one of our pigs came within three feet of her, she squealed and ran. She must have been afraid of getting dirty.
Our pigs just grunted at each other as if to say, “What’s up with her?”
Leelee and the Wolf stayed for dinner, and after darkness fell Leelee went outside with a flashlight to check that Giggles was sleeping soundly with the others in the pig house.
When Leelee came back inside, she looked worried. “Giggles is sleeping in the middle of the paddock all by herself. I got the blanket out of our ute and covered her.”
“The good blanket?” the Wolf said.
“I’ll wash it,” Leelee answered.
When CJ and I got home from work the next day, there was a new structure in the top paddock. Leelee and the Wolf had brought over Giggles’ pig house. But calling it a ‘pig house’ doesn’t do it justice. It looks startlingly like a wharenui – a communal Maori meeting house. The only thing missing is the ancestral carvings.
Lovingly built by the Wolf himself, this house has a gabled roof and a front porch. The walls are fully insulated, and there is a heart cut out above the front entrance.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there was hot and cold running water inside. And maybe a sunken living room.
Giggles settles in
Over the next week, Giggles slept in her own private wharenui and our pigs slept together in their shabby hut. Every time I went into the paddock, Giggles ran up to me and squealed frantically. I would squat down to talk to her and pet her, and she would calm down. She was clearly craving human contact.
Every time I got up to leave she kept at my heels, as though she hoped to follow me right out of the paddock and into our house. When I slipped out the paddock gate, she would let loose with the highest pitched squeal I’ve ever heard. She seemed to be screaming, “You can’t leave me here with these, these PIGS!”
It soon became clear that, despite her royal upbringing, among our pigs Giggles was at the very bottom of the hierarchy.
Whenever I tried to sneak Giggles a carrot or an apple, the other pigs would come running over and push her away. Even Dougal, the most passive pig on the planet, took pleasure in pushing Giggles away from food. Giggles would let rip her high pitched squeal. “It’s not FAIR! That was MY apple!”
I took to distracting our pigs with food, just so I could slip something special to Giggles. She was growing on me. She was affectionate and loved to be pet more than anything.
Then one day we came home from work and Giggles was gone. Leelee and the Wolf were back in Martinborough, and they had taken her home.
Her empty wharenui stood in our paddocks a few days longer. Every time I walked past it, I felt a little pang. I missed Giggle’s gentle, noble spirit.
Giggles, however, was thrilled to be home. She immediately curled up by the fire and slept. (See the Martinborough Art Department video below.)
What do you think? Should we have let Giggles sleep inside our house?
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