Sunday, August 23, 2009
Rotary Rooter, Our Pet Pig
This is a true story of Rotary Rooter. From whence he commith, where he got his name and weight and some of the joy he spread around at no charge. Daughter Carolyn had collected statuary's and dolls about pigs until a new replica of a pig was difficult to find for a present for her. My bride had a solution. Had I heard of the pigs at the University of New Hampshire that matured at about 100 pounds? No. Did I know they had piglets for sale for $100? No. Would I like to drive to Durham NH and buy one as a gift for Christmas for Carolyn and John, her husband? Great idea. Make the arrangements. The trip was an adventure with a changing room before we could enter the piggery. Plastic sterile gowns and even boots to prevent our contaminating the colony. Then the interior that was spotless. Even more so than our living room home. Unlike a litter of puppies in which there seem to be much variation the piglets all looked identical so Dorothy picked one and we were given a short course in piglet husbandry of this specially bred piglet. Even at 6 weeks he had been castrated and the incision healed. I put the 10 pounds of pig in a wire carrying crate and we were off for home. Every few minutes Dorothy would give me a report on what the pig was doing. That little creature stood like a statue in one position without moving for the three hour trip home. I picked up the statue and brought him into our rough room built for just such a situation and put him down on the slate floor. there he stood still like the statue in the car. Our house cat joined us and hopped up on a sofa and the piglet suddenly came to life and jumped up on the sofa to join the cat. From that time on he was animated with an interest in everything. I put a dish of food for him down and he ate like any hungry creature and the stainless dish moved on the slate floor. He immediately raised a foot and placed it in the dish apparently to prevent movement and finished his meal. Dorothy said she had raised hundreds of puppies and never had one put a foot in a dish to prevent movement. Older dogs, yes but never a puppy. I had helped with thousands of puppies and had never seen such intelligence if that was what it seemed to be. I marveled at that and wondered if it was a demonstration of intelligence or some chance maneuver. I found that was one smart piglet. In one week he was completely house broken. Neither Dorothy nor I could restrict the piglet to the small amount of food in the directions given to us. This strain of pigs came from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico where the pigs stayed at about 100 pounds at maturity due to the restricted availability of food. As a holiday gift it seemed to be perfect but in a few days I received a frantic call from daughter Carolyn. she and John worked necessitating leaving the piglet alone in a room with the floor covered with news paper and when they returned the paper would be shredded and mixed with you know what and plastered on walls and they had to get rid of the pig or John would leave. I met her car midway from Greenwich, NY and headed home. A problem seemed apparent as I decided the piglet had some kind of neurological condition. He would twitch his head regularly every five seconds or so while sitting in the passinger seat. I suddenly realized he was watching the utility poles as we passed them. Back home again he was still house broken for the rest of his life. I put him in a cat carrier and took him to a Rotary luncheon and after the meal took the pig out and placed him on the table cloth covered table and he took a few steps and drank out of the coffee cream pitcher. The Rotarians were impressed and with notoriety in the next month it was decided he be come the mascot of the Rotary Club of Orange, CT. I t was necessary to leash him and since his neck was larger than his head I improvised a harness so members could walk the mascot at fairs and affairs. The question, "What's his name." resulted in a contest. Pay a dollar and suggest a name and half the income would be given to the lucky person with the selected name. In a week we sold over 2,000 tickets and the committee of three selected Rotary Rooter. I preferred "kosher" myself. We should have continued for longer as it was such a good way to raise funds to stamp out Polio in the Philippians in those days. At some affairs members would walk Rooter with saddle bags in which we asked to deposit money in the live piggy bank that brought in I forget how much. The big money maker was to guess Rooter's weight. By then he was over 100 ponds and at the weighing for the prize winner he was 121 pounds. In our house we would relax on a couch and Rooter enjoyed hopping up on the sofa and putting his head on Dorothy's or my lap where he enjoyed our petting him to sleep. Sometimes he would try to get not only his head but his forequarters on our laps and I prepared a comfortable area in a kennel building where he lived out his life. Rotary has all sorts of exchange programs and one was for young adult professional women to come to our country for exchanges of ideas and so on. There were 7 Australian women who were each gorgeous and talented. I had agreed to chauffeur them daily for the week they were with our club. The first day I drove one asked about the pig mascot I housed. What's his name? I told them Rotary Rooter and the van was shattered with laughter including a chaperon sitting in the passenger seat. I said I thought the name was good but not that good. The chaperon stopped laughing long enough to tell me that in Australia a rooter is a fornicator. These women had been in our Rotary district for a month and we held a going away banquet for them in a class banquet hall. I told Dorothy that we would take Rooter with us. "They'll never let you take a pig into that exclusive hall." I said, "Watch me." We had to use an improvised ramp because by then Rooter weighed about 300 pounds but it worked out well near the entrance of the establishment. We marched in through two sets of glass doors and there was the metre Dee who was shocked to see a pig in his hotel. He of course said, "You can't bring that pig in here!" I said , "He's the speaker." and walked right by him into the beautiful room bedecked with tables with banquet fare done in the grand manor. The guests of honor were all stationed together near the head table and when they saw Rooter they swarmed over him petting and calling for their photographer for the picture op. Rooter was the hit of the evening. As I told Dot afterword we would be out of there before the food would be served and before the police would arrive. I put Rooter back in the van. No police. I enjoy writing and find so much to write about. I decided to claim that Rooter had learned to communicate with me and so we had conversations that were published in a local paper for many months until a lawyer did not enjoy something rooter had said about lawyers and threatened a law suit. The paper declined to publish Rooters thinking from then on. For readers, if you want to be really effective adopt some non speaking creature and claim to be able to communicate with him or her. Rooter could call a decision I did not appreciate a stupid one where as I might say the decision was not well thought out. For publication the wording stupid would be more publishable than the other. Try it, you might like it. I may do a couple of blogs of Conversations with Rooter. What is the life expectency of a pig? I looked through my veterinary books and nowhere could I find that information but Rooter lived for over 17 years. Usually when pigs are no longer of reproduction age they are slaughtered and eaten by the likes of us. One summer day I gave him water and a small serving of food. He ate and drank. I walked away doing chores and returned to find him in his outdoor enclosure with his head pushed into a corner lying down. He was dead. Dot shed a tear and I almost did, too. The press noted his passing with a broad black boarder to the news item. Somehow I could not perform an autopsy but before I buried him I removed his head and have his skull on my desk. I f I am called on to speak about a pet pig I shall end the talk by producing Rooter's skull, tusks and all. Since those Rooter days I have eaten a little bacon but no more pork than that.