• By Jennie Burke // Photos by Caroline J. Phillips

Strange Tails: Born to be Hog Wild

Sam Arrow, owner of Walnut and Wool, showcases her babes and tells about the joys of pig ownership

Behind her downtown Chestertown boutique, Walnut and Wool, business owner and artist Sam Arrow, 32, takes her babies outside for fresh air. Gus, 1½, works at pulling up blades of long, weedy, grass from inside a penned area. On sunny days, he is allowed to stay outside on his own. His little sister Tallulah does not have the same privilege. Although she’s younger, she can already pull up the stakes that secure the pen, guaranteeing escape. Tallulah ambles across the small yard toward a parking lot.

“No, no, ‘Lula, you know you can’t go over there,” Arrow coos.

“Aren’t you afraid someone will take them?” I ask.

“Nah. Everyone around here knows them.”

Sam says Tallulah would scream if someone tried to grab her. Her scream is, after all, her only natural defense. Sam demonstrates with a swift scoop of the round, wiggly bundle. Tallulah, on cue, begins to writhe, squonk and squeal like a pig. Because she is a pig.

As an animal lover and advocate, Arrow always dreamed of having a porcine pet. Her boyfriend, James Cook, had a friend with a pregnant pig. The couple went over to take a look at the piglets and returned home with Gus, who is half Vietnamese Potbelly, half Juliana.

Arrow shares her retail space with Chris Tilghman, owner of She She on High. When Sam adopted Gus, Tilghman encouraged her to bring the pig to work.

“Other stores have dogs or cats around here. I thought, ‘Why not have a pig?’” said Tilghman, who calls Gus a “minor celebrity.” While she can’t determine if he’s raised profits in the shop, she admits that he “certainly brings people in.”

Even though young Gus enjoyed a life of (minor) celebrity in Chestertown, he seemed lonely to Arrow and Cook. His “brothers,” two rescue dogs, tolerated him, but pigs are smarter than dogs, Arrow said, and Gus needed an intellectual companion. One day Arrow saw a post on Facebook for a pig that had been surrendered to the Kent County Humane Society. Although she was one of the few qualified candidates among the frenzy of inquiries, the pig was awarded to someone higher on the waiting list. A few weeks later, the shelter called back to notify Arrow of a 4-month-old female pig to be surrendered the following day. The family was thrilled to welcome Tallulah, who was “so scared and tiny” when they met her.

Gus and Tallulah butted heads for their first few months as siblings. At one point Arrow feared the relationship was doomed for disaster, and the pigs would never get along. Finally one day, while running the vacuum, Arrow noticed the pigs walking around each other, grunting and “communicating.” Mission accomplished. Gus finally had a friend to keep him entertained. The pigs live high on the hog at Arrow and Cook’s Rock Hall home.

The animals cuddle on the couches during the day, and wedge into the family bed at night. Sam lovingly housetrained the pets with attention, routine and treats, “just like you would with a dog.” They eat a vegetarian diet of pellets and scraps, and spend hours rooting in the yard, searching for tree roots and grubs.

Every two weeks, they have a warm bath, then a post-tub massage of lotion and cocoa butter. They are as happy with Arrow and Cook as pigs in … well, you know.

Sam cautions anyone considering pig ownership and professes that she is a “full-time pig mom.” She said she is concerned about celebrities like reality starlet Paris Hilton promoting the myth of the “teacup” pig.

“That’s a lie,” Arrow said. Some breeders trick prospective pig owners into buying baby pigs that end up growing into 300-pound livestock. Comparatively, Gus is full grown at about 70 pounds. Pigs also can rack up veterinary bills, although Arrow is quick to recognize that her pigs cared for by an “amazing” vet in Easton.

They have been spayed and neutered.

Finally, pigs are particular about the weather and don’t like the cold. Gus and Tallulah grow bored during the winter months, when they spend less time outdoors. Lula is particularly sensitive to the cold and often borrows her big brother’s clothes. So while you can’t “put lipstick on a pig,” you can, apparently, put one in a Christmas sweater.

#StrangeTails #Chestertown #November2018 #Pigs

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