Pig Pals

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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It All Began With Marshall, a 150 pound black potbellied lump of love. Lou Anne  Epperley  was a 36-year-old successful newspaper reporter in Oklahoma City  when she attended an exotic livestock auction  at El Reno’s stockyards and locked eyes with  a five-week-old potbellied piglet on the block.

She raised her hand, the gavel went down  on her $85 bid, and her life journey took a big  turn as she drove home with  piglet Marshall,  who did indeed say, “wee, wee, wee” all the  way.

That was 15 years ago. Marshall grew into  a portly porcine while Lou Anne attended college science night classes in preparation for  applying to Oklahoma State University’s veterinary school. 

“Marshall inspired me to go to veterinary  school and I loved it,” she recalls. The 40-yearold journalist left her career and Oklahoma  City home and moved with Marshall, her cats  and dogs to a mobile home in the country near  Stillwater.

With pigs in  her heart and for  love of Marshall,  she dug out as  much learning as  possible about  swine medicine,  then took a job  for six months  at a 2,500 commercial sow  farm to gain  swine production experience, cleaning up after  mother pigs who gave birth, caring for dozens  of tiny pink squealing piglets, separating and  counting barrows and gilts (male and female  pigs) on weaning days.

“Who knew a former sorority girl whose  early career included a stint working in the  U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., shopping at  Saks and lunching at the Monocle, would be  happiest on Green Acres?” she says.

And at the pig farm, she sometimes stood  happily in a room filled with sows as far as she  could see, singing inspirational songs and giving them pep talks as the Mama pigs quietly  settled, listening to her lullabies.  

DVM Epperley moved to the Tulsa area  working as a small animal practitioner, but pig  friend Marshall was aging, his joints becoming increasingly painful. When the best that  veterinary medicine could offer no longer  helped him, Lou Anne’s heart ached as she  rocked her pig, sang his favorite songs, and  a trusted colleague helped escort Marshall to  the Rainbow Bridge.

That was not the end of her pig love affairs  and Marshall’s legacy lives on. Youngster  Clyde Barrow came along and other pet pigs  in need of homes and veterinary care “just seem to find me,” she says. She continues  building a veterinary practice for pigs and  works closely with Tracy McDaniel, who owns  Hamalot, a Sand Springs pig sanctuary, home  to dozens of  rescues.

And, as you might imagine, it was a passion  for pigs that brought together Steve Epperley  and Lou Anne, a first marriage for both, who  are pet parents to one cat, six dogs, and six  pigs – all rescues and all living in pet pig  paradise.

Steve, warehouse manager for about a  decade for Southern Agriculture, and Lou  Anne, veterinarian at Southern Ag, connected  over a shared passion for pigs. (What else?)   Steve’s rural childhood included pigs and their  fondness for pigs sparked the relationship.

Their pig family at their acreage south of  Bixby includes Clyde Barrow, who at 10  weeks old came from a potbellied pig expert  friend and mentor in Missouri at  Pig O’ My Heart  Potbellies; Meegan,  a retired Momma  sow; Gladys, an  adopted orphan;  Truman and Pearl,  who came together  from a client no  longer able to care  for them, and Elmer  Pudge, a three-legged  pig whose badly  injured leg was amputated due to an attack  by a dog.

Pigs are good pet  pals, but Epperley  encourages all potential pig parents  to do lots of  homework  before falling  for the idea  of a pig in  the house. She advises  becoming  familiar with  their special needs and first checking  zoning laws.

Be aware that pigs should be spayed or  neutered, have their hooves and tusks trimmed  regularly which often requires anesthetic, be  fed mini-pig rations not other pet food, provided plenty of bedding and barn warmth in  winter and, because they do not sweat, they  need a wading pool, mud wallow and shade  in summer. They like  being with other  pig friends, are OK  living with cats,  but commonly  injured by dogs.

“Pigs are smart, clean, not noisy,  can learn tricks like sitting up, love for their  tummies to be rubbed, but are not lovey-dovey  like dogs,” she says. And, those cute little  pink potbellied piglets grow up to about 150  pounds, bigger than most big dogs.

So, move over Mastiffs. Make room at the  hearth for the pigs

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