A Snort Above The Rest - A Pig's Tail

Calvin Swine wasn't a farm pig. He was an odorless, domesticated breed of pig who had learned to use a litter box.

Originating in Vietnam, "The Potbelly Pig" has different looks than that of a regular, everyday pig. They have longer snouts, straighter tails, short bristly hair, and, of course, a potbelly!

I haven't known many "Potbelly Pigs" in my life but the one I did know, Calvin Swine, was friendly, loving, and quite intelligent!

Recently, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for Calvin (he died earlier this year.) When I relate this to others, it is received with many laughs, chuckles, and snorts.

Calvin was given as a gift to our friend, Tara. He was about six months old and weighed only twenty pounds (in maturity, a Pot Belly pig can weigh up to 200 pounds or more!)

Tara was attending college then and everyone knows a pig can't go to college, so Calvin had moved in with Tara's parents, Pat & Bruce (and Dana, their pet Labrador.) Calvin became pals with Dana quickly and that was good because Dana, shortly thereafter, birthed a litter of nine pups! In time, Calvin befriended those pups and soon he was "running with the pack." Calvin had thus formed bonds with dog, pups, and parents that lasted his entire life!

At Calvin's memorial I learned more about his mannerisms and behavior from those who had been close to him and I realized Calvin really was a wonderfully special potbelly pig!

"Calvin loved being lifted onto the couch," said Bruce, Tara's (and Calvin's) dad. "There he would snuggle behind me while I watched TV."

"He was really smart too," Bruce would go on to say. "Calvin loved riding in the mini van. It was amazing watching him lean with the turns, balancing himself while our dogs slid from side to side."

"He also loved basking in the sun or laying in our greenhouse alongside the sliding glass window."

But Calvin could also be a troublemaker at times. "He delighted in stealing candy and gum from women's purses," said Tara. "And pulling clothes off hangers in the closet. Wrapping himself in those clothes was a favorite pastime. He would also steal sheets and comforters off the beds and sleep in them!"

Calvin (and Tara) also attended many charitable events. Back in 1998 they visited "The Good Shepherd Home" (a rehabilitation facility in Allentown, PA.) Their visit was loved by the staff and patients. So much, in fact, that Calvin's picture accompanied by a caption was published in the Good Shepherd's Newsletter!

Calvin also entertained the children at the local day cares, and at Easter, Calvin became "Calvin Swine Easter Pig" (donning Bunny Ears) at the church's Easter Egg Hunt!

Perhaps the funnest event Calvin attended was the 'Kiss The Pig" fundraiser at Allen High School. Money was raised by the students and when a certain amount had been reached, their principal had to kiss Calvin on the snout. A snorting good time!

We enjoyed attending Calvin's birthday parties. They were fun! His 10th and 15th birthdays had been huge events. I recall him happily eating his half of birthday watermelon as we all sang to him while wearing party hats! Of course, he blew out his candles before he ate the watermelon and left behind the rind! And we didn't hold it against him when he ate the rolls for the barbecue! After all, it was Calvin's birthday!

Everyone brought him cards, gifts, and even money for his birthday. After eating the watermelon, we would all head inside so Calvin could open his gifts with his hoof. He'd do the same thing on Christmas with his gifts of popcorn, fig newtons, raisins, dried pineapple, or apricots.

During the Christmas holidays, Calvin wore "jingle bells" and his own personalized Christmas card was sent to family and friends in order to spread his Christmas joy.

As I write this, it's Halloween. On Halloween, Tara and Calvin (dressed either as a devil or a pumpkin) would hang out on their front porch and wait for trick or treaters to stop by to pet and feed Calvin (one family even brought him apples!)

In his final years, Calvin was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a serious but common infection in potbelly pigs. This sickness left Calvin partially blind with his head tilted to the right.

My wife and I attended Calvin's 15th birthday party and even in this condition Calvin was a sweet and kind pig when opening his gifts and entertaining the kids!

Calvin Swine passed away earlier this year in his sleep. I was sad when hearing this but happy that he died peacefully.

At his memorial service, a Japanese Maple Tree (because of its peaceful feeling and being Tara's favorite tree) had been planted and dedicated to Calvin. His ashes were stored in a decorative oak "piggy" box, along with a small jar that holds some of his coarse hair. Tara keeps this by her bedside in remembrance and for comfort, knowing Calvin is near.

Now amongst those laughs and chuckles, whenever I tell anyone we once attended a memorial for a pig named Calvin Swine, I simply say, "Calvin was the best person I have ever known because even though Calvin was potbelly pig, he didn't know it - he was a snort above the rest!"

By Tom Matteo