Post written by Mike Gallagher, Sales Coordinator
Recently I took a call from an elderly lady in North Georgia. Mrs. Olson had recently received a pig as a gift and her question was how to shampoo this newly acquired “prize”. I will try to recall the conversation as best as I remember it.
“Mrs. Olson, please tell me about your pig and then we will address your questions.”
She started, “Well, some friends of mine had been taking a hike through some very thick woods close to our area, and they came upon several small pigs. Since they knew I have always wanted a pet animal, and was never allowed to have one since my husband was alive, they thought of me. They somehow were able to snare one of the pigs and brought it home to my house. It’s the cutest little thing and I’m very grateful to them.”
I asked her, “Do you know what breed of pig it is?”
Immediately, the answer came back, “I believe they called it a feral pig. Do you know much about that breed?”
I cleared my throat and got my composure, then responded, “From what I understand, the numbers of feral pigs are increasing in the United States every year.”
In her bubbly and enthusiastic voice, she came back, “Well good! I’m glad that I have a pig that is popular with other pig owners!”
“Mrs. Olson, what is it that I can help you with in raising this pig?”
She said, “Well since this is my first pig, I would like to know everything I need to do in keeping this guy in the best of health. I’ve named him Homer. I was hoping you folks could give me some pointers in making him into a great pig.”
I thought, ok how far do I go with this lady? My job here at Durvet is to answer these technical calls professionally, take them seriously (because they are very serious to the callers), and to educate them in caring for their animals.
“Ma’am, I need more information if you can help me. What does your pig weigh?”
Much to my surprise, Mrs. Olson had answered me immediately. “My grandson came over and thinks Homer is about fifty pounds. He should know because he’s in high school and a member of the 4H Club.”
“Well great,” I said. “I’m going to give you some pointers as to the proper way to raise a pig. You don’t have to go with all of these steps, but most pig farmers include most of these steps in raising their animals. They have found, over the years, that these steps provide the best health conditions for their pigs to help them thrive.”
Her response, “Great! That is what I want to hear.”
“Ok, the first thing you need to do is to castrate Homer and make him a barrow. You don’t want to allow him to stay a boar, because he will then become very aggressive around you or your family as he gets bigger.” Mrs. Olson was taking notes, I sensed, which was good.
I continued, “So you need to pick up some castrating blades to perform the surgery.” Dead air on the other end, so I continued, “The second thing I would do right way is to cut Homer’s eye teeth. Those teeth, if not extracted, will grow into tusks and become sharp as razors. He could attack someone with those tusks and do some bodily damage.”
This time she came back with a response. “You mean you want me to hold his mouth open and pull out some teeth?”
I answered here, “There are only two teeth, one on each side.nYou don’t pull them out. You cut them off at the gums with a set of pig tooth nippers”
“Wow, I had no idea,” she said. “I was given a free pig and I thought you just let him roam your area and all you did was feed and water him.”
“Oh no,” I corrected her, “There are more things to consider for Homer. We need to ring his nose, also.”
“What does that entail?” She asked.
“Well we need to put a hog ring on each side of his nose with a set of pliers to keep him from rooting up your garden or your front yard. You see, pigs like to root up the ground and tear off topsoil, and in doing so, they disrupt the normal growth in the soil. You simply take the pliers, put a hog ring in it, and clamp down a ring on each side of his nose. By doing that, the next time he wants to root the ground, he may have second thoughts because the rings that you installed, will hurt his nose and he stops.”
She interrupted me. “I thought you were going to discuss how to shampoo Homer.”
I said, “I’m going to get to that. But you asked me about a health schedule for Homer, and I am attempting to do that.”
“Geez,” is what I heard.
“So, continuing on, we need to give Homer an iron shot because most pigs get iron shots when they are a few days old. They need a boost of iron to become healthy.” No response.
“The next thing I would do is to cut off Homer’s tail because if you get another pig, you don’t want to promote cannibalism from one pig to another. By cutting the tail short, other pigs would not bite his tail and so cannibalism would not be a problem.”
“Ok! That’s it,” she said. Her voice started to rise.
“I called you with a question on how to shampoo my new pig, and you’re asking me to do things to this pig I would not imagine in my worst nightmare!” She was on a roll and I couldn’t stop her. “You want me to take away his pleasure of becoming a father to some babies. Then you want me to become a dentist and pull his teeth. Then you are asking me to poke him with a sharp needle through his skin, and finally, you think I should cut off his tail! First of all, the sight of blood nauseates me and I would not be able to eat for a week. I want Homer to look to me as his friend and not the Wicked Witch of the West!”
“Well, Mrs. Olson, I understand your concern here. Why don’t you consider, with the help of your grandson, taking Homer to the veterinarian and having all the “steps” that we talked about done there? That way you bring Homer home and you nurse him back to good health. In so doing, he will continue to look at you as his friend, and the veterinarian would be the Wicked Witch.”
“That sounds like a great idea, Mr. Gallagher, and I thank you for your assistance.”
I concluded our call, “Now, when you get Homer home and he is all back to normal and healed up, you call me and we will discuss his shampoo bath.”
“Great,” she said, “I am glad I called you today.”
“Thanks, and have a good day.”
Next call please!