As Wilbur approached his second birthday his appearance started undergoing a transformation. He grew what I can only describe as tusks. He had two large pointed teeth come up from his bottom jaw, one on each side of his jaw that looked like mini elephant tusks. He also had two tusks like growths that came from the front of his lower jaw and grew back toward his neck; I call these his “side bars”. These side bar tusks have had to be trimmed once a year so they wouldn’t dig into his neck and cause him extreme discomfort.
Together, these tusks give Wilbur a kind of sinister look, but he has never used them to attack or hurt anyone, or the dogs. The only time I have had to look out for them is when Wilbur wants to show me love by rubbing up against my leg. He has accidentally scraped me a couple of times when he wanted me to pet him and I wasn’t paying attention. Wilbur has never had a mean or aggressive bone in his body and he has always been very affectionate.
Wilbur is also very smart, and I do mean VERY smart. This intelligence, coupled with his stubbornness, and his spoiled rottenness, can lead to trouble. I say this because Wilbur can be very sneaky when he wants something. The thing that makes Wilbur so bad besides this sneakiness is his persistence. When Wilbur wants something, like getting in the house, or illicit food, you have to either bar the doors, or watch him constantly because Wilbur will not stop until he has got what he wants; and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he is not above tearing up the patio to show his displeasure, call it throwing his weight around if you will.
When we bought our house in Homestead, all of the interior walls and ceilings throughout the whole house were painted white. After a year and a half of all white all of the time, Rhea decided we needed some color inside the house. She had just got hired as a bartender at a tiki bar in Florida City, which gave us some spare income. We picked out colors, and bought some latex paint on sale at the Home Depot. We brought the paint home and we went to work.
We were painting the living room ceiling and walls, when Wilbur managed to pry open the back patio doors with his bottom teeth. As soon as he walked into the house he smelled the paint and made a bee line for the nearest can. We have already talked about Wilbur’s love for the smell of gasoline; well we found out that he has the same fascination for house paint. While we were distracted painting the ceiling with a fresh coat of white, Wilbur walked over and dunked his snout in the paint can! Rhea saw him and shouted “get away from there” which startled Wilbur and made him back away from the can. Too late! Wilbur’s snout now had a fresh coat of white paint on it. I got a moist rag and washed most of the paint off of his snout, then kicked his butt back outside. However, he now knew that we had “yummy” paint inside, so he bided his time, and waited for his next opportunity.
This opportunity presented itself the next day after we finished painting Sean’s bedroom. Sean decided he wanted to paint his bedroom with his favorite color, a deep forest green. After we finished, we still had half a gallon of green paint, so in order to save money Jeff decided to mix some white paint with the green to paint his bedroom a light green. Rhea and I left to buy some more paint and left Jeff alone to paint his bedroom. After painting for an hour or so, Jeff thought he would take a cigarette break on the back patio.
Out back while Jeff was distracted lighting a cigarette, and grabbing a beer, Wilbur slipped into the house unnoticed. Wilbur in his nonchalant sneaky manner ambled down the hall to Jeff’s room to find the door had been left open. Wilbur went inside, found the can, and the roller tray filled with paint, and he had a grand old time! First he stuck his snout into the paint, then he knocked the can over on to the bedroom carpet, then he flipped over the roller tray. Now that he had a nice puddle of light green paint in the middle of the carpet he rolled his entire body in the puddle!
Rhea and I came home from the store to see Jeff relaxing on the back patio. “So, how goes the painting?” I asked, “Are you done yet?” “Nah not yet, I thought I would take a little beer, and cigarette break.” He replied. I looked around the patio, “Where’s Wilbur?” I asked him. “He was just here a second or two ago….” We ran down the hall to Jeff’s room and there he was, sleeping in the middle of a huge green spot in the middle of Jeff’s cream colored rug, covered head to toe in light green paint!
Rhea almost fainted, and I blew my stack. “Wilbur! Get your piggy ass outside NOW!” Wilbur got up with a start and ran down the hall, through the living room, and out the back doors leaving little light green piggy hoof prints behind him on the white tile floors.
Wilbur looked like some punk rocker gone amok with a tattoo gun. I took the hose and sprayed him down. I managed to wash some of the paint off of him, but Wilbur’s skin was a nice light green for almost two years before all of the paint finally wore off. The rug in Jeff’s room had to be torn up and replaced, because no matter how many times we washed, and shampooed it, we never got the paint out.
You want to talk about the times that try a man’s soul? After this last escapade I was seriously considering having a block party with Wilbur as the main course.
I really didn't know that there were restrictions about having a pot belly pig for a pet, but I later read how a school teacher was fighting the City of Homestead to keep her pet pig. The City had lumped together all pigs in the classification of “livestock”, and banned them from residential areas. The lady fought City Hall, and eventually won, keeping her pig; but this was not something I cared to go through.
Wilbur’s days as a front yard pig were short lived. We did eventually find out which neighbor snitched to the authorities, after we had another visit from the authorities about a pig, (that they never found) and a couple more about our dogs.
It turned out that the cops hated this guy (because he complains about all the neighbors), and told him he better not to bother them again with stupid complaints. So far, he hasn't.
There was one big problem that had yet to be solved, and that was Wilbur’s weight. His belly was getting so big that it literally scraped the ground as he walked. Since we couldn't get him leg extensions, we decided to put him on a diet. Rhea and I drove to the Redlands and visited a feed store there. We told them of our problem, and found out that we should not be feeding a pot belly pig dog food, cocoa puffs, bread, meat, and a host of Wilbur’s other favorite foods. We left the feed store with a bag of pot belly pig food, and a bag of corn to mix with the food.
Wilbur had always been raised as a junk food junkie, and he did not take to his change of diet well. The first couple of days were really tough for the poor pig. Wilbur was used to getting a bowl of cocoa puffs every morning for breakfast, and several snacks throughout the day, topped off with a dish of dry dog food for supper; but now he was just getting a dish of pig food mixed with corn once a day at supper. Like any junkie, Wilbur spent a lot of time trying to secure a fix. He started rummaging through the kitchen garbage can, and raiding the dog’s dishes, by pushing the dogs out of the way. This did not go over well with the dogs, and every night a fight would erupt. To solve this problem we had to start feeding the dogs inside, and Wilbur outside with the doors tightly closed.
At this time Mrs. Pulee was out of town staying at her daughter’s house in Tampa, so she wasn't spoiling him with treats anymore, and Wilbur was becoming frantic. He started experimenting with other substances to get him by. One of his favorites was gasoline.
One day while mowing the lawn Jeff left the gas can on the back patio where Wilbur could get at it. This was a big mistake because we found out that Wilbur loves gasoline…the hard way. Wilbur knocked over the gas can and started going crazy over the spilt gasoline. Fortunately Jeff saw what was going on before Wilbur started the house on fire, or before he poisoned himself. We now know better, and keep the gas can out of Wilbur’s reach.
Slowly, but surely, Wilbur adjusted to his new diet, and within six months he had lost enough weight that there was a 2-3 inch gap between his belly and the ground. Wilbur could start going up and down the step from the edge of the patio to the back yard with little difficulty.
Since it was a very hot and humid summer (as they all are down here in Miami/Homestead), we decided to reward Wilbur with his own pool to keep cool in.
Rhea and I drove down to Florida City to the Super Wal Mart. There we looked over a selection of kiddie’s pools, looking for one that Wilbur could get into, and out of, and one that could stand his weight. We bought a nice five foot pool made out of a durable plastic. The pool was only a little over a foot deep, but we knew that with Wilbur’s water displacement, it would be perfect for him.
We brought it home and filled it up with water. The whole time we were filling it up, Wilbur stood by with his tail swishing anxiously. We had got the pool only half full when Wilbur decided that he could wait no longer. We finished filling up the pool with Wilbur lying in it as if he were King Farouk.
Once again Wilbur was a big shot, this time with his own pool. Wilbur looked so cute in his little pool! I remarked that all he needed now was a cold beer, and a cigar, and he would be in hog heaven.
Now it was the dog’s turn to get jealous. They all wanted to get in the pool, but with King Farouk in it there was no room for anybody else.
Wilbur spent the rest if that summer in sublime ecstasy. Between his new pool, and his new “girlfriend”, he had everything he needed to be in hog heaven.
Now that Wilbur had an outlet for his pent up piggy urges, things settled down to our normal level of bedlam around our household. At the time, our roster of pets besides Wilbur included Bruno a large but lovable Rottweiler, Princess, a lovable golden retriever mix, and my old dog Dylan.
After the death of her beloved rot Bluedoe, Rhea pined away for another rot. For her birthday in August 2003 I went to the Dade County Pet Adoption Center, and adopted a rot I named Bruno. I was a little anxious picking him up and driving him home in rush hour traffic by myself; but I had nothing to be worried of. Bruno was so scared of the car and traffic he nearly crapped on the seat on the way home. When I brought him home from the center he was as skinny as a rail, from a lifetime of living on the street, but within six months Rhea had fattened him up so that he was now a virtual clone of Bluedoe.
About six months after getting Bruno, we felt that he needed a younger playmate, because Dylan was getting too old to want to romp with the younger rot. I went back to the adoption center and found Princess. Princess was a house dog who got dropped off because her owners were moving and couldn’t take her with them. Princess wanted out of that cage so bad that she did everything but stand on her head to get my attention, and it worked. I brought her home and she was the perfect playmate for Bruno. Since all the dogs being adopted had to be spayed or neutered before adoption, all they would ever be was playmates.
One night we had a hurricane go north of us and make land fall about 100 miles away just north of Palm Beach. We still got 60 M.P.H. winds and rains that would come and go in sheets. We all sat on the front porch to watch the sights, because we had never seen a hurricane before. The hurricane was close enough that everything was closed that night and the following day, so we just stayed up and drank beer and watched the storm from the lee side of the house out front. In between rain bands we let the dogs out front and kept an eye on them. Wilbur came to the doorway and saw the dogs out front, so of course he wanted to come out. Wilbur just hates it when the dogs are allowed to do something he isn’t, he gets very jealous. I told Rhea to let him out, so she did.
Wilbur went all around the front yard smelling all the new smells. The way he acted and strutted around we all could tell that Wilbur thought he was a big shot. “Wilbur thinks he’s a big shot, now that he is a front yard pig.” I remarked to Rhea. “He sure is acting that way.” said Rhea. We let him and the dogs roam, and play in the front yard for an hour or so before the next big feeder band of rain blew in and we had to bring them all in.
About a week or two later, I had just got home from work when someone rang the front door bell. I answered the door to find a man wearing a Miami-Dade Animal Services uniform. “Hi what can I do for you?” I asked. “I’m Bill Simmons from Miami-Dade Animal Services. We received a complaint from one of your neighbors that you have a pig.” “Do you have a pig on these premises?” “A pig, us?” I replied. “We have a large Rottweiler dog, but, no pig.” Mean while I was thinking to myself “Who blew in Wilbur, and where the hell is he right now?” I had just seen him a few minutes before out on the back patio, but had no idea where he may now be. I tried to block Mr. Simmon’s view inside the house with my body, and kept talking. “I can’t imagine who would call in a complaint against us. We get along with all of our neighbors, and never have had any problems before.” “I can’t tell you who sent in the complaint. Do you mind coming out with me while I check out your property?” He said. “Not at all” I said as I quickly closed the door and started walking with him. On the outside I was walking, but on the inside I was dancing like a man with his finger in a light socket.
The biggest problem was that I had no idea what he would do if he found Wilbur. Mr. Simmons it turned out, was a very nice and personable man. “I’m really sorry to have to bother you like this, but when someone registers a complaint, I have to check it out personally.” He said. “No problem at all. It probably was one of my neighbors who needs glasses, or had been drinking, and took a look at my rot and thought it was a pig.” I joked with him. “Everything looks good out here, now if you don’t mind I just need to take a picture of your backyard from your fence.” He said. “Not a problem” I said. We walked down the side yard to the fence. I remained calm and cool, but on the inside my thoughts raged, “Where is Wilbur?!” We walked up to the gate, and fortunately there was no sign of Wilbur. Mr. Simmons saw all of the plants we have hanging and potted on the patio, “This is a very beautiful yard you have here with all of your plants.” He said. He took his picture, looked at it and was happy.
We started walking back to his car. “Well, I can tell that you don’t have a pig.” He said to me. “Really, how, can you tell?” I asked him. “Simple” he said, “The smell, if you had a pig I would know it by the smell, they stink!” “If you say so,” I replied, “I don’t know anything about pigs.” He wished me a good day, got in his car and drove away. I went back in the house looking for Wilbur. I found him sleeping on the back patio, just out of eye shot from the gate, and no more than 15-20 feet away. “Whew, that was close! I need a shot of bourbon!” I thought.
We were at our wits end, and really didn’t know what to do. Wilbur was too big too transport in the truck, and we couldn’t afford to pay a vet to make a house call, tranquilize a 300 pound pig, and perform the surgery. At the moment though, I felt like getting a sharp knife and doing it myself.
Rhea mentioned the possibility of giving Wilbur to one of the local farms in the Redlands about four miles away. There were a couple of problems with this idea, one we couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t get slaughtered, and two, we had heard stories of pot belly pigs being given away, then dying in a month or two of a broken heart. “No,” I said, “I have never got rid of a pet before, and I am not getting rid of this one!” “Really,” Rhea said, “You’ve never given a pet away before?” “No, once I take an animal, they stay with me until it dies.” I replied. “One way or another, we will work this out.”
The fact that Wilbur had been spoiled so much prior to this did not help the situation. Wilbur was as they say, pig headed, and used to getting his way. We decided to work out a compromise solution; Wilbur would be an outdoor pig during the daytime, when he was frisky, and allowed to go to bed at night when he was sleepy. This arrangement worked rather well unless Wilbur got into the house unnoticed. Most people don’t know this, but pigs are very intelligent, as smart, or, smarter than dogs. Wilbur is very adroit at being sneaky, so he had to be watched like a hawk, and the bedroom doors had to be kept shut tight.
Most of my spare time was spent on my back patio, watching my TV, and chilling out with a beer. It was just natural that Wilbur and I spent a lot of time together. Wilbur was (and still is) a very loving and affectionate pig. He was always coming up and rubbing against me much like a cat does, except Wilbur being 300 pounds, would almost knock me over if I wasn’t ready for his affection.
On the back patio I had this old hassock footstool that would I put my feet up on when I was relaxing. One day I got home from work and my footstool was gone. I looked around for it on the patio, but couldn’t find it. I then looked in the back yard, and there it was; Wilbur had it and was humping it! I guess Wilbur took a liking to it, and just pushed it into the backyard with his snout. I was not happy, but after Wilbur got done with it, I didn’t really want it back anyway. So, my hassock footstool became Wilbur’s first “bitch”.
This turned out to be a win-win situation, Wilbur got all the action he wanted (at least twice a day), and he left our furniture alone. Wilbur was once again happier than a pig in the proverbial poop, and we were delighted.
Unfortunately after a couple of weeks of Wilbur’s hammering, and the rain, the hassock fell apart into a pile of straw. We were frantic; we had to find Wilbur another bitch. We went to every store we could think of, but not one of them carried that once popular item anymore. We went to yard sales, and garage sales, but could not find an acceptable replacement for his lost love.
About that time we had Hurricane Wilma blow through the area. A neighbor down the street lost his entire shed, and it contents to the 100 M.P.H. winds. The next day I found a thirty gallon water container sitting in my front yard. I took a good long look at it, and came up with an idea. I took it into the back yard, filled it up with water, and glued an old area rug to the top. Wilbur saw this thing, and it was love at first sight! “Bitch” number two was born! After a year or so, the container got a crack and wouldn’t hold water anymore; so I filled it up with dirt, and stuck it in an old bean bag chair. This is the “bitch” you will see in the pictures.
So, Wilbur was happy, and we were happy; another calamity diverted with love, and a little American ingenuity.
Wilbur has always been his own pig, which means he has always been stubborn, and difficult to handle; but now that he had all these new hormones coursing through his body, he became even harder to handle. I’m sure any parent who has raised teenage children, can relate. Wilbur at the tender age of one and a half was now an obstinate, spoiled teenager.
When we first moved into our new home, it took Wilbur all of one day to decide that the large walk in closet in our bedroom would be his bedroom. This was very cute at first. Every night around 7 p.m. we would say “its bed time Wilbur”, and he would get up and make his way down the hall to our bedroom. He would (and still does) walk into the closet and close the door behind him with his snout. This was not a problem for me because he would go all the way to the back of the closet, and fall asleep. But like most teenagers, Wilbur got big, and lazy. He no longer could be bothered with walking all the way to the back of the closet to sleep; instead he would close the door, and fall asleep right behind the door. This would really irk me because at 3:30 in the morning I would try to get into the closet to get my clothes, only to find the door barricaded shut by a 300 pound pig! Not only that, but barricaded by a 300 pound, very grumpy when woke up by having a door continuously slammed into his ribs, pig.
You would think that after getting woke up in this manner a few times, Wilbur would adjust, and sleep in the back again; but no, not Wilbur. Finally I got tired of fighting with him and started laying out my clothes the night before.
There was also another problem with Wilbur sleeping in our closet. For some unknown reason, Wilbur decided that the rug in our closet wasn’t comfortable enough for him to sleep on anymore. Wilbur’s remedy for this problem was to pull down any clothes he could reach, off of their hangers, and then sleep on them. He would also pull down any blankets, comforters, and towels he could reach on the shelves. The result of all of this was that our closet floor was always littered with what were once clean clothes, and bedding. Wilbur was becoming a nuisance of the first degree, and neat freak Rhea was at her wit’s end.
But the thing that finally drove Rhea over the brink was Wilbur’s urges. You know which urges I am talking about, the same urges that all teenage men have when testosterone is introduced into their system; the urge to propagate. Since Wilbur didn’t have a female pig he could cavort with, he started to hump the furniture. This was not good! Wilbur could not be left in the house unattended without something very bad happening to the beds or the couch.
After cleaning up after a couple of Wilbur’s conquests Rhea had had enough. “As of today, Wilbur is to be an outdoor pig!” Rhea exclaimed to me one afternoon. “I am not going to clean up after him again! I can’t take the mess, and I can’t take the smell! Our whole house is starting to smell like a barn!” She was right. All I could do was nod to her and say “you’re right dear.”
So it was, Wilbur was to be an outdoor pig. He was banished to the back patio, and back yard.
Later that night Wilbur began trying to open the back door so he could go to bed. I said to him “Sorry old boy, but you have really done it this time; mommy has put her foot down, you will have to stay outside tonight.” I closed the door tight so he couldn’t pry it open with his bottom teeth, turned the light off, and went to bed.
The next morning we woke up, looked out at the patio, and we were horrified. Wilbur decided to show his displeasure of being banished by throwing a temper tantrum over night. The back patio looked as if a bomb had gone off on it! All the patio chairs had been knocked over or off the porch. The gas grill had been toppled off the deck, and my little refrigerator had been knocked about causing it to open scattering beer cans. He had also trashed every plant he could reach.
I went into a rage. “So, you want to throw a temper tantrum do you?!” I bellowed at Wilbur. “I’ll show you a temper tantrum!” I went at Wilbur with a rage he had never seen before. I came at him kicking and swinging. “You son of a bitch!” I yelled as I tore into him. Wilbur had never seen daddy this angry before, and ran as fast as he could away from me. Wilbur went to the far side of the yard where he watched me warily as I cleaned up his mess.
We were in a quandary. It became obvious to us that the lady who sold him to us knew what she was talking about when she recommended that we get Wilbur fixed. Now what were going to do?
Life in Homestead/Miami was idyllic, but very different from our life in Rochester. The weather was sunny and pleasant everyday, and I adjusted to working at MIA quickly. The one major adjustment we had to make was the language; almost everybody spoke Spanish, not English. Sure, most of the Latinos could speak English when they wanted to, but most of the time they chose not to. It was the first time we experienced what it was like to be, and to be treated like a minority. It was indeed an eye opener! I tried to take it all in stride, but Rhea had great difficulty trying to accept being treated like a foreigner in her own country.
Life at home was a little different. We were blessed to have two great next door neighbors. On the east side of our house we had Ed, a retired Air force lifer, who now worked the midnight shift for the postal service. On the west side we had Mrs. Pulee, and her son James. They were Indian Hindus who had become American citizens. Both of our next door neighbors spoke English, which was a great relief to us.
Mrs. Pulee was indeed a delight to have as a neighbor; she was very nice, and very polite, and she adored all of our animals, especially Wilbur. She was in her middle seventies when we moved in, but she was quick of mind, and loving in her personality. She took a shine to Wilbur from the day they met. Everyday she would get picked up by the SeniorCenter bus, and everyday she would bring treats home from the SeniorCenter for Wilbur. Since Wilbur adores treats, he quickly took a shine to Mrs. Pulee.
One day after work, I was sitting on the back porch having a beer and relaxing. Wilbur was over by Ed’s side of the house sunning himself, when all of a sudden I watched him get up and start trotting across the back yard. “This is strange” I thought to myself, I had not seen Wilbur move this fast since we were trying to catch him as a piglet. As Wilbur crossed the yard his speed picked up. “What the hell is going on?” I thought to myself. I looked all around to see what the hell spooked Wilbur in this way, but there was nothing to see. Wilbur got to the fence next to Mrs. Pulee’s yard and stood there with his tail swishing back and forth excitedly. Just then, the back door of Mrs. Pulee’s house opened, and out walked Mrs. Pulee! “Hello Wilbur” she said, then she saw me, “Hello Michael, how are you? I hope you don’t mind but I brought home this cheeseburger I couldn’t eat, and thought I would give it to Wilbur.” Wilbur just stood there with his tail swishing, and I just stood there with my mouth agape. “No, no not at all” I stammered. She proceeded to unwrap the cheeseburger, and broke it into pieces that she fed to Wilbur.
I looked on with mixed emotions as Wilbur scarfed down the cheeseburger. My first emotion was astonishment, “how in hell did he know Mrs. Pulee was coming out that door?” My second emotion was extreme envy “Damn, I’m hungry, I wish she had offered me that cheeseburger!” The thought that Wilbur might be psychic seemed ludicrous, but I could not figure out how Wilbur knew that Mrs. Pulee was coming out that door with a treat for him.
To this day, I still haven’t figured that out.
That whole first year Wilbur got bigger, and bigger until he got over 300 pounds. Money was tight, and we fed Wilbur the same dog food we gave the dogs. We didn’t realize that Wilbur should have a diet more digestible for a pig than dog food. By the time our first Christmas in Miami approached I remarked “Santa should bring Wilbur some leg extensions because his belly is dragging on the ground.”
Not only was Wilbur getting big, but his hormones were kicking in. Wilbur was starting to get amorous with the dogs, and the furniture. We now began to understand why the lady who sold him to us recommended strongly that we get him neutered. Ooops!
At the end of January my station at Rochester closed. I was the last employee to leave except the supervisor assigned to lock the doors. It was a bitter cold night, and as I walked across the ramp for the last time I took in the scene. It was snowy, and everything was white; there was a bitter wind blowing across the open area of the airport. The snow on the ground crunched underneath each foot step. I turned to bid Rochester one last farewell; I blew her a kiss, then, walked out the freight door to go home.
I knew the next time I went to work, everything would be different.
Back at home everything was in turmoil; everything was on the verge of change. My son Mitchell decided that he didn’t want to move to Miami, so he had made arrangements with his mom for him and Toby to move in with her and my daughter Nicole.
I had smartly taken a vacation week after the closing to give myself nine days before I had to report to MIA.This was not going to be an easy transition for anyone. The plan was that I would leave on February 4th by myself with Dylan, drive down to Miami, and stay with my old roommate Tom, until the house closing on the 7th. Then I would live in the house by myself for a month until Rhea closed the house in Rochester in early March. Then Rhea, Sean, Jeff, Wilbur, and Samantha the cat, would drive down to meet me.
Bright and early on the fourth, I kissed Rhea goodbye, and left in an old Thunderbird that Gerry had restored and given to his mom. This car was loaded to the gills with everything I would need to spend a month by myself. I had a mattress, a TV, clothes, uniforms, stereo, myself, and Dylan crammed as tightly as possible into this sports car. The car was so packed with things that I could not move the driver’s seat back far enough, and would have to make the 1500 mile drive a little scrunched up. Dylan had to lay on a pile of bedding and pillows that took up the other front seat. Dylan and I made the drive in about a day and a half, with a stop over in South Carolina, where I snuck Dylan into my motel room when no one was looking. Fortunately my trip was pleasant and uneventful; much easier than Rhea’s. I guess that’s because I didn’t have to transport, and worry about a seventy five pound pig and a cat cooped up in the back of a truck.
In early March, after Rhea and Jeff had got all the furniture ready for the movers, and the house closed up, they were ready to make the big trip. The plan was for Rhea and Sean to drive her Mustang, and Jeff to drive my old Dodge truck with Wilbur, and Samantha in the back. The problem with transporting a pig, and a cat, was that once they were put in the back, they would be there for the duration of the 1500 mile journey because we could not take the chance of an escape by either one of them. I had a cap on the back of the truck, so the animals would be sheltered from the elements, and relatively warm for the drive. There was one problem with the cap; the latch to keep the back window closed would not stay closed, as the vibration from the road would loosen it. They did not think it would be a big problem.
On the trip down Wilbur and Samantha got along reasonably well considering the tight quarters. Samantha had her cat box, and Wilbur had the rest of the bed to do his thing in. Every rest stop Jeff would check in on the two, feed them McDonald’s hamburgers, and water them; but the further they went, the stronger the odor in the back became.
While driving through Georgia, Jeff noticed the drivers behind him flashing their lights, and waving at him. The drivers kept pointing at the back of the truck as they passed by. Jeff got worried that something was wrong with the truck, and motioned to Rhea to pull off at the next rest stop. After they pulled off and got parked, Jeff went to the back of the truck to see what the problem was. There was Wilbur; he had his front legs up on the tail gate, and had pushed the window open with his head. I don’t know if his own smell had finally got to him, or if he was just sight seeing, but all the cars behind them were looking at a pig looking at them! Fortunately the tail gate latch held Wilbur’s weight, and we did not lose either of the occupants back there. Jeff closed and locked the rear window for the rest of the journey.
What a relief it was for me to get home from work that day and to see that they all had made the trip safely. Samantha, was glad to be out of the back of the truck, and was already exploring her new home; mean while Wilbur was out back snouting his new yard. I was fearful that Wilbur would not remember me after a month away; but those fears were quickly dispelled when he saw me, and came up to rub against me. My pig remembers me!
We all had a great reunion with a barbeque on our new back patio. Everyone was a little sick of hamburgers by that time, so we celebrated with beer and pork ribs. Everyone, especially Wilbur feasted well that night.
Wilbur quickly learned that he was living high on the hog in our house. Every morning he would get his favorites for breakfast; a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, and a banana. Then through out the day he would get many slices of bread, and anything else we happened to be dining on that day. Wilbur would eat almost anything he was offered. The only things he would refuse would be sour or bitter things, such as dill pickles. Wilbur loved apples, salad, and even meat. He would even devoir pork (he loves pork) when it was given to him. We all thought it ironic, that Wilbur was being a cannibal, and that he never knew it or cared.
We never really thought about the nutritional needs, or the best diet for a pot belly pig. Wilbur was happy, and that was all that mattered. Within two weeks we had to put both Tony, and Bluedoe to sleep, so you would think that our family was starting to shrink. Well the number of our family did shrink, but not the size, because Wilbur was growing…quickly. By the end of October, Wilbur had doubled in size.
At this time I received the notice that my employer (a major airline) of almost twenty years was closing in Rochester, and replacing us with their low cost spin off airline. I had the choice to stay in Rochester and work for them, or to exercise my seniority and to bump into another station. To stay in Rochester, I would have had to take a ten dollar an hour cut in pay, and forfeit all of my health benefits. Since I had twenty years invested with this airline, and could not find a job that would pay as well, Rhea, and I decided we had to move. Since I went to the University of Miami back in the seventies, and adored the warm sunny weather; Rhea and I chose to transfer to Miami, Florida.
We only had three months to get our affairs in order before the station closed. Those three months were a whirl wind of activity as we had to fly down to Miami to find a new house, and to put our present house up for sale. There were many ups and downs, and things were very hectic. We found a nice house just north of Homestead that we loved, but the housing prices were much steeper than in Rochester. I found myself with just two months to raise 16,000 dollars for the closing in early February. Every available penny was getting socked away, and we never got around to get Wilbur fixed. If I knew what we were in store for, I would have begged someone for twenty five dollars.
We had a very nice real-estate lady trying to sell our house. She thought it would be best if we were not at home, and that we took the dogs with us when she showed the house to prospective buyers. That was not a real problem; the problem was what to do with Wilbur? We couldn’t exactly take Wilbur with us for fear that he would get scared and run away, so we decided to put him in the back yard when we left. It was late November by this time, and already getting mighty cold outside, but what were we to do?
On the day of the big showing we packed up Toby, and Dylan, and drove down to the boat launch to let them run around while the house was being shown. In the back sun room, we had a pair of sliding doors that led to the patio, and the pool. The real-estate lady, wanting to show off all the amenities of our house took the prospective buyers to the sun room to show them the back patio, and pool. Imagine their surprise when the real-estate lady threw back the curtains to the sliding doors to discover a very cold pig standing at the top of the steps waiting to be let in! I guess we should have told her about the pig; either way the house eventually got sold.
With just a month before the big move, we decided to have a big “New Year Eve-so long” bash at our house. We decided to have the party in our basement, as that was the only room big enough to accommodate everyone. We decided that this would also be Wilbur’s big coming out party for all of our friends and relatives who had not yet met him. Since Wilbur’s hooves were not designed to go up and down a whole flight of stairs, I had to carry him down. Wilbur weighed about forty pounds at this time, not too heavy for me to lift; and fortunately he gave me only a minimal amount of squirming.
What a bash it was! Everyone was drinking, eating and having a good time; especially Wilbur. Everyone loved to feed Wilbur! Wilbur was in hog heaven as he dined on nachos, pizza, chips, pretzels, and beer. We put a party hat on Wilbur, and he looked very festive going up to all the partiers looking for, and getting hand outs. This pig was definitely a daddy’s boy because he loved beer! He looked like Caesar at a Roman orgy as he made his way around the party feasting and drinking. Eventually the beer got to him, and he started to teeter as he walked among the guests. After a couple of hours of partying Wilbur managed to stagger to a corner of the basement where he collapsed and slept the rest of the night. The next day I went down to bring him back up stairs. Wilbur was so hung over that he did not put up any fight when I picked him up. Oh well, that’s what you get if you want to be a party pig.
If nothing else it was a huge relief to get Wilbur back. The whole time he was gone all I could think about was how angry and disappointed that lady on the farm would be with us for losing the pig. Well we got him back, now the question was how do we keep him?
Putting a collar on him was not possible because his neck is so thick, it is bigger than his head, so Rhea and I went to the pet store and found a halter for him. The only halter we could find in his pint size was a cute little pink one. We brought it home, and Rhea left it up to Jeff, and me to put it on Wilbur. Needless to say, this was quite the chore. After a half hour of fighting, and listening to Wilbur’s deafening cries, we finally had the halter on and adjusted. He looked really cute in his hot pink halter; for all of five minutes; that’s how long it took little Hoodini pig to slip out of it. I don’t know if his male ego was challenged by the pink color, or if it just bound him in the wrong places, but Wilbur would have nothing to do with that halter. The halter was a big waste of twenty dollars; twenty dollars we could have (and in retrospect, should have), used to get him fixed.
There was one thing that we never had a problem with concerning Wilbur, and that was getting him to eat. Wilbur loved to eat! “I can see why they call them pigs.” I remarked, watching Wilbur anxiously, and greedily devouring anything, and everything he was offered. Wilbur could eat 24/7, and practically did, as Rhea lavished love, attention, and food, on her little pig. The kitchen quickly became Wilbur’s favorite room of our house, as he followed Rhea around constantly looking for a hand out. I got to admit, he was so cute; his little tail swishing back and forth like he didn't have a care in the world; and the smacking sounds he made with each mouthful. It was easy to fall in love with that little son of a bitch. Even the dogs adjusted quickly to Wilbur, even if they were a little jealous of him
Wilbur quickly lost his fear of us, though he never liked the idea of being picked up. I think he was just too proud to be picked up as if he were a common house cat. Wilbur was special, and he knew it. He was also spoiled; very spoiled. When Wilbur wasn't eating, he was getting loved and stroked from Rhea. Turns out dogs aren't the only pets that like to have their bellies rubbed. Wilbur adores having his belly rubbed; while “mommy” coos to him calling him her “pumpkin pie”.
Come to think of it, the dogs weren't the only ones jealous of Wilbur; so was I. Heck, I would love to have been fed treats all day, and having my belly rubbed too. Well, at least I was still getting some attention as “the great white hunter” that brought the little game home. Besides, it isn't very manly to beg for affection.
After a couple of days we figured Wilbur had adjusted enough to let him back outside. The important thing was not to chase him and get him alarmed so he would run away. When it was time to bring him in, Wilbur could easily be lured into the house with a banana, or a slice of bread. It was also getting colder outside, and it wasn't long before we would find Wilbur waiting on the top step waiting to be let in with no troubles.
After a couple days we decided that Wilbur was ready to be a full fledged member of the family. We kept his news paper in the spare bedroom for the night time goings, but we moved his blanket into the living room under the coffee table. It was immediately taken over by Dylan, and Toby who were jealous of Wilbur. However when bedtime approached Wilbur was not to be deterred by the two dogs, he simply walked over to his blanket, and wedged himself in between Dylan, and Toby. There they slept, all cozy and warm, and together. What a pretty picture that made! Wilbur was now an accepted member of the family.
But as the winds of winter were fast approaching, so were the winds of change…for Wilbur, and our whole family.