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This Little Piggy Went Home

One creature rescued at a puppy mill this year doesn't bark—she oinks

Text by Julie Falconer | Photos by Chuck Cook/AP Images for The HSUS

The pig was a surprise. So were the enormous piles of junk at the scene of a puppy mill rescue in Alcorn County, Mississippi, in October. HSUS rescuers found dogs confined to cages wedged under broken-down cars, Persian cats housed in rabbit hutches and a rabbit huddled in an old red shopping cart. And when Rowdy Shaw peered into a muck-filled wire cage surrounded by trash, he saw a tiny pink snout. The young porcine sought affection “the moment she saw us,” says Shaw, HSUS senior field responder. “When I went to reach for her, she was bouncing around, trying to nibble on my hand.”


With a goat and miniature donkey in tow, veterinarian Laurissa Heinz and HSUS rescuer John Sidenstricker navigated a maze of discarded farm equipment, wooden pallets and weirder elements, like the hundreds of cases of canned stewed tomatoes. Many puppy mill cases involve properties with lots of foliage and debris that manage to hide the animal neglect from neighbors and passers-by, says Heinz: “So it’s kind of like that kid who goes to school every day; until someone sees him undress at PE class, no one knows what goes on at home.


Along with the pig, rescuers removed 71 dogs, 13 rabbits, 11 cats, two goats, a donkey and more than 40 chickens, roosters and ducks. Tucked away in a ramshackle pen in one corner of the property, this little English bulldog showed “horrible withering of muscles,” says Tia Pope, HSUS manager of puppy mill response. He walked with a strange twist in his hips due to past injuries that never healed properly. As he greeted the rescue team, his hind end listed from side to side. “He was extremely happy to see us,” Pope says, “and so excited to go.”


Rescuers worried they wouldn’t find all the animals amidst the mountains of junk. “You’d lift up a tarp, and there’d be an animal under there in a cage,” Pope says. “We went through it a million and one times.” At the same time, rescuers were also assisting with another puppy mill response at a property 10 minutes away. Amidst the chaos, the tiny pig “definitely brightened up everyone’s day,” Shaw says. “How could you not love her?”


Want to be a hero for more animals like Penelope? Text HUMANE to 20222 to give $10, or make a lifesaving donation here »

It turns out the pig had captured a rescuer’s heart. Heinz, the vet, wasn’t planning to come home with souvenirs, but the lifelong animal lover and horse rescuer decided she had space for four more needy animals at her Columbia, Mississippi, home, which she refers to as “Scratch-and-Dent Hill” for the critters she’s rescued. Penelope the pig now enjoys the lap of luxury along with her housemate Ditto, a rescued Pomeranian. Penelope's two favorite things are food—sweet potato peels are a big hit—and belly rubs. “You can pretty much put her in a catatonic state by rubbing her belly,” Heinz says.


At the Alcorn property, Lenny, a miniature donkey, and goats Laverne and Shirley lived together in a small dilapidated pen. Heinz recognized how tightly bonded the animals were—after she brought them home, the goats “absolutely screamed” when the donkey was taken away for a checkup. “They were not happy until they had their burro back,” Heinz says. The trio now shares a pasture with a barn and sleep together in a furry heap. Eventually, they’ll join Heinz’s flock of rescued sheep, and Lenny will have more friends to watch over.


With kindness, proper care and a lot of petting, this little group of rescued creatures has grown more trusting of people. With space to show off his playful side, Lenny bucks and brays and hee-haws across the pasture to Heinz’s other rescued donkey. Heinz hopes that when Penelope is large enough to hold her own with five rescued dogs, she’ll be able to go between the house and yard through the pet door. Adding four animals—of three different species—to her life at the same time was a bit of a challenge. But “they just seemed to fit.”


Raising a pig isn’t for most people; Heinz has the setup and expertise to make it work. Penelope “screamed bloody murder during her bath,” says Heinz, and pigs “scream better than any two-legged young’un on the planet.” Heinz hopes her husband will eventually fall in love with their new pet. “On a regular basis, my husband reminds me that we have a pig—In. The. House.” With patience and a book on a pig training, Heinz has taught Penelope not to soil in the house and to walk on a leash. That’s the upside of her companion’s intelligence. The downside: Some pigs “will learn how to open the fridge, so I’m keeping my eye out.”

Want to be a hero for more animals like Penelope? Text HUMANE to 20222 to give $10, or make a lifesaving donation here »

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