Our visit to the Lil Orphan Hammies pig sanctuary was an amazing experience. I've never been so close to so many pigs, and I definitely didn't expect them to behave the way they did. Their personalities almost seemed like that of dogs or cats, and I couldn't help but laugh whenever they rolled over for a belly rub or sat in attention to receive treats. One pig even gave people a "high five" if they stroked his chin and asked. I knew pigs were very smart, but I had no idea they acted that way.
I was unsure of how I would collaborate with the pigs, especially because I had a hard time not thinking of them as cute little animals meant to amuse/entertain me. This class has made me feel as if animals shouldn't be belittled with such language, and I'm trying to think of them not as cute but rather intelligent, autonomous beings. I walked around trying to find a particular pig to work with, but some were too scared to be around people.
Eventually I separated from the group and found a female pig named Billy laying in a small igloo shaped shelter. She was laying toward the back of the shelter, hidden away from people walking by. I asked the owner how old Billy was, and she told me she was 21. As I had just turned 21 in January, I felt as if this was some sort of sign that I should try to get to know her better. The thought of a pig being my age, even if pig years technically don't align with our sense of time, was sort of emotional for me.
I sat in front of the igloo and quietly waited for Billy to approach me. It took a few minutes, but eventually she came toward the opening and sat directly in front of me. We looked at each other in silence. I tried to put myself into her mindset. What would it be like to be outside all day in the heat, waiting to be fed or watered by a human? Would I feel lonely, or are they accustomed to such a lifestyle and actually enjoy it? Billy seemed peaceful, but tired. I wonder how a pig's sense of time relates to our own. When humans turn 21 it's supposed to be an exciting timeóI'm young, healthy, and I have my whole life ahead of me. What would it be like to be 21 as an animal? We have certain ceremonial moments in our lifetimeódo animals have something similar? Sitting with Billy made me think about how time is almost an arbitrary fabrication. We use it to make our world function better, but does age have the same importance to other species?
I felt touched that Billy was comfortable enough to leave the comfort of the back of the shelter to be closer to me. As I left I noticed her looking in my direction. I have no idea what she was thinking or if she felt the way I did about our interaction, but I'd like to think she appreciated the company.