I have always loved pigs. I could never resist their cuteness… and the funny little snorts and grunts they make. When I was a teenager, I applied for a job as an animal keeper in the petting zoo at Opryland Theme Park. I wanted that job so bad I could taste it. I love animals and couldn’t imagine a better job in a theme park than working in the petting zoo. Also, I would soon be applying to veterinary school and needed experience working with a variety of animals on my application. Getting into veterinary school is highly competitive and I needed all the help I could get! But when I applied at Opryland the first year, I was just 1 of a few thousand teenagers who also wanted to work in the animal department. I was told I would not be able to work in the petting zoo without “working my way up to it.” The advice they gave me was to take a job in maintenance (of which the animal department was a part of) and then eventually I would get into the petting zoo. So I did. I got a job in the maintenance department… cleaning restrooms. Actually it wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. I worked relief which meant I wasn’t assigned a restroom of my own but would rotate around the park working different restrooms on other restroom attendants’ days off. This provided a lot of variety for me. I enjoyed being in different areas of the park, met a lot of nice folks and learned a lot about life and people. After 2 years, an opening became available for an animal keeper in the petting zoo. My job was pretty straight forward – I would be responsible for feeding and watering the animals, keeping the animals and their environment clean, and educating the guests and answering their questions. The animal keepers were also responsible for reprimanding guests who abused the animals. And unfortunately, that did happen from time to time. My favorite animals in the zoo were the pigs. I learned and observed a lot about the pigs during the summer that I worked there and of course while in veterinary school.
1) Pigs are actually very clean animals. Because they like to wallow in the mud, pigs have a reputation for being “dirty” and disgusting animals. Not true. In actuality, pigs don’t have sweat glands, so they roll around in the mud to keep cool. The mud also serves to protect their skin against the sun and as the mud dries and cakes on their skin, it helps to keep flies and other insects from biting them. I also discovered that they use one corner of the pen for their “bathroom” so as not to soil where they will be sleeping.
2) Pigs are very social animals. They always seemed to like to interact with the park guests and with each other. I found them to be very affectionate animals and pretty darn smart.
3) Pigs have a sense of humor. At Opryland they were both amusing and entertaining to watch. In the summers at Opryland, it often got very hot – often in the 90s and even 100s. And in case you didn’t know, pig excrement has an extremely foul odor (even fouler than most) which is not a good thing on a hot day! On those days I would pull the hose over to the pig pen and hose it out and the pigs always would start playing in the water – running through the hose, biting the water, leaping in the air, etc. The guests always enjoyed this show as much as I did.
4) You always know where you stand with a pig. I like that. If pigs are scared, they are going to let you know they are scared (usually by piercing your ear drums with their deafening squeals)! If they are happy, you know it. I never met a “bad” pig but almost got eaten alive once in veterinary school by an angry momma sow who decided she didn’t want inexperienced veterinary students messing with her babies. Can’t say that I blame her. Sows are fiercely protective of their young. I like that too.
I started collecting pigs while in college. I used to think it would be neat to have a pig kitchen when I got married. And guess what? I do. The funny thing, is that when you start collecting something like this, others can’t resist joining in on the fun and it soon gets a little out of hand. My husband could probably tell you exactly just how many pigs are in our kitchen (personally I stopped counting at ~125). I have had friends come across cute pig figurines at yard sales and buy them for me. Some of the best pig stuff I have bought have been e-bay auctions. I have a pig rug in front of my sink and pig curtains in my windows. There are pig pictures on the walls and pig figurines on the counters and shelves and pigs sitting on the floor. Everywhere you look there are pigs. Here, see for yourself (these are just a few).
And that’s my pig kitchen. Tell me, what do you like to collect?