UC Davis undergraduate, 4th year
Major: Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology
As Romeo rocketed around the stall like a small missile, Claire and I shared a wide-eyed and slightly terrified look. This week, we focused on harness training, having already gotten the piglets used to human touch. As Care Bear is displaying in the photo above, what we thought was going to be a simple and calm training session quickly turned into a circus.
Harness training can be tricky within any animal group. Mini pigs, however, are particularly cunning. They are, as their name suggests, mini, and lightning fast when they want to be. Claire and I began the harness training by slipping the first loop very loosely over each pig's head and rewarding them with food. This seemed to work...until it didn't.
We had slipped Romeo's head into his harness, and in the blink of an eye, it had slid down around his plump belly and become stuck there. He instantly began squealing at the top of his little lungs, bucking and twisting and contorting around the stall. In a bit of a shock, I reached down and somehow unbuckled the harness amidst the chaos, and almost immediately Romeo returned to his normal curious mini pig state. Claire and I shared a collective sigh of relief, realizing happily that Romeo simply has a knack for the dramatics. Elizabeth and Dalia had run over to see what the murderous squeals were all about and we assured them that Romeo was alive and well, snuffling about like absolutely nothing had happened.
Since then, we have succeeded in getting the piglets much more comfortable in the harnesses. Below is Jelly Bean, looking very elegant (and thankfully calm) in her pink harness. As long as we distract them with food and reward them after the harnesses are secured, the pigs are happy as clams.
Seeing our hard work pay off is incredibly rewarding. The piglets are getting quite comfortable with Claire and I now. They squeal and bark in excitement and impatience when either of us arrives at their gate, tails swinging behind them. They appear to each have a sense of their names, and they honk back at us whenever we speak to them. Belly rubs and chin scratches are now fully welcomed; all three of the pigs plop down on their sides and expose their soft stomachs to me if I scratch just the right spot.
The pigs are settling into their fairly new home nicely. They are unphased by the horses in the stalls nearby and are mainly interested in rooting around the shavings and straw we provided for them. Below are some extra photos of Jelly Bean (left) and Romeo (right). While Jelly Bean's exploration strategy mostly involves her mouth and teeth, Romeo prefers to dive in head first. He's pictured here just after completely enveloping his body in a straw bale. I suspect there are more adventures to come, so stay tuned!
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!