Sometime in mid-March, Paula Durant, Parker County’s deputy county clerk, came home to find her teenagers, Blake and Bailey, lathering up a frantic feral piglet in the bathtub of her home on West Bankhead Drive.
It was a puppy-sized female shaped like a football, with long eyelashes, a striped khaki-colored body and a piercing, non-stop squeal.
“It was raising a ruckus in the house,” she recalled. “They had a towel in the tub, so it wouldn’t slip. They were taking pictures.”
In shock, Durant listened incredulously as her excited children described “finding” the poor thing by the side of the road, then issued an ultimatum familiar to mothers everywhere, “You can’t keep it.”
Despite her stern edict, however, some six months and 115 pounds later, “Pig-Pig” is part of the family and very much a presence on the Durant’s three-acre lot.
Cars slow down when their occupants see her pushing a soccer ball around with her snout. Fascinated guests at a neighbor’s party lined the adjoining fence to watch her romp with the dogs.
Five-year-old twins who live across the street — big fans — offer her tupperware containers filled with worms.
“We’re all animal people,” Durant explains, when asked why she eventually relented. “We have five dogs and nine cats. It’s a pet.”
Blake, a freshman at Weatherford College, did finally admit to choosing the family’s unusual pet from a group of hogs trapped by a friend who lives on the Brazos River.
The tiny four-pound animal, then two to three weeks old, was the runt of the litter, he said. The Durants fed her puppy chow mixed with warm water, advised by a man in South Texas whom they contacted via the Internet.
David, Blake’s dad, remembers how the piglet behaved at first.
“She was completely wild,” he said. “We put her in a little dog cage, and she turned completely upside down. It took three or four weeks to tame her. Blake played with her, patted her and let her play with some six-week-old lab puppies.
“When she saw those puppies, she thought, ‘Those are my littermates.’”
Blake, who originally wanted a miniature pot-bellied pig, was thrilled with Pig-Pig’s progress.
“She’s the best dog I’ve ever had,” he said, “and it’s been an accomplishment to break one from the wild. She’s gentle and fun to play with. And she’s way smarter than a six-month-old dog.”
In Blake’s mind, the pig is a companion animal, and he is really attached to her.
She has drawn a lot of attention from his friends, he said, and “everybody thinks it’s cool.”
An avid hunter, Blake has been bagging deer, doves, turkey, hogs, and “anything I can get my hands on” from an early age.
He and his dad have shot scores of hogs, had them processed, and eaten pork chops that are just as good — maybe better — they say, as those sold in the grocery store.
In the course of those hunts, he has even been chased up trees by hogs, and watched them from above, like Travis in “Old Yeller,” who was nearly killed by animals quite similar to the one rooting for grubs in Blake’s front yard.
But so far, Blake said, Pig-Pig has shown no aggressive behavior.
“She bites, but it’s just a little pinch, and she lets go quickly,” he said. Her tusks have not developed.
In fact, he said, the pig has done nothing to give the Durants a reason to get rid of her.
Yes, she has eaten quite a few plants, Paula admitted, knocked over some tables and rooted under the trampoline and live oaks, but she is also curious, likable and enjoys human companionship.
She comes to a whistle, can move a rock to open the front gate and obediently enters her 10-foot by 10-foot pen — complete with a water hose-induced mud wallow — at night.
Pig-Pig consumes about 30 pounds of dog food a week, Paula said, in addition to table scraps, and has grown to twice the size of her littermates under the Durant’s care.
There are no plans to do anything different with the animal in the future, Blake said, though David mentioned the family has considered a refuge.
“The plans are to let her grow, hang on to her,” Blake said. “She’s a good pet.”
Can a feral hog make a good pet?
Judy Richardson, a wildlife rehabilitator with WILDCARE, INC. and Natures Haven in Fort Worth, said a lot depends on the person adopting the animal and the amount of time and effort they are willing to spend.
Getting the animal at an early age is critical, she said, and a female is a better choice than a male because the males are more aggressive.
“In all my years of experience I don’t know anyone who has successfully raised a wild boar,” she said, “and I’ve only known three or four who have raised a female.”
In either case, Richardson recommends spaying or neutering a pet hog, as one might a dog or cat, because the hormones that kick in at sexual maturity often lead to frustration and sometimes aggression.