This Little Piggy, Part 1

Posted by Pia

As you can imagine, I get many emails each day requesting help for animals in need. And it’s not just dogs and cats who need help. Rabbits, birds, goats, chickens and, in the case I’m sharing today, a 400-pound pig named Elf, are looking for permanent homes as well.

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Alexa, now 17, became responsible for Elf when he was just a piglet.  Raising him was part of a Future Farmers of America (FFA) agriculture class at her school.

1 Alexa, now 17, became responsible for Elf when he was just a piglet. Raising him was part of a Future Farmers of America (FFA) agriculture class at her school.

Although Alexa was raising Elf to be used in the livestock industry for either meat or breeding, she got to know him as far more that a product. She quickly learned that Elf, like all pigs, are smart, social animals who form bonds and feel pain like humans and other family pets.

2 Although Alexa was raising Elf to be used in the livestock industry for either meat or breeding, she got to know him as far more that a product. She quickly learned that Elf, like all pigs, are smart, social animals who form bonds and feel pain like humans and other family pets.

In fact, farm animals are fundamentally no different than typical family pets such as cats and dogs. They are smart, loving, protective and each has a unique personality just waiting to appreciated. (Photo by Mike Lorrig)

3 In fact, farm animals are fundamentally no different than typical family pets such as cats and dogs. They are smart, loving, protective and each has a unique personality just waiting to appreciated. (Photo by Mike Lorrig)

While Alexa was learning how to fatten cows, chickens, pigs and goats to command the highest price at auction for slaughter, Elf was cultivating a commodity in her that can't be bought or sold: compassion

4 While Alexa was learning how to fatten cows, chickens, pigs and goats to command the highest price at auction for slaughter, Elf was cultivating a commodity in her that can't be bought or sold: compassion

As the day neared when students were to take their

5 As the day neared when students were to take their "projects" to auction for meat, Alexa informed her teacher that Elf would suffer no such fate. When asked why, Alexa said, "Because I have always made it my priority to SAVE animals, not kill them!"

Many children enrolled in such courses develop the same feelings as they get to know an animal as an individual.

6 Many children enrolled in such courses develop the same feelings as they get to know an animal as an individual.

They naturally struggle with the idea that the living beings they have fed and come to know would be sold and eaten.

7 They naturally struggle with the idea that the living beings they have fed and come to know would be sold and eaten.

Alexa's struggle is shared by many children engaged in such projects. In fact, after Alexa took a stand for Elf, she educated many of her classmates on the subject -- and to her teacher's dismay, encouraged several to choose a different outcome for their animals as well.

8 Alexa's struggle is shared by many children engaged in such projects. In fact, after Alexa took a stand for Elf, she educated many of her classmates on the subject -- and to her teacher's dismay, encouraged several to choose a different outcome for their animals as well.

Thankfully, Alexa had the full support of the adults in her family, who agreed to keep Elf from going to auction. They, too, had grown attached to him as had the family dogs, who loved to play with him.

9 Thankfully, Alexa had the full support of the adults in her family, who agreed to keep Elf from going to auction. They, too, had grown attached to him as had the family dogs, who loved to play with him.

The support of adults is critical for kids going through a dilemma like the one Alexa faced.

10 The support of adults is critical for kids going through a dilemma like the one Alexa faced.

Adults who validate a child's compassion and assist in reaching creative, humane solutions to their concerns cultivate the skills and values needed to become responsible, productive adults.

11 Adults who validate a child's compassion and assist in reaching creative, humane solutions to their concerns cultivate the skills and values needed to become responsible, productive adults.

Role models like Daryl Hannah and Jorja Fox help teach peace and compassion to kids at Animal Acres. Here they are feeding the turkeys a pumpkin pie at the sanctuary's annual Compassionate Thanksgiving event.

12 Role models like Daryl Hannah and Jorja Fox help teach peace and compassion to kids at Animal Acres. Here they are feeding the turkeys a pumpkin pie at the sanctuary's annual Compassionate Thanksgiving event.

With Alexa now leaving for college, her family is no longer able to keep Elf. Thankfully, Frank, the tough-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside head of animal care and cruelty investigations for Animal Acres, agreed to have the sanctuary assume responsibility for Elf's care. But more help is needed!

13 With Alexa now leaving for college, her family is no longer able to keep Elf. Thankfully, Frank, the tough-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside head of animal care and cruelty investigations for Animal Acres, agreed to have the sanctuary assume responsibility for Elf's care. But more help is needed!

Once funds are raised for Elf, he will join other rescued pigs like Caboose and Macey who, like Elf, were once headed for slaughter through a school agriculture program. But sanctuaries like Animal Acres cannot  rescue and care for critters like Elf without much needed support!

14 Once funds are raised for Elf, he will join other rescued pigs like Caboose and Macey who, like Elf, were once headed for slaughter through a school agriculture program. But sanctuaries like Animal Acres cannot rescue and care for critters like Elf without much needed support!

Meet Alexa. Having raised Elf from a piglet for a school agriculture class, she refused to auction for slaughter the pig she’d come to know and love.

Now 17, Alexa must leave for college. Her family is no longer able to house or cover the costs of caring for Elf, who has become a part of the family. Desperate to find him a proper home, they reached out to neighbors and everyone they knew. Sadly, the only people willing to take him off their hands were those who intended to slaughter Elf for meat -- a fate they once again refused to allow.

Thankfully, a caring neighbor and mutual friend contacted me to ask for help. Most sanctuaries I contacted regretfully shared that they were simply too overloaded to take in another animal. Apparently, hundreds of animals like Elf are being relinquished due to home foreclosures and the economic downturn.

But my dear friend Frank, who runs Animal Acres sanctuary, answered my call and agreed to make space and secure Elf’s safety. While Animal Acres is also in dire need of funds to cover the ongoing care of more than 150 animals, Frank feels strongly about supporting young adults like Alexa who have made compassionate choices.

Franks’ only request was that Alexa and I raise as much money as we could toward Elf’s care, as he is only a year old and Frank expects him to live a long, happy life.

I feel so grateful that the dedicated crew at Animal Acres is making room for Elf, as I know they can only house as many as they are able to cover financially. Since Elf’s care will amount to about $50 per month, I will personally donate the first month and ask that others match what they can. There is even a way to sponsor certain animals with an automatic monthly contribution, which is a great way to help out! Anyone can donate to help the animals -- just note that your contribution is for Elf (or anyone else at Animal Acres you wish to help). I’ll keep track of how much we've raised for Elf and who has donated. I’d love to be able to raise at least a year of care for Elf and support the dedicated crew and other critters at Animal Acres.

Next week I’ll report on Elf’s journey to his new home, and hopefully we can also meet some of his new cow, pig and chicken friends at the sanctuary. Alexa has assured me that he plays well with others.

Stay tuned!

In kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Comments (12)

  • Dr. Pia that Elf is one cute pig. Why doesn't Martha have pigs on her farm? I think he would make a nice addition.

    Hey Franny and Sharkey wouldn't you like a pig? He would be fun to chase but you would have to be really careful he didn't fall on you - OUCH!!

    Zoe

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    With springtime just around the corner, one thing always comes up at this time of the year; it’s doctor time. I heard my mommy talking about my annual physical the other day and today’s that day. I don’t like to get those shots very well but the “butt” thing is worse. I’m glad that daddy goes with me and holds my head during that part of the exam. If he didn’t, the doctor wouldn’t stand a chance. Time for breakfast and a short nap.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • Pia,

    My brother-in-law, lives in Texasand every year supports the Future Farmers of America program at the local fair. He is different though, when he becomes the lucky owner of a animal up for auction he
    does not slaughter it,but brings it home to live on his ranch. He has cows, goats, sheep, and has had a pig or two. I know that not everyone can afford to keep animals just for the sake of the animal, but I love knowing that he is a small part of something much bigger.

  • Hi Dr. Pia: I bet all those different kinds of animals would be fun to get to know. It would be fun to chase them and then have them chase me. I bet we could run all day and then have a wonderful dinner. You could have someone bring all of them to my fenced-in back yard and my momma would fix a bunch of stuff for us to eat. Uh-oh, momma just said "I don't think so young lady." Well, it was worth a try.

    It's rather nice this morning here on the coast. Just a little cold but the sun is shining, which reminds me. It's time for a sunbath. Take care. See ya later. Love, Gracyn.

  • God Bless such young hearts as Alexa, and all those that love and save animals...where does it end...there are so many animals and so many places in need of help.
    The young girl ALexandra Gritta I work with in helping horses, just got an award from the
    humane Soc. US, National Finalist with Honorable Mention for the 2010 Humane Teen of the Year Award http://www.humaneteen.org/?q=node/1258

  • Hello Ladies & Dr. Pia,
    What a great cause. I think Martha should adopt a pig or two or some lambies. She has about everything else. So sad to hear of the bee loss on her blog today. Maybe Uncle Carlos needs to build them a little house. Well everyone have a great day--Zoe are you over your flu bug? Take care.
    Love & licks,
    Basil

  • Thanks. That was great!

  • Hi Basil

    Thanks for asking - yes I'm on the mend. Still taking my medication but I'm breathing much better. I don't mind the pills I get them with liverwurst and that's yummy. Sophie is doing great also.

    Kisses,

    Zoe

  • Hi Dr. Pia, How thoughtful you, Alexa and Frank are to care enough about fantastic Elf to protect him like you have done. I know that there are so many animals out there who need our help and I will do whatever I can to help. It may take me a while to do it, but I will do whatever I can. Jan

  • Thanks so much for your compassion for all animals, Dr. Pia, and not just cute, cuddly ones likes dogs and cats. I used to proudly call myself an "animal lover" until the day I learned about how animals went from living, feeling beings to "meat". I was so ashamed of my hypocrisy that day, I immediately went vegetarian (and eventually vegan). Going vegan is the best thing I've ever done. I've never felt healthier or happier or loved food more. I hope all the other "animal lovers" out there will consider trying a 30-day veg pledge. Visit GoVeg.com for a free vegetarian starter kit.

  • Thanks for sharing this story, Dr. Pia. Alexa's courage to stand up for her own convictions is an inspiration!

  • A great lesson can be learned from this experience:animals are a responsibility that can mean sacrifice. They are not meant to be cared for only when they are small and cute, and, afterward, pawned off on others when they become too much expense and work. Elf is a wonderful pig, and I am so glad he was saved from slaughter. However, it would be better if Alexa supported Elf herself, even if he could no longer live with her. It may mean Alexa has to work and attend a community college instead of going away to college, but taking a stand means taking personnal responsibilty, too.

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