THIS LITTLE PIGGY WAS A THERAPY PETBy Rebecca DiNolfi ©
My potbellied pig Reggie Would have been 18 years old today and I am writing this dedication to her and all the wonderful things she did in her short life on this Earthy Plane.Reggie and I were ex members of the Delta Society of, Renton Washington for service animals, and therapy pet partners. I want to tell about the important part that my potbellied pigs have played not only in my own life but also in other people’s lives. Potbellied pigs are the most sought after therapy pet in the US today. There are numerous potbellied pig partners in the US and Canada engaged in this kind of public service with amazing results for the patients that have had the pleasure to be visited by one or more of these porcine bundles of joy.
The following account is about my potbellied pig Reggie and a few of her patients.
Funny Farms Reggie was a potbellied pig, and in her amazing life she had accomplished more than most people I know. Ever since she was 7 weeks old I had been taking her out around the public. Potbellied pigs are very social animals if they are allowed to be. As the result of this very social upbringing we started doing Animal Assisted therapy at nursing homes, schools for special needs children, and orphanages for abused children, and anywhere we might be needed we tried to go.
I am going to try to explain a little about what it means to be a care giver of one of the most dedicated little potbellied pigs in PA.
Hopefully when you finish reading my presentation you will understand just how important the addition of the potbellied pig can be to any City, anywhere, and how proud you should be to say so. Allow me to begin by asking all of you to please read this with an open mind, and heart to what I have to share with you about the work that Reggie, and I did.
First of all use your imagination to picture the following stories:
It was a wonderful day at the Fireman’’s nursing home in NJ where we were making our appearance with many other potbellied pigs from our Pig club.
As Reggie and I walk around visiting the gentlemen, in the corner we saw someone.
Just picture a frail man sitting alone in his reclining chair, crippled from a stroke. We walk up to him and ask if I can help him move his hand to touch Reggie, and he indicates yes, so I carefully moved his frozen hand to Reggie’s out stretched snout, as she gave a little grunt to say hello, a large smile appears across his weary face, and a little tear ran down his cheek because it hurts so bad to move his face muscles, and his arm.
Next take the little boy with a behavior problem at the orphanage for sexually, mentally, and physically abused children that our pig club did a circus for. All he wanted to do was walk the pigs, every one, and he did. .
Then there was the little girl with spina biffida in a Phila.. School that left her tiny walker at the bottom of the steps to the stage where Reggie was performing, and crawled on her hands, and knees all the way up the steps and across the stage to the carpet to feed Reggie some treats, and get a piggy kiss.
The young woman with Downs Syndrome who brought her own stuffed pig to our show for Reggie to see...
The little lady named Sally at Pine Run nursing home that tells her friend Reggie loved her best. She always saved a biscuit from her breakfast to share with Reggie as a special treat.
The man named Joe who never missed our show when we came to the Nursing home. He has passed away now, but I know Reggie made the last days of his life on this earth a lot happier, and that means a lot to me.
The blind woman who smiled all the time she was hand reading Reggie from end to end, top to bottom. She got a real kick out of feeling her daisy hat and sunglasses Even though she is unable to see Reggie do her many tricks she can still get piggy kisses, and grunts of hello.
All the children that always came running from the playground at camp to see the pigs as their parents grab their cameras so they can take a picture for their families at home to see.
. We pose for pictures and answer questions everywhere we go. Reggie and Pepper never leave the house without their swine finery on. I made all their costumes for every holiday.
Like the beauty pageant our club did for the opening of the show State Fair at the Miriam Theater on Broad St. in Phila. PA. In Dec. of 1995...Mayor Rendell now our fine Ex-Governor was one of our judges. That is where he first met Reggie and me. We are 2 of his biggest fans.
Then there is the little girl that saw us at Core Creek Park one Sat. She asked questions and took pictures for a project in school. We saw her at our fair a month later and she said that she got an A+ She was thrilled, and so were we.
Next A father at the park we go to carried his little girl on his back, and placed her beside Reggie, and Pepper so she could touch them then he apologized because he had to go and wash her hands immediately. Her father told me that she had Leukemia and was dying.
What I am trying to tell each and every one of you is this. The potbelly pig is a wonderful addition to any community, or neighborhood, Sure they aren't the pet for everyone, but for the ones of us that want them and love them they are a wonderful addition to our families They contribute so much to our lives, our homes, our children, and our communities. .
Winston Churchill once said’ A dog will look up to you, a cat will look down on you, but a pig will treat you as an equal".
I have found that whether it is in a park, a campground, a flea market, nursing homes, schools, or even in Mayor Rendell’s office at City Hall. Everywhere I took my pigs I was doing therapy work for the people I meet. They always made someone laugh or smile, and that makes me very proud to be the companion of 2 of the most wonderful potbelly pigs in Penna. Reggie and Pepper. Now that Reggie has left me and I moved to the Pocono mountains of PA. I have semi retired and I now have a new little rescue piggy named Little Willow White Feather
and Pepper is still alive and well.
Willow and I are now doing educational shows for children at the local libraries.
Let me finish by telling you that LIFE MAGAZINE selected Reggie as a Hero . She was one of only seven animals honored by LIFE in the May 1997 Hero special edition. She was selected for saving my life and for all the wonderful therapy work she did in the past.
I sincerely hope that what you have read here will help you to understand how much these little companion animals mean to the families that have brought them into their homes, and hearts.
The thing we need the most is to educate as many people as we can about the potbellied pig and maybe there wouldn't be so much resistance to change.
Someone once said, “Man is more nearly like the pig than the pig would like to admit.”
I miss you my little black bristly friend, but I am so glad you came to teach me not to judge a book by its cover and love unconditionally. So Happy Birthday my special little pig you are amazing.