Seven little piggies
On balmy late-winter morning, Mr Piggles saunters out of the sty he shares with six others. His dark hair glistens in the sun as he makes his way out to greet a woman in green trousers and a mock neck sweater. Behind him, Whitey, Wilbur, Brownie, Blacky, Sneha and Karlot follow suit.
“Piggles,” shouts Sneha Shrestha as she holds out a head of cauliflower. Mr Piggles grunts and squeals in joy as he munches on the greens. Around the two, Maya didi and other staff members of Sneha’s Care feed the others who vie with each other for attention from the humans, and the best of the veggies. Two of the dogs decide to join in on the chaos as packets of biscuits are opened.
Once the treats run out, Piggles leans against Shrestha’s green trousers, pushing her to the ground asking for belly rubs. Shrestha indulges him fondly. The others run around looking for more food.
“This is all they do here,” says Shrestha. “They eat, they roll around in the grass and sometimes cause mayhem overturning their water buckets.”
It has been three years since seven little pigs came to live at Sneha’s Care. Mr Piggles, the oldest of the lot, was three years old when Shrestha and the team rescued him from a slaughter house in Kailali. The team had gone to the district to build shelters for cows when they came across Piggles.
“He was living out in the open, chained to a pole without a roof over his head,” says Shrestha. “Half his body was covered in mud. At the time, there wasn’t much we could do.” Shrestha returned to Kathmandu while a few of her team members stayed back to finish building the shelters.
Later, Shrestha received a call from a team member saying the pig was going to be slaughtered for Holi. She hurried to Kailali to rescue him. She paid double the market price, paying nearly Rs50,000 to bring him to Kathmandu. “He was extremely overweight because he had been bred for meat,” remembers Shrestha. “He could hardly walk.”
Today, Piggles has a clean place to stay and is a mini celebrity who frequently features on the organisation’s social media platforms. He has lost weight, and spends his days playing around with Whitey, Wilbur, Brownie, Blacky, Sneha and Karlot, who were also rescued from a nearby pig farm when they were just a few months old.
“We could hear the pigs crying when they were being taken to slaughter,” says Shrestha. “They were used for breeding and they would often castrate them without anesthesia. The condition was pretty inhumane.”
She convinced the owner to shut down the farm and paid for the remaining piglets. “That is how they came to live at the shelter,” Shrestha says, “although animals like them are brought up for commercial purposes, they deserve to be treated with humanity when they are alive.”
For the past three years, the seven pigs start their day basking in the sun. They roam around the facility, eat, play with each other and sleep when they want. They are given a bath every day and Maya didi oils them once a day to ensure their skin is not too dry. Their meals include pig feed, veggies and fruits.
“They all love to eat, especially Piggles. He loves belly rubs and sometimes seems to forget that he is a big guy,” says Shrestha, who has been tackled to the ground more than once by the enthusiastic pig. “People don’t think about it but each one of them has its own personality.”
Karlot whose front paw was injured shortly after birth loves to sleep and is the laziest of the bunch. Even when the others are fighting over food, he just lays there.
“Blackie and Brownie are the two clever ones,” says Shrestha. “Blackie more than Brownie,” chimes in Maya didi, who is cleaning up the water and feed that the pigs have toppled over. As if to prove a point, Blackie rummages through a visitor’s bag, finds an apple and proceeds to munch on it happily.
“They have a very strong sense of smell and are one of the most intelligent animals even more so than dogs,” says Shrestha, an activist for animal welfare and nature conservation.
For now, there are neither plans to give the pigs up for adoption nor inquiries from people to adopt them. People have however laughed at the team for rescuing the pigs, and some have even inquired if they were for sale. “This is expected, as in Nepal we don’t really think of pigs as pets,” she says.
But if any animal lover comes forward to take them home, the team is ready to consider adoption. Says Shrestha: “But we will follow up every week to see where they are being kept and how they are doing. They deserve to be treated with love.”