On the 10th of May 2003, I set off on an adventure, one whose outcome I could never possibly have imagined. Rendezvousing at the prearranged time, I met my “accomplice” and a piggery worker in the parking lot of a pub in central Victoria. Moments later, I was to meet the being who was to change my life in ways I would never have thought possible and inspire me to do things I would have otherwise never dared. And whilst it was love at first sight for me, it was not so for he. The drive back home in my little car with that poop-covered piglet was a cacophony of noise—an eclectic mix of my out-of-tune voice singing with wanton abandon, the whinings of my little dog ET (who too was overjoyed with his newfound friend) and the occasional grunts and farts of Edgar Alan Pig. My memory holds dear this day as one of the happiest and most joyous of my life. I’m beaming from ear to ear just typing these words, as the thoughts of that day come flooding back: a tsunami of jubilation, a deluge of possibilities and a mountain of love.
But oh, my heart missed a beat when I arrived home and raced to open the pet carrier that contained my beloved Edgar, last seen sitting in wide-eyed wonder, staring out from his straw bed with the apple I had brought along as a peace offering lying in front of him. “He’s escaped!!” I cried, as before me inside the pet carrier was the straw bed, the apple, sans a poop-covered piglet. But how he could have simply “Houdinied” his way out I struggled to comprehend. Turning to ET for an explanation, he too looked equally perplexed. Just as I was about to call in the National Guard, from the depths of the straw came these little tiny “nuff, nuff” sounds as a snout appeared, followed by the most glorious, dashingly adorable piglet I have ever laid eyes upon. “Oh my, don’t do that to me, little guy,” I said as I bundled Edgar up and went inside trying to figure out just how I was going to explain my quarry to my then-partner and my dear mum. Whilst the former was never to be convinced this was a good idea, thankfully the latter was. So much so, she readily agreed to assist in washing Edgar for his photo shoot the very next day.
The said photoshoot had been the driving force for the procurement of dear Edgar. Working alongside Animals Australia and their “Save Babe” campaign, our goal of obtaining media interest had been dealt a welcome blow in the form of Hollywood actor and all-round good guy, James Cromwell (Oscar award nominee for his role as Farmer Hogget in the hit movie, Babe). However, a piglet was needed for a photoshoot …
Such was the success of the photoshoot that an action at Parliament House in Melbourne was planned—a media event that would see James stride forth up the hallowed bluestone steps, a dashing piglet amiably trotting by his side and posing for photographs, shaking hands/trotters with politicians and championing the cause of pigs like no other. It was a brilliant idea, save one slight problem. Edgar had only been in my care barely 24 hours, he didn’t particularly like me (although he was smitten with little ET) and my pig-handling skills were barely 24 hours young. With an almost lifelong experience of working with and training horses under my belt, it was off to the local park this little trio went. And it was really here in the park that the idea of Edgar’s Mission sprang forth.
A natural talent for simply being his affable self, Edgar quickly proved to be the consummate ambassador—readily greeting all and sundry who came his way with his open-mouth enthusiasm and raucous belly grunts, he elicited smiles all round. Bypassing lengthy conversations, hostilities and lack of interest which I would readily encounter, Edgar already had a trotter in the door, smoothing his way into hearts and opening minds to a kinder way of living. “Wow, a pig on a lead,” “He’s smarter and cleaner than my dog,” “I’m never eating bacon again” were just some of the many, many thought-provoking phrases I was to hear whilst in the company of my beloved Edgar. All caused me to believe that the best ambassadors for changing the way people think about the animals who are farmed for food and fibre are the very animals themselves. Whilst I could speak to people’s minds, Edgar so eloquently oinked his way into their hearts.
Gosh, I have so many wonderful stories about Edgar. He really was such a funny, profound, engaging, charismatic pig, whose favourite pastime was sleeping, and he didn’t care where. I remember when I took him to Sydney in the company of my dear friend and animal advocate Lynn Trakell. There Edgar went to sleep at the tiny entrance-way to Parliament House on the super-busy Macquarie Street. Politicians literally had to step over the snoring Edgar. I will never forget the big burly security guard who strode determinedly over, standing arms akimbo over Edgar as he told me to “Move the pig”, and me looking up at him in all innocence, with my palms upturned, saying, “But I can’t, Edgar is sleeping, and Edgar only moves when he is ready,” which, clearly, he was not! But when he was, it was off to the even busier Pitt Street Mall, where, you guessed it, Edgar again went to sleep!
The trip back to Victoria was equally amusing. I recall Edgar wanted to go to the toilet, however the road was an expressway with few to no petrol stations or wayside stops to pull in for a break. Edgar, proving just how clean pigs are, was doing his utmost best to hang on but he was becoming increasingly more and more frantic, so much so he was rocking poor Lynn’s beloved combi van, which we had gutted to accommodate Edgar and our suitcases (the latter we had to hastily try to hide from Edgar’s complimentary searches). Pulling in at the closest rest stop we could find, the now-screaming Edgar was unloaded with the aid of a converted door that doubled as his loading ramp (as Edgar grew, this ramp was to require several reinforcements to accommodate his “fuller” figure). A bemused truck driver who was watching on was drawn to come over and investigate what he described as a “Lordy, Lordy, well I’ve seen it all now” once-in-a-lifetime event. With Edgar tugging firmly on his lead, I was desperately trying to explain that the “pig needs to pee,” and “he doesn’t like to be watched doing so by strangers” to the truck driver, who refused to believe me until he gave up trying to keep up with Edgar and myself, as Edgar sought a suitable area for his ablutions. Electing to spy on us from behind the van, the truck driver watched on in amazement as Edgar peed for around ten minutes (well it certainly felt that long, I honestly thought he was never going to stop), then, as if that wasn’t enough, he packed out the biggest poop I think I have ever seen, taking several poop bags to clean away. Feeling well proud of himself, or maybe he was just relieved, Edgar decided it was time to head back to the van for a snack and a snooze with me dutifully in tow. “Well, I never!” remarked the truck driver, “Aint he the cleanest thing you’ve ever seen” as he proceeded to give Edgar a scratch under the chin, to which Edgar responded with a big belly flop to the ground, stretching out his front and back legs in opposing directions, offering that glorious tummy of his up for belly rubs. The truck driver proved he too was smart, as he knelt down to oblige Edgar and rub his tummy, turning his head back to me as he said, “So this is the ‘before’ of bacon, oh my, I never knew pigs were such friendly animals, I never knew”. “Well now you do, now you do,” I smiled, desperately wanting to say the words, “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”. But sometimes, things are better left unsaid and Edgar had already worked his magic commendably.
Now, fifteen years since that day Edgar and I found each other two lives have been irrevocably changed forever. Although he is no longer by my side, he is forever in my heart as I work to complete the mission on which we both embarked. And although I no longer follow the path I thought, as a child I was destined to do, I tread one where I truly believe I am needed to be – standing at the forefront of an organisation founded on the love of a girl for her pig. An organisation that has at its heart a very simple mission: a mission of kindness based on the understanding that all who inhabit this planet want, need and deserve our compassion, our mercy and our understanding. An organisation that doesn’t believe in telling people what to do or not to do; rather, one that seeks to foster the goodness of the human heart and encourage people to align their ethics and their actions and belief their own truth, not one they have inherited from others. An organisation that seeks to provide opportunities for people to understand—as the truck driver did that day at the wayside stop—who a pig really is: an animal more desiring of belly rubs than becoming the products our society seeks to turn them into. An organisation that sees no reason to hijack the lives of animals and take away their children, their liberty and eventually their life. One that believes that we can live happy and healthy lives without harming others. And it all started with a pig…