, Pet Pigs by Linda Roller Why not a pig as a pet? After all, they have been in this country as pets for over 20 years. The pigs we know as pets are actually a specific type - the Vietnamese Potbellied Pig. These Southeast Asian pigs are generally smaller than European breeds, and many people find them a great companion pet. After all, they're smart, sociable, and since their bristles do not shed, free of the allergens that most dogs and cats carry. They are easily trained, and generally a clean animal. And, I saw on the in- ternet that they are small -- you can get a "teacup pig" that weighs less than 20 pounds. That's the size of a small dog. They're SO cute!!!! Cute - and generally non-existent. "There's no such thing," according to Amanda Paulhamus, owner of Paulhamus Veterinary Associates in Linden, PA. Amanda is not only a licensed vet, but also raises pigs and is an expert on swine. These small pigs can easily get up to 100 pounds, which is small in the pig world but probably not small in the novice pig owner's mind. "You can take two parents that are exceptionally small (30 - 40 pounds) and breed them. You may get pigs that will be small, but then again, you may get a pig that is normal for the breed, which is over twice that size. Those cute photos of teeny pigs? Those are baby pigs. And this larger animal is not a docile animal. They're smart, curious and need to be busy. A bored pig can destroy carpets, furniture, and even flooring and drywall. And they will learn to open cupboards, and even the refrigerator to get food. They are a herd animal, with a recognized leader. You must be the one in charge, or else your pig will assume the role. This is a strong-willed animal and will look for opportunities to gain extra food (their primary goal). The person who coined the phrase about someone giving an inch and the recipient took a mile had pigs in mind. Also, they must "root," or dig with their snouts in the earth. In the wild, it's how they find the minerals and nutrients they need. They need a space in your yard to excavate, and it will be messy. They can turn a pasture or yard into deep pits, ruts, and hills of earth in almost no time. Those pits and ruts will be even better for a pig if they have water and can create a wallow. That's not just a messy occupation for pigs, for they cannot sweat. A pig can get overheated rapidly, especially in the summer. They must have plenty of water, and a place to get cooler. So, pigs are a bad pet?? No, they're a great pet. They are just a companion animal with very different needs from the other animals that we invite into our homes and hearts. They need attention and love, like all our furry friends. But they also need a place to dig, things to do, and plain, consistent boundaries from the one in charge. 16 Pawsitively Pets -- August - Author Linda Roller is a bookseller, writer, and owner of Liberty Book Shop in beautiful downtown Avis, PA.