Wee-wee-wee all the way home
Ruby and Topaz couldn’t stop wagging their hot dog-sized tails Saturday, happily getting used to a number of visitors eager to stroke their wiry, white fur. If not for Pig-A-Sus Homestead — a shady oasis for potbelly pigs about five miles east of the Colorado-Utah line — the two sisters likely wouldn’t be around today.
Sanctuary owners Sioux and Rocky Robbins wouldn’t allow that. They agreed to take on the 20-month-old pigs that had been used in a research lab, likely pumped with any number of drugs being tested for human use. Since birth, the pair had never set foot on soil or been loved by children eager to circle their arms around their necks or feed them snacks.
“We want to show that animals can live after coming out of a facility,” Sioux said, as a massive, 150-pound potbelly pig waddled by, its belly nearly skimming the ground.
Dozens of visitors during Saturday’s annual open house took a gander at the farm’s 74 pigs, mostly potbellied varieties, that call the refuge home.
The Robbinses started their nonprofit endeavor 16 years ago, partly because of guilt after their cherished pig, Thumper, died after eating a spider plant.
“I didn’t know,” Sioux said of the plant’s qualities. “I wanted to make sure other people were educated. One pig led to another and another…”
Not too long ago, the Robbinses built several new homes for aging pigs: huts with heated cement floors to keep them comfortable in colder months. A therapy pool helps keep their joints moving. The couple has plans to update other stick-built huts on the site with a large facility cut like a pie for pens. The couple secured the land necessary to build the facility, but they haven’t secured the money to start construction. The Robbinses rely on donations for the nonprofit, but they give plenty of their own money to keep pigs fed and healthy.
A pig’s life span is about 10 to 13 years, similar to that of a dog, but pig advocates say pigs are smarter creatures. One pig, Sassy, is being trained to be featured in a movie in Fort Collins later this summer.
Over the years, the Robbinses took on pigs because Sioux couldn’t stand the horror stories she heard.
After the potbellied pig craze of the 1990s, some pig owners tired of having the animals as they continued to grow beyond expectations. Some people own pigs, then have children and don’t think the two will be compatible. In June, Sioux said, she received calls from 11 people who wanted her to take their pigs. She won’t take anymore animals right now, but she said she would be comfortable eventually caring for six more pigs.
One of Sioux’s favorite pigs came to her minutes before it was to be killed. Pearly, a black and white pig, was a mischievous animal who could get into the refrigerator, but was trusted to have the run of the home. She died about a year ago.
In 2000, two men arrived at the homestead with Pearly in the pickup. They said they were on their way to kill it in the desert if Sioux didn’t want it.
“I said, ‘Give me that pig, and get the hell out of here,’ ” Sioux said.