Few animals have the ability to irritate like a pig. That is why, after the nation's hot but brief affair with Asian potbellies in the early '90s, swine sustained a massive drop in urban hipness. On today's popularity scale, little pigs are wallowing between leg warmers and Mr. Belvedere.
The Seattle pig experiment shows how they got there. After being legalized in 1993, some pigs ate so much they couldn't fit through doors, others rooted up the linoleum, and another territorial porker held a real-estate agent and prospective buyers hostage inside a house.
Still, one person's crazed hog is another's darling child. Four people in the city still have pig licenses, according to Seattle Animal Control. In light of the recent birth of another local fad involving little goats (see "Oh Udder, Where Art Thou?" Sept. 12), one of these owners, a 49-year-old handyman named Greg Bacon (no bullshit), recently showcased his pig, Wilbur, in the TV room of his East Ballard home. Wilbur is a 150-pound black balloon with no visible eyes. Throughout the interview, he sprawled by the fireplace, loudly chewing ABC Doublemint gum. Being annoying is one of Wilbur's dominant traits, although he's not as bad as Bacon's previous pig, Patsy, who gored two members of the family.
Bacon loves his pets, though he doesn't recommend them for everyone. Here's why:
PRO: It's fun to chase pigs. Bacon was born and raised in pig-dotted Brazil. "When I was a kid, we'd go out in the country and there'd be pigs, and we'd catch a little baby pig and it would squeal," he says. "There was just something cool about a little pig, you know?"
CON: Pigs can chase you back. A pig is not a pet; it's a roommate with a manifest destiny. Patsy, who moved in around 1993, would hit people she thought were in her space. "She was so strong with her nose that she could practically lift you off the ground," says Cynthia Bacon, Greg's wife. The Bacons spent much of the '90s being pushed from one room to another by an upset pig. "If I'd be in the kitchen cooking and I had friends with me, she'd be all stressed out because she worried that they'd get the food," says Greg. "She'd chase people out of the kitchen."
PRO: Pigs are smart. Patsy learned how to open the refrigerator and unscrew pickle jars. She had a rational system for consuming boxes of crayons. "She ate red, purple, orange, and yellow first," reports Cynthia. "She ate the brown and black ones last."
CON: Pigs are smart. Torturing her owners became an art form for Patsy. "She knew we didn't want her to pee in the house," says Cynthia. "But when she realized that really pissed you off, she would just do it in front of you."
PRO: Pigs are sensitive. Patsy expired after eating something that stuck inside of her, says Cynthia. The family brought Wilbur home in 1998 after his previous owner, a devoted woman who apparently cooked for the pig, abruptly died. "When we first met him, he had tears streaking [down] his face," recalls Patsy. "He wouldn't look at you....He was grief-stricken. It was awful."
CON: Or maybe they're just hungry. Wilbur stayed depressed for weeks at the Bacon abode, eating only raisin toast hand-fed to him. Then the family ordered a pepperoni pizza. "He jumped up and was a whole different animal," says Cynthia. Wilbur met the delivery guy at the door, and has been happy ever since. Except when he's hungry, of course, when he'll wail and fling stacks of magazines off of tables.
CON: Pigs will hurt you. Celeste, the couple's 18-year-old daughter, bears the Mark of the Pig. "I have so many scars on my head because I'd get down and play with [Patsy] when I was really small," she says. "They move their heads back and forth, and their side tusks will cut you like a razor blade." Greg also has been slashed by Patsy, close to a critical wrist vein. "I didn't realize it, and all of a sudden it's like, 'Wow, I'm cut.'" Patsy bore animosity toward feet, which was a problem as she liked to sleep under the covers at the foot of the Bacons' bed. "She'd be down there snapping at you," says Greg.
CON: Pigs aren't pretty. Cynthia recalls meeting shocked neighbors while walking a pig. "All of a sudden, they'll be like, 'Oh! That's an ugly dog.'"