Pet Tales: Kiss a pig and help the kids

“Somebody Is Going to Kiss a Pig” promises the publicist for a March 14 fancy-dress fundraising gala to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

People are competing for the privilege of puckering up to Nola. The 45-pound miniature Juliana pig is an especially nice one — well-behaved and affectionate — but she is a pig.

Chris and Lauren Miladinovich of Cranberry can kiss Nola anytime they want; they have owned and loved her for five years, since she was a 3.8-pound 7-week-old piglet.

Six teams are raising money to earn the right to kiss the pig at the Great Futures Gala at the Sheraton Station Square on the South Side. Only the top three fundraisers get to kiss Nola at the event.

Last year, the Miladinoviches’ team raised $16,000 and came in second. This year the couple hope to raise more and finish in first place. The Boys & Girls Clubs serve more than 7,600 boys and girls at eight branches throughout Allegheny County.

Nola recently showed up for a meet-and-greet at the Carnegie Boys & Girls Club. The gray, black and white pig walked nicely on a leash attached to a special harness purchased from piggear.com.

“Dog harnesses don’t fit pigs,” Mrs. Miladinovich said. “They can’t wear collars because their tracheas are delicate.”

Adults and children greeted Nola like a celebrity. Her straight, skinny tail twirled around in circles. She didn’t seem to be stressed by the noise and the large crowd.

Nola was picked up and placed on a table, where people were invited to pose with her for a donation. There were many posers, including Stacy Juchno of PNC Bank, who hopes to raise enough money to kiss the pig.

“Nola loves the camera,” Mrs. Miladinovich said. She also loves having her good behavior rewarded with a steady stream of Cheerios.

This is the fourth year the couple have volunteered the fundraising services of their pig. They also want to raise awareness that pigs are not suitable pets for everyone.

“There is no such thing as a teacup pig,” Mrs. Miladinovich said. “Some breeders lie and say the adult pig will only weigh 30 pounds.”

The best-known pets are Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, which often grow to 100 pounds or more. Pigs weighing as much as 200 pounds are turned into shelters and rescues when they become too big to handle.

Nola is smart, cuddly and lovable, but at times she can be stubborn — pigheaded, if you will.

She was easy to housebreak. She goes to the door when she needs to go outside, but if there’s snow on the ground, someone has to shovel paths for her. She roots in the backyard but doesn’t try to dig her way out.

Because Nola has never been destructive inside the house, she has the run of the residence while her people are at work. When they installed cameras to keep an eye on her, they discovered she sleeps all day — usually on the couch.

Pigs really do love to eat, but Nola won’t eat everything. She hates kale and cauliflower. Nola is a good girl who never pulls on the leash, and her daily leash walks have been known to stop traffic.

The animal-loving couple got Nola because Chris is allergic to cats and dogs.

“Pigs are not dogs, and they cannot be treated like dogs,” Mrs. Miladinovich said. “We did our research before we got Nola. Having a pig is more like having a human toddler than having a dog.”

Nola was purchased from a breeder in Florida, but the Miladinoviches now know pigs can be adopted from rescues. Two pig rescues in Western Pennsylvania are filled to overflowing and are not taking in more pigs at this time.

Hog Heaven Rescue Farm in Cochranton, Crawford County, has been rescuing since 1998. Retired Pittsburgh police officers David and Regina Martin Allman have 41 pigs and 14 on a waiting list. They will not take in pet pigs in the winter because they would not fare well in the unheated barn, paddocks and pastures.

Angel Eyes Farm in Freedom, Beaver County, has 20 pot-bellied pigs living in a barn, each with its own bed and blankets. The pigs take turns spending time in the house with the people.

Debbi Bowers started the rescue four years ago after her son, Daniel, 33, died of leukemia.

“I had to do something so I would not go crazy,” Mrs. Bowers said. “Our first rescues were chickens whose owner died of cancer.”

“Right now I’m pretty much a one-man show. I get an occasional donation. I don’t have any foster families yet, but I need some,” she said.

She and her husband hope to fence more of their 20-acre farm so that they can take in more pigs, “but that would cost $18,000.”

In four years she has found homes for 20 animals, including five pigs.

For further information or to make a donation, go to the Facebook page of each rescue or the www.hogheavenrescue.org website. You can follow Nola’s adventures on the Nola The Mini Pig Facebook page.

COMMENTS