So maybe it’s a mite pig-headed to say that Susan Allen is happy as a pig in mud, but consider this: the 54-year-old woman is living her life’s dream on a farm called Wee Pigs Sanctuary, where she has rescued 65 pigs from bad endings that invariably began when someone purchased a cute little pig which then got big.
“All I ever wanted to do was have a bunch of animals and for my birthday one time, my brother gave me a pig,” Allen said. “I named him Pig Newton. That was about the time people were starting to get rid of pot-bellied pigs – in 1993 and ’94, after the pot-bellied pig craze. Folks were telling people these little pigs wouldn’t be but 20 pounds ... The next thing you know, they were weighing 200 pounds. So, it sort of blossomed from there.”
“It” is the pig sanctuary, which spreads out over 10 acres just past a dusty convergence of two long sandy roads near Batesburg-Leesville. And “it” is where Allen’s beloved porkers – the majority of them pot-bellies – roam freely, roll in mud bogs, snooze in tree shade and rouse themselves for corn at evening feeding time.
And on a muggy weekday afternoon, at about 5:30 p.m., it was just about that time.
With a point of an index finger, Allen cautioned against stepping on an old metal trashcan lid, which was sitting slightly cattywampus on the ground next to a small storage building where she keeps her pig feed.
“Don’t step on that,” she cautioned. “My rat snake’s under there. He’s helping me with the mice.”
She then sat in a lawn chair underneath a tarp slung up near the storage building. She stuck her bare feet in a kiddie pool full of water and talked anything but hogwash.
“Prissy was my second pig and she came to me after my veterinarian put me in touch with another one of his clients who had adopted Prissy as a baby, but she also owned a Mastiff that thought the piglet was a new squeaky toy,” Allen said, noting Prissy, now an old lady, likes to keep to herself.
“Beaufort was the third (pig). He was living in a hub cap emporium on Broad River Road and kept escaping into the neighborhood and road,” Allen said. “The saddest rescues have been with pigs that have been attacked by dogs after being abandoned or dumped out by people. Or, there’re the pigs that their owners have to move or get married or whatever, and they cannot keep the pig. These pigs are the hardest (rescues) sometimes, because they can and usually do go into a deep depression and will go for weeks without eating or socializing with anyone. They were part of a family and they can’t understand why their people are no longer around.”
Allen looked out into a field where her cloven-hooved friends were waiting for dinner. “I don’t know what it is,” Allen said of her attraction to the oft-misunderstood and mud-covered members of the animal kingdom.
“They look you in the eye like they are your equal. Like, ‘OK, if we’re going to do this, whatever it is, we’re gonna do it on my terms.’ They are very loving and they are very intelligent and who can resist a baby pig? There’re ain’t nothing cuter.”
And there ain’t nothing more entertaining than listening to Allen’s pig tales, which are a mix of porcine fact and folly.
“Pigs are very social. If they get bored, they are going to find something to do. They are going to get in somebody’s garden or go on a walkabout. One time I was at a pig conference in Florida and my mother (who lives nearby) called and informed me that Gordy had opened the sliding door to my trailer and gone in the house and found a trunkful of apples. He just flipped the trunk over and let all the other pigs in and they had an apple party.”
Allen, who grew up in east Columbia, works at South Carolina Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care facility along Fernandina Road. She’s single and said her job allows her to pay for the care of her pigs and the other creatures that call the Batesburg-Leesville sanctuary home.
Really? Other critters?
Yep. There are three horses: Cheraw, Lacie and Patrico. One cow: Moon Pie. One emu: Shaggy. Four donkeys: Shrek, Fiona, Moose and Fanny. Too many dogs to expound upon. And one tom turkey whose name is Dinner because when he misbehaves, Allen tells him he’s going to be somebody’s supper if he doesn’t straighten up.
And just how does a turkey misbehave?
In Dinner’s case, he detests the color pink and chases anyone wearing it.
“He took Mama (who was wearing pink) all the way back to the front gate one time, chasing her.”
Allen said there are “maybe four or five” other pig rescue operations in the state. “The pig people network is really tight. Everybody tries to do what’s best for the animals. They are our priority.”
And they – Allen’s plethora of rescued pigs – love her.
Every night, about 10 of them trot through a doggie door and sleep on blankets in a room in her trailer. One special piglet – Pipi – sleeps in Allen’s bed.
“Yeah,” Allen said, “It’s work, but I knew all I ever wanted to do was have animals. I’ve never met anyone who wanted to share my life, so I share it with these guys.
“I don’t guess there are many people who would do it, but the trailer’s paid for and the truck’s paid for,” Allen said. “There ain’t nothing else to spend my money on, so I spend it on them.”
Salley McAden McInerney is a former columnist for The State and has published a novel, “Journey Proud,” which is set in Columbia in the early ’60s and is available at amazon.com. Reach her at email@example.com.