Hog wild Vickie Barrow's pot-bellied pigs travel the world. Europe, Canada, all over the United States. Her porkers live in Manhattan, on Wall Street; have even settled in the hoity-toity Hamptons.
At least three have come to Colorado Springs, where they are forced to live clandestine lives.
"They are what we call "closet pigs,'" says Barrow. "If they come out of the closet, their owners will have to get rid of them."
Barrow is the owner of the Best Little Potbelly Pig House in Texas, located just outside Houston. She is one of many breeders in the United States, and has one word to describe the mindset of officials who continue to insist that pigs are outlaws: Stupid.
The 100-year-old ordinances in many cities that ban swine (Colorado Springs' ban was passed in 1903) were designed to stop people from breeding hogs inside city limits.
"[Colorado Springs leaders] need to get out of the stupid woods and realize were living in 2000, not in the old days," says Barrow, speaking by cell phone and surrounded by 40 pigs inside her barn.
They are sweet-smelling; pigs have no sweat glands, and if you feed them good food, not rotten garbage, their poop smells just fine. Full-grown, they generally weigh anywhere from 50 to 150 pounds and stand a foot to a foot-and-a-half tall. Barrow's piggies are smart as whips and have names like Belly Davis and Onyx and Cookie and Sassy and Target Butt (because she's got a perfect target design around her rump). There's Pickle and Dipstick and White Cloud and Silver Nickel and just plain Silver and Lassie and Houdini ("you can't keep him out of anywhere").
When Lengua, Spanish for "tongue," was just a piglet, she was so tiny that Barrow had to bottle-feed her. Lengua would run her tongue all around her lips in anticipation. "The only pig I've ever seen to ever do that!" Barrow marvels. A crew of Hollywood types recently showed up at Barrow's farm, making a movie featuring T-baby. The pig was so fabulous that the crew stood up and cheered every time she finished a stunt.
It's hard to know exactly what Lorne Kramer, a former police chief, has against pigs. Earlier this month, the city manager of four years recommended that his bosses on City Council continue an "absolute pig prohibition" within Colorado Springs' city limits. The move came after a 16-year-old Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Piggy briefly escaped in late March, resulting in a ticket for owner Chrystal McEntee. It was only the second swine-related citation, and the first pig-at-large citation, issued over a three-year period in Colorado Springs.
"The staff felt a pig is a pig is a pig, and that's what it breaks down to," says Colorado Springs spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg. The city shouldn't be in the business of trying to differentiate between breeds of animals, she adds.
In other words, in the city government's eyes, Vietnamese pot-bellies which have been around as pets since 6000 B.C. and caught on as pets in the United States in the mid-1980s are exactly the same as 800-pound farm porkers.
The only other animals banned in the city limits are roosters, which raises a couple of interesting thoughts.
Like, are they serious? While other cities long ago embraced pot-bellies as pets and have moved on to deliberating pit bull bans, this is the best we can do? After all, some aggressive dog breeds actually maul humans and can, unlike pigs, jump over high fences and run away.
Under Colorado Springs' current ordinance, bison technically could be considered perfectly acceptable pets. Last year, police gunned down five of those woolly mammoths after they escaped a meatpacking plant on the west side. That's five times more buffalo at large than pigs at large. So why isn't City Council considering a ban on bison?
Some local news accounts have provided borderline hysterical warnings about the diseases that pigs carry, swine flu in particular. You want to talk about disease? Cats and dogs can have somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 diseases. Lizards can carry salmonella. For the safety of public health, shouldn't we ban them all?
And how about monkeys? Don't they have lice?
Last week, a month into the pig debate, Councilman Scott Hente opined that the elected body had spent way too much time on the issue. Luckily, others didn't agree and scheduled a hearing, set for June 13, to seek public input on pet pigs.
Here's hoping the elected officials will be able to differentiate between a pet and a meat product.
Because, as George Orwell might say: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.