A person in a baseball cap sits with pigs in a pen in an outdoor setting
Beware, prospective pig parents: A bored pig can be a destructive pig.
“Pardon the poo,” says Melanie Moreau, the founder of My Pig Filled Life, a pig rescue organization in Wills Point, east of Dallas. On a tour of her 17-acre sanctuary, Moreau leads us from the grassy front lawn of her brick farmhouse through pens, pastures, and at least a half-dozen red barns and shelters. Almost 300 rescued mini pigs reside here. Goats, sheep, and ginny hens, too. Also, roosters, whose constant crows mix with the cacophony of cicadas coming from the surrounding woods.

My Pig Filled Life
830-265-8882; mypigfilledlife.org
Schedule a visit on the website.

Despite Moreau’s warning, there’s not a whiff of manure. “Pigs are very clean,” she says. “Some of our pigs here, their pheromones smell just like maple syrup.”

Smart and affectionate, pigs can make great pets and are increasingly popular as domesticated animals. People in big cities own them now, and they’re the darlings of countless peoples’ social media feeds. But many new mini pig owners underestimate the commitment of caring for such an animal and end up surrendering their pigs.

A closeup image of a gray pig with straw on its snout

Pig rescues offer opportunities for interaction and even adoption.

“It’s very frustrating,” says Emily Mohring, a North Texas-based farrier who specializes in trimming pig hooves. (She has over a half-million followers on TikTok at @emilythetrimmer.) “A lot of people think their pig will stay the size of, oh, a beagle. They got them for the ego of making Instagram reels and aren’t prepared to have a sentient family member for the next 20 years. Pigs are a lifestyle.”

As many as 90% of mini pig owners abandon their pets, according to the North American Pet Pig Association. The problem has escalated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Mohring says she and her colleagues receive at least a couple inquiries per week from clients looking to re-home their pigs.

Taking in these pigs is what places like My Pig Filled Life do. On the tour, Moreau wears blue jeans and a black tank top that reads “Pig is such a very small word for something that takes up so much room in your heart.” While the term “mini pig” is often used to describe smaller pig breeds like potbellies, Moreau explains, it’s simply a classification. Any pig under 300 pounds is considered a mini pig. And pigs, regardless of breed, can grow quite large. Farm pigs, many of which also live here, easily hit 800 pounds. But most of Moreau’s pigs range from 75 to 150 pounds. These pigs provide companionship, not food.

The novelty of adopting pigs took off in the 1980s with the arrival of potbellied pigs from Vietnam. Today, most mini pigs contain a mix of domesticated breeds, including the slightly larger but more social New Zealand koon koon. “These little gray ones, they came in in March of 2017,” Moreau says, pointing to a herd of little piggies swishing their tails. “They were being sold for hog-dog bait—$10 a head on the Facebook.”

“For, like, people to train their dogs to hunt with,” Moreau’s daughter, AnnaLaura, chimes in, handing her mom a cold Mountain Dew. Moreau pours it into a plastic tumbler.

Two people sit on an outdoor couch underneath a framed art print of a pig
AnnaLaura and Melanie Moreau of My Pig Filled Life aren’t afraid to get sloppy.

In the garden, we meet The Champions—five small, black-furred siblings who lazily yawn and enjoy being scratched behind their ears. They go by Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, Jimmie Johnson, and Ricky Bobby, who AnnaLaura named. Moreau smirks, “I didn’t know he was a movie character.”

With us on this tour are two women from the Dallas area who are interested in volunteering. Moreau welcomes visitors to interact with the pigs. She leads us through a gate into a meadow with dappled shade. “Friends? Hellooo, I don’t want to scare you,” Moreau says. The surrounding trees rustle and shake. A cluster of knee-high snouts begin to gather round us. “They’ll come out of everywhere,” Moreau tells us. “There are 183 pigs in this section.”

Moreau looks out past the boundary of her property to the swaying fields of an adjoining farm. It’s for sale. An online fundraiser Moreau started, Dare to Dream!, aims to purchase the 47 acres. “The goal isn’t to take in more pigs,” Moreau says. “The goal is to improve conditions for the pigs we have.”

You can adopt a pet pig from My Pig Filled Life. Prospective parents must provide an enclosure with proper fencing (aka hog board), an indoor space for the animals to escape inclement weather, and a means of transport. Moreau also requires anyone who adopts her pigs to use Mohring’s hoof-care group, the Mohr Method. One more thing: “We charge $175 as a financial deterrent, for people who just want them as meat,” Moreau says.

Of the 400 or so pigs Moreau has rescued, she’s adopted out about 100. Near a gurgling fountain, a row of metal flowers represents each of the roughly 50 pigs that have passed away due to old age, illness, or complications from abuse and neglect under a previous owner.

An illustration of a pig on a white background

Bring Home the Bacon

Visit these mini pig penthouses for a squeal good time

Central Texas Pig Rescue, Smithville
An Airbnb will soon welcome guests to stay alongside roughly 250 rescue pigs.
[email protected];

Houston Mini Pig Rescue and Farm Sanctuary, Sealy
Before deciding to adopt, consider this rescue’s foster program.

Atlasta Home Sanctuary, Ennis
Started in 1995, this sanctuary also takes in feral pigs.

Moreau shows us her forever pigs—the ones she rescued before forming the nonprofit. “Here comes the matriarch,” she says. “This is Pearl. She was the very first pig here.” Pearl saunters past, having recently shed her bristly, long winter coat. Moreau, who grew up in Plano, was relatively new to country living when, in 2017, she bought Pearl as a piglet from a guy off US 80, put her in a reusable shopping bag, and brought her home. Soon after, Moreau got Pearl a companion, a boy pig, without knowing the animals can reproduce at just 12 weeks old. “Three months later I found out Pearl was going to have babies,” she says.

Quickly up to 10 pet pigs, Moreau started educating herself on the DFW Pig Parents Facebook forum. Folks asked her to foster one pig, and then another. Susan Robertson, cofounder of the forum, helped Moreau deliver pigs in her living room.

Surrounded by newborn piglets, Robertson asked, “Melanie, how many pigs do you have now?”

“Nineteen,” said Moreau, sheepishly.

“Well, what are we going to do?” Robertson responded.

In October of 2017, with 30 pet and rescue pigs in her care, Moreau founded My Pig Filled Life as a nonprofit. Around the same time, AnnaLaura and her brother, Billy, graduated high school and left home. Then Moreau’s father died. A week later, she separated from her husband. Though Moreau already had a successful career as an executive in the restaurant supply industry, caring for pigs became her passion. “I’ve always been a servant,” says Moreau, who’d long taught children’s ministry. “This is where God put me.”

Organizations like My Pig Filled Life are in dire need, according to Robertson. “All the rescues throughout the U.S. are just busting at the seams,” she says. “People see these creatures as being disposable. Because of their intelligence, owning a pet pig is almost like having a 3- to 5-year-old child. They require an enriching environment. A bored pig is a destructive pig.”

Moreau shows us one of the sharp tusks cut from a male pig for the safety of the animals and humans. The curved tusk is pure ivory, smooth and bright white. Some folks might throw the tusk away, but not Moreau. To help raise money for My Pig Filled Life, she turns the tusks into jewelry.

From the October 2023 issue

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