This Couple Adopted a Micro Pig But Were in For a Surprise
Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter led pretty ordinary lives in Ontario, Canada. They lived together with their two rescue dogs, two cats, turtle and koi fish. Then in the summer of 2012, a pig entered their lives and changed it forever. Something about this micro pig would leave them stunned. In fact, the whole world was left stunned. What was it about this micro pig that made waves across the globe? Read on to find out.
1. An Unexpected Call
It was towards the end of summer 2012 on a Friday night when Steve Jenkins, a real estate agent and bagpipe player, received an unexpected call. On the other side of the line was a woman who attended high school with him over a decade ago.
She told Jenkins that she remembered how much he had loved animals and had a proposition for him. She said she had a micro pig and needed to find a new home for her because “she had newborn twins and a dog that was not accepting the pig at all so it had to go.” The woman explained that the pig was from a breeder, was only six months old, and would not grow bigger than a very large cat. He replied that he’d have to think about it.
2. Dr. Dolittle Much?
Jenkins said he’d have to think it over because he and his partner, Derek Walter, already owned two cats, two rescue dogs, a turtle, and koi fish together. Clearly Jenkins did have a love for animals and all things fluffy.
Could they take care of a micro pig, dubbed teacup pigs, or was it a bad idea? What was the meaning of this sudden “blast from the past” encounter? He needed to discuss things with Walter before making any decisions.
3. When Panic Sets In, Think Quick!
Only a few hours had passed when the woman called back to say someone else was interested in the mini pig so he had to make a decision as soon as possible; as is at that very moment. Mild panic kicked in.
Jenkins panicked and decided to say yes without consulting Walter about it. He tried to convince himself with “A miniature pig in your house, how is that not the coolest thing ever?” He said that he thought it was kind of trendy because the likes of George Clooney and Paris Hilton also had micro pigs. What could possibly go wrong?
4. Me, You, and Our Four-Legged Kids
The couple met several years earlier at a smoke and rib house, where Jenkins worked as a waiter. This would prove to be extremely ironic later on. The two moved in together and shared a love for animals, so they decided to adopt some kids on four legs.
Jenkins thought Walter would be excited for the pig because he’s a magician. He thought that he could convince Walter by saying that the mini pig would serve as a perfect companion for one of his acts.
5. Trouble in Paradise
The couple resided in the suburbs about 45 minutes outside of Toronto, Ontario in a 1000-square foot with a moderately sized yard, perfect for the two cats and two rescue dogs to frolic around in.
When Walter came home he was furious with Jenkins. He couldn’t believe that his partner didn’t consult with him about getting the micro pig. He was so angry that at first he didn’t speak to Jenkins. Would Walter come around eventually and what would happen to this pig that no one seemed to want?
6. A Neglected Little Pink Creature
When the men received the micro pig she was in bad shape and “looked like hell,” according to Jenkins. Her ears were sunburned, her pink collar was tattered, her nails were chipped, and she looked really sad.
It seemed like they had serious case on their hands; something that Jenkins didn’t prepare for. What had this woman done with this pig that she was so run down? Was there anything else to be suspicious about?
7. What A Bit of TLC Can Do
Jenkins prepared a bed in a crate for the mini pig so she could rest and get used to her new surroundings. It wasn’t before long that she started to perk up and warm up to the couple and the other animals.
When the dogs got up to do something, the little pink creature followed them and tried to get involved. In fact, this little pig gained so much confidence that she would become part of the dogs’ pack. But would things be so simple?
8. Endearing Esther
It took a few weeks, but the little bundle of joy stole Walter’s heart. She charmed him with her antics and behaviors which he didn’t expect from a mini pig, like when she cuddled with them on the sofa.
This little pink animal exuded so much love and happiness and had a personality larger than life. She felt like an addition to the house, so much so, that Walter decided to name her. This micro pig became known as Esther.
9. Potty Training
It was time to train Esther like a puppy if she wanted to be part of the family. They started off with litter boxes and took her to the litter box about every hour while she was little. After she relieved herself, they’d reward her with a treat.
This potty training system seemed to work until things took a turn for what some might call a nightmare. It was time to take Esther for a check to the vet. What he would reveal would change the couple’s lives forever.
10. A Trip to the Vet
The two thought it would just be a routine checkup for Esther after they had gotten her into good shape in about a month. After all, things were going well; Esther was well and she seemed to be growing ever so slightly.
The vet took one look at Esther’s cropped tail and exclaimed: “I think you have a problem on your hands.” He went on to explain that her tail was a sign that she was born on a commercial farm for consumption. So was she a micro pig at all?
11. What Now?
Jenkins and Walter were shocked. Jenkins tried to call the woman who gave him the pig to ask her about the breeder, but she stopped answering his calls. Was someone else really interested in taking this pig like she said? Was Jenkins swindled by this woman?
“We were terrified but we had already fallen in love with her,” stated Jenkins. He went on to say: The couple decided to wait, having gotten so attached to Esther. But the longer they had her, the more they got attached, and over time, Esther seemed to grow bigger and bigger. But how big are we actually talking here?
12. Esther the Wonder Pig
Esther continued to grow, and at a rapid rate. When she told Jenkins the pig would only grow to be the size of a large cat, she obviously didn’t get the memo on the classification of large cats. Last time we checked, lions and tigers were large cats.
The vet told the couple that if Esther was in fact six-months-old, she was probably a sick runt and would grow to be around 90 kilograms, the size of a very big dog breed. But lo and behold, by her first birthday was already weighing in at 113 kg. Everyone started asking how big she would get that they named her “Esther the Wonder Pig.” So how big would Esther get?
13. The Scale Don’t Lie
The vet believed that she could reach around 230 kg if she was so big by her first birthday, and it seemed like this estimation became a reality, and quickly. Micro pigs aren’t meant to grow larger than 31 kg, so it became very clear that Esther was no mini piggy.
Jenkins and Walter became very concerned and weren’t sure how much bigger their beloved Esther was going to get. This massive pink pig didn’t seem to stop growing. What would the couple do now that they had a huge pig on their hands?
14. Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder
By the time Jenkins and Walter realized how large this pink mammalian lump would get, it was a little too late. They believed she was unlike any animal they’d ever met. They were dumbfounded by her intelligence and crazy about her sunny personality.
Esther was so intelligent that they didn’t struggle to retrain her to pee outside. She would go to the litter box and miss the spot due to her large physique, so she started to go to the back door, where she’d wiggle the handle and let herself outside. But was this it for her growth spurt?
15. There’s No Stopping Us Now
Esther continued to grow and grow. She reached 304 kg within her first year, almost the size of a small female polar bear. Esther became so big that she actually looked out of place next to the rest of the family in the house.
How would the couple be able to take care of such a large animal? Surely they had no space in their home and not enough food to feed Esther who needed a lot of sustenance to keep her going.
16. Pigging Around
Jenkins and Walter fed Esther a vegan diet consisting mainly of kibble. She also consumed fresh fruits and vegetables, ripe bananas and vegetable peelings, grains, rolled oats, barley, and corn. In sum, her food cost them around $1800 a month.
Esther was no dirty pig; the couple bathed her regularly. Jenkins explained: “pigs don’t sweat, so she doesn’t smell.” This meant they could keep her in the house to lounge around with the dogs and cats, like she loved.
17. The Start of Something New
“If you look a pig closely in the eyes, it’s startling; there’s something so inexplicably human. When you’re lying next to her and talking, you know she understands. It was emotional realizing she was a commercial pig,” Jenkins reported. He recalled how the more they got to know Esther, the more they changed.
They both believed it was crazy to eat animals after they discovered the cruelty of commercial farming. Before they got Esther they ate a lot of bacon. Jenkins said: “We were pretty typical people. We were two totally normal, meat-eating omnivores.” This was until Esther came into their lives and changed it forever. The men had to start taking difficult decisions for the future.
18. One Love
Esther was no shy pig; she loved the attention and was a smiling member of the family. She enjoyes lounging on the family couch and on the couple’s bed, as well as her own personal bed. She also enjoys sleeping alongisde the family’s two dogs, Shelby and Reuben.
Esther the pig spent most of her days lazing around looking happy as can be. The issue is that she took so much space, and the couple didn’t want to compromise the happiness of the other four-legged kids. So what were they to do?
19. Part of the Pack
Esther became part of the pack. When she was small she couldn’t steal food from one of the dogs, but after she grew to be the size of a polar bear, the dogs stopped horsing around with their piggy sister and gave into her.
She mimicked a lot of the dogs’ antics and was always to be the center of attention. Walter and Jenkins treated her exactly like a dog, however, there were some challenges they had to face. What was it that they gave to their dogs but couldn’t give to her?
20. Some Challenges
When their porcine angel tipped the scale at a few hundred kilos, Walter and Jenkins couldn’t take her out for car rides or walks on the streets. They became concerned that she would distract drivers and even themselves.
Moreover, if Esther got startled and started running, there would be nothing the couple could do to stop her. That is why the last time they took her outside for a walk was in 2013.
21. Waves of Change
The house became too small. Walter and Jenkins started to inquire at some farm sanctuaries about taking Esther in. Unfortunately, most of the farms they turned to had a shortage of volunteers and were struggling with money. They couldn’t take Esther in, let alone offer her the loving home she needed.
While they decided what the next step would be, the couple had to make some drastic changes at home. They had to place all the food in the upper kitchen cabinets and lock all the doors so Esther won’t be able to open them. In the meanwhile, the Wonder Pig still enjoyed wrestling, playing and cuddling, as if she were one of the dogs.
22. Hustling and Bustling
Walter and Jenkins opened a Facebook community page for Esther, which grew quicker than they expected. The goals of the social media platform was to raise awareness about Esther’s situation.
The couple launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo so they could open their own farm sanctuary. They called the campaign “The Esther Effect Animal Sanctuary” in order to raise money for 43 acres of land. The plan was to run a sanctuary to raise abused and abandoned commercial farm animals to give them another chance at life.
23. Campaigning Away
Within 40 days of launching the campaign, Walter and Jenkins raised about $400,000 Canadian dollars. If they could raise enough money, the farm sanctuary wasn’t just a fantasy. Jenkins wasn’t worried though; he said he would make another plan if need be.
Jenkins already found a farm with a house ready for them to move into. The plan was to create a sanctuary where visitors could come to shop at their local vegan market, as well as to enjoy cross-country skiing and hiking. The prime focus, however, was to raise Esther and transform the lives of other animals. So were they going to accomplish that goal?
24. Scary Realities
Part of the campaign was to teach the public about Esther. Walter and Jenkins wanted to portray her in a different light. “She is just live every single other pig that lives their entire albeit shit lives on factory farms,” exclaimed Jenkins.
All the couple did, according to Jenkins, was to offer her a loving home. There, Esther felt safe enough to be playful and loving, and show her exceptional personality. Without the couple’s love, Esther would have ended up as a package of bacon.
25. A “Babe-Style” Home
When Walter and Jenkins finally raised enough money to afford them farm, they moved in. They offered Esther a bed outside now that there was so much space, but little Miss Piggy Sunshine wasn’t having it.
Esther still wanted to remain inside the house. She clearly wasn’t aware of the sheer size of her body. Polar bear or not, Esther wanted to chill inside while the cows and peacocks had to reside outside. All in all, the sanctuary started off with 47 residents.
26. “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things”
Esther truly became a spoiled pink piggy with a smile on her dial no matter what. Her favorite treats became cupcakes as soon as she got a taste of the good life. She also began to show a love for scotch mints, bagpipe music, and cooling down in the pond during the summer.
Frozen fruit smoothies, especially mango flavored ones hit the spot for her, and don’t forget the cuddles and belly rubs while taking over the whole bed or couch. The couple trained Esther to sit for treats, and she began to sit in the kitchen expecting something to drop in her mouth. Shelby, the dog, became Esther’s best friend. They began sleeping next to each other ceremoniously so she could get up for breakfast with all the dogs and cats. And, of course, she became crazy for a game of tag and wrestling.
27. Esther Becomes a Star
After the couple opened up the Facebook page for Esther and reached over one million fans, she became such a hit that they had to open Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube accounts in order to attend to all the demands and messages.
Esther’s social media presence became Jenkins’s job. He ran the pages, uploaded vegan recipes, and posted pictures, vidoes, and updates of Esther dressing up, bathing, and “pigging” around. Her smile and personality really made waves across the world.
28. The Esther Effect
Esther really touched the hearts and minds of people across the globe. Jenkins received special messages from people opening up to Esther and thanking her for changing their lives. One message came in from a 76-year-old vegetarian woman. She told them that her husband picked up a pack of bacon at the grocery store and put it down. When she asked him why he did that, he replied, “Because of Esther.”
They’ve received hundreds and thousands of messages, most of which brought Jenkins to tears. Another message read: “Thank you for showing my two young boys that it’s ok to have two dads.” Jenkins couldn’t believe their story was making such a difference. Was that really their goal?
29. Commercial Farming
When people, old and young, reached out to Jenkins on Esther’s social media pages, he realized he could teach the public a thing or two about commercial farming. Before Esther came into their lives, they didn’t even consider becoming vegan, so what was this “Esther Effect,” and why was it so powerful?
As a child, Walter was taught that farm animals don’t feel pain and that God placed them on earth to be eaten. Both of them grew up thinking that farm animals are just that – farm animals. Like most people, they didn’t really know much about commercial farming. But then Esther came along and the light bulb went off. It was a rude awakening for them and for the public.
30. Personal Matters
Jenkins doesn’t believe that they set out to promote gay and animal rights in a direct way. The “Esther Effect” became so strong that she had a positive effect on many people.
With the way things go, it was only natural for the couple to get involved in animal welfare advocacy after they got Esther. Esther the Wonder Pig became bigger than they could have ever imagined; not only physically. Her porky frame and cute smile captured the hearts of many. It was inevitable.
31. Meeting Esther
Esther became such a star that people from around the world come to visit her regularly. A 65-year-old woman from Finland had never traveled across the ocean until the “Esther Effect” kicked in.
In 2015, this Finnish woman, Sania Tornebladh, arrived in Milton, Ontario with one goal: to see Esther. She came with her husband Ingmar Tornebladh and they stayed at the Best Western Hotel for a week just to meet the pig.
32. Peace. Love. Esther.
Esther the Wonder Pig definitely needed a website. Jenkins created a website for “little” Miss Piggy owing to her growing fame. Her fame seemed to grow and grow just like her big frame.
The website, called estherthewonderpig.com, became a platform for fans to access everything they want to know about the pig and her family. From recipes and stories to donations and contact details, it’s all there. Esther the Wonder Pig became an empire in itself.
33. The Esther Store
Celebrities usually venture into the world of fashion and jewelry to raise awareness and raise funds. Esther the Wonder Pig followed suit. Her store includes clothes, fun T-shirts, jewelry, hats, toys, and artwork.
All the items are sold on the website and go by the slogan Peace. Love. Esther. This chubby pink bundle of joy even managed to make fashion statements with her contagious smile. But it doesn’t end there.
34. The Esther Cruise
The couple have continued to make big plans to help more and more farm animals and to raise as much awareness about commercial farming as possible. One campaign to benefit the Esther Farm Sanctuary is the Esther Cruise.
In 2018, from February 24th to March 3rd, the Esther cruise will set sail on a Caribbean cruise from Tampa Florida and stop in Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay, Belize, and Cozumel. This cruise will boast a custom “Esther Approved” menu and a private welcome party, among other surprises and activities. Is that all we should expect from Esther?
35. Amazon Bestseller
Jenkins decided to write a book about his whole experience with Esther with the help of his partner Walter and another author Caprice Crane. In 2016, the book became a New York Times Bestseller and the Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far. It also won a 2016 Nautilus Best Seller award.
This pet memoir takes you on the full journey of Esther the Wonder Pig. This Canadian pig is such a star that she made bookshelves across the world.
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