Pot-bellied pigs charm residents at Hawkeye Care Center


CRESCO - It is likely residents at Hawkeye Care Center are familiar with hogs as livestock. However, the care center welcomed quite a different sight recently in the form of Alice and Zena, domesticated pot-bellied pigs adorned in brightly-colored tutus, charming residents by clamoring for carrot sticks and twirling in circles on command.
Kym Olson and her fiancé, Gale Erion of Alta Vista consider Alice and Zena members of their family, so much so that special dresses are being created for the pot-bellied pigs so they can take part in Olson and Erion’s upcoming wedding.
Along with Alice and Zena, the couple currently fosters four pot-bellied pigs. Other animals in their care include chickens, turkeys, fainting goats, a Shetland pony, a few dogs and a couple of cats.
Olson said Alice and Zena are ideal pets:
“If you have the worst day in the world, pot-bellied pigs are the best comfort there is,” Olson said. “They are as emotional as humans.”
 Zena: ‘Miracle Pig’
Olson and Erion had their emotions taxed when Zena developed health problems.
“Iowa State University ended up putting her in isolation; she was in full renal failure, her kidneys were shutting down, the only thing we found out is that it was some sort of bacterial infection,” Olson said. “They were able to get her stabilized and somehow she started to come around, but wasn’t producing any red blood cells.
“She fought the IV they put in her ears, so they tried putting an IV in her neck, but her blood pressure dropped so fast they almost lost her. They used a human catheter for an IV in her leg right into the bone. She’s the first pig on record to ever get a human hormone injection for anemia, and it was not cheap: It cost us $600 a week.
“Her doctor called her the ‘miracle pig.’ Iowa State University is doing a full write-up on her. They said she would have to be on these injections at least once a month for the rest of her life, and she’s only 2 years old. A pig can live until they are 18 years old. Her doctor started wondering about how many blood cells she was producing on her own, because her numbers were staying high and we were giving her one shot every four weeks instead of two shots every week. At her last appointment, her numbers were still high, so we skipped the shot in February. If the numbers are high during her next appointment, she is a miracle pig and no more injections will be needed. It’s just amazing; I can’t believe what they’ve done to save her,” Olson said.
Olson said Zena’s health crisis presented a challenge to doctors because no records existed for pot-bellied pigs in a similar situation.
“All the numbers they had were of farm hogs, so there was no record to compare. The farm hog was the only blood tested with the human hormone injection for anemia, so they didn’t know how Zena, as a pot-bellied pig, was going to act and respond to it. We had to sign waivers that her doctors were not responsible if something happened to her,” Olson said.
As Zena’s medical costs rose, Olson said she was thankful for the pot-bellied pig community on the Internet, whose members rallied around Zena and helped the couple pay her medical bills.
“Thank goodness people all over the United States helped pay her $10,000 vet bill. She was there for one month,” Olson said. “There was a pot-bellied pig festival coming up, and we wanted to take Zena with us. We talked to the clinic, and I got a call later that day from Iowa State University, and they said an anonymous caller had paid our bill in full.”
As of Friday, March 3, Olson posted this update on the Facebook group called 'Mo Money for Pigs': 
'Zena Lee had her routine appointment yesterday. The time between shots had increased. It had been since the first part of January since she had her last shot. Everyone expected a change in numbers that would mean Zena would go back to her shot routine. When Zena was released we were sure she would need shots the rest of her life. Her kidneys had been that bad. 
'(At the Friday appointment) her numbers were just fine! At this time there will be no need for another shot. Miss Kym and Mr. Gale will keep on eye on her to watch for any negative signs. It will be a full six months before she needs to go back for tests. I know Zena Lee is happy about that! I know we all are. Great thanks to those that donated directly to Iowa State University, and great thanks to those that donated to Mo Money for Pigs. This is what we have accomplished as a family.'
Pot-bellied pig rescue groups
Olson said Pig Advocates League followed their story on social media when they adopted Alice, and that pot-bellied pig rescue groups online led Olson and Erion to come to the aid of four young pot-bellied pigs.
“Two weeks before Zena got sick, we drove to the other side of Cincinnati, Ohio and rescued four male pot-bellied pigs that were part of a hoarding/cruelty case in the state of Virginia,” Olson said. “They were four months old when we got them, and now we have four little boy (pigs) who are running around the house. We belong to Belly Brothers Pig Rescue out of Ohio,” she said.
‘Intelligent animals’
Erion said they trained their pot-bellied pigs like dog owners would train their dogs. He said that, when he sits down in the recliner at home to watch a movie, Alice and Zena will sit down next to him for the duration.
Olson said Alice and Zena are perfect stress relief:
“I take the best nap when there are two pigs cuddled up next to me. They wag their tails when they are happy. They are such intelligent animals, and eager to learn,” she said.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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