We knew we weren’t ready for a dog. The search for the perfect pet began there.
“Cat?” my husband suggested.
“I’d rather not invite something into my home that would immediately begin plotting my death,” I said. “How about a rabbit?”
“Why would we get a pet that needs to stay in a cage?”
I saw his point. We were getting our first pet as a step into our adulthood. We had just bought our first home. The itch driving us into pet ownership was a clear precursor to pending parenthood. At that point in our relationship, we had only ever tried to care for one thing, a houseplant named Walmart. Walmart didn’t survive the summer, and we were fairly traumatized. But it had been a few years. We were married now and living on a different coast from the one where Walmart had been underwatered and then overwatered to his early demise.
We were ready for a pet, but finding a cage-free animal that could live in an urban neighborhood and was not a dog or a cat was challenging. After months of research, we settled on getting a pig. We were pretty excited about it and told everyone how we were about to become proud pig parents. However, prior to purchasing one, I came across a pig advocacy site warning that pigs can be aggressive toward babies. Deal breaker.
It was around this time that I learned about a breed of rabbit called Flemish giants. Known as the “gentle giants,” they make great family pets and, because they can be trained to go in a litter box, can live outside the cage, roaming freely around the house like a cat. We picked up our Flemish giant a month later and, staying true to our assertion that we would be pig parents, named him Pig.
Pig came to us after his previous owners returned him to his breeder at 13 weeks. They had discovered he was a runt and would not be able to compete in rabbit shows. Our runt grew to a measly 18 pounds. We nicknamed him Piggy Smalls.
For the first few months, Pig didn’t stray far from his litter box. He seemed scared in the big house, not used to a life outside a cage, not used to a life dedicated to little more than daily brushings. I had just about given up on the idea that Pig would socially connect with us, when he hopped over to the couch to be near us for the first time. He wasn’t ready to be touched but was ready to be near.
By the end of year one, our firstborn, as we lovingly referred to Pig, had taken full control of our house. He would hop over to greet us as soon as we came home from work. He would place his front two paws on my shoulders to give me kisses on my lips. He would nudge us with his head, stamp his back foot or even give a small nip if he was in the mood to be petted and we weren’t bending to his bunny demands.
In the early years, our lives revolved around Pig. We told everyone about his hilarious antics, how he would pull the pillows off the couch and create obstacle courses for himself. About how each time he shed, new black zigzagging designs would appear on his gray coat. How gorgeous he was. When he exclusively chewed on my leather shoes and bags, we were impressed by his high-end taste.
He was a family man. After we brought our son home from the hospital, Pig inserted himself into the caretaking. He would run at full speed from the kitchen to the nursery whenever he heard the baby crying, standing up on his hind legs to check on his new brother. He adapted to a life of being pulled, tugged and hugged too tight by little people who loved him.
Over the years, Pig slowed down. He didn’t jump as high or run as fast. But he was always up for snuggling. Even in his last days, Pig would force his head under our hands for a pet and would nudge, stamp or nip if we didn’t show him his due affection.
This week, we laid our fur baby to rest.
Pig loved fluffy rugs, computer cords and bananas. He loved us more. And we him.
We had been in search for the perfect pet. We got so much more. Rest in peace, Piggy.