The owner and volunteers of a Mission sanctuary are mourning the loss their long-time resident and beloved friend, Roscoe the pig.
The 800-pound, 14-year-old Yorkshire pig came to Janice Gillett, the owner of Mission’s Hearts on Noses Sanctuary, when he was just a runt. She described him as the “big gentle giant.”
“He didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Gillett said. “Roscoe always wanted to be with me … He was quite a character.”
Gillett made the “heart-wrenching” decision to put the old pig down on Jan. 15 after his rear legs gave out. She said he had been struggling to pull himself up in recent weeks, and had abrasions on one of his sides from trying.
Roscoe was a people pig, and was constantly seeking human attention and company, according to Gillett. She remembers him always looking for a scratch during morning coffees on the farm, and being curious as to which volunteer took sugar with theirs.
“Before you knew it we were all standing,” she said. “People don’t think that way, that an 800-pound animal would seek you out just to be close to you.”
Gillett founded Hearts on Noses Sanctuary in 1999 as a home for abandoned potbellied pigs. The breed became a popular pet in the 1980s with many owner were ill prepared for the commitment.
Roscoe was saved from a backyard farm and surrendered to the sanctuary at just five-weeks old in 2006. He was adopted out to a pre-approved home, but was eventually taken back by Gillett.
He loved playing “Where’s the pig?” on the farm, wandering around in his big blue raincoat and always had much to say through snorts, Gillett said.
“He was a good, good pig … I will miss him so much.”
Gillett’s passion for pigs began in 1993 after finding a baby potbellied pig that no one was claiming, and was surprised by the intelligence and personality.
“They’re so darn cute when they’re babies,” Gillett said. “He just wanted to lay with me, wanted to follow me around. He was in with the horses and bouncing around.”
She checked out a sanctuary in Washington and discovered pigs were being shipped across the border because nobody wanted them in Canada, something she found shocking considering the number of hobby farms in the Lower Mainland.
She said most of her herd has been surrendered to her by animal control or former owners, often because getting them neutered is an issue.
People who visit the three-acre sanctuary always want to know if pigs know their own names or come when called, Gillett said.She said people don’t realize a pig’s personality is quite similar to a dog or cat.
She said she can call a pig’s name out of her 38-strong herd and watch it’s ears perk up and dash towards her.
“I talk to them just like I’m talking to you,” she said. “They wag their tales just a like a dog when their happy.”
Gillett doesn’t think of herself as an animal-rights activist, but said she probably is in a technical sense, adding the industrial food industry is “based on greed, rather than need.”
Usually a pig’s knees give out much earlier than Roscoe’s had because of selective breeding, according to Gillett. She said his body has been donated to a lab for medical research.
“He’s not being used for profit.”