from Have Crutch Will Travel
When Carol, my landlady, brought home her new Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, Louise was a cute little piglet, a football on spikes with a schnozzle. She made soft little oinks and kissed her owner when Carol balanced a piggy biscuit on her lips.
I didn’t think Louise was cute for long. Her character flaw lay in the combination of her intelligence, persistence, and relentless pursuit of the eternal food morsel from every last corner of her world: every last thread on the rug, crack in the floor, blade of grass on the lawn, piece of paper from the trash, and every nook and cranny in the blankets and couches. She was a munching, gnashing, snarfing, gobbling, and swilling machine.
To encourage Louise to do her personal business in the back yard, Carol put in a series of doggie doors. I didn’t have a dog door, so I used to leave my back door cracked for my canine companion, Comet, to access the yard.
On a regular basis, as a side trip to the back yard, Louise would nose her way into my apartment and noisily snarf up Comet’s food from his dish, making these gnashing “nerf-nerf” sounds that sent my blood pressure rocketing. I’d be in my waterbed, reading or grading papers or just relaxing, and in would come Louise. I’d hear that grunting “erf-erf” and scream, “Louise!! Get out of here!” and she wouldn’t even budge her nose from the bowl until she saw me through her peripheral vision come barreling around the corner. She was so fast, like the metaphorical greased lightening. I, on the other hand, rising from a waterbed, then needing to grab my crutches, was never fast enough to catch her.
I told Carol, “I don’t mind Popcorn (her little white dog) coming over here and eating, but Louise… I don’t know, Carol, it really bothers me.”
“But I don’t understand why you mind Louise when you let Popcorn do it.” Because to Carol, these were equally adorable pets, she protested with a whine. I felt the need to disabuse her of this delusion.
“Because she’s a PIG!” I sputtered. “She’s … she’s … she’s invasive … she snorts while she eats. She eats like it’s her last meal on earth. Like she hasn’t eaten in weeks, for God’s sake!. It’s not even eating, it’s inhaling and snorting the food at the same time. I can’t explain it.” I was beside myself with hostility. This hurt Carol, so of course, I didn’t continue with my thought: “I don’t like her because she reminds me of everything I hate in myself and all humans when they act PIGGY!!”
The first angry episode happened in the back hall where I found Louise had gnawed her way through the huge, thick paper sack of dog food I kept stashed there. Gobbling as fast and as much as she could with every inhalation, nerf-nerfing like a jack-hammer vacuum cleaner at high speed, spit slobbering all around her snout, frantically finishing up before I could reach her, Louise triggered my rage at every element in my existence over which I had no control. Stealing from the dog’s dish was bad enough, but in this one pig-out she consumed twenty times as much food. I screamed at her twenty times my usual amplitude. LOUISE! WAIT ‘TIL I CATCH YOU!! I’M GONNA KILL YOU!
Part of my consternation was that I was always one step behind her. After that incident, I put the dog food on a high stool where I figured she couldn’t reach it. Imagine my astonishment when she knocked the stool over. I came home to Louise devouring my dog’s food once again at her high-gnashing velocity. She was so smart that she also figured out how to get into the rabbit food that Carol had stored in special bins in the hallway. Soon, every one of Carol’s storage bins had to be placed elsewhere. Louise was so clever she even figured out how to break into the rabbit’s cage and steal the rabbit’s food from its hutch in the back yard. (Night after night we had wondered who was letting the rabbit out when a thoughtful neighbor had found and returned him. Who would have thought?) After that, Carol had the rabbit door spring-loaded.
It was in the middle of the winter that Louise and I collided. Because our apartment building’s outer back door locks automatically, I propped the door open as I left in my shirtsleeves to take out the trash. Louise was outside for her afternoon slop of a feeding. Coming from nowhere, she bolted inside through the dog door, dislodging the prop and locking me outside in the process. I was livid!
Then I remembered. My apartment door was open! Louise could get in! I walked around the building freezing and fuming, no one home in the building. I finally decided to mount the rabbit house and climb through my unlocked bedroom window. Balancing on top of a four-foot high rabbit hut, throwing my crutches through the window, setting aside things that could break if they fell off the bureau, I hoisted myself in.
The first thing to greet me was the overturned trash bag under my window where Louise had routed around and found some orange peels and a pizza box to chomp on. I hurried into the living room where she’d eaten the tops of the fresh carnations and was now beyond in my work room with her head in the overturned trash can.
My heart began to beat wildly. I ran back to the kitchen and shut the door, closed the bedroom window, and then l lurched back to the living room where I locked the entry like a thief. I had her cornered. I then proceeded to chase Louise from one end of my apartment to the other for at least ten manic minutes. Running as fast as I could on one leg, thrashing at her thick pigskin flanks with my crutches, one crutch to walk, one to whack, I could barely catch up to her.
Hauling her huge, fat, sausage body on four dainty legs, her pointy little hooves slipping and sliding and tapping across the hardwood floors faster than the scurry of a rat, she screeched indescribably, oinking out of this deep, hollow, protesting, bestial space inside her two-foot frame. When she reached one end of the apartment, she’d skid to a corner, and I’d get in a few good whacks for several seconds while she reversed direction, and then she’d run for it again with a swiftness denied by her body image but proved by her legs. Try as I might, I never once smacked her on her snout, which, I learned, is where pigs really do feel pain. Mostly I just scared the bejeebers out of her, satisfying my hunger for revenge by extracting those blood-curdling cries of protest.
Finally the thought that Carol might come home and hear me, and then the thought that I might be perceived as torturing someone’s poor innocent pet caused me to slacken my pace. My rabid response to Louise’s invasion of my apartment curtailed, I soon quite civilly invited her out the front door, thinking to myself: at least I won’t see her around here for a while. Imagine her trauma being stranded in the front hall!
It took only 15 minutes. I was in my waterbed, and she was back at the dog dish. She had found a route—apparently involving stairs, that I didn’t know existed between the front hall and the back. Soon after that I let Carol know I had reached my limits with Louise.
In response, Carol’s dad put up a divider between my apartment and the back hall so Comet could jump over it to exit, but Louise couldn’t come in. Carol put my dog food in a huge utility trashcan with a lid like a tamper-proof prescription bottle. Pig-proof, I was assured.
Louise worked at it every day, and finally when the dog food supply got down to 1/4 of its 50-lb size, Louise was able to overturn the barrel. With her industrial proboscis, she had literally nosed her way through the clamp on the lid, and when I came out to empty the trash, I found her with her head in the barrel grunting away with ecstasy.
“You filthy, stinking PIG!!”I screamed, repeating a phrase that the other owner of the building had put in my head. “I’M GONNA GET YOU!” I felt another encounter coming on. With primal urgency, however, she stepped through her dog door, briskly waddling her rear end wiggling it through the opening, while her long skinny tail in beat in happiness and victory.
Carol’s partner, Karen, who owned half the building and had no allegiance to the pig, caught me in this rage and, I suspect was the origin of the phone call to the both the Zoning Department and Department of Health.
First to arrive was the Zoning Board. “I’ve heard there’s a mean pig in the building.” Well, she did try to bite my cleaning lady’s toes when Donna tried to shoo her away from the trash, but I couldn’t bring myself to say she was mean. After all, it was her nature to protect her food, right?
The Health Department officer who came to see me pulled out a pad of paper and started to take notes. “Have you seen the pig chase people through the hallways and try to bite them?” From Karen I heard that something like this had happened, but it hadn’t happened to me. And then I thought about that day.
In earnest and with emphasis I replied, “I don’t know if she chased anyone,” I paused, and knowing I might be inviting further questioning, and went on anyway, “but I have chased that pig!”