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Swine Has Star Quality

Golden Gate Gazette
April 09, 2001

Potbelly makes television debut... He's a swine with star appeal that didn't go unnoticed by television producers...

He's a swine with star appeal that didn't go unnoticed by television producers.

Two-year-old Hoover, named for his proficiency in sucking crumbs from the dinning room floor, recently made his television debut on Animal Planet's Funniest Animals. For his efforts he will receive $100 and a T-shirt from the network.

Estates resident Sherry Frederick, Hoover's trainer, says she missed the show.

"Everyone was calling me and saying they saw Hoover on TV," she says. "I'm not going to miss it next time."

Network officials say the show will be rebroadcast on Mar. 31 or Apr. 1.

Frederick sent the show a videotape of Hoover performing his repertoire. During his brief moment in the limelight, the potbelly porker saved a baby doll from distress, 'twirled' a baton, 'jived' to his boombox, and retrieved a letter from a mailbox.

"I'm just glad he got on the show," she says. "It tickled me to no end."

Two years ago, another of Frederick's potbelly protégés was also featured on Animal Planet. Now blind, Smudge the piano playing pig has retired from show business, but still enjoys an occasional Cheez-It tossed her direction during Hoover's practice sessions in the pen the two pigs share.

"Smudge has inverted eyelashes, which caused her to go blind," Frederick explains. "She could have an operation, but pigs don't do well with anesthesia and she could die on the table."

Frederick shows the same concern for all of the 25 potbelly "rescues" she cares for at her Pig Sanctuary on Rock Road. She says new zoning laws for the area prevent her from taking in any more pigs, but her current boarders will be allowed to live out their natural lives at the site.

While potbelly pigs were a popular pet a few years ago, enthusiasts now say there are not enough sanctuaries to accommodate the huge number of unwanted animals.

"They're really cute when they're little but then they grow up," Frederick says. "Some of them just got too big and their owners could no longer care for them."

One of Frederick's "rescues" came from Collier County Domestic Animal Services. One of the pig's ears had been ripped off and its head still bears a scar where the owner shot it. He reportedly used the animal to train his dogs to hunt wild pigs.

Frederick does not own any of the pigs at her sanctuary. All of the animals have sponsors who pay for food and medical care of the pig. Those without sponsors depend on the funds raised by performers like Hoover and two-year-old Chrissy, a small female potbelly, who has a few tricks of her own.

All funds raised by performances or donated to the sanctuary go into an account at Naples Feed Store. It costs about $200 a month to feed all of the potbelly pigs at the sanctuary.

Frederick says pigs are smart and easy to train. She says it took Hoover just one night to learn a trick proficiently.

"It's awesome," she says. "Once you teach a pig something, they never forget it. I had a friend whose pig learned to open the refrigerator door - she finally had to put a chain on it."

In addition to his televised tricks, Hoover can also wave an American flag, 'answer' the phone, play the tambourine, sink a basketball, and carry a suitcase.

Chrissy will turn circles, squeak a toy, and is trying to emulate her predecessor by playing the piano.

"No one will ever be as good as Smudge on the piano," Frederick admits.

Although the sanctuary is for potbelly pigs, there is one exception - a farm pig named Arnold.

Arnold was a 4-H farm project pig who became ill during its stay at the fair. Because of that, it could not be auctioned off for market like all of the other pigs. "Actually that saved his life," Frederick says. When told the pig would have to be sold for butcher, the young 4-H member pleaded with Frederick to take him in.

"I told her my sanctuary was just for potbelly pigs," she recalls, "But she was crying and saying her pig was going to be slaughtered in three days."

Thanks to the help of several concerned persons, a pen big enough to accommodate Arnold was constructed in the tight time frame. The girl visits three times a week to care for Arnold and clean his pen.

"That was one farm pig I couldn't say no to," Frederick says.

"But now I have to say no." She says that's okay with her. Big potbelly pig sanctuaries are oftentimes not able to give the animals the attention they got accustomed to as household pets. In addition to the 25 pigs, Frederick's "zoo" includes a guinea pig, a lizard, two turtles, two birds, and two dogs. She also has two goldfish, one of which will actually let you pet it. When he said "I do" a few months ago, Frederick's new husband, Tom, literally married into Noah's ark. "Actually, I don't mind at all," he chuckles. "I was raised on a farm. It's fine with me."

For more information on the sanctuary, you can email Frederick at Piggranny@aol.com.

©Golden Gate Gazette 2001


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