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POT-BELLIED PET
by Trevor Kupfer 

Being that he owns a motorcycle service and custom shop, Tony Olson’s Menomonie business typically has around 30 “hogs” lined up inside. Though they all have something special about them, the most unique hog is located behind Olson’s store. And he has aptly named it Pig.

“People get a pretty big kick out of it when they come in and see a pig,” said Olson, owner of Hog Barn Customs.

The motorcycle enthusiast has always liked pigs and has wanted one as a pet for several years. The price factor, however, was the main deterrent. As luck would have it, Olson found a six-week-old miniature pot-bellied pig at Dunn County Fair for only $40.

For a while, Olson allowed his beloved pet to roam within his store and consort with customers, taking occasional breaks to visit the litter box. But the 3-year-old, nearly 100-pound animal now prefers her pen behind the store, where she can dig and rest in the shade of a large nearby tree or her sawdust-floored house.

“People think I’m weird when I say I have a pig, but they’re smart and clean, and pretty easy to take care of,” Olson said. “They’re a lot different than most people think.”

Though they’re known as lazy and slow animals, Olson said Pig could easily out-run him. Mothers have been comparing rooms to pig pens for years, but it might be a compliment after looking at Pig’s. And when dinner comes, being told you eat like a pig is derogatory; but Pig goes through a 50-pound bag of food pellets a month, which is pretty similar to a large dog.

Pig does, however, eat just about everything (except onions, green peppers, and potatoes). “She has eaten soda, chocolate, whatever,” Olson said, adding that three customers brought him cakes at his last birthday. After they polished off two cakes and couldn’t eat any more, Pig got a treat and ate the whole thing. “And when we order food, it doesn’t matter if she’s 200 yards away; she knows.”

Pigs also get along with other animals, Olson said, mentioning that Pig used to sleep with his Labrador. The only downfall of owning a pig is its destructive tendencies on a lawn, he added. “She’ll roam around all day eating dandelions, which isn’t bad, but she also tears everything up looking for roots and stuff.”

Despite the hazards on lawns, Olson is a proud owner of a hog; or should I say a proud owner of several hogs and a Pig? So much so that they’ve started speaking the same language.

“You can tell a lot by how she grunts,” Olson said as he stretched his arms into an opening in the pen’s wire fence and lovingly rubbed Pig’s neck. “You can tell if she’s hungry, happy, angry, anything. People think I’m crazy for thinking that, but they also think I’m crazy for owning her in the first place.”