Vernon and North Okanagan News
Duke and his piglet Sophie
This is the story of 5-year-old German Shepherd Duke and his adopted daughter Sophie, the piglet.
Sophie was the runt of a litter of 12 born in early spring, and despite her perseverance to survive she wasn't doing well, not big enough to fight for mom's milk against her brothers and sisters.
Her life at the Wild Mood Organics Company farm just outside of Armstrong was running short, but, one of the farms owners, 17-year-old farmer Tristan Quiring, would not give up on Sophie. He decided to take her home for some personal love and care.
“She was about a week old and she was just not going to make it, she was in a couple hours of imminent death,” explains dad and co-partner Richard Quiring. “My son decided that he was going to try and help her make it. He brought her into our home and figured out a recipe (to feed her not to eat her) he could make that would replace her mom's milk and proceeded to look after her and nurse her back to vitality.”
After a few days, and with with a little TLC Sophie was doing great. But what happened next was the surprising bond the little piglet had made with the families' dog, Duke.
“She was just totally thrifty and doing well and our family dog took to Sophie like a father, like a good father, and to this day puts up with absolutely everything from Sophie,” laughs Quiring.
He says since day one the two have connected, Sophie would start sharing his food and cuddle with him while Duke would share Sophie's milk and the two just started hanging out together, even sharing the same kennel.
“Sophie would burrow into Duke's coat and lie on top of him and to this day it is hilarious,” smiles Quiring. “I was sitting on my deck this morning having a coffee with my wife and like a little teenage kid Sophie would bug and bug and route into Duke's ear and fur and sometimes Duke would turnover and give a little growl telling her she is getting a little aggressive and she will back up a bit and then just keep going.”
The, not so little, piglet is now living the good life.
“Sophie has the run of the yard, she stays in our yard, she doesn’t go to the pasture where the other pigs are, she just stays in the yard and hangs out with Duke and enjoys her freedom and the sun,” says Quiring. “She is really, really social, she loves people, she loves Duke and it is neat to see.”
5-year-old Duke was raised on the pig farm but has never taken to a pig before. Quiring says this behaviour is entirely unique.
“I have been involved in raising pigs a lot in my life and I have never seen anything like that.”
Sophie is a special case, as losing the runt of the litter is a reality in the farm world but Quiring says it was the heart of his son who had empathy for her situation that pulled her through.
Duke's commitment to her and the bond they have created was also crucial for the very social animal.
“Pigs typically wean from their mothers at six-weeks-old and they are a very social animal. They thrive on the social aspect of the herd, so for her to leave her litter mates and her mom at only a week old would have been hard,” explained Quiring. “But Duke, he became a surrogate parent for her, and Duke is her herd now, it is kind of a father daughter connection happening here and it is really pretty unique.”
Unlike her siblings, Sophie is now part of the family and will be kept on the farm as a breeding mom.
“Very few are kept back as breeding stock, but for her it was an obvious choice. Whether she was a boy or a girl, once she became part of the family she separated herself in terms of her status around here, there was no way she was going to become part of our pork program after that,” said Quiring.
Sophie is growing up quick and she will soon weigh more than Duke.
“She will be a very special mom for many years,” adds Quiring.
The Wild Moon Organics Company is a organic certified farm with a focus on raising Berkshire pigs. They also raise grass-fed Belted Galloway cattle and grow sweet corn, hay, and varied vegetables and crops.
For more information check out http://wildmoon.org
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