Manitoba

That 'weird-looking dog' at the Kilcona dog park is actually a pig

Sam Pichette says when she sees how happy her pet, Big the pig, makes people at her regular dog park, it makes her heart feel "so warm."

Sam Pichette says her therapy animal is exempt from Winnipeg's prohibition on commercial animals

Big the pot-bellied pig is a therapy animal and exempted from Winnipeg's ban on commercial animals, says his owner, Sam Pichette. (Submitted by Sam Pichette)

When Sam Pichette sees how happy her pet makes people at her regular dog park, it makes her heart feel "so warm."

"Especially little kids. They freak out when they see him."

She's been asked if Big is a pug. He's not.

He's a pig.

"A lot of people think he's a small dog at first and then they get to see his face and they're like, 'That's a weird-looking dog.'"

It often takes a few glances for it to register that Big is, in fact, a pig — a 30-kilogram black and white pot-bellied pig, complete with hooves, a snout and a tail.

People often rush in to pet him and take a photo. A few run away, Pichette says.

Winnipeg has a strict prohibition on commercial animals, including hogs. But Pichette says because Big is a therapy animal, he's exempted from the rule — so long as he doesn't cause a ruckus.

Pichette says she needs Big. She suffers from severe anxiety and depression and says he comforts her. 

Big the pig rides shotgun. Owner Sam Pichette says she believes he thinks he's a dog. (Submitted by Sam Pichette)

"He just knows if I'm having a bad day or if something's wrong, he'll be at my side," she said. "He's very intuitive."

In addition to comforting Pichette and drawing crowds of people, he's also an indisputable hit with the dogs at his favourite park — the Kilcona off-leash dog park in northeast Winnipeg. Pichette jokes it's because he might smell a bit like bacon.

"He draws a crowd. He'll often have five dogs around him," she said.

Big does a pretty good job living life like a dog outside the fences of the park too. He can sit on command and wag his tail. He walks around on a leash. 

Pichette thinks his older canine "brother," Zeus, taught him a few tricks. She acquired Big a year ago, when he was just two weeks old. 

"I don't even think he knows he's a pig. He barks when people come to the door," Pichette said.

Still, she's had to make some changes around the house. Big is still a pig.

"He opens cupboards and takes out containers. He'll pop the fridge open, help himself," she said, laughing. "Needless to say everything is bungee corded in our house."

In a 2015 Manitoba Human Rights Commission policy, the commission said dogs are the most common service animal in the province, but found other animals can be trained to provide service to humans, including calming a person with mental health issues.

Big the pig snuggles with his older brother, Zeus. (Submitted by Sam Pichette)

with files from Kim Kaschor

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