I’ve never been able to make my girlfriend smile at me the way she smiles at pigs.
Her desk at work has a single picture of us together from a trip to Mexico that sits surrounded by plethora of pigs. Mouse pads, calendars, and, for all I know, desktop wallpaper dedicated to the creatures while my picture gathers dust and stares enviously into a swine covered abyss.
I didn’t get it. I still don’t. But after taking a trip to Grazin’ Pig Acres, I know that she’s not alone.
It’s the day before her birthday and I’m getting nervous. We’re in the Ramona, CA ranch land and she’s staring out my window.
She asks me, “Are we going to ride horses?”
I called the only place I could find online that claimed to be a pig farm, but for all I know, we are headed to some trailer park where a guy with a bunch of stuffed animals was going to pop out and show us his “pigs”.
As I think about this, we continue down the road until I see the sign – “Welcome Pig Lovers”. Before I have the chance to point it out she’s spotted it. She covers her mouth and begins to cry.
We get out of the car and are greeted by a huge, fanged pig trotting towards us. The owner of the farm Marty follows close behind.
“This is Hamilton”, Marty says pointing down at the beast.
Ava’s catching her breath and wiping her tears. “I’m sorry! I really love pigs and I’m just a little overwhelmed right now”.
“Well, we have 95 pigs here and you’re going to meet them all.”
We follow Marty down the driveway and he points out pig after pig. “This is Diana. That’s Raisins. Over there is Lucy. Now she’s a real sweetheart and just might let you rub her belly. Come on over now Lucy”.
I could never memorize the names of all our Presidents. This man knows 95 pigs by name and has a story about each one.
Marty introduces us to his wife Nancy. “This is Corey and Ava. She’s quite the pig lover and Corey surprised her with a trip up here. Guess he did pretty good huh?”
Yes Marty. Yes I did.
His wife stands up and says, “Well then they sure will love it when we load up their car with a few pigs to take back”.
Everyone laughs at this but me.
Marty and Nancy started with one pet pig, now they have an entire animal rescue. Like Ava, there are thousands of pig lovers out there. Some adopt pigs while they’re small and realize only later they don’t have the space or means for raising them. Unlike other domestic pets, there aren’t a lot of options for unwanted pigs. Grazin’ Pig farms takes them in and serves as a sanctuary where they can live out their lives protected. The farm is strictly non-profit and one of the only pig farms in San Diego County.
Marty points over a clique of pigs relaxing on a hill. “Those are the beastie boys”, he says, explaining how they were once a gang of wild pigs up in the hills with no place to go.
Seeing the utopia they’ve created here at the rescue is inspiring. We finish making the rounds and I snap more photos of Ava while little snouts sneak up behind me and sniff my boots. I begin to see how misunderstood the little guys really are.
We come to the end of the tour and I’ve never seen Ava happier. Her fingers run lovingly through their coarse manes. Pig after pig begins to line up for her belly rubs. My face is back on her desk at work, covered in envy. But, I smile and take pictures as she meets and greets them all, seeing the same uniqueness in each pig that Marty and Nancy do.
Hamilton and few of his friends follow us out towards our car as we say goodbye.
When we drive back onto the main road Ava looks over and gives me a smile that almost competes with the pigs.