Wee Wee, the 2-week-old piglet rescued during Snowzilla, spent this past weekend sleeping on the laps of his new family members, wrestling with a floor mat, and eating Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams at his forever home at the 400-acre Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland.
His snipped tail and number tattoo indicate that he’s even luckier than most might think. His path to Poplar Springs almost certainly began when he was crammed into an 18-wheeler on his way to an auction – and eventually a slaughterhouse. His caregivers theorize that he squeezed out of an air hole on the truck and landed in a pile of snow – not far ahead of a municipal snowplow clearing the well-traveled road near Hagerstown, Maryland. The Smith family had just passed a snow plow on Route 40 that Friday, Jan. 22., when they spotted, rescued and cared for the 10-pound piglet – with telephone guidance from Poplar Spring’s owners – before taking him to the sanctuary that houses about 200 rescue animals.
“He is fantastic,” Terry Cummings, who with her husband David Hoerauf, founded and manages the sanctuary, said as Wee Wee settled in. “And he’s going to have a wonderful life. He will live on land where he can rest and play with other animals. There’s a creek on the property and he can enjoy that and roll in mud.”
It’s not unusual for pigs and other livestock to escape animal transport trucks that lumber up and down roads in the area where Wee Wee was found. Many pigs and other industrial-farmed animals don’t survive the trips, especially in winter.
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When Cummings and Hoerauf moved to Poolesville about 30 years ago, they witnessed the brutal treatment of such animals and were surprised to discover these escapees were not covered by animal rights laws. That knowledge changed their lives – and those of countless animals. The couple became vegans and founded the non-profit animal sanctuary where about 200 animals, many of which have stories similar to that of Wee Wee, are rehabilitated and protected.
What makes Wee Wee’s rescue so dramatic, though, is that it would have been easy for Perry Smith, his wife Elisabeth Smith, and their children to drive past the “little pink lump in the snow” by the side of the road. But Smith’s 13-year old son Perry spotted the piglet in the snow, that would soon total about 30 inches, in almost completely obscured visibility.
The father stopped the car, climbed out into the icy storm, and wrapped the shivering piglet in the sweatshirt of his 12-year old daughter Catherine.
Once the family, who had been skiing and were staying at a hotel, settled the pig indoors they tried to call experts for advice on how best to care for it.
“When we were in the car, [the reality set in that] we are making this up as we went along,” said Smith. “We called Humane Societies, animal rescue groups but everything was paralyzed, shut down.”
Though Cummings and Hoerauf were alone, battling the blizzard and caring for their animals, they didn’t ignore the phone. They guided the Smith family through the care of the piglet that the children snuggled warm in the bathtub. After talking to Cummings and Hoerauf, the elder Smith again braved the storm, eventually finding an open store where he bought bananas and rice cereal to feed Wee Wee.
When the Smiths returned to their family home after the storm eased, the children held out hope they could keep the piglet they had named Wee Wee, after a family member’s imaginary friend. But the elder Smith knew that even though the family loved the pig, he couldn’t stay for many reasons, including laws that prohibit keeping such animals in residential areas.
In another twist of fate, Wee Wee again cheated death when Smith, who co-founded and formerly co-owned a successful restaurant group, rejected good-natured suggestions of possible fates for the piglet. Wee Wee will happily live out his day at Poplar Farm with visits from the Smith family.
“The only thing I might add is that in the whole scheme of this journey, Terry, her husband Dave and the hard working staff and volunteer brigade at Poplar Spring are the true heroes and we are so happy that Wee Wee has joined their family,” he said. “Our simple task was easy compared to what they do every single day!”
To find out more about farm animal and wildlife issues or support Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, which operates completely on donations, go to http://www.animalsanctuary.org or on their Facebook page.