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Enthusiastic crowd at hog heaven open house

Monte Sonnenberg

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Kris Borghoff played host to an open house fundraising event at Ralphy’s Retreat Pot-bellied Pig Sanctuary & Animal Farm in St. Williams Saturday. Among the 47 pot-bellied hogs at the hobby farm is this little sow named Hazel. (MONTE SONNENBERG Simcoe Reformer)

Kris Borghoff played host to an open house fundraising event at Ralphy’s Retreat Pot-bellied Pig Sanctuary & Animal Farm in St. Williams Saturday. Among the 47 pot-bellied hogs at the hobby farm is this little sow named Hazel. (MONTE SONNENBERG Simcoe Reformer)

ST. WILLIAMS - 

When the homeless pig population on your hobby farm approaches 50, it’s not a bad idea to open your doors and pass the hat.

 

That was the thinking this weekend behind an open house at Ralphy’s Retreat Pot-Bellied Pig & Farm Animal Sanctuary in St. Williams. Since the 12-acre animal shelter opened in 2004, the pig population has risen to 47.

There are also eight horses, two donkeys and “too many cats to mention,” says manager Kris Borghoff.

“People are finding it’s quite difficult to raise a pig in a house,” he said Saturday. “We get calls every week where pigs are infringing on bylaws or the people simply can’t keep them anymore. This is about raising awareness of these pigs and raising money for their care and upkeep.”

Saturday’s event is what people mean when they speak of agri-tourism. Most everyone it seemed – sanctuary volunteers and visitors alike – was from outside Norfolk County.

John and Donna Kudlowich are from Hamilton. But of all the causes they could support as volunteers, they make time for the 80-minute drive from the Steel City to help at the sanctuary.

On Saturday, Donna Kudlowich was selling pig-themed craft items she makes in her spare time. Proceeds from the sale went to the care and upkeep of the animals at Ralphy’s Retreat.

“Our friends got us involved,” Kudlowich said. “We come here quite often to visit the pigs. We come down and socialize with them. They love to be patted. They love to be rubbed.”

As for awareness, anyone visiting the sanctuary comes away with an understanding of why pot-bellied pigs are not for everyone. Some of these porkers will tip the scale at 300 pounds and live for as long as 20 years.

“I don’t think a house is the right place for them,” said Louise Walker of Oakville. “Just look at the size of them.”

Borghoff said that’s a common reaction.

“Seventy-five pounds would be on the small end,” he said. “The myth of the `teacup pig’ is just that – a myth.

“And they are very active, especially when they are young. It’s like having a three-year-old in the house. They have the intelligence of a three-year-old and very distinctive personalities. You have people personalities and you have pig personalities. They are really interesting animals.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com