April 17, 2012

Baby pig and Labrador retriever become fast friends

Mu Shu and Hunter are this town’s new odd couple du jour. The piglet and 5-month-old yellow Labrador retriever are best buddies. They nap together. Play together. Chow down together. Slurp water together.

Mu Shu and Hunter are this town’s new odd couple du jour.

The piglet and 5-month-old yellow Labrador retriever are best buddies.

They nap together. Play together. Chow down together. Slurp water together.

And on Wednesday, a video of them aired on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Their story started about three weeks ago, when Mu Shu, then just a tiny pig likely bound for a growing farm, flew out of a livestock truck on U.S. Highway 50.

Luckily for him, Stacie Tonn, on her way to pick up her children from school, stopped to see what had fallen out of the truck.

She saw a baby pig, scraped up and in a bad way.

She called her husband, Shane, who just happens to be a veterinarian. “First he asked if she was alive,” Stacie Tonn said.

She was, and Stacie Tonn took her to her husband’s clinic, Newton Animal Hospital.

Shane Tonn looked the piglet over. “She had a lot of bruising and was pretty unresponsive,” he said. But the piglet didn’t have any broken bones.

Shane Tonn called a friend who is a swine specialist. “Quite honestly, I’m not a baby pig doctor,” he said.

“Neither one of us thought she would live past 48 hours,” he added.

That was back on March 29. The piglet was unconscious for about two days. Between Stacie Tonn, Shane Tonn and their blended family of four daughters, the baby pig received 24-hour care.

The Tonns first syringe-fed the piglet puppy replacement milk, then pig replacement milk.

Hunter, the Tonns’ Lab puppy, took a liking to Mu Shu.

“Where Hunter comes in is his constant stimulation of her, licking her, nudging her,” Shane Tonn said.

And this: When Mu Shu couldn’t see, Hunter saw for her.

The piglet was blind for a few days after the accident. The Tonns didn’t realize that at first, until they began to notice the piglet sniffing around for Hunter and following him. Hunter would guide Mu Shu around the Tonns’ home and the vet clinic.

“He realized she was blind, but we didn’t,” Shane Tonn said. “All along, he’d been her eyes.”

Hunter has become quite protective of Mu Shu, whose sight has returned. On Friday afternoon, the two took a siesta together in a crate at the clinic. They nap together at home, too. But at night, Hunter sleeps in the Tonns’ bedroom, and Mu Shu sleeps in the kids’ bathroom, where a space heater set at 80 keeps her toasty warm. Baby pigs need warmth, Shane Tonn said.

Mu Shu is expected to grow to about 500 to 600 pounds. The piglet weighs 7 1/2 pounds now, up nearly 3 pounds from when she got hurt.

Shane Tonn said his swine specialist buddy told him the piglet was too small for the growing farm and never should have been on that truck. She likely would have been euthanized.

Mu Shu’s right ear is deformed. The ear canal never grew, so there’s a sizable difference between her left and right ears.

Mu Shu is a bit of a picky eater, believe it or not. She likes canned cat and dog food. “She’s a fan of potato soup,” Shane Tonn said.

When Stacie Tonn hand-fed Mu Shu on Friday, using a tongue depressor as a spoon, Hunter licked the piglet’s face after each bite.

Only Hunter knows if he was cleaning her up or trying to get in on the canned food action.

Mu Shu, who’s probably about 4 weeks old, is learning to play like a dog. She pounced on Hunter’s stuffed green frog toy on Friday and has started shaking her head back and forth when she has toys in her mouth, as dogs are known to do. She gave a pair of Stacie Tonn’s pants the what-for in the walk-in closet the other day.

Hunter chases her around, and Mu Shu chases him around.

Shane Tonn said he never expected to have a pet pig. He said it’s not something he’d recommend to people. But with five females in his house, he joked, he doesn’t have much choice.

The Tonns plan to keep Mu Shu, even as she grows. At some point, she’ll move outdoors to a pen. The Tonns live in the country.

“We’re not going to make Mu Shu pork out of her,” Shane Tonn said.

“We didn’t rescue her to eat her,” Stacie Tonn chimed in.

Soon after Mu Shu arrived at the Tonn home, Shane Tonn walked in to see the girls painting Mu Shu’s toes. “I knew I was in trouble,” he said.

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