“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” —A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Bali Schock clearly listens to animals. A lover of four-legged friends her entire life, the incoming Summit High sophomore has always been around horses and dogs. Recently, she added a porcine friend to her circle. Perhaps not the pig you initially envision, Winnie the Pig is a house pet enjoying the finer things in life.
With a blue bow clipped firmly to her forelock, Winnie prances across the living room floor, headed snout-first for the comfort of her blanket bed. She rearranges the blankets ‘just so’ and lays down for a little nap.
“My parents said that as soon as we moved out of town, I could get a pet pig,” says Bali. “She was my birthday present last year. I’ve always wanted one!”
Pigs are not allowed in homes within the Bend city limits, which means Bali endured a long wait. The Schocks moved to the country (Tumalo) just prior to Winnie’s arrival in July of 2016. The family consists of Bali, mom Leah, a neuropsychologist, dad Todd, an oral surgeon, and sister Luna, an incoming 7th grader at Seven Peaks Middle School.
“[Being on more land away from the city] is like a dream come true,” says Leah. “We’re outside so much more. The girls are outside all the time.”
Luna is an animal lover, too, yet her leaning is more toward the family dogs, Lizzie and Goose, and the new chickens. The aspiring gymnast loves spending time on the trampoline outside near Winnie’s outdoor quarters.
Winnie is most comfortable as the center of attention. Her coat, a bristly cinnamon brown and black with white markings, contrasts her one blue and one brown eye. The hooves seem more like dainty high-heeled slipper-shoes while her pink and black snout becomes flat like a platter when she raises her head for a treat. Her mostly straight tail—tipped in white—curls at its end.
Not belonging to any specific breed, Winnie is a “mini pig” and can be expected to reach about 14” high and up to 40 pounds. She does require being in the care of a veterinarian trained to treat pigs. Her hooves need to be filed every couple of months and she needs the same farm animal vaccines that horses and others receive. Her wide-ranging diet declares almost anything fair game.
“She is a great weed-eater,” Leah offers. “Yet we feed her mostly pellets and offer green space for grazing.”
In other ways, Winnie looks and acts a whole lot more like the family dogs than a pig. She comes when she’s called, she “barks,” and wags her tail. And she’s not afraid to get dirty. After a recent rain, Winnie discovered her very own mud puddle in the yard near the trampoline and proceeded to apply a thick coating of the brown goo to every part of herself. This is a defense mechanism pigs have, as they are prone to sunburn and the mud acts as protection.
It’s charming to watch Bali and Winnie as they roam the property, clearly devoted to one another. Pigs are very discriminating when it comes to forming bonds with humans, as opposed to puppies. Winnie came from a breeder in California, arriving on a plane—landing at Robert’s Field in Redmond—to the delight of her new family. But, Winnie was not having any part of the warm greeting. She was quite reserved and only warmed up to Bali after the teen spent hours just being near her.
“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” —Winnie the Pooh
“You need to spend a LOT of time with them at first,” Bali advises. “They need a lot of attention. Give them a quiet, safe place. And, they need plenty of space both inside and outside to roam and play.”
Winnie used to sleep in Bali’s room, sometimes even on the bed, but her morning routine was a bit too early and loud for Bali. So now Winnie has that cozy pile of blankets downstairs in which to root around and burrow.
As they walk across the yard back toward the house, Bali and Winnie are in conversation. The girl offers soft, encouraging sounds and the pig eager to alternately squeal and snort in agreement.
“Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.” —Winnie the Pooh