The other day, my friend shared a link to a story about dogs who help children learn to read, just by being passive, non-judgmental, non-correcting, patient listeners. When I saw it, my first thought was, maybe my mom wasn’t so crazy after all.
You see, when I was a kid, I was made to read to a pig.
Somehow, my family wound up with an oversized supposed pot-bellied pig someone had bought as a pet, but which outgrew their expectations. The pig came to live with us because we lived outside the city, on four acres, and already had quite a menagerie, including chickens, ducks, a parrot, sometimes other birds, fish, and dogs. At other points in my childhood, we also had a tarantula named Terry, a wounded woodpecker, and a chicken who thought he was a dog (a story I’ll have to tell another time). The pig was named Porky.
At the time, my mom told me that she was worried Porky was lonely. Pigs are very intelligent creatures, and can get a little crazy when they’re not happy (much like me). So my sister and I were dispatched with books and lawn chairs, told to sit outside Porky’s pen and read him stories. Now I’m beginning to suspect it wasn’t so much for Porky’s benefit, but ours.
Personally, I think this bodes well for my future career as an English professor, because I doubt any of my students could possibly be less engaged than a pig.
Porky later displayed a tendency to escape the pen and run amok in the garden, and was eventually turned into sausage. I refused to eat him, though, on the grounds that you just don’t eat someone you’ve shared stories with. I think it’s a good policy, in general.