Yes, we made that one up.

Meet Hamilton and Tocin:

Two micro-mini pigs looking up at the camera

Our introduction to these little wonders began with these two little males who were generously donated to Heal with Horses by Our Little Flock. The two little boys are known as Tocin and Hamilton. To briefly explain what Heal with Horses does, we’ll take a quote directly from the web site:

Heal with Horses Therapeutic Centre utilizes horses, animals and nature in conjunction with professional coaching/facilitation to help improve the lives of adults/juveniles and children suffering from a number of neuropsychiatric and physical limitations, such as, but not limited to: Autism, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and low self-esteem as well as those who want to experience self-discovery/spiritual growth.

Our Little Piggy Hamilton got his name because, well, he’s just such a little ham.

You might wonder how we came up with the name Tocin. It’s actually short for “oxytocin”, which is the “feel good” hormone your body creates at certain times, such as when a child with autism is working with the horses. Children and adults alike benefit from interacting with the horses and other animals at the Heal with Horses farm. If someone would rather sit and pet a piggy than work with a horse during a session, that’s just fine, and the interaction is encouraged. Tocin and Hamilton have been groomed to be part of the Heal with Horses team, and they also have the job of coming out to meet people when Heal with Horses is doing an information session off of the farm. It’s much easier to bring a couple of mini pigs along as ambassadors to meet the public than it is to bring a couple of horses!

Through raising and working with Tocin and Hamilton and observing people’s experiences with them, we’ve come to believe that pigs have great potential as therapy animals. In certain situations we see a lot of advantages to having a piggy as a therapy animal, such as:

  • Pigs have a lifespan similar to a dog.
  • We have observed that the pigs are very resilient.  If we’re working with a child who makes sudden noises, the pigs don’t seem to care.  In fact, we have taken our thera-piggies to local events where we put them in a little exercise pen and thousands of people go by in the day. Many people reach in to touch the piggies.  Obviously at an event like that, there’s a lot of noise and a lot going on.  By the end of the day, we might be feeling stressed, but the piggies aren’t.
  • If a child doesn’t yet understand being gentle and tries to pet a piggy a little too roughly, the piggy will often squeal, move a few feet away, and go back to calmly, happily sniffing around on the ground.
  • Piggies that are raised well are very oriented towards their people. They will happily follow you around, but are just as happy to sit beside you and have a scratch or cuddle. In fact, it’s natural for piggies to seek out physical contact.
  • Piggies need exercise daily, but not nearly to the extent that most dogs do. For someone with limited mobility or energy, it may be a perfect match.
  • In our experience, they’re great travellers. Hamilton and Tocin each started their time with us with a four-hour or more drive home. Each one was very quiet and calm during the trip, which was a very pleasant surprise!

And now let’s add Ricki!

Ricki was originally going to be part of the breeding program, but didn’t pass all the medical requirements, so now this sweet piggy gets to join our other Thera-pigs. No “throw away” piggies here! We first tried out Ricki at an Open House and let people come into a pen a visit with Ricki, Hamilton, Tocin, and little Marvel.  All four piggies did a great job!

Pig portraits 026

Here are a few articles that demonstrate that other people are also finding “thera-pigs” useful: