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Pot-bellied pig is downtown celebrity

By Gheni_Platenburg
July 28, 2011 at 2:28 a.m.

Sun bathing in the late afternoon Merle, who was named after the singer Merle Haggard, blissfully sleeps his troubles away. Weighing in at more than 200 pounds, Merle pretty much does what he wants, when he wants.

POT-BELLIED PIG FACTS

History: Miniature pot-bellied pigs originated from the jungles of Vietnam and China. In 1985, they were introduced to the United States and Canada as pets. However, before choosing a pot-bellied pig as a pet, there are a few things you should know.

Life Span: 15 to 25 Years

Average Weight: 40 to 150 lbs, full growth at 3 years.

Average Gestation: 100 to 114 days

Breeding Age: 6 to 12 months

Birth: Litter size: 4 to 13 piglets, weighing less than a pound each.

Description: Pot-bellied pigs are usually black in color. Their snout is longer than a domestic pig's for they have a keen sense of smell. However, their eyesight is poorly developed.They are known for their cleanliness and intelligence

Thinking of keeping one as a pet: They can be kept in the house or yard, however, if you choose to keep your pet outdoors you will need to provide shelter in cold weather. They can thrive when temperatures are maintained at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, a pool should be provided to keep your pet cool in hot weather. It also needs soil to root in. This is a natural instinct that is an important factor in the pig's overall health. It is imperative that a clean environment is maintained to eliminate their body odor. However, males that are not neutered develop a very strong smell by the time they reach five months of age. If you decide to keep your pig in the house, a den should be provided. This is where your pig will eat and sleep. Water should be readily available at all times. Consider providing a heavy dish in an area where spills won't damage floors. A shower stall is an excellent location because pot-bellied pigs are very sloppy drinkers. Your pet should be house trained when young to avoid problems. You may choose to take the pig outside to do his duty, or provide a litter box.

Source: www.mazuri.com/Potbellied-facts.htm and www.essortment.com

Between the Romanesque architecture of the old Victoria County Courthouse and the pristine beauty of the gazebo in De Leon Plaza, Downtown Victoria is filled with sights to see.

But for the past four years, one unofficial attraction not listed in the visitors' guide has also managed to garner a fair amount of attention from residents and visitors alike, often prompting passersby to do a double take.

That attraction is a black, 200-something pound, pot-bellied pig named Merle, who lives at the intersection of William Street and Goodwin Avenue

"People would always ask me what kind of dog he was," Todd Jett said laughingly while watching Merle enjoy his daily fix of Planter's large Virginian peanuts. "I'd tell them he was a pig."

Not exactly the most common type of pet seen within city limits, even in Texas, Merle, who has become somewhat of a neighborhood celebrity, stands out amidst the setting of downtown professional buildings and traditional neighborhood dogs and cats.

"He's kind of cute," said Jett, 51. "He used to get up to greet (visitors), but now due to his temperament and weight, he'll just lay there and look at them."

Merle joined the Jett family four years ago when he was just a piglet.

Jett said he and his wife, Charli Donoghue-Jett, an animal lover whose grandfather raised The Black Stallion at Donahue Arabian Stables in Goliad, were sitting in the El Rodeo restaurant one Spring 2007 morning having breakfast tacos when he casually picked up a copy of the American Classifieds.

As if it were fate, he turned to the livestock section where he spotted an advertisement for a pot-bellied piglet.

"I was just making a joke. I read "Pot-bellied pig $25," he said. "If I had of kept my mouth shut, he wouldn't be here."

A country boy at heart, Merle, who is named after country singer Merle Haggard, spends his days happily napping, getting his exercise around the yard, and socializing with The Jett's two dogs, two llamas, four cats and one bunny.

"Merle's just like any other pig. He likes country western music and he likes Miller High-Life," said Jett, who described Merle as being moody in the morning and gregarious in the evening. "He's a moderate drinker."

When asked if Merle knew any tricks, Jett replied, "He makes food disappear."

Merle has a fan base of admirers from near and far.

"I get people who just stop by and ask about Merle," said Jett. " They want to know where he is today and how he's doing."

He's also a big hit among his neighbors.

"He's adorable. My kids like to go by and see him," said neighbor Hillory Carrigan. "I actually want one."

Although Merle is loads of fun, Jet said Merle's size does pose a problem from time to time for his family who run an installation business and enjoy traveling.

"If we leave, it's not like we can take him to a kennel. We have to actually have someone come feed him," said Jett, who also said the veterinarian has to come to the house since Merle is unable to travel.

Despite the issues that may arise from having an animal of Merle's size, Jett said the family wouldn't trade Merle for anything.

"Merle is part of the family," said Jett. "He's just one of God's creatures."

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