Larry LaRue

Larry LaRue: Amy the piglet can run with the big dogs

Lori Stock’s father always loved pigs, which is why she has so many childhood photos of herself with them at petting zoos.

And it helps explain Amy.

Four months old this week, Amy is a mixed-breed miniature piglet who weighs about 26 pounds and could top out at 55 pounds.

When Stock bought Amy in September for $500, it was only after she got two questions answered.

First, would Amy get along with the five dogs that share a Frederickson home with Stock and her husband, Jim?

The folks at Pocket Pet Paradise in Tacoma said she would.

“They could tell from the piglets who was a cuddly pig, the trouble-maker, the lap pig, and they matched me up to what I was looking for,” Stock said. “Amy is just another dog to our five dogs.”

The second question went to Kathy Lang, owner and president of the Family Dog Training Center in Kent.

Would it be OK to bring a piglet to a dog-training class?

“I told her we’d had a pygmy goat in class a few years back, and it did fine,” Lang said. “I’ve known Lori for 20 years. She really loves animals, loves understanding them, what makes ’em tick.

“And I thought having Amy in class would be a wonderful opportunity for our dog owners. As it turned out, they loved being in a class with Amy.”

Even before she was enrolled in obedience school, the piglet surprised her new owner.

“She picked up everything so quickly,” Lori Stock said. “I can work for weeks with our best dog on retrieving. Amy picked it up in minutes. She is so food motivated, she wants food so much, she’ll work to get it.

“She retrieved a cowbell, a doggie dumbbell — anything I put in front of her.”

Once in class, Amy advanced faster than puppies her age — with one caveat.

“She wasn’t comfortable with being handled or manipulated,” Stock said. “When I was training her to sit, she’d squeal when I lightly pushed her rear end down. It was the same when having her lie on her side.”

Amy adjusted to both those inconveniences and more. Today, she’ll allow her front legs to be lifted off the ground. But lying on her back?

“She is a pig, and pigs are prey animals,” Stock said. “She doesn’t want to lie on her back.”

Put her on an agility course, however, and Amy does everything a dog would.

“She runs the tunnels, goes across the teeter-totter and in and out through the weave poles,” Stock said. “She’s not as fast as dogs with longer legs, but she’s not hesitant at all.”

Amy has even competed in “mock” dog show competitions.

“When Amy runs the course,” Stock said, “a lot of cameras show up.”

Stock said that at one point she worried Amy was missing out on traditional piglet stuff. That’s no longer a concern. She’s settled in comfortably with the Stocks’ two Irish setters, two fox terrier mixes and one Chihuahua.

“She loves the dogs and lives indoors with all of them,” Stock said. “She uses the doggie door just like they do. When our dogs get the zoomies — running around the backyard for no reason — she’ll get them, too.

“At night, when the dogs are on the couch, Amy will get up there and lie on Jim’s lap. She responds to her name when you call, and she loves being ‘scritched.’ ”

Stock hasn’t had any issues with other pet owners at obedience school, dog shows or anywhere else in public. Amy is leash-trained and nothing if not polite.

“She’s a very smart little piglet,” class instructor Jayne Bosch said.

On weekends, Stock occasionally puts Amy in a crate and drives to Seattle to visit her parents, Gary and Sue.

“My father loves it that I have a piglet, but I think they’re both glad that I didn’t bring her home when I was a teenager,” Stock said.

What’s ahead?

Among other things, Stock is teaching Amy to play dead.

Amy cannot compete in official dog shows, though she will show off her abilities in a demonstration at the Seattle KC Dog Show March 7-8 at CenturyLink Field Event Center.

Lang has even suggested Stock reach out to other pig owners and initiate obedience and agility classes.

“I’m willing to break ground,” Stock said, “but I don‘t know if there is interest out there in the pig world.”