Reader’s Corner: Esther the Wonder Pig

When I decided to finally start publishing a blog, one of the ideas I had was to write a regular column reviewing books about animals, as a way to combine my two great loves – animals and reading! So welcome to my first Reader’s Corner post – I’m so excited to pass on all the awesome stuff I read about our friends in the animal kingdom.

My first Reader’s Corner pick is the new book Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time, written by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Crane (published May 31, 2016 by Grand Central Publishing). This book has been out for two months, and even though I work at a public library and have access to all of the new release books that come out PLUS advance notice about what’s coming out when, I still had to add my name to the hold list and wait not-so-patiently to read this book. The reason for this, in case you hadn’t heard, is that Esther – the titular Wonder Pig – is a real life STAR. Esther, by way of her two dads, has a massive online following, boasting over 30 000 Twitter followers and a massive 750 000 likes on her Facebook page (plus another 75 000 who follow the page for Esther’s home, adorably called Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary). So who’s Esther, and why is she so beloved?

In 2012, Steve Jenkins was contacted by an old friend regarding a so-called “micro-pig” that the woman had “adopted” but could no longer care for. Jenkins met with the woman and wound up taking the tiny piglet home, having been assured that she would grow to be no bigger than a small dog. Unfortunately, as Jenkins soon learned, there is really no such thing as a micro-pig, or a teacup pig, as they are also known. The baby piglet, christened Esther, soon began to thrive under the care of Steve and his partner Derek, and then she grew…and grew…and grew some more. Esther, as it turns out, is a commercial pig, bred to eventually wind up on someone’s dinner plate. As of today, her weight has settled somewhere around 650 lb.

Although Esther’s origin story is an interesting one, the real gold here is in understanding, through her two dads, how she came to change everything about their lives – and the lives of everyone who gets to know her. Jenkins and Walter fell in love with the new member of their family straight away, and who could blame them? Pigs are awesome, and Esther soon proved to be every bit as sweet, smart, and hilarious as any of their other pets. Faced with the challenges of keeping a full grown commercial pig in their small, suburban Ontario home, the couple eventually did consider re-homing Esther – an outcome that is all too common when pigs who were meant to be pint-sized family pets grow into large animals more comfortable in a home that can provide lots of space. In fact, many pigs in this situation meet an end that is even more distressing; they are often euthanized when a rescue home cannot be arranged. Jenkins and Walter describe in heartbreaking detail the moment they realized that they might not be able to keep Esther, the two of them curled up on their living room floor weeping with their beloved baby between them.

Have no fear, the end of Esther’s story is a happy one – in fact, it’s not really an end at all, but a major beginning, as the unique family eventually moves onto a farm which now exists as Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary (this isn’t a spoiler – the authors mention the farm early on). Located in Campbellville, Ontario, the farm is a place where farm animals rescued from a variety of horrible circumstances find health, happiness, and more love than they’ve likely ever known. I loved reading this book and I hope to visit the farm someday soon – tours are available every month, as are volunteer days. My hope is that Steve and Derek will continue to tell Esther’s story, and write more about the animals on the farm as well as what it takes to run a farm sanctuary.