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Erik: Pig in the city 

The social-media savvy swine enjoys hikes, cuddling on the couch and farts.

MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON

Despite the hustle and bustle of big-city life, Erik is a pig of simple pleasures.

Sure, the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig might seem cosmopolitan based on his Instagram account, @erikthepotbelly, which boasts nearly 500 followers and features photos of the swine swathed in blankets as he reclines on a red couch, trotting along the Halifax waterfront and posing amongst flower petals in a glamour shot captioned: "'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chaaase!"

But Erik's owners, Jessica Arseneault and Melissa Companion, insist that Erik hasn't lost sight of his mud-wallowing roots, and in fact, can root around the grass with the best of 'em. His dirt-caked snout twitches in the autumn air as he roams around their Fairview backyard, sniffing out of the change of seasons, and then, with a toot, the scent of his own farts.

"He just farts a lot. He's pretty stinky. He's just like a little baby child," Companion says. "He likes sleeping and he likes snacks and he likes farting, and that's his life. He has a really good life."

click to enlarge MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON

Having wanted a pig since she was a little girl, Arseneault says her mother ponied up the $200 to buy Erik as a birthday gift. When they brought him home in February, Companion says Erik was small enough to fit into a cat carrier, but has since doubled in weight to about 59 pounds. The veterinarian says Erik's growth should slow as he approaches his first birthday in November. Nevertheless, Companion says, his girth continues to expand.

"He shouldn't even be this chubby, but he gets a lot of treats," she says. "He's pretty spoiled."

Arseneault and Companion already had seven pets—two huskies, two cats and a trio of rats—before Erik joined their brood. Everyone gets along well, Companion says. The cats like to brush up against his bristles, and when Erik isn't snoozing in his usual spot on the couch he'll curl up on the dog bed with one of the huskies.

MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON

"They're like little spoon, big spoon," says Companion.

"I don't think he could be an only pet," Arseneault says. "He would get very lonely. Pigs are social."

At the first sound of footsteps in the morning, Arsenault says the pig will start squealing for breakfast, which usually consists of pig pellets and an array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Like most pigs, Erik is quite smart, but his interests are mostly "food-driven." He will solve a treat puzzle faster than any canine could, Companian says, but is having some trouble learning the command for "paw."

"It's kind of hard because he just wants the treat right away. Like he doesn't quite understand to give us his arm," says Arseneault. "You put your hand down and he's just like, 'Food?'"

Erik burns off some of his caloric intake with regular hikes on the trails, often splashing in the lake to cool off. Companion, a professional dog walker, says Erik is a "little runner," and can even jump one or two feet in the air, if he's so inclined.

"He's a good jumper," she says. "He's quite a bit more athletic than I expected."

MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON

Companion, who curates Erik's Instagram account, says the profile's "cheeky" tone reflects Erik's real-life personality. He's a chatty pig, often chiming in during conversation with a series of grunts, squeals and oinks.

At home, Erik always wants to be "the centre of attention," Companion says. But he can be shy when it comes to strangers. During meet-ups with other pigs, Erik will get picked on by boarish "bullies."  At times, the demands of urban life can be too much for Erik, especially when it comes to people demanding selfies on the street. Despite his robust social media presence, Erik doesn't want to hog the limelight.

"Everybody wants a picture. We can't walk anywhere downtown," says Companion. "It was overwhelming for him, because there was a bunch of people, all at once, wanting so much attention. And he's not used to that."


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