Pig on a Plane: Pittsylvania County Woman Takes Special-Needs Animal to Pennsylvania Facility
November 23, 2019
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  • It looks like pigs do fly, after all.

    A Pittsylvania County woman made it happen Nov. 16 when she hopped aboard a small airplane and delivered a 3-week-old special-needs pig to a veterinary hospital in Pennsylvania.

    The black female pig named “Hope” was born with deformed rear legs and veterinary staff at New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Kennett Square — about an hour outside Philadelphia — will determine whether they can repair them.

    “The pig will undergo a thorough examination,” Jennifer Miller said the day after accomplishing her mission.

    Miller, who took the two-hour flight to Kennett Square from Danville Regional Airport at about 9:30 a.m., said Hope enjoyed the trip.

    “She loved it,” Miller said Sunday. “She snuggled in and snoozed most of the flight. It was because she was accompanied by the best pig-sitter ever.”

    Miller returned to Danville at around 5 p.m. the same day.

    The flight, piloted by Danville cardiologist Dr. Stephen Davis on his private plane, was smooth, Miller said.

    Born on a farm in Floyd, Hope was set to be euthanized when someone reached out to Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary in Providence, North Carolina. Co-founders Kristin Hartness and Jay Yontz take care of special-needs farm animals at the 85-acre refuge.

    Hope is a tiny bundle of joy, said Miller, who took her out of her carrier and snuggled with her during the flight.

    “She’s so cute,” Miller said. “She smells so good and she oinks.”

    Davis, who volunteers for various animal-welfare groups, was glad to help out Miller and Ziggy’s, he said.

    “They do a lot of good work,” Davis said Sunday.

    Miller and Davis traveled in his single-engine Mooney 201J.

    Driving back and forth between Danville and Kennett Square would have taken about 12 hours, he pointed out. But it’s just four hours round-trip by plane.

    “It frees her [Miller] up to handle her other duties,” Davis said. “It allows her to spend more time locally.”

    Hartness asked Miller if she would bring the pig to New Bolton. Miller picked up Hope from Ziggy’s the night before the flight.

    “Kristin and I are buddies and she called and asked if I wanted to go on a flying-pig adventure,” said Miller, an animal lover who fosters cats and kittens for local animal-rescue groups. “I’m up for flying pigs.”

    Regardless of whether Hope’s legs can be repaired, she will live at Ziggy’s.

    “She’s doing extremely well,” Hartness said via telephone last week from New Bolton Center, where she was already there with three other animals from Ziggy’s when Miller brought Hope. “I hope that there’s something they can do.”

    Correcting Hope’s deformity early in her life is important, Hartness said.

    “You want to do it in the beginning of the growth cycle,” said Hartness, executive director at Ziggy’s. “She’s small now and now is the time. We’ve got to get moving on things surgically before they [her legs] start really growing. Then, it becomes too late.”

    Hartness and Yontz have about 65 farm animals at their refuge including horses, pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks and goats. About 20 have special-needs. They include Moko the sheep, who lost both rear legs to frostbite, two blind cows and a pig with spina bifida that has no use of its back legs.

    “Our goal is to take them from a bad situation and just give them the best life they can have,” Yontz said.

    The mission of Ziggy’s, a nonprofit, is rescuing animals that have suffered the worst and giving them the greatest lives imaginable, Hartness said, adding that Ziggy’s is taking in just special-needs animals now.

    Hartness asked Miller to take Hope on the adventure because Miller was the perfect fit, she said.

    “I wouldn’t trust anybody with my precious cargo, but I knew Jennifer would be the perfect person to accompany her on this flight,” Hartness said. “She needed that comfort.”

    She sent Hope to New Bolton because local veterinarians in the Dan River Region would not be able to perform the needed procedures for her, Hartness said.

    “We’re ‘hoping’ that maybe there is something surgical they can do that might give her mobility,” she said, playing on the pig’s name.

    As for Miller, the trek north was a no-brainer.

    “Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to fly a pig to Pennsylvania?” Miller said.

    Ziggy’s is looking for dedicated weekly volunteers, Hartness said. Those interested can contact the organization through its Facebook page.