A Swinetastic New Addition to North Denver

Velma the pig is not just bringing joy to her family, but is also being trained as a therapy pig to help others. Photos by Emma Porter and Brian McLeod

While many folks were getting pandemic puppies last year, Emma Porter was getting a pandemic pig. Last August she drove out to the eastern plains of Colorado to the Hog Haven Farm, a pig rescue in Deer Trail. The nonprofit, founded in 2014, just 45 minutes east of town, has rescued over 300 pigs and focuses on finding them their “forever homes” as well as providing educational resources to prospective families who want to adopt these pot bellied pigs. 

Emma can remember wanting to have a potbellied pig as a pet since she was five years old. “I definitely remember growing up and any book that had illustrations of pigs I really liked. I just was really drawn to pigs. I don’t know why, but I definitely liked Charlotte’s Web and Babe.” She learned about the pig rescue farm in early 2020 and began the research and application process to adopt a pig. Emma and her family went there to meet a few of the pigs that the owner of Hog Haven thought would be good fits for their living situation and that day they met their future addition to the family. “We really liked Velma, so we brought her home a couple weeks later.”

But Velma has not just brought joy to her home, kids in the neighborhood have loved meeting Velma. Neighborhood families have messaged Emma setting up playdates to come over to see Velma and pet her.  

Emma and significant other Brian McLeod even have plans to train her as a therapy pig. “We just started the process of her becoming a therapy pig. There is basically a checklist of things she should be able to do in order to get her certified, and she has most of those items checked off the list.  There are just a couple we’re still training her on.” Emma and Brian are hoping by the end of 2021 she’ll be a therapy pig.  That means the couple can take her into nursing homes or hospitals that allow it. “We can bring her in and people can be around her and give her treats and pet her.” 

The process to get approval from the city was pretty lengthy and took a few months. The couple had to get approval from both the Director of the Denver Animal Shelter, and had to reach out to Denver Zoning. They posted the required signs at their house alerting neighbors to their application. Tom Brunn, Vice President of the Sloan’s Lake Citizens Group, saw the sign and invited the couple to come to one of the Registered Neighborhood Organization’s monthly meetings to talk about their planned adoption with other neighbors. The group was unanimously supportive about the new addition to the neighborhood and were excited to hear about their goal of bringing joy to others as a therapy pig. “It was great to have the community’s support,” Emma said.

Velma has two different outdoor homes in the couple’s backyard that she loves: one looks similar to a dog house, and the second larger one is big enough to put lots of hay in it. Her typical routine is to wake up in the morning, get breakfast, and take a nap in the sun. She’ll sometimes graze in Emma and Brian’s front yard in the summer and enjoys cozying up next to their fireplace in the winter. Emma said that pigs need to be mentally stimulated throughout the day, “or else they’ll get bored or depressed, so I have a bunch of different toys for her that she can play with.”  Pigs also love to root or dig, so they’ll take Velma down to a neighbors back yard that loves to let Velma dig in it so she can have some fun as well. Velma is really social, and they are thinking about getting a pet bunny to be friends with Velma since rabbits and pigs tend to be good friends.  She has been the occasional prankster, grabbing compost bags off the top of tables and forcing Emma to chase her around the yard to get them back.

While Velma has not been a typical pet for North Denver, she certainly has made her mark and brought much happiness to her new home and all the new friends she has made since moving to town. 


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