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Tales from the Bark Side column: Petunia the Pig's tale

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where gray skies fill the horizon and the county road is frequented by potato trucks bustling towards their destination... and an occasional spud splattering on the pavement behind them as they go. A full moon hangs silently in the eastern sky and a rain soaked yard grows greener; the remnants of summer still hang in tatters on the trees that have yet to turn to their fall spectrum of glorious color.

The "Logic vs. Instinct" contest will officially be over the weekend of Oct. 18 -- the same weekend I will be at the Red Willow in the Washington Square Mall to sign copies of my book, Tales From The Bark Side. The contest winners will be announced at that time.

The Tribune is one of my sponsors and they are giving "Chamber Bucks" to the much deserving winners. The winners will be posted the following weekend here in my column.

You still have time to get a tale to me in time for the deadline. E-mail me at or write to me at Keith Alan Ross, Richville MN 56576, or you may even phone me if you so choose, at 218-495-2195. If you are a procrastinator like yours truly, I understand, but time is running out. I promise to print all entries that I receive.

This summer, I was asked to make an appearance at the East Otter Tail County Fair by Jeanne Cannady, a board member of the Fergus Falls chapter of the Humane Society. East Otter Tail County needs a Humane Society shelter, and she is part of a grass roots movement to investigate the possibilities of establishing one. I feel that this is a very important issue for the folks in this area in that the only shelter for the necessities of the society is in Fergus Falls.

What exactly do they do? They find homes for abandoned pets and offer a place where displaced animals can be kept until their owners eventually find them. They also make sure that pets that are not slated for breeding are spayed or neutered in order to reduce a canine and feline population that is nearly out of control. If you want more information and want to get involved, you may call her at 218-495-3011.

Becker County's Humane Society is a beautifully run organization and the board members of that group should be proud. It is my vision that a shelter modeled after Becker County's be constructed. These organizations work because people like yourselves care and get involved in their communities.

I also conducted the Third Annual Smiling Pig Contest at this year's County Fair in East Otter Tail County that was held in Perham. Did I just hear you say 'Huh?'/ Yes, I did say "Smiling Pig" contest. Maybe I'll do a whole column on the origin of that contest and how it has evolved over the years. No, I haven't gone off my rocker... yet! I digress, though.

Betty Harlow, of Perham, was one of the volunteers I had the honor to sit with at the Humane Society booth. While I was signing books and listening to people's tales about their favorite pets, Betty told me about a pig named Petunia. (This must be the record for the longest segue in my columnist history).

Betty had a sow that had a real hard time with a litter of her piglets and only saved 1 out of 13 and that porker was named "Petunia." Well, the piglet grew into a great sow herself and was treated with lots of love and affection as she grew into adulthood. She bonded quite well with Betty and her husband Walter.

The day (or shall I say the midnight) of Petunia's litter came and she was very distressed with the onslaught of her impending labor. Petunia was quite upset and tried to communicate her fear to her human family. She went to the house and made her presence known; squealing incoherently in a way that let everybody know that it was her first litter.

Betty brought her back to the barn and placed her back in her stall and waited for the inevitable. Petunia waddled over (all 300 pounds of her) to Betty and placed her head in her lap and looked up at her with heartfelt, pathetic eyes. She delivered one piglet, then came back and repeated the same routine (head on lap) over and over again.

After a long night in the barn and 10 piglets later, Betty and her husband retired back to the sanctity of their home; very tired and extremely happy. Was it instinct that drove Petunia to her mistress's lap, or was it logic that appealed to her, knowing that she was safe in her mistress's company? Do you have a pig story to tell?

It doesn't matter which or what creatures we may be referring to, there seems to be something about the relationship between humans and animals that evokes a higher sense of perception that emanates from that bond. They are considered to be one of the smartest animals in the fragrant yard of a barn.

Until next time...