Correspondents from the pet world say the new craze in domestic animals is something called a Vietnamese potbelly, which stands about 18 inches high and weighs about 50 pounds.
It's a pig of a pet.
I don't say that pejoratively.
It's an actual pig.
Yuppies are snatching them up for as much as $5,000 a pop, and keeping them in their homes, like dogs. Yuppies, God bless 'em.
"Bootsie, be a dear and bring me the Sharper Image catalogue."
"Sorry, pumpkin, I'm far too occupied pumicing my heels. Why not ask Spot, our Vietnamese potbellied pig, to get it."
"Our Vietnamese potbellied pig? What happened to Rover, our shar-pei?"
"Oh, Jason! Shar-peis were last year."
You'll have to forgive me, I'm old school. When I think of a house pet, I think of dogs and cats. (Don't get me started on birds and fish. Talking birds, maybe. Fish? This is not a pet. This is a decorating statement.) I don't think of going to a pet store and coming home with one-third of a BLT. Nor do I think of taking a pig for a walk, though it gives a rich new meaning to the term "pig out." I want a pet that'll snuggle up and lick me on my nose, not one that will wallow in the dishwasher on the rinse cycle.
Take heed, this is a small, imported, boutique pig, not the industrial-size farm hogs you're familiar with from 4-H exhibits and Redskin Park. Those babies go 1,500 pounds; when they root, root, root for the home team, they'll plow the whole field.
Mark Bell, a pig breeder in Sterling, Va., swears that these small pigs are the best pets he's ever owned. "Once they bond to a family they're very loyal," Bell says. (It's the ones who don't bond you have to watch out for. But that's why God invented hickory chips, isn't it?) "They're very low-maintenance, high-pleasure pets. They sit in your lap when you watch TV." ("Green Acres," no doubt; "Porky's Revenge" on the VCR.)
Look through the classifieds, you'll see ads for potbellies. One ad used the word "smart" to describe a litter born just last week.
Compared with what, a turnip?
Bell says pigs are, indeed, quite smart. Right below apes and dolphins, and above dogs. (But not smart enough to stay away from Hawaiian luaus, are they?) "They can be housebroken," Bell says. "They can be trained to do all the tricks dogs can do, and they learn much quicker." He knows Vietnamese potbellied pigs that can ring bells to go to the bathroom, pull cords to get a shower and open a refrigerator. Of course my sister can do all that and play "Lady of Spain" on the accordion, and I still don't necessarily want her living in my home.
One wonders, if pigs are so smart, why don't you see them in circus acts?
"Generally a pig's weight stops him from doing the jumps," Bell explained.
By now some of you are thinking: Wow, these pigs sound pretty good. I might like one. But what about the smell? Don't they, well, smell like pigs?
Bell says it's a bum rap. He says that pigs can't sweat, and therefore need to stay cool. "If you put them in water, they'll bathe. But if they don't have water on the farm, they'll cool off in mud. That's why they smell bad. It's the mud, not the pig." Bell says pigs are excellent swimmers, which is great news for that family outing at Wild World.
Since the Washington area is the official Yuppie Capital of the Country -- No. 1 among 212 marketing regions nationwide in percentage of young, urban, monied residents, 19.9 percent -- many of you will soon be purchasing Vietnamese potbellied pigs. For those of you with expensive tastes but limited incomes, there's a Vietnamese Potbellied Pig Kit at Ikea, some assembly required.
To aid in your shopping, Vietnamese potbellied pigs are mainly black, with symmetrical white markings, though Ted Turner has vowed to colorize them. They've been known to live 30 cost-effective years (which in yuppie years is the equivalent of six dermatologists, 14 duvet covers and 882 bottles of balsamic vinegar), and they're clearly smart enough that you can teach them to polish the Beemer.
So let's take a look at some of the advantages of owning a pig, as opposed to a cat or dog. (Those of you who keep kosher can skip this section.)
Pigs are very expensive. They commonly cost thousands of dollars; the legendary boar Spike III (not to be confused with the legendary bore Sally Jessy Raphael) went for $50,000. Damned few house pets confer this kind of income credibility.
No natural enemies -- unless you count charcoal.
Give you a fighting chance at a silk purse. (Just rename the pig Vincent.)
Won't drive you crazy with their barking. (You'll rarely be forced to tell a caller, "I can't hear you because the pig is oinking.")
Have hair, not fur, so they don't shed. On the other hand, slop-scented Nexxus for Pigs costs $17 a bottle, and you won't believe what they charge for a blow-dry.
Not finicky eaters like your cats. Pigs eat anything -- they'll eat your cats.
The huge advantage, of course, is that if you're unable to go shopping, you always have a dinner in reserve.
Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks.