The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A family saves a snow-bound piglet from freezing to death

Catherine Smith, 12, cradles a piglet rescued by her family from the side of the road near Hagerstown, Md. (Courtesy of Perry Smith)
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This story has been updated.

It was dark and snowing and visibility was poor when Perry Smith, driving his family home from a day of skiing spotted something moving up a snow-covered hill on the side of the road in Hagerstown, Md. As he slowed and pulled over, he and his 13-year-old son, also named Perry, spotted a bit of pink.

It was a piglet, squealing, shivering and struggling to make its way through mounting piles of snow.

“It was just a little lump in the snow, a pink lump in the snow,” the younger Perry said.

The elder Perry realized that without their intervention, the piglet would likely perish. So at around 10 p.m. Friday, with snow quickly accumulating, he grabbed his daughter Catherine’s sweatshirt and pulled the animal from the snow. Smith swaddled the ice-encrusted creature in the sweatshirt and loaded it into the car.

“He would have died,” Smith said. “He would have lasted maybe another 30 minutes to an hour.”

Updates: Winter storm targets D.C. region

That began the long, strange night for the family. Smith’s son Perry and daughter Catherine worked to nurse the piglet back to health. Perry, the son, even spent about half the night in the hotel bathtub, cradling the piglet and swaddling it in towels to ease its chills. By Saturday afternoon, the children were working in shifts, hand-feeding it bananas and water, cuddling it as it slept to keep it warm and soothing its cuts with ointment.

Speaking from the hotel bathtub, with the pig nestled in towels and snoozing on his leg, the teen said he had grown attached to the piglet. The children had even given him a name — Wee Wee, after the childhood imaginary friend of an uncle.

“I would like to take him home and accept him as a member of the family,” Perry said. But he was of course realistic. His father said he was unsure of the rules about keeping livestock at their home in Somerset, Montgomery County, though 12-year-old Catherine was still holding out hope that the family could build some kind of enclosure to keep Wee Wee.

As word of the family’s heroic piglet rescue spread on social media, old friends came out of the woodwork with different ideas for the piglet. Perry Smith is a founder and former co-owner of Matchbox Food Group, which runs popular eateries in the District. So naturally, he’s heard from chefs who inquired, perhaps facetiously, about other possibilities for the tiny refugee, as in “What are you planning on doing with the pig? Nudge, nudge.”

But Smith, who has reached out to animal shelters, said he will not turn it over to someone with plans to put it on the dinner menu.

A bittersweet update: The elder Perry Smith wrote to say that Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Md., has agreed to take the piglet once the snow clears.