This Little Piggie
You’ve likely heard of the 1993 film Six Degrees of Separation, which explores the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. And perhaps you’ve heard of the spinoff game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” which says that all actors are similarly connected to actor Kevin Bacon.
But did you know that Michigan Medicine has an even closer link to Kevin Bacon?
OK, to be clear, it’s not the actor Kevin Bacon.
Our Kevin Bacon is the porcine roommate of Madison McTevia, M.A., C.C.L.S., a clinical specialist and program coordinator for the Families Facing Cancer program at the Rogel Cancer Center. More specifically, Kevin (or "Kev" as he affectionally known) is a 210-pound potbelly pig.
"My favorite animal has always been a pig, for whatever reason," says Madison. "I have pictures of me with pigs at a petting farm when I was about 3 years old." And this affinity for pigs went further than simple affection for the animals. Young Madison soon realized that her favorite animals were used for purposes beyond life at a petting farm.
"I actually stopped eating pork products when I was in the first grade," she says. "I made the connection with the ham served at dinner. I remember asking my mom 'Is this pig?' and she said yes. And I said 'OK, well they're my favorite animals so I don't want to eat them' and that was that."
With this level of feeling for pigs, it was likely only a matter of time before at least one of them played a larger role in Madison's life. And sure enough . . .
"My husband Dane;s aunt lives in the country, in a very rural area, and she is a fan of exotic chicken breeds. So, she often goes to animal auctions." As luck would have it, the aunt travelled to an auction in Shipshewana, Indiana, where she met a certain piglet.
Kevin and his siblings were advertised as a micro pig breed that normally tops the scale at 40 pounds. He was the last of his litter to be auctioned and the price was right for the aunt, so she snapped him up.
"She grabbed him thinking he would be a great investment," says Madison. "She's thinking 'I got him for a steal!' you know?” Unfortunately for the aunt, as Kevin grew it became clear that he was actually a potbelly pig, not a micro pig. This translated to a difference of around 150 pounds -- a bit too much for the aunt to handle.
Enter Madison. She consulted a vet, who explained all that was required for caring for a full-grown potbelly pig. She checked the zoning ordinances to make sure it was legal to own a pig in Ann Arbor. And she got in touch with her apartment manager. She even had Kevin registered with the American Mini Pig Association.
And so, on Halloween 2017, Kevin Bacon came to apartment life. But he was used to the farm. Would it work?
"We were at Petco one day and there was someone doing obedience training," Madison says, "And I wondered if they could do that with Kev because I had heard pigs were pretty smart."
It turned out the instructor had grown up on a hog farm in Adrian, and she happily conducted two rounds of obedience training with Kevin. "He knows how to sit, and he knows his name. The socialization aspect worked out really well."
"We also did the same thing with the doggy daycare here in Ann Arbor," Madison continues. "We reached out and asked, and again it just kind of happened. Kev doesn't really play with the dogs, but he seems happy to just kind of stand there and be with the dogs. So now he goes regularly, and we board him there if we're going out of town."
Madison and Dane have since moved from the apartment to a house, and Kev seems to have adjusted well to the move. "He has a big fenced-in yard where he can hang out."
Kevin also enjoys taking leisurely walks with Madison and Dane. "It's like walking a hound. He stops and sniffs everything," she says, "and he tries to eat everything." In the afternoons, he is partial to taking naps. He even has his own Instagram account. You can follow the relaxing adventures of Kev here: @kevintheannarborpig.
"We started the Instragram account just for fun," Madison says, "mainly because we'd had so many people reach out to us for photos. It was easier to point people there. And it became really popular."
Madison says Kevin has reached his maximum weight at 210 pounds. He enjoys a diet that includes mini pig pellets (available from Tractor Supply), vegetable scraps, and occasionally some granola. "But he’ll basically eat anything," says Madison. "And sometimes he'll have an ice cream cone," she adds with a smile.
It's a pig's life.