When his owners arrive home, J.D. Hogg runs to greet them, tail wagging. He barks with excitement, lies on the polished hardwood floor and rolls onto his side for a belly scratch. And when the treats come out, he sits attentively beside his canine siblings, nose twitching.
“There’s no doubt in our mind he thinks he’s a dog,” said Kamrie Hodgeman of Montville.
But he’s not a dog. As his name implies, J.D. Hogg is a pig. A 200-pound pig.
“He lives in the house,” Kamrie Hodgeman said, “which sometimes we’re embarrassed to tell people because they’re like, ‘Oh my God … If he lives in the house, what does their house look like?’”
Beautiful. Spotless. Modern. The Hodgemans’ house is no hay-filled barn, and J.D. Hogg isn’t your average pig.
“He’s actually a very clean animal,” Kamrie Hodgeman said. “The worst that he does is he brings in dirt on his snout.”
Named after a cigar-smoking villain in “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV series, Jefferson Davis “J.D.” Hogg is a Vietnamese potbelly-Juliana cross breed pig, whether he knows it or not. The runt of his litter, J.D. was crushed by his mother soon after birth. There was speculation whether he’d even survive. If he did, the breeder predicted he’d max out at about 40 pounds.
Both Kamrie Hodgeman and her husband Greg Hodgeman are animal lovers. They also tend to root for the underdog. J.D. seemed like the perfect fit for their family, which currently includes four horses, four dogs, two cats, three sheep, three parrots, six doves, a flock of guinea hens and two grown children, Justin, 25, and Kaili, 21.
When the family took J.D. home, he was an 8-week-old piglet. Anticipating he’d be a small pig, they decided to raise him indoors with the dogs and cats.
Now three years later, J.D. — also known as “Jeff” — is full grown at about 200 pounds.
“I really thought we were going to have this cute little 40-pound pig, and we have a 200-pound … beef cake,” Kamrie Hodgeman said, breaking into laughter mid sentence.
His size was a surprise, but the family decided to make it work.
“I can’t imagine kicking him out of the house,” Kamrie Hodgeman said. “He’s got so much emotion.”
On a recent Wednesday, J.D. was fast asleep burrowed under a dog bed by the front door of the family’s house. But when company walked through the door, he stirred and lifted his head then slowly emerged from his hideout. His hooves klacked on the wooden floor as he trotted into the kitchen with his brother Leland, a 15-pound dachshund.
Breaking a granola bar into pieces, Kamrie Hodgeman used the snack to entice J.D. and Leland to sit.
“He was easier to train than a dog,” she said.
The pig has never had an accident in the house, she said, and when he has to go to the bathroom, he stands by the back door of the house and barks, to the best of his ability, to be let outside.
“He’s very comparable to a dog,” Kamrie Hodgeman said. “But I would say to someone, don’t think you’re getting a dog [if you buy a pig]. They’re just different. They’re smart, but you have to stay on them to train them, otherwise they can get nasty. So many pigs get re-homed because a person can’t train them and the pig gets aggressive.”
Another common problem pig owners face is providing a diet and enough exercise to keep their pig at a healthy weight.
“It’s a challenge to keep that slender figure, you know?” said Kamrie Hodgeman with a chuckle as she ran her hand over J.D.’s back, her sparkly nails combing through the his wiry black hair, which she brushes daily. She also moisturizes his naturally dry skin with bright pink solution called Swine & Shine.
While J.D. is about 200 pounds, his veterinarian (the same that cares for the family’s horses) says he’s a healthy weight for his stature and breed. And to maintain that weight, J.D. chiefly eats grass-based pellets formulated specifically for potbelly pigs. Every once in a while he gets treats. And in the summer, he grazes on grass and digs up insects.
If you’re thinking that might mess up the Hodgeman’s yard, you’re right. It does.
“Some people think it’s nostalgic or fun to own a pig and it’s not,” Kamrie Hodgeman said. “He’s a farm animal. I know he lives in my house, but he’s still a farm animal.”
During the day, J.D. often spends hours outside roaming the family’s 50-acre property and searching for dropped grain in the horse barn. And when he wants to come inside, he thumps his strong snout on the door until someone lets him in.
At night, he eats indoors with his canine brothers, then cuddles up with whoever will sit with him on the floor. And for J.D.’s “bedroom,” the Hodgemans modified a baby crib, filling the bottom of it with a miniature orthopedic mattress that they have to replace every six months because J.D.’s weight breaks it down. The enclosure also contains pillows, a blanket, and the pig’s favorite squeaker toys. And if they want, they can shut him in with a swinging gate, its wooden bars painted cottage white.
“I built that for him so he’d have a space of his own,” Kamrie Hodgeman said.
J.D. also has outfits, including custom knit ear warmers and a coat made from a baby horse blanket. He often wears these items on cold days while exploring the yard or when he goes out in public.
The Hodgemans used to bring J.D. to work with them at Aubuchon Hardware in Belfast, where Greg Hodgeman works as manager and Kamrie Hodgeman runs their adjoining business, Paws & Claws Pet Grooming. But when J.D. grew too big to climb into the car, they started leaving him at home with the rest of the pets.
J.D. fans weren’t pleased.
“Some people actually asked us if we… ate him,” Kamrie Hodgeman said.
While the Hodgemans eat pork and other meat, they’d never eat J.D.
To assure fans of J.D.’s wellbeing and to keep them up to date on his latest adventures, they made him a Facebook page, facebook.com/BossJDHogg/, on which they post photos and videos and write posts from the pig’s perspective. And for special occasions, such as when Santa Claus came to the store this past December, the Hodgemans have created a ramp so J.D. can climb into the horse trailer and travel in style.
When asked why they go through such trouble for the pig, the answer came easy to Kamrie Hodgeman.
“Animals to us become a part of the family,” she said. “He’s awesome. He’s Jeff.”
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