Eddie the therapy pig delights youngsters at Urbana library | Lifestyle

Dave Magill has an unusual fart.

Eddie can sit, stay, walk on a leash and use the litter box. He loves belly scratches and cuddling on the couch. He’s highly motivated by treats, and can even identify a few colors.

But Eddie isn’t a dog, or a cat.

He’s a pig, and a certified therapy pig at that, through the American Mini Pig Association.

Magill brought Eddie into his family in April 2020, after spending his whole childhood yearning for a pig. The little piggy was just 10 weeks old then.

Eddie is a “house pig,” living with Magill’s wife, dogs and two children in Urbana. Magill didn’t plan to buy a pig after he learned how much work they require, but the COVID-19 pandemic allowed him to work remotely. Magill said his wife Corey told him, “It’s now or never.”

Eddie and his owner joined dozens of youngsters at the Urbana Regional Library Friday morning for an outdoor “Fun on the Farm” themed event. Donning a mini cowboy hat and a plaid shirt, Eddie merrily wagged his tail as little hands reached out to pet him. Magill said that’s a sign of happiness.

“We try to go out and bring smiles to people who need them,” Magill said.

The adventures of Eddie are chronicled through his TikTok profile, Eddie The Notorious PIG, @eddiethepigmd. Magill said he started the social media account in part to cheer himself up when he unexpectedly lost his job.

“That really helped me through a tough time,” Magill said.

Through the app, viewers can watch Eddie’s trips to the drive-thru, mischievous antics around the house and fashion shows.

Fast forward to present day and Eddie has more than 60,000 TikTok followers. His page has generated over 802,000 likes. Last week, Eddie met with a fan who is going through treatment for leukemia.

“It was really nice to see her smile,” Magill said.

If he didn’t have enough fans already, Eddie gained a few more at the library. Youngsters danced and sang along with children’s librarian Robyn Monaco while Eddie chased Cheerios tossed by Magill. Eddie nosed his way up to kiddos in the front row to accept gentle pats. He weaved between little cardboard houses built to resemble the houses from “The Three Little Pigs” story.

Magill volunteered to bring Eddie to the library and they were delighted to have him, communications manager Samantha Jones said.

Part of Magill’s motivation to introduce Eddie to lots of people is to educate others about pigs. They can make great companions, Magill said, but they take a lot of work.

“These guys are tremendously smart,” Magill told the crowd outside the library. “When you have a pig, it’s pretty much like having a toddler for life.”

He said pigs are the fourth smartest species on the planet after elephants and dolphins. If you want one as a pet, Magill said it’s crucial to train them well, educate yourself and make sure the pig knows you’re the boss.

Mini pigs start out, well, mini, but they grow to be quite large. At 2 years old, Eddie is about 70 pounds. Magill said he could reach 100 pounds.

Eddie’s diet includes mini pig feed, vegetables, fruit, and sometimes strawberry Pop-Tarts. Out of respect for his favorite animal, Magill abstains from eating pork.

Unfortunately, some people adopt piglets when they’re cute and small then get rid of them as they mature. About 90% of mini pigs adopted in the US end up being surrendered to rescues, according to the Animal Health Foundation.

Magill said people shouldn’t be fooled by the term “teacup pig.” Such labels can be used to describe the size of a pig, according to the American Mini Pig Association, but the pigs don’t remain itty-bitty. Healthy mini pigs range from 50 to 150 pounds at maturity, the association’s website states.

To prevent misguided adoptions, Magill tries to educate people on the responsibilities of pig ownership. And he uses his TikTok to raise funds for mini pig rescues.

Though there’s a serious mission behind Eddie’s rising celebrity status, Magill said it’s also just plain fun introducing his pig to people.

A long line of children formed outside the library to pet and pose with Eddie.

“He’s cute. I like his hat,” 6-year-old Alyssa Luersen said.

She and her mother Tracey live in Urbana and are frequent visitors for story time.

“We’ve been coming for years. They do a great job,” Tracey Luersen said. “It’s great to expose them to animals.”

Two-year-old Aviana Kalola cautiously waddled over to Eddie with her arms outstretched. She let out a squeal of protest when she had to leave and join her baby sister Araya in their stroller. The family resides in Ballenger Creek.

“I think both of them enjoyed it,” their mother Ruchi Kalola said. “I think my older one wants to keep playing.”

Eddie’s tail didn’t stop wagging as children surrounded him. He seemed unfazed by the crowd and music playing over speakers.

“He’s so well behaved,” Monaco remarked.

“All my grandchildren are,” Jan Magill said, not missing a beat.

Jan and Jim Magill, self-proclaimed grandparents to Eddie, proudly watched him soak up attention. Jan said her son Dave always wanted a pig when he was little, and his sister wanted a mini horse. Jan and Jim thought their dogs and standard size horse were enough responsibility.

When the kids grew up, they went out and got the mini pig and mini horse they always wanted.

As the library event petered out, Dave Magill gave Eddie a pat on the rump.

“He’s a good pig,” he said.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

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