Q&A with Norman, a therapy pig. Meet him in-person at NAMIWalks Dallas!
Almost every child has read E.B. White’s classic novel “Charlotte’s Web” in school and knows the phrase “some pig.” It’s the story of Charlotte the spider befriending a rambunctious pig named Wilbur, who also happens to be the runt of the litter. When the word gets out that Wilbur’s days are numbered, a determined Charlotte spins words into her web in an effort to convince the farmer that Wilbur is “some pig” and worth saving. Since the publishing of the story, “some pig” has come to mean someone or something that is rare, special…to be treasured and appreciated.
Unleashed Paws would like to introduce you to “some pig” and he lives right here in the heart of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. His name is Norman, and he is a certified pet therapy animal through Pet Partners. You can follow his antics on Facebook and see him at surrounding festivals including the upcoming NAMIWalks Dallas on May 13th.
Norman’s mom, Misty Carter, helped Norman answer our questions…
Q: How old is Norman?
A: He will be four on August 28. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri at Les Petites Pigs.
Q: What breed is he?
A: He is a Juliana. (Juliana pigs are also known as Miniature Painted Pigs, and have been specifically bred to work with humans, according to the Juliana Pig Registry.)
Q: How did you acquire him?
A: Norman came from a credited breeder, which we call his first human mom.
Q: What is his background?
A: Norman is from St. Louis, Missouri. He was about five months old when we got him. Norman originally adopted out to another family, who gave him his name Norman. His adoption fell through. Once we decided to adopt a pig to be a part of our family, we picked Norman. His first mommy socialized him right off and was teaching him manners. She also started teaching him his first basic tricks such as sit, and spin. She told me he was a special pig and was very smart and hoped I would continue his special gift. And, I did.
Q: How long has Norman been a therapy pig?
A: Two years.
Q: What is his training like?
A: In the beginning, I wasn’t training Norman for therapy. I was training Norman to keep up his special ability of being “Some Pig” in the evenings about 2-3 nights a week. When we ran through all his tricks, I felt it was time to introduce new tricks. Norman loved his evening session not only for the treats, but for the interaction and keeping him from being bored.
Q: Does Norman have any tricks ‘up his sleeve’ that hasn’t been revealed to patients and fans?
A: He is starting to learn how to bowl, and read a few new words like ‘pig’, ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ in sign language.
Q: How does he react to therapy situations?
A: Noman is very calm and goes with the flow. He is always interested in seeing if anyone has a treat to offer him.
Q: How do people react to Norman?
A: We get a HUGE reaction out of people! We have had tears of joys, smiles, and laughter. People singing and write poems to him. People love to pet Norman.
Q: In addition to festivals and special events, where else does Norman perform therapy?
A: Norman has been to schools, nursing homes and assisted living homes.
Q: After giving out so much love and energy during a therapy session, does he need to chill or do anything to de-stress and get back to being just Norman?
A: Like most humans, Norman naps after work. LOL.
Q: What tips do you have for people interested in owning a pig?
A: Research and know that your pig will grow and not stay 25lbs. Know it’s more like a toddler than a pet. Know it’s a 15-20 year commitment. Know they will need guidance and training. Neuter and spay.
Q: What tips do you have for people interested in pursuing pet therapy?
A: Start training them young. Train yourself. Know your pet and their signs. Be patient.
Q: What does Norman like to do when he’s not working?
A: Napping, sunbathing, camping, and enjoying his special treats that dad sneaks him but mom knows he shouldn’t have.
Q: Why do you, as Norman’s mom, do this?
A: To bring joy to others.
Q: What’s your background?
I’m just a regular gal, with pigs as my kids who set out a goal to be the best pig mom ever.
Q: Have you always been an animal lover? Pig lover?
A: Animal lover, yes. Pig lover, I would say yes, and that I’ve waited for Norman for 17 years.
Q: Do you have experience with other forms of pet therapy?
A: No, I didn’t know what it was until Norman came along. I had seen how much joy he brought to others that I started researching what more we could do for people.
Q: How proud are you of Norman and his giving spirit?!?!
A: This, I can’t explain how proud I am. Norman is amazing! The joy he gives to so many people by just being himself makes my heart smile. Norman is definitely “Some Pig.”
ABOUT ANIMAL/PET THERAPY
The magical bond between humans and animals has existed since the beginning of time. Animal/Pet therapy is gaining fans in healthcare and beyond, but what is animal therapy?
Trained and registered animal/handler teams are used in medical, psychiatric, rehabilitation and special education facilities throughout the world. Therapy animals include dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, pigs, birds, dolphins, llamas and alpacas, guinea pigs and even rats providing comfort and enjoyment to significantly reducing pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems.
It's not only the ill person who reaps the benefits. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too.
For Physical Health
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
- Diminishes overall physical pain
- The act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some folks need
For Mental Health
- Lifts spirits and lessens depression
- Decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
- Encourages communication
- Provides comfort
- Increases socialization and sense of community
- Reduces boredom
- Decreases anxiety
- Helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
- Creates motivation for the client to recover faster
- Reduces loneliness
For Educational Support
- Helps children focus better
- Improves literacy skills
- Provides non-stressful, non-judgmental environment
- Increases self-confidence
- Reduces self-consciousness
- Encourages the love of reading in specific and learning in general
In Physical Therapy
- Increases joint movement
- Improves recovery time
- Maintains or increases motor skills
- Provides motivation to move more, stretch farther, exercise longer
Meet Norman on May 13th, 2017 at NAMIWalks Dallas!
Join Norman and Eric Nadel, Hall of Fame Radio Voice for the Texas Rangers and NAMIWalks Dallas' 2017 Honorary Chair, as they, NAMI Dallas (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and more than 1,500 walkers and supporters take steps to raise awareness for mental health and stop the stigma. The walk also celebrates mental health recovery, honors those who have lost their lives to mental health conditions and raises funds for the nonprofit. Other NAMI affiliates participating in the walk are Collin County; Denton County; Kaufman County; Grayson, Fannin & Cooke Counties; and Southern Sector Dallas.
With 1 in 5 Americans being affected by mental health conditions each year, Nadel is determined to help end the stigma about mental illness because he has seen many friends go through the pain of depression, and wants to help others get the help they need.
NAMIWalks Dallas includes free parking, concessions, activities for kids, an appearance by Norman Not Just a Pig and a post-run concert with Nashville singing sensation Daphne Willis. The fundraiser is pet-friendly. Serving Dallas and the surrounding areas, NAMI Dallas, a 501(c)3, provides support, education and advocacy free of charge for individuals and family members impacted by mental health conditions. To learn more about NAMI Dallas, visit NAMIDallas.org.
Dr Pepper Ballpark, Home of the Frisco Roughriders
7300 Roughriders Trail
Frisco, TX 75034
Saturday, May 13, 2017, 10 AM (Walk day registration begins at 8:30 AM)
There is no registration fee for the walk. All participants are encouraged to collect donations from family members, friends, co-workers, business associates and other mental health advocates. All walkers raising $100 or more receive a NAMIWalks Dallas event t-shirt. To participate, donate or support a team, visit NAMIWalks.org/dallas.