Half-ton pig is more than a pet to Palmetto man

nwilliams@bradenton.comFebruary 8, 2013 

PALMETTO -- While walking through the wilderness of David Gamery's property Thursday, noises of something big rustling through the bushes grows louder and louder.

As branches and twigs break, the figure emerges.

At first glimpse, the being resembles a cow. But then, as it draws near, two floppy ears appear, along with a large pink snout and a curly tail.

"He's a big, gentle baby," Gamery says.

A 1,000-pound baby.

Arnold, a farm pig, has lived on Gamery's property for about 4 years. The half-ton pig turns 4 in March.

"He loves dog food," Gamery said.

When he was a few weeks old, an acquaintance of Gamery dropped off the pig at his home with a favor to ask. He wanted Gamery to keep the animal, who at the time was nicknamed "Dinner," for a few weeks to fatten him for potential slaughter.

Two months passed, and the owners never returned. When they did, Gamery told them to buzz off.

"I said, "That's my pig," Gamery said. "Arnold ain't going nowhere."

And so the friendship, and feeding, progressed.

Arnold's heftiness didn't happen overnight. Gamery said Arnold eats "what people can't get away from him," which includes watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and bananas, only if they're pealed. His favorite, Gamery says, is diced potatoes with pasta shells and dog food, mixed together.

"He won't eat pig food," he said.

And as Arnold continued to grow, Gamery added on to Arnold's "condo."

About two years ago, Gamery had to summon a veterinarian to inspect Arnold's hooves. Because they were overgrown, Arnold had difficulty walking and needed them trimmed. During the process, Gamery said the vet guessed Arnold's weight to be at least 1,000 pounds. Gamery said he's added a few pounds, give or take 50, since then.

If Arnold truly weighs or exceeds 1,000 pounds, he joins an elite group of hogs. Several reports show the largest pig on record was a hog named Big Bill, who weighed in a 2,552 pounds. Not far behind are reports of other pigs, famously known as Hogzilla and Pigzilla, at or slightly over 1,000 pounds.

Despite his size, Arnold seems harmless. Gamery said Arnold is capable of living with other animals and is just as warm with people.

"He follows me around," he said.

On Thursday, however, the friendship took a turn.

Gamery, who turns 70 this month, has to vacate his property in east Palmetto this week because his property has been foreclosed. A couple down the road, landscaping company owners Mike and Patty Armstrong, agreed to adopt Arnold and transported him to their home Thursday afternoon.

"Losing him is worse than losing a dog," Gamery said.

Mike Armstrong made a stop at Gamery's garage sale this past weekend, where he first saw Arnold. While others offered to buy Arnold for slaughter, Armstrong respected Gamery's relationship with the animal.

"I couldn't just let anyone take him," Armstrong said. "People say one thing and do another."

Gamery plans to visit Arnold, and often. For the past three years, they've been attached at the hip.

Armstrong will designate just under an acre of land on his property for Arnold's new home. On Saturday, he is having a fence built around his future dwelling.

"It's a long-term thing," Armstrong said.

Once Arnold adapts to his new surroundings, Armstrong said the next phase is to help the big guy lose some weight.

"We'll probably reduce the amount the food he eats," he said.

Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams

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