Some Folks May Raise a Stink, but North Carolina's Norma Jean Is a Not-So-Little Piggy Who Stays Home

updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Raymond Sattler was 6 years old when he saw his first piglet and decided he wanted to be a pig farmer. "I got sidetracked into neurosurgery," says the Lumberton, N.C. doctor, "but the pig thing just stuck." That must explain what happened two years ago, when Sattler received a piglet for his 40th birthday. Instead of raising the animal for his table, he raised it in his home. Norma Jean, a 640-lb. Duroc, frolics on five acres of land, but she eats in the house and sleeps in her own room.

"Pigs have a personality, but nobody usually takes the time to know them," says Ray's wife, Debbie, 29, a nurse. The couple, who have no children, describe Norma Jean as a hygienic, basically happy hog who enjoys eating chocolate (especially Godiva), drinking champagne (Korbel Natural), listening to the music of flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal and watching Ronald Reagan on TV. "There's something about his voice that she likes," says Ray.

But there are drawbacks to having a pet pig. The Sattlers, who have already bought a larger car and moved to a bigger house, can no longer eat at the same table with Norma Jean. "She's so tall now," says Ray, "and gets so enthusiastic—snorting and drooling—that the whole table moves." Entertaining guests is also a problem, since Norma Jean tends to playfully knock over visitors. "We make an effort to stand around," says Ray, "so if she charges, we can use body blocks and throw her out of the way." And when the Sattlers tossed Norma Jean a 400-guest party last March, they were criticized for spending thousands of dollars on a pig.

Acknowledging that "some people think we're crazy," Debbie defends the pampering. "Pigs in general have a sad life because, I believe, they know that most of them are raised for food."

"Having Norma Jean is totally ridiculous," admits Ray, "but it's also joyful. When I come home after a hard day of operating, it's comic relief to see this enormous pig." Whatever sacrifices they've made for her, adds Ray, are minimal. "We even still eat pork in the house," he says. "We just don't let Norma Jean smell it on our breath."

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