Thanks to the Milk of Canine Kindness, Three Little Pigs from Illinois Are Leading a Dog's Life

updated 10/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Danny and Kathy Kuykendall, both 25, own a farm in Grayville, III.—unspoiled, God-fearing country where the men are men, the women are women and the pigs are dogs. At least three of the couple's piglets think they're dogs. Raised by a canine foster mother, the trio display such distinctly un-porcine traits as standing on their hind legs or, as Danny notes, "jumping on your leg when you go out the door."

Their identity crisis started in July, when Danny found the newborn pigs drowning in a mudhole on his 900-acre spread. The Kuykendall family, including daughters Angie, 10, and Kemberly, 9, nourished the babies in the house and in a backyard pen for one week. "But the flies started getting real bad," says Danny, so the family reluctantly turned the piglets loose in the yard.

What caused their reluctance was Brandy, a 5-year-old Queensland blue heeler who was guarding her 3-week-old pups and greeting most strangers with open jaws. "She's usually jealous," says Danny, "but I looked out there the next day and Brandy was nursing the pigs." Danny isn't sure why the unusual adoption took place, "but I was glad to see it. That meant I didn't have to feed them anymore."

Nestled in the bosom of Brandy's family, the little swine began imitating their puppy step-siblings—pawing with their front hooves, for example, "although they don't seem to like being petted much," adds Danny. Their dog days lasted until six weeks ago, when they were weaned and moved to a pen with their own kind. The emotional weaning, however, is not yet complete. "They still think Brandy is their mother," sighs Danny, and the puppies—missing the pigs—"stand outside the pen whining and yelping." About the only one who's happy with the separation is Brandy. "It was a relief for her," says Danny. "They still want to nurse, and they're a lot bigger now."

From Our Partners