Some pig: Amy is a step ahead of furry pack

Tail wagging and nose sniffing at full throttle, Amy Trotter is an excitable, growing bundle of energy.

Amy jumps through a hoop in the obstacle course at Kathy Lang’s Family Dog Training Center in Kent.

Amy jumps through a hoop in the obstacle course at Kathy Lang’s Family Dog Training Center in Kent.

Tail wagging and nose sniffing at full throttle, Amy Trotter is an excitable, growing bundle of energy.

She likes to play and take on a good challenge.

Like the obstacle course at the Family Dog Training Center in Kent. Plenty of hoops, slalom poles and tunnel runs to negotiate.

“She’s very busy, active … she’s really bonded with me,” said her owner, Lori Stock, of Frederickson. “She has a real work ethic. She loves to learn new things.

“I don’t want to put down other dogs … but she’s been the best dog I’ve ever had.”

Amy is by no means a canine, she’s a 4-month-old part-Juliana, part-Kune Kune miniature pig, the latest star attraction at Kathy Lang’s Family Dog Training Center in Kent.

Invited to join furry, frothing classmates in a six-week puppy manners class last fall, Amy immediately took flight. She proved a quick study, learning many behaviors befitting a dog but performed to the tune of steady grunts and oinks.

“What’s interesting about Amy is she does not get distracted as easily as dogs do,” said Lang, the center’s owner and lead instructor who has worked with animals since 1977. “She’s much more focused on the work, which surprises me. I mean, she’s the most focused animal I’ve seen at 4 months of age. And what’s really a shock to me is I have never known a dog at this age that would have the skill set that she does or the length of concentration that she does. That’s what’s amazing to me.”

Pigs are smart animals, according to researchers. They are perhaps the smartest, cleanest domestic animals known – more so than cats and dogs, according to some experts.

Researchers have presented evidence that domestic pigs can quickly learn how mirrors work and will use their understanding of reflected images to scope out their surroundings and find their food. They also have been trained to move a cursor on a video screen with their snouts.

Pigs – as Amy has demonstrated – are among the quickest of animals to learn a new routine. They do tricks, like jumping through hoops, bowing and standing, spinning and rolling.

“They’re just like another breed of dog,” Lang said. “There are more similarities than differences.”

Amy isn’t the only pet in the household of Stock and her husband, Jim. The couple own five dogs – two Irish setters, two toy fox terriers and a Chihuahua.

“At home it’s like having a toddler, not a puppy. She’s more mature,” Stock said.

Stock, a longtime dog owner, says this is her first pig. Her interest was sparked by a former co-worker who owned a pot-bellied pig. Amy was born on a nearby farm, one of a dozen in the litter, each named after a birthstone. Thus Amy, short for amethyst.

Looking for a new challenge, Stock wanted to train Amy, much in the same way Lang has worked with many of her dogs.

“As long as it’s housebroken, I’m up for it. Bring her to class,” Lang told Stock. “What fun. What a great distraction for the dogs.”

It didn’t take long for Amy and the dogs to socialize and grow. Amy soon adapted, learning controlled walking, retrieving, coming and staying, the same exercises associated with puppy training.

While an agile Amy can hold her own at mock dog shows, she cannot officially compete against other canines. Instead, Amy will occupy a different stage, starring in a skit in the “demo ring” at the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show on March 7-8 at CenturyLink Field Event Center.

Amy is still developing – weighing 30 pounds now, 55 when fully grown – and learning.

Stock and Lang plan to have Amy available for show-and-tell duty at the Puyallup Spring Fair. Other appearances are in the works.

Much as other dogs have learned from her, lovable Amy has proven ready to share her nature, kindness and skills with kids and families. There’s a lot you can learn from a pig.

As Lang and Stock explain, Amy is an “ambassador” in the importance of training your pets, all kinds of pets, not just dogs.

“We don’t discriminate,” Lang said. “You can train any animal to do anything.”

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PHOTO BELOW:

Lori Stock, left, and Kathy Lang have groomed a prized pupil in Amy, a miniature pig that has conquered an obstacle course and other tasks. MARK KLAAS, Reporter




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