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DARIA SCHNEIDMAN

When I asked Daria to describe herself, she got right to the point "Married withpigs," she said. A lot of parents might proffer that same derogatory portrayal of theirchildren. Kids are notorious for bedrooms that look like 'pigsties." Kids canbe 'pigheaded" - obstinate. 'Piggish" - dirty or selfish. But Daria wasn’t referring to herchildren. She has none. She was referring to her pigs. She has five of them. Vietnamesepot belly pigs, each weighing anywhere from 180 to 250 pounds.

In the '80's and early '90's there was a fad for pet pigs. 'I saw one and thought it was the cutest thing I'd ever seen," Daria recalls. She bought her first pig in'92 and inexplicably named it “Weegoo."

Weegoo weighs several hundred pounds today. But as a piglet she would come into bed and cuddle. 'It was great if you got to cuddle against her back," Daria says. Of course if you were pressed against her hoof side, she wasn’t so cuddly. "And,” Daria goes on, "her snout is wonderful. Hard as a rock. A big muscle made for digging. Just a remarkable nose. Great to kiss and rub on."

Daria has never succumbed to misconceptions about her pigs. She likes them for what they are. It is the misconceptions of others that have led to her gathering of pigs.

“People bought these little five or ten pound piglets from deceptive breeders," she explained. A piglet like a puppy is adorable. Foolishly, a lot of people thought they would stay small forever. They don’t. Many “fad" pig owners became desperate to rid themselves of a their no longer cute, tiny piglets. Daria found friends who shared her liking for the animal. One runs a pot belly “Pig rescue" in Ojai. She couldn’tt help bringing several of these "rescued" animals back to her home to Old Agoura.

“Weegoo," her original pet, is all black, with a pink snout and white hooves. ”Gocho" is a black and white spotted pig. "Maybelline" is all white with black eyeliner. "She's a very glamorous pig. I have to put sunblock on her in summer." “Tinkerbell" is all black and her biggest at 250 pounds. And 'Tony" is white and gray.

Daria described the character of her pigs to me, and pigs in general. They're very bright. They can open her refrigerator and pantry doors. She has to keep the doors velcroed or latched shut or they would help themselves. Her pigs are housebroken, going in and out through their own 'piggy" door.

'They don't care what you think of them," she says. They're not eager to please you like a dog. They don’t “come" on command.

Generally pigs eat and sleep, and sleep and eat. They do like to “cuddle" but they won't come to you. You have to go to them. They don't roll over. They don't shake hands. They're not protective. They won’t growl or grunt at strangers. They make more of a “moof' sound. They squeal when they're unhappy. It is not easy to walk a pig. "Not unless you offer them lots of treats," Daria says.

"They're lazy and self willed." And, of course, pigs don't fly. They don’t even jump.

So, I believe it is accurate to say that pigs are 'piggish and pigheaded." But Daria loves her pigs. "Some people can appreciate a human being that has selfish qualities," she philosophizes. "I can appreciate a pig. There's just something wonderful about them."

Daria also has a dog, two parrots, and a husband. Her life is not centered on her pig menagerie. She is a nurse practitioner who performs clinical trials of drugs for pharmaceutical companies. She volunteers at the Conejo Free Clinic. And early next year she will be going to India for six weeks to pave the way for a special Program where U.S. eye surgeons will operate to restore the sight of a thousand people in one week.

Pigs have had a lot of bad p.r. We perceive them as fat, selfish, demanding, bristle haired animals. But I think all that will change if they have more benevolent owners like Daria Schneidman.