Schnitzel the pot-bellied pig is no ordinary swine. The talented pig is a friend of Journey Senior Living of Merrillville. He visits the residents to show off his tricks and to soak in love, attention, and treats. Schnitzel just turned four years old and can often be spotted sporting a leopard print coat when it is cold or raining.
“He is a diva,” said Aubrey Llano, Schnitzel’s owner. “He likes being pet and receiving all the attention at Journey Senior Living.”
Llano, a former vet tech and owner of Sleepy Hollow Pet Sitting, said she lucked out when she brought home her 8-month old piglet. He has an affectionate personality and is extremely intelligent. In fact, he sits, dances, and is even house trained! Schnitzel started visiting Journey Senior Living after Llano saw a Facebook post that the Merrillville memory care facility was seeking more therapeutic animals. While most volunteers bring dogs or cats, Schnitzel offers a unique experience for the residents. Not all animals are cut out therapy work, but Schnitzel is a natural.
“He was born for this,” Llano said. “He loves it, even the car ride there.”
According to Llano, from day one, Schnitzel had no issues with the new environment. Llano explained that animals can sometimes fear unknown machines, like oxygen tanks and motorized wheelchairs. Schnitzel did not care about those things and thrives on the celebrity treatment.
“When Schnitzel arrives, there are lots of excited and confused faces,” Llano said.
Some residents had never pet a pig, while others who’ve grown up on farms experience fond memories the sight of Schnitzel. Llano said that one resident in particular lights up when Schnitzel visits. This resident loves animals, and carries around a stuffed kitten. It is pure joy when Schnitzel comes to show off his talents.
“It’s nice to see the interaction between the staff and residents and Schnitzel,” Llano said. “Journey Senior Living goes out of their way to bring in animals and entertain their residents.”
When Schnitzel isn’t volunteering, he likes to eat peppermints and snuggle with Llano on the couch. Llano said that having a pig is like parenting a two-year-old. It is a lot of work, but so rewarding.
Schnitzel is a performer. He knows how to pose for the camera and his owners dress him up in bow ties to celebrate holidays. He is a person-oriented pig, and is most comfortable when he is touching someone. Schnitzel’s shining personality proves that he was born to brighten up a senior’s day.
“Schnitzel has a way of getting the elderly out of their shells,” Llano said. “They might start talking about the past and [his presence] really helps in that situation.”
For more information on Journey Senior Living of Merrillville, visit their website.