Dog & Pet Drawing

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Gidget gives dogs a lesson

Kylie Reghenzani
Friday, April 23, 2010
© The Cairns Post

INSTEAD of going to market, this little piggy has a much better life mingling with dogs. Gidget, a three-month-old piglet, has been attending training sessions at the Association of Australian Assistance Dogs (NQ) at Mareeba for the past three weeks as a training distraction for the dogs.
And the pig’s owners and assistance volunteers believe it could be a world first for a pig to help canines in training.
Owners Sarah Plowman-Ah Chee and her husband, Lester, said the piglet was flown from Gympie to be given to their son, Augustine, as a baptism gift.
Gidget shares her Mareeba home with a horse named Beth, a pony named Tony, silky rooster Ralph, Penny the hen and a goat named Mona Lisa. The piglet will grow to the size of a small staffy and her favourite fruit is rockmelon as well as being fed on mixed grain and milk.
Ms Plowman-Ah Chee said the piglet understands she has rest and play time and slips into different modes when she has to work with the dogs.
“She’s really playful,” Ms Plowman-Ah Chee said.
“Augustine and her will grow up together and become really good mates.” Mr Ah Chee said when Gidget was introduced to the other animals, they were puzzled as to who this new character was.
“Tony the Pony is quite old and set in his ways and Gidget comes along and thinks she can eat Beth’s food,” Mr Ah Chee said.
“She was teasing the pony and he came behind her, kicked her and she rolled sideways about five times then landed on her feet. “She’s such a funny character.”
Director of training Liz Oehm said she had always wanted to train a pig and it taught the assistance dogs to work with an unusual distraction.
She said pigs had been used in training for other animals but in Australia it was definitely a first for a pig to be in training with about 10 dogs. “They (dogs) just think she’s another one of them except she snorts,” Ms Oehm said. “Pigs smell differently to dogs and are very, very smart.”