They thought they were adopting a small, teacup pig (a breed Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter would later discover didn't exist). But their first trip to a veterinarian would confirm their new pet was in fact a regular, commercial pig, who would grow to be more than 600 lbs.
Thus begins the story of Esther the Wonder Pig - the social media darling boasting more than 2 million followers, two books, a Youtube channel, and whose story was recently picked up by a major Hollywood film company to become a feature film.
Esther's 'dads' - Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter- were speaking at the KW Humane Society's Homeward Bound fundraiser Thursday night in Waterloo. They shared the story of Esther, and how her entrance into their lives sent them on a completely unexpected journey.
"We called her Esther the 'Wonder' Pig, because we wondered what we were going to do, how big she was going to get, and where we were going to go!" says Walter. When it became obvious there was no longer room in their small Georgetown, ON home for their two dogs, two cats and the growing Esther, the couple took the plunge and crowd-funded to buy a 50-acre farm sanctuary just outside of Campbellville, ON. The Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary is now home to 65 animal residents, all of whom were abused, neglected, or abandoned farmed animals.
They say their journey with Esther has taught them a lot - especially about pigs. "Pigs are crazy-smart animals," says Jenkins, "Esther can open cupboards, she can open the fridge. She can let herself outside and back in. She's house-trained. Pigs are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, next to dolphins, chimpanzees and elephants."
Jenkins says Esther has had a huge impact on both their lives, as well as the lives of other people and animals. They have created a Facebook community called Esther's Army, which is dedicated to sharing information on animals in need and promoting other like-minded organizations, including humane societies. The 'Esther Effect' as Jenkins and Walter call it, has also resulted in the creation of Esther Shares, a medical fund that provides financial assistance to other farmed animal sanctuaries in Canada and the United States.
Jenkins and Walter's dedication to inspiring kindness and compassion to animals everywhere mirrors the work and public education provided by the Humane Society. Last year more than 390 animals were surrendered to KWHS, while another 1100 animals came to the centre as strays. It takes dedicated staff, volunteers and donors to care for the animals until they are finally adopted out to their forever homes.
"And, if you adopt your animals from a reputable institutions like the KW Humane Society, you're much more likely to know what you're getting!" joked Ross Wells, President of the Board of Directors at the Humane Societies of Kitchener-Waterloo and Stratford Perth.
Good morning, beautiful. pic.twitter.com/IFtdy6yHUi— Esther TheWonder Pig (@EstherThePig) May 10, 2019