Kara Lackie’s life reads like a Studio Ghibli movie. The 35-year-old pastry chef lives in Gabarus, a charming small fishing village in Nova Scotia, with her family of three: her husband Cory Blundon, their beloved golden retriever Sweetpea, and a 42-pound piglet named Meatball, who’s descended from a breed that almost went extinct fifty years ago.
Meatball is only 18 weeks old, but is already the village’s biggest obsession and Sweetpea’s dearest friend. Watch the video above to see their daily routine.
Lackie shared with HuffPost Canada how he came to Nova Scotia, how Meatball and Sweetpea struck up their unlikely interspecies friendship that she documents on Instagram, and how her family has gotten through the COVID-19 pandemic:
What it’s like raising a Kunekune pig
Lackie: We farmsat in New Zealand for a few months. There were all kinds of animals, but we fell in love with the two Kunekune pigs. They were 15 years old, but they were like puppies. Kunekune pigs are really chill; other pigs want to escape fenced areas for treats, but Meatball just wants to be around people, nap, and be comfy.
Cory and I are both chefs, we own a restaurant, so everyone was afraid to fall in love with him in case he would end up on the menu. We had to say, “No, he’s for love, not for lunch!” He’s 42 pounds right now, but he might get between 150 to 400 pounds. He’s a vegetarian, so he can have grass and apples.
When we first brought him home, I thought Sweetpea and Meatball might not get along, because Meatball is a prey animal. We did research and some websites said, “You might have a problem, but most of the time pigs and dogs are good after a while.” Sweetpea’s super smart and easy to train, so we really hoped they would be friends. But we built Meatball a dog-proof house just in case.
At first, Sweetpea thought the pig was a bad guy. She was worried that he was going to hurt us, and his squeals were driving her crazy. She wanted to chase him so bad. But then she got to know him, by sitting outside his pen and licking him a bit. I think I said the phrase, “No bites, only smooches” a million times a day.
She now treats him like her baby. When Meatball finishes his breakfasts and dinners, the first thing Sweetpea does is clean his face. She barks at cars that gets too close to her pig, she’s super protective. While we’re at work, they have a lot of space to run in our backyard.
I don’t know if Sweetpea had puppies before we got her from the Nova Scotia SPCA, but she definitely has a motherly instinct. It was fun watching her understand that Meatball is not like her because she would try to talk to him as if he’s a dog. He’s totally oblivious. Now she tries to communicate in pig ways, which is just kind of by nudging him. They’ll lay down together, and she’ll give him little smooches. They love strawberries and blankets, food and comfort. So they’re a match made in heaven.
Meatball does everything Sweetpea does, he’s always watching. We started trying to take them out for walks after work because he’s great on a leash! He walks like a dog beside her and we go about one mile an hour because every person stops to say hi.
They see a pig walking on a leash and it’s super adorable. The median age of our village is probably 65, 70. There might be a 100 of us. They love him, but probably think we’re super weird and that’s fine! They’re all very proud that Meatball’s in the village, I think.
Cory and I own a restaurant in Cape Breton ― and in the summer, we also run a food truck ― so we usually work all the time. We were racing in March to open our restaurant. Then we had to put the brakes on that because of the pandemic. It made us wonder, “Why are we doing this? Can we still pay the bills, but work a little less?”
That, and getting the pig in August made me realize, “I really like my house and my pig. I like my dog, I like Cory. I want to spend time here.”
Meatball has kind of held us to this new commitment of having normal human hours. We can’t leave a baby pig alone for 12, 13 hours a day. It’s so hard leaving in the mornings now, when the two of them run up to the fence with their sad little faces.
I actually feel like a children’s book or a Hayao Miyazaki character when I come home. I race in on my Jeep; my pig and dog rush to greet me; and I feed them strawberries. I’m really glad it worked out this way.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost Canada and has been updated.