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The story of a pig
Pilar Odria and her favorite pig, Gracie Lou. - photo by Jeff Whitte

This is the story of a Hinesville woman who wanted a pig all her life and finally got one in August.

It’s the story of the pig. And, it’s the story of a veterinarian who decided to take a chance.

The woman’s name is Pilar Odria. Her potbellied pig is Gracie Lou, which when full grown will weigh around 45 pounds, Odria said.

The veterinarian is Dr. Hunter Brigdon, who practices at Richmond Hill Animal Hospital.

That’s where Gracie Lou wound up Oct. 10, her outlook so bleak Bridgon wasn’t sure he could save her.

"I didn’t think she’d make it, to be honest," Brigdon said.

This was two days after Hurricane Matthew, which played its own part in this story.

The storm

Odria and her three kids evacuated late, leaving after Hurricane Matthew started knocking down trees and fences and power lines. But because the Odrias couldn’t find a place for the family’s three dogs, three cats and Gracie Lou, her husband Albert sent the wife and kids to safety and stayed behind to ride out the storm with the pets.

On Oct. 9, while Odria was gone, Gracie Lou was let out into the family’s fenced back yard for a bathroom break. The storm had knocked down enough fence to leave the pig exposed to a stray dog.

It tore into the Gracie Lou’s hindquarters, exposing bones and vertebrae before Albert could come to the rescue.

He soon found help, including family friend Justin Nelson, who apparently knows a thing or two about treating pigs. Nelson doctored Gracie Lou as best he could, but told Odria by phone the pig would need to see a vet. Odria packed up her kids and headed back.

On Oct. 10 - two days after the Hurricane - Odria called Brigdon, who’s been a veterinarian for only five years but apparently has seen his fair share of

pigs. And he didn’t hesitate when he got Odria’s call.

"Immediately he said ‘bring her right over," Odria said.

What Brigdon saw when he first took a look at Gracie Lou wasn’t good, but he decided to give it a try. Six surgeries later, the pig is healing nicely.

"It was a commitment," he said. "When Gracie came in, she had some pretty extensive wounds… At this point, she’ll probably go home with some more wound care to do on Monday. She has recovered well."

Mother and pig

"I wanted one forever," Odria said. "I have pig slippers, pig everything. But I grew up in New Jersey, I couldn’t have a pig. Then we moved to Miami, I couldn’t have a pig. And my husband says pigs as pets aren’t normal."

Odria didn’t give up. She said she made a chart showing how many hours she works — she’s now a district manager for Sally Beauty — to prove to her husband and children that she deserved a pig. Her husband, who works at Lowes, ultimately gave in and Odria got to pick out Gracie Lou from a farm in Allenhurst.

It was love at first sight. Odria clearly dotes on Gracie Lou, who seems to dote back, in a loud sort of way.

"She’s very smart, and she’s very clean," Odria said. "She never gets dirty, and it only took us two weeks to potty train her."

During her stay at Richmond Hill Animal Hospital, Gracie Lou has racked up a bill.

Odria, who also recently spent time in the hospital and whose family is recovering financially from the storm, said she’ll make payments the rest of her life if she has to, but she’s also asking for donations to help cover the bill.

Odria started a gofundme account, but pulled the plug after she learned the company took what she thought was too much money. She’s also raised money from friends on Facebook, though not everyone has been kind.

"I’ve had to block some people," Odria said.

Now she just wants people to send money straight to the hospital, to help both Gracie and other animals from less fortunate homes that may need veterinary care.

"These people are so good," she said. "They built her a run so she could play, and the nurses are so super attached to her."

Veterinary technician Katlyn Claytor is proof.

"She’s the sweetest pig," Claytor said. "You could tell at first she was a little nervous, a little hesitant. But like any animal, after a while I think for the most part they understand when you’re trying to help them and take care of them… Gracie likes her belly rubs. She’s just the cutest baby."

Part of the attachment is because Gracie is, for a pig, well, cute. And part is because pigs know how to turn on the charm.

"The problem is sometimes they’re so smart owners get frustrated," Brigdon said. "They know just how far they can push you to get what they want."

It seems even vets aren’t immune to the pig’s charm.

"She definitely has a personality," Brigdon said. "She’s kind of sassy for a pig, and she just scared a 124-pound Labrador out of its socks this morning. She rules the roost around here."

And that’s the story of Gracie Lou, her veterinarian and her owner, who, having finally gotten the pig she’s wanted all her life, wasn’t about to let a hurricane or dog end that relationship.

"When you meet her, she’s just so special," Odria said.

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