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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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I Love Lucy

Lucy Mae is three-and-a-half years old and locally famous; nearly every time she steps out, someone takes her picture and posts a sighting on social media. She’s often spotted around town, walking in her pink harness or cruising in her custom-made stroller.

That’s because the Navy Yard resident is a 140-pound miniature pot-bellied pig.

“Met and got to feed a pig today. She was just chillin’ in Navy Yard,” reads one Twitter post, with video of Lucy. “I was not aware pigs were allowed to live in DC.”

“I lived in Navy Yard for years,” one man wrote in reply to a photo of Lucy posted to Twitter. “My kids claimed to have seen Lucy, but I thought she was an urban legend.”

Dogs are ubiquitous in many District neighborhoods, where a stroller or a leash are just about a requirement for residency. But since 2020, Navy Yard has increasingly become associated with a cute little pig who has got both.

Lucy is loved by children, residents and tourists. She is also loved by Dave and Lindsay, Lucy’s owners. To them, she is incredibly important.

Celebrity Status
Last August, Dave and Lindsay said “I do” at District Winery. In the wedding party was Lucy Mae, who was the “Ring Boar.”

“She was the star of the show,” Lindsay said, high praise from the bride.

Lucy Mae on the farm.

Both know that “it’s always about Lucy.” When everyone was staying indoors at the beginning of the pandemic, a couple of friends told them that people were live sharing the family’s location on social media, tracking them from window to window so that people could spot Lucy as she walked by.

“That was a little weird,” Lindsay said. “So, I was like, “why don’t we start an Instagram [@lucy_the_dc_pig] so people can keep up with her that way rather than tracking our movement through Navy Yard?”

That fame hit a new high last August when CNN producer Donald “DJ” Judd tweeted a photo of Lindsay and Lucy out for a walk. “Yes, that was nuts,” Lindsay laughs, remembering. “I was just trying to get everything together for the wedding when that was taken.”

A Perceptive Pig
Dave adopted Lucy Mae as a support animal when he retired after 24 years as a Navy Pilot. DC Code restricts animal ownership in the District to domestic cats and dogs, small rodents, birds, turtles and fish; residents must apply for exceptions. “We had to put up a big fight for her with the city,” Lindsay said. Lucy is legal; she has special permission from the DC government.

Lucy is incredibly perceptive, Lindsay said. When either of them is having a stressful day, Lucy knows and goes to lie on their feet. She will respond to angry voices on calls, or even in movies. She is eager to make sure Lindsay and Dave are both calm and comforted, Lindsay said. And Lucy is very loving–when she wants to be.

“Lucy is incredibly intelligent,” Lindsay said. “We like to compare her to being a very sassy toddler mixed with an independent cat who likes to be loved on when she wants it.”

A Miniature Pig
People are often surprised that at 140 pounds, Lucy is a ‘miniature’ pig. A regular adult farm pig can weigh around 1,000 pounds. But a miniature potbellied pig usually tops out between 100 and 200 pounds. “Lucy looks big for what people imagine a mini pig to be,” Lindsay says, “but she’s about middle of the road.” She could live to be 18 to 22 years old, if they can keep her healthy; that means minding her weight.

Lucy’s days are organized around meals. Lucy loves anything with a “really good wet crunch”, like romaine lettuce, carrots, squash. A summertime treat is frozen watermelon. “They have really, really powerful jaws,” her humans say, “so anything that they can really crunch into, they really love.” She will eat anything put in front of her except brussels sprouts and cabbage.

A pat from Dad.

She spends most of her time in Navy Yard because she knows the area and its smells. And people know her. That stroller Lindsay was pushing her in? They are in the fifth iteration, because it needs to stand up to a 140 lb pig as well as DC sidewalks and pavement. The stroller isn’t because Lucy is slow –she can mosey rather well when she wants, Lindsay says —but because she has no traction on hardwood, marble or tile which covers much of their apartment, building and some of the neighborhood.

Lindsay and Dave set up a ‘pig highway” in their apartment, laying out runners from Lucy’s favorite corner to the kitchen. When it’s breakfast or dinner time, “she’ll come running and she’ll cut the corners, but her little hoofs will never touch the hardwood,” Lindsay says.

Her best friend is a pit bull named Maverick; they like to chase each other and nap together. There are other pigs in the region, but none that Lindsay and David know of in the District. She has lots of friends at her summer camp, Ross Mill Farms, near Philadelphia, where 100-150 domesticated pigs hang out in the woods.

Lindsay says that Lucy Mae has opened a lot of doors for the couple, not least that Lindsay herself has gotten much better at speaking with strangers. But she wants to be clear: pigs are incredibly difficult animals to have if you’re not prepared for it.

So-called mini or ‘teacup’ pigs have experienced a surge in popularity over the past few years, as celebrities including Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson and singer Ariana Grande are photographed carrying theirs. But “mini” is a catch-all term that only means these pigs are smaller than the farm breed; many people are unable to care for them once they realize the animals will grow to be more than 100 pounds. According to National Geographic, “Most of these animals end up in overburdened shelters or are euthanized once they outgrow their suburban habitats.”

But the biggest challenge to having a pig is people, Lindsay said. Mostly, new people are great, but at times it is challenging when people see Lucy and get excited. It is especially true of small children; Lindsay braces herself when they encounter a birthday party in a park.

That’s because while pigs have a great sense of hearing and of smell, they don’t have the best eyesight. When people run at her, Lucy only sees them at the very last second. That means she can be severely startled, in turn raising a ruckus that sometimes scares the human right back.

Lucy the Ring Boar

But Lucy loves people, and they love her. To help safely socialize Lucy, Lindsay and David let people feed her cheerios. Strangers are surprised when Lucy sucks them off their hands like a little vacuum, rather than licking. She will also eat anything from firework parts to chicken bones, so she must be closely watched.

They have loved living in Navy Yard and seeing how much Lucy makes people smile. “She loves to ham it up when she’s around meeting people, because she knows she’s going to get treats out of it,” Lindsay says. “She’ll act like everyone’s best friend.”

But the clock is running out on Lucy-spotting. In a year, Lindsay and Dave will move to the Pacific Northwest, where Lucy will have woods, water and space to run around in. There are also a lot of other pigs living nearby. “We’re sad to leave, but we’re excited to bring her there,” said Lindsay.

Lindsay and Dave dote on Lucy, but so does much of the neighborhood. So, in the meantime Lucy will continue to revel in her status as a local celebrity, bringing happiness to new friends and comfort and stability to those who love and need her the most. Maybe you, too, will spot a very good girl in Navy Yard soon!

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