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Daisy the Pig, who encouraged children to “Pig Out on Reading” during three national tours that brought her to 48 states, died Monday at the age of 14.
“She encouraged millions of kids to read more books,” said her owner, Paul “Farmer” Minor. “She brought joy to so many lives.”
Daisy, a 115-pound potbellied pig, was featured in countless news stories across America and in many other countries.
The first pig formally invited inside the pork-happy U.S. Capitol, back in 2002, Daisy was touted on everything from Belgium television to the Montel William Show.
She held hundreds of library cards from across the United States, received a letter from former First Lady Laura Bush and was even showcased on the CD cover of “Big Fun on the Hog Farm” by River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs.
Minor said Tuesday he remembers a time in Virginia where an autistic boy who had never said a word, uttered his first sound when he met Daisy.
Mayor Art Ward said that Daisy and Minor “gave a lot of delight to a lot of people, especially kids.”
But fame never went to Daisy’s head.
How did a simple pig on Hill Street rise to such porcine heights?
“When she was just a baby, she started getting famous because of a number of fund-raisers,” Minor said, including a walk against hunger and the annual “Kiss-A-Pig” contest for the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, which hauled in more than $100,000 over the years as people paid to ensure their favorite contestant got to smooch the porker.
Her big break came 11 years ago, when a Hartford librarian invited Daisy to come and help expose children to the wonders of reading. That gig landed her a spot in a guide for reading programs “and she just took off,” Minor said.
For the first couple of years, Minor carted Daisy around to schools and libraries during his off hours from his telephone company job. Then he retired and started spending as much as nine months a year on the road with Daisy.
Ward said the reading program that Minor put together with Daisy, which included an astounding array of children’s books about pigs, gave students “an appreciation for the things that are being taught and a recognition of the value of animals in the process.”
He said it proved “an ingenious program” to amuse and educate youngsters.
Recognizing last fall that Daisy was aging, Minor looked around for a successor. Six month old Daisy 2 is already an old professional, he said, after making joint appearances with Daisy a number of times.
“He’s wonderful. He learned from Daisy,” Minor said. Plus, he said, the still-growing newcomer “is awesome with kids.”
“There’s no negatives associated with Daisy, D2, Paul or the program,” Ward said.
Minor said it broke his heart Monday when he and his wife took Daisy to the veterinarian for the last time.
“Daisy was in my lap,” he said, and died peacefully.
“It’s just so hard,” Minor added. “That pig’s been sleeping with me for 14 ½ years.”
Contact Steve Collins at email@example.com