Managing Your Human – Pig Interactions

Concern over the possible spread of swine flu and the Minnesota State Fair led to this eye-opener from Deputy State Epidemiologist Richard Danila, quoted by MPR.

“There probably have been 50 million, 80 million visitors at county and state fairs this last few months, with many countless human-pig interactions,” Danila said. “Yet, to date, there have only been 230 human cases of this new virus. And most of those have been mild illness, most of them have been children, and most of them have been in people with prolonged swine contact.”

In all the times I have been to the State Fair and visited the animal barns, I did not once consider that I was in the process of creating a “human-pig interaction”. And engaging in “prolonged swine contact” sounds like a bad idea even when there’s not a virus in the mix. But some people need to be reminded to only engage in appropriate relationships, so here’s a dumb little poem to keep your behavior in line.

The State Fair livestock do not mind
you visiting their digs
But when you go you’ll surely find
you must not kiss the pigs.

Their bristles are so dry and tough.
Their snouts are wet with slop.
But if you kiss the pigs enough
You may not want to stop.

So what is an appropriate kind of human-pig relationship apart from the diner-dinner interaction we’re most accustomed to? A group of game developers at the Utrecht School of the Arts and Wageningen University in the Netherlands have come up with a concept called “Pig Chase”. Apparently in the Netherlands there’s a law that pig farmers have to provide the animals with some entertainment while their in their pens, fattening up. But you can only show them the movie “Babe” so many times before they’re mouthing all the lines along with the actors and rolling their eyes when the farmer says “That’ll do, pig” at the end.

They need something more interactive. Take a look.

The idea is still in development, but this would be a popular attraction at the Minnesota State Fair, don’t you think? And safer for both parties than resorting to the usual pig kissing and pork chops.

Have you ever played a game with an animal?

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95 thoughts on “Managing Your Human – Pig Interactions”

  1. I once tried to play checkers with my hound, but he drooled on the board. Then I tried to play hopscotch with him and he laid down and went to sleep on the number 7 spot. I’d try World of Warcraft with him – I think he might be good at the strategy – but I suspect he’d cheat and claim it’s not cheating, it’s his lack of opposable thumbs.

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    1. OT – Anna… the “excitement” last night was almost exactly half way between our houses. Did you hear it? I counted at least 22 cop cars going by….

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      1. Yeah – I heard the “excitement” but had no idea what it was…goodness – just catching the news now on the Strib site. I thought it was perhaps the other direction where the cops usually seem headed (to the, ahem, motels…). Yikes.

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        1. Since each siren was cutting off just after it turned onto the parkway, I knew whatever was happening was on my side of the bridge. Eeew. I went down to make sure all the doors were locked!

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        2. Robbery suspect was stopped at the pedestrian bridge. Suspect stabbed one of the cops (she’ll be OK… shoulder wound) and then the other cop shot the suspect (I believe suspect is alive as well). Many, many, many police cars showed up as back-up!

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      2. At our monthly townboard meetings we get a report of Sheriff calls in the township for the month. A while ago there was a call that had about 6 units responding. It turned out to be a stolen car and the occupants had warrants out for them. It was a quiet Sunday night, all the deputies were bored and since this was the most exciting thing happening *everyone* responded.

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    2. Anna, your dog is probably very intelligent and is above playing games with people because he is so much smarter than lowly humans.

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      1. Probably so – he has figured out how to leverage his charm and good looks into a lifestyle of eating, napping and chasing smells. All he does to earn his keep is wag his tail, look fetching (or darn silly, depending on the angle) when he asks for a belly rub, and provide reassurance for Daughter at night (he sleeps in her room). Pretty cushy gig. He’s also an expert at making sure cats get blamed for everything from stinky smells to knocked over stuff. He has even learned to be selective about his food thievery – he waits until we think he’s over this bad habit and have gotten complacent about leaving food out. Then, and only then, does he make a snatch and run with some treat from the counter or table (though he does have a tradition of trying to lick butter set out for fancier meals like Christmas Eve).

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        1. He lives off good looks and charm. He’s great at conning women into rubbing his belly. He draws attention to himself by wagging his tail. I forget what you call this dog–is it Columbo?–but his name ought to be “Gigolo.”

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  2. i did a pet sitting job for one ogf my kids teachers one time and she lived in a starter apartment with a couch a table a tv and a chair there was a bed and a dresser in the bedroom and a cat, that was it. the life was simple but along with the instructions to feed the cat were implicit instructions to play with the cat, string on the floor, toilet paper rolls on a string for punching bags string on a flyswatter for a variation string with a puffball on the end of it pulled through a cardboard tube. it was a hoot. the cat knew it was entertainment time and looked forward to it as much as the food.
    i currently have these two shepherd pups and they appreciate my efforts my getting down on the floor and giving them a place to lick but hey have the play thing worked out between the two of them and the basset is glad to be an outsider looking in. they go through the bones that my wolf dog buried like they are popcorn. they have chewed every charred piece of firewood in my firepit to a nub and have a great time doing the circle the wagons rundown with a grab the collar flying takedown out there on the maniac shepherd round and round course. they are a breath of fresh air around here and a lot of fun to watch and play with. my 19 year old wants to teach them to fetch and he has vincent the mellow male by comparison going through the paces. nala the adhd alpha pistol of the pair thinks the throwing of the ball or stick is a great idea but why in the world would you want to bring it back.
    my cats were very comfortable with the basset and the wolf and would play with their tails while they were eating. they would come a share food with zeke while he was eating but with these pups they cant get far enough away. they dont want to be in the same room. their favorite game used to be playing statue on the chair in the living room it has now been spiced up a bit by adding run from the new dogs who want to sniff us and bat us around a little bit.
    the fish have gone unchanged and while i hear there is such a thing as a playful fish i have not experienced one yet. they do recognize you and welcome you and your fish food but thats the highlight here at the jones fish tanks.
    we have recently adopted a pair of tortoise’ and they are quite charming. they play go for the lettuce and jump off the log which aint much but what do you want from a tortoise.
    pets are great and i have heard that a pis as a pet is a wonderful thing but i wont be trying that one any time soon.

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    1. Our daughter’s cat has a big collection of cat toys. It’s favorite, by far, is a laser pointer that can be used to project a bright dot which the cat chases as it is moved around on the floor and other locations. The cat never gets tired of chasing the dot.

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      1. I had a cat once that would chase the reflection off my wrist watch – same idea. I found this out by accident, west-facing window in the kitchen so the sun shone in while I cooked supper and the cat was going bonkers chasing the reflection on the walls. So after that I would use it deliberately as a toy.This was the same cat who would sit there purring in the kitchen while the mice scurried around behind him, so he normally didn’t chase much of anything.

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    2. Delightful, tim. I’m going to have to try some of those ideas with my cat – he sleeps too much.

      Like you, I won’t be trying a pis as a pet any time soon, but I would like to know who told you that it would be a good pet.

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      1. James Taylor is the famous pig pet connection but there ate many
        I wl google and post
        They are art and come when they are called etc… Not do good at sitting on your lap but they love s nice muddy spot under at tree with a bucket of slop. Gotta love that

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        1. Yes, you’re right, tim – great people have made blog typos! Some of them just strike me as too funny and I feel compelled to make a smart-aleck comment about them. It’s all in good fun.

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        1. the old typo humor huh . i get it. here is the james taylor refereence he did with rolling stone in 1981. i must hve heard him speak in concert around that time and remember the pig his brother alex kept.

          Has James ever composed any screwball songs he wouldn’t dare commit to
          vinyl?

          “Oh, sure,” he says. “I wrote a song called ‘I Guess I’ll Always,
          Always, Always, Always….’ that went on forever. It had a few chord
          changes but no word changes. And I wrote ‘Mona,’ a tune about a pig of
          mine. I was thinking about killing the pig because she was old. I had
          a new baby [Ben], and my brother Alex noted that the pig sometimes got
          out and was rambunctious. In fact, I once saw it kill another little
          pig. They can get ornery in old age. So Alex said, rightly, ‘That pig
          might kill one of your kids. You gotta be careful.’ I was afraid it
          was true, so I was considering bumping her off, and I wrote a song about
          it.”

          He carefully recites some lyrics:

          Oh, Mona, Mona
          So much of you to love
          Too Much of you to take care of
          And here I’m thinkg ’bout you lying underground
          Pushing up a pine tree in my field
          Oh, Mona, Mona, you can close your eyes
          I’ve got a twelve-guage surprise waiting for you.

          “That’s a sweet little song, huh? I occasionally play it at picnics.”

          full article is pretty good if you are a fan of james taylor like i am.
          http://www.james-taylor.com/text/rs6-81.txt

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  3. Our terrier plays hide and seek. Our daughter throws a ball, she hides while the dog chases the ball, then the dog tries to find her. It is so interesting that as the game progresses the dog never forgets where the previous hiding places were, and she checks them all out until she finds our daughter, who then throws the ball, and the game starts again. By the way, to a terrier, every aspect of life is a game.

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    1. Our dog seems to be a cross between a Schnauzer and a Poodle. This is just an educated guess, based on pictures of Schnauzer/Poodle crosses, because it is dog that came from a shelter and the people at the shelter didn’t know much about it. It is a very friendly dog that loves to play and go on walks.

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      1. Play is very important to poodles and terriers. they stand firm on protocol, and your dog’s game of tug is a prime example. Our dog knows that when husband folds the laundry there will be a game of tug with her faviorite ripped up plush toy at the same time. It is an inviolable rule.

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  4. Good morning. I have a game I play with our dog every morning. I play this game with him after letting him out of his small kennel where he spends the night to prevent him from peeing in the house, My name for this game is tug. He holds a rope toy in his mouth and I try to get it away from him. He will not let go of it. After pulling him around for a while trying to get the toy away from him, I let go. He runs around with the toy in his mouth and then lets me grab it to start another game of tug followed by two more games of tug After the last game he gets his morning meal.

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  5. I have a friend who used to do a little scuba diving when she was on vacation in the Bahamas. There was a huge grouper that lived around a wreck where the divers usually dived. This grouper developed a friendship with my friend. When she was underwater near the wreck, the grouper would seek her out and initiate some playful interactions with her. I’ve never understood why a fish would choose one diver to “like” that way. My friend is exceptionally beautiful, but I wouldn’t expect a fish–particularly a grouper!–to see that in a bunch of humans all wearing dive masks.

    I used to take walks out from the home of my Oregon brother-in-law’s home. A little pig owned by neighbors would charge out to meet me and then rush up and down along a fence in a sort of game of “tag” that clearly meant a lot to him/her. I’m sure that high-spirited pig became bacon and pork chops decades ago, but it left me forever queasy about eating pork.

    When I was a newlywed, my erstwife and I had a cat named Pippin whom I’ve described as a “wild-ass tuxedo cat, half domestic pussy and half bobcat.” Pippin had my bride absolutely terrorized with his attacks. To get in bed for the night, she had to turn off a light and walk the length of our bedroom, then climb into bed. Pippin would wait in ambush in the dark, usually attacking just when she was most vulnerable, when she was climbing into bed. She would shuffle in bare feet across the bedroom floor walking backwards, trying to spot Pippin lying in ambush in the dark, all the while saying, “He’s gonna GET me! Oh, he’s gonna GET me!” Lying in bed in the dark, trying to keep from laughing out loud, I would track all this by listening. Just as she got to the bed I would hear the sudden drum of kitty feet hitting the floor and a squawk, “Oh, he GOT ME!”

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      1. Not really. He played with me, but didn’t attack me. He knew the difference between a guy and a spooked young woman. He used to hide in a high bookshelf, occasionally shocking the bejesus out of my bride by flying out at her when she had no idea he was around. Wasn’t there a Peanuts theme like this, with Snoopy lurking and launching attacks like a puma?

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        1. Yes, I think Snoopy did something like that, too. I’m curious: was this cat your cat or her cat or both of yours cat?

          My cat does similar things – sometimes he attacks me in the dark, but mostly it’s lurking and launching onto the dog. It’s quite amusing when he attacks the dog – not so much when he attacks me.

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        2. I think Pippin began life as a feline sociopath. He didn’t belong to Kathe or to me. Instead, he allowed us to live in his world. We tried everything to tame him, for he truly terrified Kathe. Since he would go on rampages during which he might shinny up the walls, absolutely shredding the wallpaper, I taped 16 cocked mousetraps to the walls to discourage him. Nothing slowed him down, even chopping off his testicles. Then we bought two large and energetic hunting dogs, and suddenly Pippin went from being a domestic velociraptor to being everyone’s image of a lovable avuncular pussy.

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        3. Your mousetrap story reminds me of the Samoyed that I had previous to Thorin (my current). One summer, out of the blue, he started pawing the water out of his water dish. In my old house, the water trickled down under the fridge onto a light fixture in the basement ceiling, so this was very bad behavior. I tried several things to try to stop him and nothing worked. Even moving the water dish elsewhere just made a big mess in a different spot. Finally I filled the dish up full and put two mousetraps under the water line. They were far enough down that his tongue wasn’t in danger and they didn’t trip when he was drinking. But if he put his paw in the dish, they snapped. He was cured almost overnight. Left the mousetraps in the dish for a couple more weeks and then tossed them. He never did that again!

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  6. Our calico cat, Monschka, liked to play with a small furry, pink and orange owl refrigerator magnet I once had. We were puzzled at constantly finding the magnet on the kitchen floor and began to investigate. Turns out Monschka would get up on the kitchen counter from where she could reach the spot on the front of the fridge where the magnet was usually located. She’d give it a swipe with her paw and knock it to the floor. Once we discovered that, we tried putting the magnet in places where she couldn’t reach it, but that just made the game more challenging to her. She’d jump from the countertop to the top of the fridge and try to reach it from there. If the magnet was still out of reach, she’d jump off the top of the fridge and try to swipe it with her paw on the way down. Monschka was a very determined cat, and no spot on that refrigerator was ever out of reach for her.

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      1. It was. We thought we could outsmart her, but she could always figure out just where she needed to be in order to get to it. Took several pictures of her doing this.

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  7. We have a new kitten at our house (about a month now) so there is lots and lots of playing. The Irish Setter let her know immediately that there would be no fraternization between them, but the Samoyed thinks playtime is grand, although he didn’t appreciate the scratch on the nose two days ago. My older cat, Zorro, is being way more tolerant than I had expected; as long as the kitten isn’t torturing him directly, he’s calm about her presence. I can’t resist her either, although she’s not always good about teeth and claws yet.

    My experience w/ cats has been that cat toys, expensive or otherwise are useless. Right now the best toy in the house is some brown paper that came crumpled up in a box. It’s on the floor and she (& the Samoyed) play in it quite a bit. She also loves pens that have fallen to the floor as well as the big metal clip that was on some papers on the table.

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        1. Cardboard boxes are good for more than just pets. My granddaughter, age almost 15 months, was just here visiting for a few days and she loved getting into boxes or laundry baskets. She would sit in there for quite a while, playing with toys and talking her own private language…it was pretty darn cute.

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  8. I answered the question before but didn’t mention the swine problem. The teenager feels the need to pet/scratch/rub every animal she can get her hands on at the fair and we usually visit all the different animal barns, including the pigs. I realize that the amount of pig petting doesn’t really add up to “prolonged swine contact”, but we may not be touching the pigs this year. Yes, the odds are low but still…………..

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    1. I think it is good to avoid touching the pigs this year and it might be a good thing to avoid every year. I understand that all of the pigs that go to fairs are not returned to the farms to prevent spread of disease. I believe they are sold and slaughtered. Farmers who operate large hog confinement operations do not usually allow people to visit them due to concerns about the spread of disease.

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  9. Pippin would play constantly, for hours, if only I could constantly reciprocate. Unfortunately for Pippin, his choice of game can become boring quickly for me. He has about 20 latex squeaker toys with the squeakers worn or torn out of them. His favorite is a latex chicken which used to squeak, “Poor CHICKen! Poor CHICKen!!” He brings me his chicken, or other nonsqueaky toy, and we play tug, much like Jim does with his dog. Pippin includes a great deal of fierce snarling and biting at the chicken. Suddenly, he lets go and I am required to throw it as far as I can – usually from the livingroom down into the entryway, or across the entire basement. He runs after it and recaptures it, pouncing on it and biting it mercilessly. Poor chicken. Then he returns to me, fiercer than ever, growling and showing off and asking me to tug again, and again, and again, and again….. My favorite teasing game with him is tickling his toes or trying to tug on his teeth. He puts up with me. I think he even likes me.

    I think I would avoid touching the pigs. Make sure to wash your hands and your kids’ hands if you do have contact with them. It might not be prolonged contact, but it only takes one little exposure to swine flu virus to make you sick. They will most certainly have handwashing stations available, but it wouldn’t hurt to carry a little antibacterial hand cleaner, like Purell.

    I will be working in the DNR Fisheries Information Booth at the Fair from 9 – 5 on Thursday, August 30. I’m hoping to taste some of that delicious ice cream I’ve been hearing about!

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  10. Afternoon.
    When I was milking cows, we had a few barn cats… a couple were favorites including one that would sleep on a particular cows back. She would jump down from the pipeline onto the cows back; just the one cow tolerated that.
    Lots of catch, tug and fetch with dogs.
    Sometimes I would play mind games with the cows; does that count?
    Dad sold the pigs before I was old enough to help with them so I don’t remember much about them. Doesn’t mean I never kissed one, just don’t remember it.

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  11. Speaking of the State Fair, I spent the last few hours listening to a recording of Dale and Jim Ed at the Minnesota State Fair back in 2003. For a script, Dale re-wrote the lyrics to “La Vie en Rose” for Beth Gilleland to sing in a lovely French accent. Enjoy:

    Le Pronto Pup

    Bubbling in a tub of grease
    I’ll take two if you please
    I love the Pronto Pup

    Battered wiener in a bun
    So tasty and so fun
    My little Pronto Pup

    Condiments all scattered round
    Mustard drips on to the ground
    There’s relish in a jar

    Nothing more honest, more simple, more truer
    Than a hot dog that’s stabbed then fried on a skewer

    For a gourmand at the fair
    A carnivore’s éclair
    The Pronto Pup

    (spoken)
    I thought all fair food was bad
    A pronto pup I never had
    But just bite convinced me quick
    This junk tastes better on a stick

    Now I spend my sleepless nights
    Camped out in Falcon Heights
    To get the Pronto Pup

    There is nothing au Francais
    That tastes in anyway
    Like the pronto pup

    Minnesota savior faire
    Just breezing in the air
    Is sure to make you swoon

    There in the line I will stand without fare
    To pay any price for a pup that’s impaled

    For a gourmand at the fair
    A carnivore’s éclair
    The Pronto Pup

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        1. vs, let’s have it. I’m a sporadic fair goer, and there is so much there, I’m sure I’m missing out on stuff. What are the must sees?

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  12. Does anyone remember if Ann Reed sang the Betty Crocker song at the Fair? It’s to the tune of Davy Crockett and I can’t remember which venue I heard it in and Ann is no help with guessing.

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  13. Great day on the Trail – you’ve had me laughing out loud several times!

    My favorite cat toy was made by taking a pipe cleaner and “winding” it around an index finger, then slipping my finger out and voila: a little spring that bounced on the floor. Even in his older age, Charlie would bat it around till it went under the couch or the fridge… he also had a favorite super ball – no other one would do – it was dark green and I suppose went higher than the others?

    Anyone remember the “Cat Dancer” – long thin, very flexible wire with little thingy tied to each end. You hold it between your fingers and bounce it slowly up and down just our of reach, as your cat goes quietly insane…

    A friend who has Yorkies said one of them always had to “kill” dinner. When he heard her preparing the evening food bowl, he’d go and find this one chew toy (relative of a rubber chicken) and attack it, worry it “to death”. Only then would he go and eat supper.

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  14. In my far away youth, we had a lovely yellow labrador named Trinket (so named because when we got her as a tiny pup, my father said she looked like a little gold Trinket). She was so patient and so devoted to us. When we used to play our version of “house”, she was our cow and was named “Peaches”. She had a simple part to play and executed it with aplomb.

    A bit later in my youth, I had hamsters. My first was a white one named Omelet. I used to tuck in my shirt, not too tightly, and put her inside. She could run around the channel above my waistband. I thought it was great fun. I’m not sure what she thought.

    Later, I had another hamster named Hamlet (not too original that time). There was a big pile of sand left by a road crew to block off one end of the old road so people would use the new hypotenuse. We dug a bunch of tunnels in the sand and then brought Hamlet down to explore. We had a great time watching him until we must have become distracted by further tunnel building because, when it was time to go home, he was nowhere to be found. He probably enjoyed himself for a WHILE.

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  15. Son was on his third floor deck with his maniacal torty cat, when he saw, right there on the deck with them, a black and white kitten. He got the torty into the house, and grabbed the kitten, who had walked onto his deck from the next apartment deck on a one inch wide balcony railing, just to visit, I suppose. The owners didn’t know the kitten had got out on the deck, and were horrified to hear what had happend. That is a game my son doens’t want to play with a kitten ever again.

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  16. SPIDER PIG
    SPIDER PIG
    Does whatever a SPIDER PIG does
    Can he swing
    No he cant
    He’s a pig
    LOOK OOOUUUTTT!!!!
    He is a SPIDER PIG!!

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      1. The Llama
        Ogden Nash

        The one-l lama,
        He’s a priest.
        The two-l llama,
        He’s a beast.
        And I will bet
        A silk pajama
        There isn’t any
        Three-l lllama.

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