March 16, 2004
Cook County-- A little girl got to buy something she always wanted- a pig. The purchase happened 14 weeks ago, and since then, the two have been almost inseparable.
Time flies when you buy and try to teach a pig manners. Last December, Shelby Griffin bought her first pig and named it Laura. "Because it's my favorite name," says Shelby standing in the back of a trailer ready to take her new best friend home.
Her favorite after-school pastime for the next 14 weeks involved teaching Laura to show her best side for their final exam; a county pig show. Laura, the pig, and Shelby, the teacher, spent almost every spare minute together and a special relationship developed.
"I love her," says Shelby, as she readied her pig ready for the 39th Annual Cook County Livestock Show and Sale Monday night. Shelby washed Laura and shampooed her for the big night of competition, complete with a nice, clean pen to relax in.
Shelby got her hair fixed in pig tails, of course. Laura took a power nap. Then, the waiting was over. Shelby dressed in a pink shirt and jeans with Laura's sparkling white skin seemed to light up the ring as soon as they walked in.
Could 40 hours of one-on-one instruction teach a pig how to behave in what amounts to a beauty pageant? Would Laura and Shelby do a better job than the other seven pigs and their handlers?
It would take more than looking good. Shelby's teaching abilities would come down to one opinion - a judge. In the ring, Shelby must attract the judge's eyes to look at Laura, and Laura must walk straight so Shelby can try and keep the judge looking at them for as long as possible. A visual cat and mouse game of sorts with a little girl, a 240 pound pig and a judge who would decide if Laura would graduate first in the showmanship class.
All the hard work came down to 15 minutes in the ring with a big audience watching everything they did. The minutes dragged on. Laura appeared temperamental. Shelby had her hands full. "It's very hard work," says Shelby while trying to persuade Laura to walk in another direction.
The judge seemed to look at other pigs besides Laura. In the end, Laura and Shelby would come in next to last, number seven out of eight.
How did Shelby feel about their performance? "Good," says the six year-old, and she was off to get ready for another event and another chance to keep the family's long tradition of excelling in livestock events.
Shelby's experiences could help her with a career decision. She thinks about becoming a teacher one day, not for pigs, but for people.
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