When Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter agreed to adopt a friend's recently purchased "minipig," they brought the tiny animal into the Toronto area home they shared with two dogs.
They named her Esther and cared for her as she grew. And grew. Into a 650-pound hog.
But Esther had even more surprises in store for them.
The pig was curious, playful and intelligent — not so unlike their canine companions, who often cuddled up to Esther.
Esther was also a bit of a troublemaker. She could turn door handles, open cabinets and even crack open the freezer, so Jenkins and Walter eventually had to "pig-proof" their house.
When she wasn’t initiating games of tag or playing tug-of-war, Esther would wander through the house looking for a dog or a human to snuggle with. Her size doesn't prevent her from crawling onto the couch or climbing into bed.
Esther won over both men — and the dogs — and became a permanent addition to the family. When Jenkins and Walter learned that she'd been born on a commercial farm to be raised for meat, they were shocked.
Tossed aside because she was a "runt," Esther just barely escaped a fate that would've landed her on a dinner plate.
The emotional connection they felt with Esther led Jenkins and Walter to make another connection: The animals they ate as food were no different from the animals they loved as pets.
It didn't take long for both men to become vegans.
"I wish people would be more aware of how amazingly smart and emotional pigs are," Jenkins told PETA. "When given the chance to be loved and to be themselves, pigs are social, friendly, loving and sensitive animals."
The men started a Facebook page for their portly pet, dubbing her "Esther the Wonder Pig," in hopes of showing other people that animals are loving and intelligent creatures that value their lives. Esther who now lives with her family in Campbellville, Ontario, also stars in a New York Times bestseller.
"We want people to make the connection between Esther and the millions of pigs exactly like her who weren't so lucky," Jenkins said. "To show that given the chance, these animals grow to become the most amazing and compassionate animals you'll ever meet. I look into her eyes, and I see someone looking straight back. Someone who knows and loves me just as we do her."
Recently, Esther took ill and was rushed to the hospital after what appeared to be a seizure. A team of veterinary specialists is trying to determine whether the social media star has a slipped disc or pinched nerve, or possibly a more serious neurological issue. Because Esther may need to travel to the U.S. for testing, an online petition is asking Canadian officials to waive a three-week quarantine on her return.
Jenkins and Walters continue to update Esther's followers about her health and promise to keep them informed as decisions are made about her care. Esther seems to be taking things in stride.
"It was a pretty uneventful night here, aside from somebody's constant shuffling forward to steal the pillow."
Editor's note: This file has been updated since it was originally published in January 2014.