7 min read

Guy Drops Everything To Be 'Mom' For Injured Infant Pig

"It gave me a real idea of what it’s going to be like when I have a kid."

As the founder of a farm sanctuary, Daniel McKernan is used to getting phone calls about animals who need help. But there was one phone call McKernan will never forget — it was about a tiny piglet with an unusual injury.

Last August, a woman had been visiting a farm, and she noticed a piglet who didn’t look so great.

“He wasn’t nursing from his mother at all, and his siblings decided to chew on his foot, and they actually chewed off a piece of his bone,” McKernan, who is both the founder and executive director of Barn Sanctuary, a farm animal refuge in Michigan, told The Dodo.

Man holding tiny rescue piglet
McKernan holding Little Dude at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine | Barn Sanctuary

The foot had become badly infected — so much so that the piglet’s life was in danger. So the woman convinced the farmer to give her the piglet, who was only 4 days old, and then she got in touch with McKernan.

Once McKernan had taken the piglet into his care, he wrapped up the damaged foot. But McKernan knew the baby animal needed a vet — and quickly.

Tiny piglet standing on man's lap
Barn Sanctuary

“The first thing I actually did was drive him up to Michigan State University,” McKernan said. “They wrapped it up, and gave me a week’s worth of antibiotics, and said, ‘Come back in a month.’”

But McKernan wasn’t satisfied — he felt that the piglet, whom he named Little Dude, needed more urgent care.

X-ray of piglet's damaged food
An X-ray of Little Dude's damaged foot | Barn Sanctuary

“I thought, ‘If this was my dog, I wouldn’t be doing that — he would be staying overnight at the hospital until he’s all done,’” McKernan said. “So I actually drove him from Michigan all the way up to New York to Cornell University. And the moment I took him there, he went into surgery immediately, and they removed that [broken] piece of bone, and gave me two months worth of antibiotics.”

It wasn’t just his foot that needed tending to — as a baby pig, Little Dude needed milk formula every couple hours. McKernan himself took on this responsibility.

Man bottle feeding tiny baby piglet
Barn Sanctuary

“Day and night, I was feeding him every two hours,” McKernan said. “I would sleep on the ground next to him at night, and hear his oinking and get up and give him some more formula.”

“He definitely got pretty used to me, and it felt like I was his mom,” he added. “It was great. I loved it. Plus it gave me a real idea of what it’s going to be like when I have a kid.”

Man bottle feeding tiny baby piglet
Barn Sanctuary

Little Dude also loved to snuggle, and he’d often fall asleep in McKernan’s arms.

After several vet visits and lots of loving care from McKernan, Little Dude finally got better.

“When I took him back [to Cornell University], the bone had actually grown back and it was healthy,” McKernan said. “I thought that was absolutely amazing.”

Portrait of baby piglet
Barn Sanctuary

Little Dude is not so little now — at 3 months old, he’s gained a lot of weight.

“When we got him, he weighed 2 pounds, but now he has to be 60 pounds,” McKernan said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Man petting red-haired pig
Barn Sanctuary

Yet Little Dude is still too small to interact with the other five pigs at the sanctuary, who weigh over 600 pounds each. So Little Dude is currently hanging out with the sheep and goats, although he’s struggling to make friends.

“I feel like he’s a school kid in a school yard who plays too rough, so no one wants to play with him,” McKernan said.

Piglet talking to larger pig through a fence
Barn Sanctuary

But McKernan makes sure that Little Dude is never lonely, spending as much time with the piglet as possible.

“I walk Little Dude around the farm — he’ll just follow me like a dog,” McKernan said.

Piglet and dog sniffing noses
Barn Sanctuary

“My favorite thing about him is that he doesn't skip a beat!” McKernan added. “Even though he had surgery on his leg he's still the happiest little dude I know.”

To help Little Dude to keep growing up big and strong, you can sponsor him or make a general donation to Barn Sanctuary.