One person in Christopher Hogwood's community was able to get a check cashed on the strength of being a friend of the well-known pig. Christopher was a write-in candidate for local elective office, and his death was mourned not only by his slop-bearers but by friends around the world.
Sy Montgomery, a writer usually more concerned with insects and apes and occasional children (JOURNEY OF THE PINK DOLPHINS), has gifted those of us who did not know Christopher with the amusing, remarkable, poignant and revelatory biography of a pig who started life small and influenced the world around him in a big way.
We know long before Montgomery tells us that Christopher is her sort of therapy-pig, a portal of entry into the world of magic and faith that children inhabit. Christopher was an orphan, and she and her husband Howard, also a writer, took time out of their busy, introverted lives in a cherished farmhouse in New Hampshire to spoil the "good good pig." Even a simple thing like watching him eat became a special pastime for Sy and her neighbors: "Pigs are quite literally made for eating --- they were bred to eat and get fat fast...grunting, slurping and snorting with delight, Christopher ate with the enthusiasm of a gourmand and the grace of an athlete." Even the gourmet bistro sent him leftovers.
When two young girls, Kate and Jane, moved in near the pig parlor, they fell in love with their porcine neighbor and started bringing him food. One of them took to communing with the pig when she felt blue. Together with Sy, they initiated "Pig Spa" in place of just plain old tummy-rubbing. They untangled his tail, bathed him and polished his hooves with cocoa butter. "But the truth is, while the brushing, bathing, tail-braiding and nipple stroking delighted Christopher Hogwood, even more it restored the humans who touched him."
Christopher grew large --- topping 700 pounds from having been a runt with a tenuous hold on early life --- and smart, able to unlock complicated hasps and having a mind to roam. The local policeman took to carrying apples in his car to lure the mammoth pet back home, and the locals got used to occasional random visits from Sy's favorite foster child. Christopher inspired trust and was beloved by children, some of whom proclaimed him better than a horse. He was often filmed and became a Christmas card for Sy and Howard, his raffish photos a reward to his many sloppers, combers and therapy clients.
There is nothing about this book to slow down the enthusiastic reader or bore the knowledgeable one --- both will race through to its natural conclusion with a tear here, a giggle there, a sigh of species empathy along the way. Though I would not be able to consider having a hog instead of a dog in my house, I admire Sy for taking Christopher in, and him for being such a gracious recipient of her fond affections. It was an adoption made in hog heaven.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on April 17, 2007