SUMTERVILLE, Fla. (AP) — In many circumstances, a piglet without the use of its hind legs would be put down. But Chris P. Bacon's unusual condition has made him an international star and an inspiration to those with disabilities.
When Chris was born in January, a woman brought him into Dr. Len Lucero's veterinary office in central Florida. The piglet's two back legs were deformed because of a congenital defect that left the joints fused together. Lucero said the woman thought the animal would need to be euthanized.
But Lucero watched as the baby potbellied pig crawled out of the carrier.
"His front legs were down on the ground, his back legs were up in the air, and he was balancing and walking forward," said Lucero. "He was full of life. So I thought, there was no way I could put this thing down, I'd rather give him a fighting chance, at least if not at my home, I would find someplace for him."
Lucero, who lives on a farm in central Florida, brought the little pig home to his wife, two kids and menagerie of animals. The animal's official name became "Chris P. Bacon," but informally, they called him "Piggy." Lucero's kids loved him and snapped photos. The family dog, a black and white Australian Shepherd, became his protector.
The doctor wondered how he could help the pig move easier and considered a set of wheels attached to a harness, similar to what some lame dogs use.
His son had a set of K'nex toys — with wheels and other pieces that snap together — and Lucero built a small cart and cobbled together a tiny harness. At first, the pig didn't like the harness, but then the tiny animal got the hang of the contraption.
A couple of weeks later, Lucero was at a veterinary conference and met with a representative from handicappedpets.com, a Nashua, N.H.-based company that builds pet wheelchairs, harnesses and carts. That company built a special wheelchair for Chris and created a Facebook page for the pig.
Lucero videotaped one of Chris' first jaunts and put the video on YouTube, and a star was born.
That video, dubbed "Pig in a Wheelchair," has gotten 1.2 million hits. His Facebook page has 56,000 "likes."
Chris now has his own webpage, Twitter account, Pinterest site — and as of last week, a book deal.
Hay House, a publishing house that specializes in self-help and motivational media, has signed Lucero to write three books about the adventures of Chris, the disabled pig.
The first book, which is geared to children aged 4 to 10, will be out in the fall.
Chris, now 22 pounds and using a dog wheelchair, is seemingly oblivious to his new-found fame. He's been on the "Today" show and met Anderson Cooper.
Now nearly 6 months old, the pig knows his name, comes when called and is housetrained. Lucero and his family take him outside several times a day, where he uses his wheels. Inside, Chris has a pen with plush beds where he can scoot around or nap in air-conditioned comfort. During a recent interview, he scarfed down his favorite foods: grapes and Cheerios.
It's possible that people are drawn to the piglet's tiny, cute body, or to his soft "uff, uff, uff" noises as he pulls himself around with his front hooves.
But Lucero noticed something else: People were inspired by the little pig who wanted to walk and play. One commenter said her boyfriend had used a motorized wheelchair since 1988, telling Chris: "Keep chugging little man....keep chugging."
Lucero and Chris now appear at fundraisers for disabled children, and Lucero is looking to start a foundation that helps people with disabilities.
"I've actually gotten a lot of people on our Facebook site, people with disabilities, and people who have got recent disabilities. And they said that this little guy right here has inspired them to give it their all," Lucero said. "And that gives me the tingles in my arms every time I read something like that."
Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush