In June of 2014, Hooves Marching for Mercy was mourning the tragic loss of founding pig, Darwin. He was a wonderful pig whose personality was larger than life. HMFM founder, Mandi Tidwell, was suffering from a Darwin-shaped hole in her heart when it was brought to her attention that a pig on a farm rescue website had needed a new home. Reeling from the loss of Darwin, she didn’t feel she could handle another pig at that moment in time. The pain was too real and the wounds still to fresh.
By July, however, Mandi, though still grieving, checked the farm rescue site to see if the pig was still available. She knew that she could never turn her back on an animal in need. Well, all things happen for a reason, and the pig, named Willie, was still looking for a new home. Mandi contacted Willie’s mom, who was thrilled to hear from her. Willie was only two and a half years old and had been attacked by their dog. The dog had raised Willie from a piglet, but alas, dogs and pigs don’t speak the same language. One day there was a miscommunication between the two animals and the ensuing altercation was quickly, and thankfully, halted by Willie’s mom.
Though the fight was short-lived, the emotional damage had been done. The relationship between the dog and Willie had forever been altered. Willie’s momentum, Anna, felt that Willie’s quality of life had suffered, and she wanted to send him to a place where he would truly be happy. She was thrilled with the sanctuary at Hooves Marching for Mercy and continues to sponsor him to this day.
Upon arrival, Willie was a very sweet boy who enjoyed his introduction to the farm. That all changed, however, once Anna left. He was really hurt when that happened, and even though she had surrendered him for his own safety, Willie couldn’t understand that. He still had his moments of sweetness, but he also felt periods of anger and would often try to challenge the Tidwells. Ironically, Willie’s petulant behavior was the balm that Mandi needed. Darwin was often strong-willed, and he seemed to delight in challenging authority, Willie’s emotional outbursts reminded Mandi of her beloved Darwin and allowed her to deal with her own pain over losing him.
With time, Willie came to understand that his new home was at the sanctuary. Through the Tidwell’s patient training, and a fountain of love, Willie finally settled down and became the loving boy that they knew him to be. Anna still supports Willie and comes to visit whenever she’s able. Meanwhile, due to Willie’s natural affection and willingness to show-off, he became the piggy ambassador for Hooves Marching for Mercy. Anyone looking for Willie is sure to find him at official HMFM events where he will proudly show everybody how sweet and intelligent pigs can be.
Unfortunately, a couple of years after Willie joined the sanctuary, Mandi Tidwell became sick. Willie had a strong bond with Mandi, and he knew when she was feeling well and when she was ill, over-tired, or pushing her limits. Mandi realized quite quickly that Willie had a natural knack as a service animal, and he went through the necessary training to do the job. Between his dual job as ambassador and service animal, Willie has had the good fortune to travel to many places and meet some wonderful people. In 2017, Willie even had the opportunity to meet with former president George H.W. and First-lady Barbara Bush.
When he’s not working, Willie enjoys laying in the sun, rooting, and playing in the mud. Though Willie has many days off, he apparently has never gotten that memo. He is always among the first to greet visitors at the gate; showing off his mohawk and getting in position for a belly rub. He truly is a remarkable pig.