ARLINGTON — A wanted fugitive is finally behind bars after nearly a week on the run.
An eight-week old piglet ran hog-wild in Arlington after escaping a petting zoo. Locals dubbed the little oinker Freedom Pig.
Some residents formed search parties. Others posted sightings to social media. A $300 reward was offered, but no one could claim it. Freedom Pig was just too fast.
The Notorious P.I.G.’s luck finally ran out when Arlington resident Jamie Stupey encountered the wayward porker Friday morning. She spotted Freedom Pig as she pulled into her driveway.
“You don’t expect to see a pig in your driveway, even if you know it’s out there somewhere,” she said.
Freedom Pig fled to a nearby field, and Stupey gave chase. She encountered the pig again in the middle of Highland Drive. Then Stupey and nearby homeowners corralled the pig into a backyard and caught it. Freedom Pig was free no more.
“It was just happenstance. We just got lucky,” Stupey said. She described the famous swine as “adorable” and tinier than imagined.
“Much smaller than the ‘Freedom pig’ persona,” Stupey said. She wouldn’t mind making the chase an annual affair.
“Only in Arlington do we chase pigs,” Stupey said.
This all began June 11 during Arlington’s Show & Shine Car Show. Shane Henderson, owner of the Arlington Pickers antique store, set up a piggy petting station on the sidewalk in front of his shop.
Henderson said he has raised pigs for 40 years and liked to set up the pig petting zoo for city events. He rented this litter from “another pig colleague.”
As Henderson was transferring one of the pigs from its cage to the pen, “it slipped out of my fingers” and ran off. He didn’t have time to grab it and assumed it would wander back to the herd. But he was wrong.
The young pig wasn’t accustomed to people, Henderson said. And not even the ringing of a food bucket could draw it back in. He needed help.
So Henderson put out a cash reward for anyone who caught the pig. Word spread on Facebook and more than a dozen local businesses decided to pitch in for the reward.
They offered pig-shaped cookies, maple-bacon-scented candles, pig decals and more. Anything from massages to diesel exhaust fluid. One farm pitched in a dozen eggs. Another offered a 10-pound bag of frozen blueberries.
“The reward element snowballed in itself, and a lot of businesses just got on board,” said city spokesperson Mandy Kruger.
The city started compiling all the rewards in a Facebook post and attached a mockup wanted poster of the pig. The post got shared close to 400 times.
Then Freedom Pig got its own merch. Gina Aquino of Stanwood, owner of Crafthouse Hats, designed a snapback hat commemorating the town’s celebrity. The cap depicts a capped pig with the words, “I Caught The Freedom Pig.” It was added to the reward list.
“It’s great and entertaining,” Aquino said of the wild pig chase, “and it’s been fun to watch the stories.”
Arlington was abuzz with talk of the runaway pig. A Facebook group named “Arlington’s Freedom Pig 2022” was created, which had close to 450 members as of noon Friday. People posted Freedom Pig sightings and shared tips on how to catch the runway swine.
It took six days and a team effort to bring in Freedom Pig . For their valiant efforts, a ceremony was held Friday afternoon in honor of pig-catchers Stupey, Cordelia Packard, Zach Abrahamson and Stephanie Abrahamson.
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert presented the four with their rewards, including $200 from pig-wrangler Henderson and $100 from Griffin Landscaping. The presentation was held right where the pig’s journey began: in front of Arlington Pickers.
Henderson initially planned to return Freedom Pig to its owner, but its future for now is uncertain. There’s talk of having the pig become the town’s mascot and making appearances in city parades (on a leash, of course). Aquino said she wants Freedom Pig to live out its days in peace.
“I hope it’s safe and lives a long and happy life and doesn’t turn into bacon,” she said.
Henderson said he’s enjoyed how the pig hunt brought the whole community together.
“I did not expect this much publicity. I may want to do this again next year,” he joked.
It is unknown if Freedom Pig had anything to say for itself at the time of capture. But one Herald reporter speculates that if it did, it probably would have been something along the lines of “oink, oink.”
Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; email@example.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.
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