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A pampered posh pig: nannies, massages, own rooms
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Li Yuan never thought a pig could bring so much happiness - a laid-back sort that enjoys music, provides company on neighborhood strolls and makes friends easily.

Two years ago, Li bought the piglet from a market in Beijing. The male pig, a Bama miniature, had a short and round body.

Such piglets typically weigh 15 or 20 kg, or 33 to 44 pounds.

It was the pig's certain charm that sealed the sale.

Laifu greets a neighbor during the pig's daily stroll. [China Daily] 

"I found him looking like a lovely baby at my first glance," said Li, patting the pig's now-huge belly. "Oh, my boy, you are destined to meet me."

Told that raising a pig when she was in her 50s could bring good fortune, Li cherished the pig so much she named him Laifu (or "fortune comes").

"Indeed, he brings me good business and a peaceful soul," said Li, who is a merchant.

As a jade collector, Li knows that pigs symbolize fortune, and hence why so many Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220) royal families were buried with jade pigs in their coffins.

"Laifu comes not by accident," Li said, explaining that a fold of skin on his head resembling yuan bao, or ancient money, appeared four months after his arrival, to the delight of Li, who saw it as a good sign.

Being a porcine embodiment of prosperity has its rewards: attention, and lots of food.

Hardly miniature now, the pampered pig is overweight, big-time, at about 150 kg.

Strolling around Rome Garden, a high-end residential area in northern Beijing, Laifu attracts crowds.

Li spends $800 a month to rent several basement rooms so that Laifu can walk freely. Moreover, Li hired two nannies, who, among other things, massage Laifu daily.

In fact, Li raises Laifu as if he were human, treating him to meals of milk pills, potato chips, carrots, bamboo shoots, hawthorn, corn, rice and various fruits. He also takes vitamins every day.

One observer, though, was not impressed with Laifu's life as a gourmand.

"He is sure to be getting too much nutrition," said Wang Liansheng, a China Agriculture University professor who suggested that Li feed Laifu a more nutritional (and normal) diet of bran. "In that way, he could live as long as 20 years."

Now, a friend of Li who operates a rice company in Northeast China, mails bran to Li every month.

Despite his heft, the 2-year-old pig is not lazy. He has an exercise regimen: Every day at 5 am he wakes up and waits for Li at the elevator.

Li and Laifu return around 8 am. Laifu has breakfast, sleeps awhile, then gets up to bask in the sunshine and later has lunch.

After a nap, he "does his duty" in a designated spot in the community garden and plays with other pets. Supper and bath are at 7 pm, and lights-out is at 9 pm.

Laifu likes listening to music, particularly the songs of Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou (a favorite being Qinghuaci, or Blue and White Porcelain), said Li.

Laifu's nanny Wang Ayi described his music appreciation: "Every time I put the recorder under his head as he lies down, he keeps silent and indulges himself in the music by swaying his tail."

Laifu's gentle demeanor has won over many. And, he is a gentleman: He gives way to residents, especially children, when he is out and about.

A retired psychology professor surnamed Jiang from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who often visits Li and Laifu, sees benefits in the off-beat arrangement. "As society is so competitive, more and more people tend to seek comfort by keeping a pet," Jiang said.

(China Daily August 1, 2009)

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