“My name somehow got out, and next thing I know, I have 20 pigs out there,” chuckles Debbie Bowers, of Angel Eyes Farm, a small rescue operation for pets that’s been operating for about four years. At the moment, Angel Eyes has 20 pigs, two Belgian horses, a mini donkey, three goats, 11 turkeys, three peacocks, 11 guinea hens, four ducks and about 100 chickens and roosters combined. Plus three dogs and two cats.
But before all these furry and feathery creatures came along, there was Simon, a pot-bellied house pig. “We would take him for a walk, and people were so freaked out by the idea of that! People think they’re dirty, but our pigs are cleaner than our dogs,” says Bowers.
Bowers’ son was diagnosed with leukemia, and the doctors recommended that the pig be kept out of the house, despite veterinarians’ assurances that the pigs were clean. So, they bought Simon a little Amish house for the backyard and the pig spent the summer there.
Unfortunately, Bowers’ son succumbed to his illness. “In order to not go crazy, I started rescuing animals,” she says.
First, the family adopted a donkey, then a Belgian horse and another pig to keep Simon company.
“The first pig we rescued was from Beaver Falls, and he was someone’s pet. He had been sold as a ‘teacup pig,’ and they charge like $2,000 for them,” says Bowers. “But they don’t exist! There’s no such thing. If you feed a pig, it’s going to get big.”
Rather than try to rehome him, the family set him loose. He was running around for four months, being chased by dogs and animal control. Eventually the escaped pig started showing up under the porch of Bowers’ friend in Beaver Falls, who fed him and gave him his name, Winston.
Eventually, Winston trusted Bowers enough to be transported to her farm, where he stayed in a barn stall for three weeks. Now, he’s so comfortable at Angel Eyes that Bowers can take him with her into the yard and he stays with her.
Once the Bowers family made a Facebook page for their farm, people began reaching out. The farm has since acquired pigs from Ohio and other parts of Pennsylvania. The pigs are named Simon, Winston, Mamma, Elliot (nicknamed “Chuck”), Rodney, Dixie, Lilly, Daisy, Pepper, Emerald, Ruby, Gavin, MJ, Nelson, Squeak, Homer and Moe.
The Bowers family has all the pigs spayed and neutered before they are adopted out, and they make sure the owners’ homes are properly zoned, even doing a site inspection to make sure the pig is going to a good home.
“If there’s a right connection between an animal and person, it’s so good. But I cry every time an animal leaves here, and it’s not just because I’m sad because I’m attached. It’s because I’m happy that they get a good home,” says Bowers.
“Any animal that comes here, we take in knowing they may live here forever,” adds Bowers.
It is not cheap to run an animal sanctuary and rescue, and the Bowers family does it all themselves. They only charge an adoption fee of $150 for the pigs (just enough to cover the neuter), and the Bowers family will trim the pigs’ hooves and tusks for the rest of their lives. “Day and night, anyone can call me if they have questions. The pig comes with me!” assures Bowers.
Additionally, Angel Eyes runs a program called Chickens to the Rescue, in which people who donate money to Angel Eyes are given a dozen eggs as thanks.
“Please support small rescues,” encourages Bowers. “Even if it’s not our rescue. The food, vet care and housing is taken care of by us.”