On his recent birthday, North Salem resident Kooney Kooney celebrated the way that many locals might—a day of work with a break for lunch at Hayfield’s, followed by a night at home with family and his favorite ice cream.
Kooney, however, is a pig.
In the year since he was born, Kooney has forged a life marked by one certainty: he will not live as other pigs do. At just six weeks of age, Kooney lost his mother. Piglets cannot survive without a maternal figure to care for them. The farmers responsible for
Kooney took him under their care and quickly grew attached to him. They couldn’t bring themselves to send Kooney to the same fate as the other pigs on their production farm. However, with a busy farm to run, they couldn’t continue to raise Kooney.
In stepped North Salem resident Chris Evers, Founder and Director of Animal Embassy, which is dedicated to exotic animal rescue and environmental education. Evers has over 50 animals under his care and couldn’t turn away one more in need of rescue.
So began the start of Kooney’s life as an animal ambassador. Together, Evers and Kooney travel around New York and Connecticut conducting educational programs for special needs children. Kooney helps the kids they meet understand food production and supply in a more tangible way than a traditional lecture. “If I’m talking about food production and I don’t have a pig with me, that’s not very exciting,” said Evers. “Kooney helps me have that discussion about understanding and knowing where your food comes from. Whether it’s the meat you eat or the vegetables you eat, it’s important that we know where our food is sourced from.”
For Kooney himself, food is a top priority. He eats constantly. Like many parents, Evers never leaves the house without several snacks on hand, as Kooney grazes throughout the day. At his birthday lunch at Hayfield’s, Kooney could be found enjoying an ear of corn, raspberries, and salad greens, among other things.
At 1 year of age, Kooney weighs 120 pounds, with plenty more growing still to do. As a male kunekune pig, a small breed of domestic pig from New Zealand, Kooney can reach up to 250 pounds. Female kunekunes can reach around 150 pounds.
Kooney’s diet includes a tremendous amount of organic meat and produce, much of which is donated by Whole Foods. Kooney and Evers regularly venture to the company distribution site in Cheshire, Connecticut to pick up their haul, a treat for both Kooney and the Whole Foods employees. “He trots out and people pour out of the building,” Evers said.
Kooney puts smiles on faces everywhere he goes. “The joy that he has given to so many people is heartwarming. It’s really fun to see how loved he is,” said Evers. “He’s helped me to help people love life.”
When Kooney and Evers are not working, they like to recharge in nature in and around North Salem. The pair can often be seen exploring the Titicus River or the hay field on Keeler Lane. “Ward Pound Ridge is absolutely one of our favorite places to go,” Evers said.
Despite how much joy Kooney brings to Evers and to everyone he comes in contact with, Evers is careful to point out how much of a responsibility it is to own a pig, or any pet. “People see him, and they think they want one, but that’s not something I’m promoting,” he said, citing the amount of time and training required to adequately care for Kooney and the other animals that are part of Animal Embassy. “Kooney is a huge responsibility. You need to be prepared for any life you bring into your life.”