INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The shoppers swarmed around Dixie - petting her, asking questions as she stood quietly, taking it all in, her snout flaring as she breathed, smelling the people. How old is she? What is she? How big is she? Will she get bigger? What does she eat? Can you walk her?
Jessica Carroll fielded the questions she's answered a hundred times before as executive director and "piggy mama" of Swine Society Inc., a non-profit pet pig rescue.
Dixie, Carroll informed the crowd that gathered outside the Pet Supermarket in the Target plaza on State Road 60 over the weekend, is 3 years old, full grown at about 70 pounds, and eats just one cup of pig feed a day.
Carroll demonstrated that Dixie can be walked - she is harness trained, but given Florida's heat, she doesn't like to stay outside for long.
"She's a really good girl," Carroll said, adding that Dixie is one of eight miniature pot-bellied pigs ready to find their forever homes.
Eric and Linda Tippins - who had been talking about adopting a dog - stopped by and met Dixie and Carroll. Linda is now considering adopting a pig instead.
"I'm like that," she said of wanting to take home any creature that needs a home. "I love just about everything."
The Tippins stood and talked with Carroll for several minutes, getting information on Swine Society, pigs and the process for taking one home.
They have to check with their homeowner's association before making a final decision, Linda said.
Sheila Watts and her daughter, Maya, 3, wanted to take home Dixie immediately upon sight.
"She's my friend," Maya said while petting Dixie's course black hair.
"They're so smart and so sweet," Sheila said of pot-bellied pigs. "This is an omen."
Watts explained that they had gone to the plaza to get haircuts and just happened to see Dixie outside the pet store.
Carroll began rescuing abandoned miniature pot-bellied pigs after she realized some breeders were misinforming adopters.
She had purchased a pig - Piggles - who was supposed to top out at 30 pounds, or so the breeder told her. He's now 130 pounds and a "monster," Carroll said.
"I got suckered right into it," she said, adding she knows she's not the only one.
Though Swine Society is based in Martin County, Carroll said there is a need for awareness in Indian River County. Carroll explained that shortly after she incorporated the rescue organization, the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County requested her help taking on three more.
Carroll's vision includes providing rescue to unwanted pigs along the Treasure Coast. There are just two other such organizations in the state - in Gainesville and in Tampa.
For now, Carroll is making do with a piece of property she is renting but would like to either buy or have donated land on which the rescue could grow into as the need increases.
Donations may be sent to Swine Society Inc., P.O. Box 663, Palm City, FL 34991.