Best Friends intern is a pig whisperer

Best Friends intern has a very special knack for helping an extremely shy pig with socialization. Danielle Grimm is a pig whisperer.
By David Dickson

If you can type 100 words per minute without errors, you’d be crazy not to slap that skill somewhere in bold type on your resume. But what about a knack for helping shy animals feel safe and comfortable, especially if nobody else can do so? If that’s a marketable talent (and it ought to be, dagnabbit), Danielle Grimm of Florida should be set for life.

Future dog trainer

Danielle is an intern at Best Friends, and has truly enjoyed her time at the sanctuary so far. She has plans to work as a dog trainer back home, and is in fact already well on that road. Volunteering at shelters and rescues back in Florida, Danielle is the girl who can reach the shy dogs who won’t get near any other person. Admittedly, Danielle says she doesn’t know how the whole trick works. She more or less hangs out near the animals and they do the rest. Hmm. The Force must be strong with this one. …

Helping a shy pig: The pig whisperer

At Best Friends, Danielle has had similar reactions from the bashful dogs at Dogtown. But perhaps nowhere has her skill with shy animals shone brighter than with a certain fearful pig. Jezebelle the pig is not an average shy animal. She is afraid of everybody. So afraid, in fact, that visitors are not normally sent her way. The sign, "Extremely shy pig," hanging on her fence helps to keep her from too many scary meet and greets at once.

As an intern, Danielle volunteers in a variety of places around the sanctuary. One day she was down at pigs near Jezebelle’s play area and the gate was open. To be clear, Danielle had no intention of trying to visit with Jezebelle. But Jezebelle must have sensed something special about her, because she trotted right over. Within no time, they were connecting. Danielle was petting her and everything. Needless to say, the pig folks were floored. She doesn’t do this with anyone. Ever.

What’s Danielle’s secret? Again, nothing. At least nothing she can teach others easily. Some people are born with the ability to play music without ever learning how. Some have such an amazing vertical leap that the NBA can’t sign them on fast enough. And for Danielle, she just sort of sits there and the shy animals flock to her. That’s all there is to it. She's undoubtedly the pig whisperer.

With Jezebelle, so strong was this new friendship that she didn’t even want to eat her lunch on the day she met Danielle. The caregivers had to literally bring the bowl over to where Danielle was sitting so that Jezebelle could have her cake and eat it too. This, from the pig who normally avoids people at all costs!

Invaluable socialization for pig

Not surprisingly, the pig staffers are jumping all over this. When other visitors and volunteers come by to help out with the pigs, they’re sent to do the typical volunteer work: walking and feeding pigs, helping with cleanup, socializing with a variety of pigs, that sort of thing. But Danielle’s job? Hanging out with Jezebelle! Sitting down and letting that bashful girl realize people can be trusted after all. Now that’s a job worth writing home about. Congrats to both.

Photo by Sarah Ause

This is just one example of the wonderful things that can occur during an internship at the sanctuary. Learn more about the six-week Best Friends internship program.