The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood

The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood

by Sy Montgomery


$15.30 $17.00 Save 10% Current price is $15.3, Original price is $17. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, February 20

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345496096
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/17/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 75,131
Product dimensions: 5.14(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.58(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, author, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who writes for children as well as adults. Among her award-winning books are Journey of the Pink Dolphins, Spell of the Tiger, and Search for the Golden Moon Bear. She has made four trips to Peru and Brazil to study the pink dolphins of the Amazon; and on other expeditions, she was chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire; bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica; undressed by an orangutan in Borneo; and hunted by a tiger in India. She also worked in a pit crawling with eighteen thousand snakes in Manitoba; handled a wild tarantula in French Guiana; and swam with piranhas, electric eels, and dolphins in the Amazon. She lives in New Hampshire.


Hancock, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:

February 7, 1958

Place of Birth:

Frankfurt, Germany


Syracuse University: B.A., Newhouse School of Public Communications, 1979; B.A., College of Arts and Sciences, 1979

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Christopher Hogwood came home on my lap in a shoe box.

On a rain-drenched April evening, so cold the frogs were silent, so gray we could hardly see our barn, my husband drove our rusting Subaru over mud roads sodden with melted snow. Pig manure caked on our boots. The smell of a sick animal hung heavy in our clothes.

It did not seem an auspicious time to make the life- changing choice of adopting a pig.

That whole spring, in fact, had been terrible. My father, an Army general, a hero I so adored that I had confessed in Sunday school that I loved him more than Jesus, was dying painfully, gruesomely of lung cancer. He had survived the Bataan Death March. He had survived three years of Japanese prison camps. In the last months of my father’s life, my glamorous, slender mother—still as crazy about him as the day they’d met forty years before—resisted getting a chairlift, a wheelchair, a hospice nurse. She believed he could survive anything. But he could not survive this.

The only child, I had flown back and forth from New Hampshire to Virginia to be with my parents whenever I could. I would return to New Hampshire from these wrenching trips to try to finish my first book, a tribute to my heroines, primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. The research had been challenging: I had been charged by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire, stood up by Jane Goodall in Tanzania, undressed by an orangutan in Borneo, and accosted for money by a gun-toting guard ten thousand feet up the side of a volcano in Rwanda. Now I was on a tight deadline, and the words wouldn’t come.

My husband, who writes on American history and preservation, was in the heat of writing his second book. In the Memory House is about time and change in New England, set largely in our corner of the world. But it looked like it might not stay ours for long. For the past three years, ever since our marriage, we had lived, first as renters and then as caretakers, in an idyllic, 110-year-old white clapboard farmhouse on eight acres in southern New Hampshire, near mountains that Thoreau had climbed. Ours was the newest house in our small neighborhood. Though our neighbors owned the two- hundred-year-old “antiques” that real estate agents praised, this place had everything I’d ever wanted: a fenced pasture, a wooded brook, a three-level barn, and forty-year-old lilacs framing the front door. But it was about to be sold out from under us. Our landlords, writer-artist friends our age whose parents had bankrolled the house, had moved to Paris and didn’t plan to come back. We were desperate to buy the place. But because we were both freelance writers, our income was deemed too erratic to merit the mortgage.

It seemed I was about to lose my father, my book, and my home.

But for Christopher Hogwood, the spring had been more terrible yet.

He had been born in mid-February, on a farm owned by George and Mary Iselin, about a thirty-five-minute drive from our house. We knew George and Mary by way of my best friend, Gretchen Vogel. Gretchen knew we had a lot in common. “You’ll love them,” Gretchen had assured me. “They have pigs!”

In fact, George had been raising pigs longer than Mary had known him. “If you’re a farmer or a hippie,” George had reasoned, “you can make money raising pigs.” George and Mary were quintessential hippie farmers: born, as we were, in the 1950s, they lived the ideals of the late ’60s and early ’70s—peace, joy, and love—and, both blessed with radiant blue eyes, blond hair, and good looks, always looked like they had just woken up refreshed from sleeping in a pile of leaves somewhere, perhaps with elves in attendance. They were dedicated back-to-the-landers who lived out of their garden and made their own mayonnaise out of eggs from their free-range hens. They were idealistic, but resourceful, too: it did not escape them that there are vast quantities of free pig food out there, from bakeries, school cafeterias, grocery stores, and factory outlets. George and Mary would get a call to come pick up forty pounds of potato chips or a truckload of Twinkies. To their dismay, they discovered their kids, raised on homemade, organic meals, would sometimes sneak down to the barn at 4 a.m. and eat the junk food they got for the pigs. (“We found out because in the morning we’d find these chocolate rings around their mouths,” Mary told me.)

On their shaggy, overgrown 165 acres, they cut their own firewood, hayed the fields, and raised not only pigs but draft horses, rabbits, ducks, chickens, goats, sheep, and children. But the pigs, I suspect, were George’s favorites. And they were mine, too.

We visited them every spring. We didn’t get to see George and Mary often—our schedules and lives were so different—but the baby pigs ensured we never lost touch. The last time we’d visited was the previous March, at the close of sugaring season, when George was out boiling sap from their sugar maples. March in New Hampshire is the dawn of mud season, and the place looked particularly disheveled. Rusting farm machinery sat stalled, in various states of repair and disrepair, among the mud and wire fencing and melting snow. Colorful, fraying laundry was strung across the front porch like Tibetan prayer flags. Inside the house, an old cottage in desperate need of paint, the floors were coming up and the ceilings were coming down. Late that morning, in a kitchen steamy from the kettle boiling on the woodstove, we found a seemingly uncountable number of small children in flannel pajamas—their three kids plus a number of cousins and visiting friends—sprawled across plates of unfinished pancakes or crawling stickily across the floor. The sink was piled with dirty dishes. As Mary reached for a mug from the pile, she mentioned everyone was just getting over the flu. Would we like a cup of tea?

No thanks, Howard and I answered hastily—but we would like to see the pigs again.

The barn was not Norman Rockwell. It was more like Norman Rockwell meets Edward Hopper. The siding was ancient, the sills rotting, the interior cavernous and furry with cobwebs. We loved it. We would peer over the tall stall doors, our eyes adjusting to the gloom, and find the stalls with piglets in residence. Once we had located a family, we would climb in and play with them.

On some farms, this would be a dangerous proposition. Sows can weigh over five hundred pounds and can snap if they feel their piglets are threatened. The massive jaws can effortlessly crush a peach pit—or a kneecap. The razor-sharp canines strop each other. And for good reason: In the wild, pigs need to be strong and brave. In his hunting days in Brazil, President Theodore Roosevelt once saw a jaguar dismembered by South American native pigs. Although pigs are generally good-natured, more people are killed each year by pigs than by sharks. (Which should be no surprise—how often do you get to see a shark?) Pigs raised on crowded factory farms, tortured into insanity, have been known to eat anything that falls into the pigpen, including the occasional child whose parents are foolish enough to let their kid wander into such a place unsupervised. Feral pigs (of which there are more than four million running around in the United States alone) can kill adult humans if they are threatened. That pigs occasionally eat people has always struck me as only fair, considering the far vaster number of pigs eaten by humans.

But George’s sows were all sweethearts. When we entered a stall, the sow, lying on her side to facilitate nursing, would usually raise her giant, 150-pound head, cast us a benign glance from one intelligent, lash-fringed eye, flex her wondrous and wet nose disk to capture our scent, and utter a grunt of greeting. The piglets were adorable miniatures of their behemoth parents—some pink, some black, some red, some spotted, and some with handsome racing stripes, like baby wild boars, looking like very large chipmunks. At first the piglets seemed unsure whether they should try to eat us or run away. They would rush at us in a herd, squealing, then race back on tiny, high-heeled hooves to their giant, supine mother for another tug on her milky teats. And then they would charge forth again, growing bold enough to chew on shoes or untie laces. Many of the folks who bought a pig from George would later make a point of telling him what a great pig it was. Even though the babies were almost all destined for the freezer, the folks who bought them seldom mentioned what these pigs tasted like as hams or chops or sausage. No, the people would always comment that George’s were particularly nice pigs.

The year Chris was born was a record one for piglets. Because we were beset and frantic, we didn’t visit the barn that February or March. But that year, unknown to us, George and Mary had twenty sows—more than ever before—and almost all of them had record litters.

“Usually a sow doesn’t want to raise more than ten piglets,” Mary explained to me. “Usually a sow has ten good working teats.” (They actually have twelve, but only ten are usually in working order.) When a sow has more than ten piglets, somebody is going to lose out—and that somebody is the runt.

A runt is distinguished not only by its small size and helpless predicament. Unless pulled from the litter and nursed by people, a runt is usually doomed, for it is a threat to the entire pig family. “A runt will make this awful sound—Nynh! Nynh! Nynh!” Mary told me. “It’s just awful. It would attract predators. So the sow’s response is often to bite the runt in half, to stop the noise. But sometimes she can’t tell who’s doing it. She might bite a healthy one, or trample some of the others trying to get to the runt. It isn’t her fault, and you can’t blame her. It screws up the whole litter.”

Every year on the farm, there was a runt or two. George would usually remove the little fellow and bottle-feed it goat milk in the house. With such personalized care, the runt will usually survive. But the class of 1990, with more than two hundred piglets, had no fewer than eighteen runts—so many that George and Mary had to establish a “runt stall” in the barn.

Christopher Hogwood was a runt among runts. He was the smallest of them all—half the size of the other runts. He is a particularly endearing piglet, Mary told us, with enormous ears and black and white spots, and a black patch over one eye like Spuds McKenzie, the bull terrier in the beer commercial. But Mary was convinced he would never survive. It would be more humane to kill him, she urged, than to let him suffer. But George said—as he often does—“Where there’s life, there’s hope.” The little piglet hung on.

But he didn’t grow.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Activities

1.Sy Montgomery writes about “Pig Spa,” the hours of loving attention she and her neighbors gave to Christopher Hogwood that were as soothing and therapeutic for them as well as for the pig. Try your own version of Pig Spa with your own pets.

2.Bring pictures of your pets to your next book club gathering and discuss how they have changed your lives.

3.Investigate volunteering at, or contributing to, local petting zoos or animal charity operations. Sy Montgomery suggests The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the Rainforest Conservation Fund. What other opportunities can you find?

4.Plan a group fundraising activity such as a bake sale, garage sale, car wash, or bike-a-thon to help local animal shelters. Make sure to involve neighborhood kids!

5.Arrange for a representative of an animal care-facility, charity, or the park service to be a guest speaker at your book club or school.

1. Did reading The Good Good Pig make you feel differently about your relationship to animals and the natural world? If you eat meat, for example, did it make you question that? Or question other aspects of your lifestyle?

2. Sy Montgomery writes about the extended interspecies family that coalesces around ‘the good good pig,’ Christopher Hogwood. If you have a pet or pets, do you think of the animal as a central part of your family unit, or as a kind of appendage to it? In what ways does your pet affect the family dynamic?

3. Lavishing as much money and attention on any animal as Sy Montgomery did on Christopher Hogwood is wasteful when there are human beings in need of assistance. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

4. Do you think you would have enjoyed having Christopher Hogwood and Sy Montgomery for neighbors? Why or why not?

5. We humans seem to have a love-hate view of pigs. On the one hand, there are beloved and humorous fictional characters like Miss Piggy, Piglet, Porky, Babe, and Wilbur. Yet at the same time, in many religions pigs are considered to be unclean animals, and in common parlance, calling someone a “pig” is far from a term of endearment. What do you think accounts for this divergence of views?

6. Do you feel a special connection to any particular kind of animal? If you could be an animal for one day, which would you choose and why?

7. At the beginning of the previous century, most Americans still lived and worked on farms and had close relationships with a variety of animals, both wild and domesticated. Now only a minority of people in this country experiences a close relationship with animals other than dogs, cats, and other familiar pets. What affect do you think that has had on our sense of connection to the natural world, both individually and as a society? Is it important to have that kind of a connection? Why?

8. Consider this quote from St. Francis: “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it.” What might this service consist of? If St. Francis were alive today, how do you think he would react to the animal testing of drugs and other products, livestock farming practices, and the like?

9. What are your thoughts about the animal rights and animal welfare movements? Are they following the advice of St. Francis or taking matters too far? What can people do to make a difference in the way animals–pets, livestock, and wild–are treated in our society?

10. Do animals possess inherent rights that human beings are morally obligated to respect? If so, what is the source of these rights? Should animals have legal or civil rights beyond what is currently accorded them?

11. Do animals have souls?

12. Is the hunting and killing of wild animals an important part of human heritage that should be preserved?

13. The people of Sundarbans regard the local tiger population as manifestations of the divine, and thus do not hunt the animals even when they prey upon human beings. Montgomery finds much to admire in this attitude. Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

14. There are many anecdotes reflecting the extraordinary, even uncanny, sensitivity of animals toward the natural world and toward people. What examples can you give from your own experience, and how do you explain them?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Good Good Pig 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading it during a three hour flight. My husband glanced at me once and I had tears streaming down my face. When we reached our destination, I finished it the same day. I haven't eaten pork since! What a life you had, Chris, and so many lives that you touched.
alc1967 More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to love this book. Unfortunately, the best part was the very first sentence. I love animals and I seek out stories about special relationships with them. This book was WAY too much about the author and not enough about the pig. And, what was in the book about the pig did not give me the information I wanted to support her claim that he was an extraordinary animal. Also, it disturbed me a lot that she was so ignorant of the fact that she was grossly overfeeding the pig, resulting in his not even being able to get up. I thought the author spent too much time trying to convince all of us that she was something special and rather looked down on the rest of humanity. She is actually a very self-absorbed, unemotional person who is most comfortable with animals because they require nothing of her other than a little attention when she chooses to give it. Many times in the book she went off for weeks/months at a time to do her research, thus leaving her beloved pig for her husband to take care of. She is not convincing in that she is anything special and actually sounds like most people only wanted to be around her because of the pig, certainly not for herself. It's actually rather sad that she never realized that she exploited her pig in the name. And, for the life of me I could not figure out why they did not build a fence to keep the pig in, rather than thinking his getting out and running all over town destroying people's yards was cute and entertaining. It could have been a good book but it turned out to be filled with way too much personal/private stuff about her family and her own life. The best thing about the book is that the pig was not butchered and lived a long, if not very healthy life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a fun, quick read about a pig who, though no more intelligent or special or loveable than any other pig, reached out and touched so many people. Now, if only all these people could make the connection between this sweet, funny pig and the sweet, funny pig on their plate!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm currently half-way through this book, which is so humorous. The antics and adventures of Christopher the pig are a hoot (especially the mention of him following people around until they give up their beer!). As a vegetarian, I couldn't fathom eating bacon EVER, but for those who are not, you may very well become one after reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had great hopes for this book but it disappointed. The pig is lovable but the author/narrator is pretentious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm in the minority -- I did not like this book. The book is not exclusively about the author's relationship with her pet pig, Christopher Hogwood. The author frequently goes on lengthy tangents -- the experience she shared about observing and researching emus was more riveting than the narrative about the pig. I also didn't need to be constantly reminded that Christopher was a pet and was not for eating. The author frequently mentions that she is a vegetarian and that her Jewish husband doesn't eat pork. I'm a vegetarian too but I even found her constant reference to that fact annoying and tiresome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a sweet, delightful book. The author, Sy Montgomery, has a way with words that make you feel like a part of her family. She has the ability to make you feel like the pig is your friend and the friend of anyone that comes to visit. She opens your eyes to the affects the pig has on people in the small town and around the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hysterical, serious, touching. This book contains not only the story of the pig, but a good bit of fascinating autobiography. There is a a group study at the back. Could not put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a touching and heartwarming story. You will feel a whole range of emotion while reading this. Animals are sometimes dismissed as stupid, useless etc. But, they have so much to teach us, if we would just listen. This book helped me to listen more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anybody who is an animal lover will enjoy this. I laughed and cried. Highly reccomended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is 'pigtasic'. I loved it from beginning to end. My only wish is that I could have lived next to Sy and Howard and their 'family.' Christopher Hogwood has touched the lives of many through the wonderful writing of this memoir. Comedy, drama, small town life is all intertwined to deliver a truly heartwarming and heartbreaking book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Refreshing! Christopher Hogwood, Tess, the 'Ladies' and of course Ty and Howard convince me that my personal communication with the pets and various creatures in my own world is not figment of the imagination. This 'ideal' community affirms my faith that there is a 'real' community, such a I long to find not just a 'grass is greener' dream. If all of us could experience the peace, values, and community responsibility: wars, prejudice and disdain of individaulity could become a concept of the past. I loved this book! Today, I do believe a better world is possible. Thank you Sy, Howard and this wonderful community of neighbors!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the most touching book I have read in a LONG time. VERY 'easy' read, mostly because you can't put it down because you are not wanting your time with Christopher Hogwood to end! The way Sy writes, you feel like you are living what she lived. I could smell the smells, hear the sounds, and almost feel Christophers wirey hair and twitchy wet nose disc. I was captivated by Christopher and Tess and 'The Ladies' (their hens) and ALL the people too, for that matter. What a most intimate tale to share, and I thank Sy Montgomory for doing so. My body shook with sobs when Chris died, and I mourned right along with all those who loved him. I never thought I'd fall in love with a pig, but through this book, I definitely did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sy Montgomery is a true animal lover and a very talented writer. For those of us who have four legged family members - this book was a true pleasure to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the beginning till the end. It made me both laugh and cry and I, in turn could not put this book down. A very good read for animal lovers!
ahooper04 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Heartwarming story of a pet pig. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy!
cameling on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I wasn't sure what to expect but I do know I didn't expect to fall in love with a pig. Born the runt of the litter, and adopted by writers and travelers, Sy Montgomery and Howard Mansfield, this book revolves around the life and loves of Christopher Hogwood, piggy extraordinaire.Much like Dewey the cat of Spencer, Iowa fame, Christopher Hogwood's community extended beyond New England. Chris had an adventurous spirit and had a talent for escaping from his cozy pig pen in the barn and trotting over into neighboring plots of land or the town. It would not be uncommon for Sy to receive calls telling her that there's a large black and white pig rooting up their yard and asking if it might be hers, or for Ed the police officer leading Chris home with apples. Soon the townspeople and businesses are saving their scraps for Chris's slop bucket and he grows to well over 700lbs. A simple pig who just loved to eat and be with people, Chris unwittingly provided healing therapy for lonely children, children caught in the maelstrom of their parents' divorce and children with cancer by basking in their attention and giving them something else to focus on besides their troubles. For a few minutes or hours, these children and some adults start on their journey to emotional healing thanks to Chris.You will laugh and tear up at some of the stories that was Christopher Hogwood's life but you will come away feeling quite blessed that you got to know him a little too through this book.Chris shares the limelight a little with Tess, the oft abandoned and abused sheepdog that Sy and Howard adopted as well as The Ladies, their egg-laying chickens.
Motherofthree on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A pleasant book to read in the car on vacation.
Anietzerck on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This a heart warming story about how an animal can help you cope with things and grown in ways you never think possible. I picked this book up just to complete a reading challenge but I'm glad I did!
shabacus on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Sy Montgomery¿s memoir ¿The Good Good Pig¿ is a charming and reverent look at the joys and perils of pig ownership. Although a professed animal lover who prefers the company of animals to humans, Montgomery¿s story is more about the people whose lives the pig touched, rather than just about the creature himself.The writing style is reminiscent of James Herriot, though certainly from a lay perspective rather than that of a veterinarian. The setting, rural New Hampshire at the end of the 20th century, is as much a character as any of the human or porcine actors. We watch Christopher Hogwood, the pig of the title, grow from the ¿runt of runts¿ into an enormous adult, full of love and personality.The author makes it clear that she loves animals, and much of Christopher¿s exceptionality is best perceived through the filter of her love and adoration. The sacrifices of time and energy that she makes on behalf of the animals in her life are made gladly, but left me feeling a trifle out of sympathy. In Montgomery¿s description of her life, there is a sense of underlying smugness, as if any other lifestyle is inferior or even wrong¿something that Herriot, in all of his description of the glories of Yorkshire, never did. The result is occasionally uninviting.The strength of the story tends to override these moments. The inevitable end of the story was handled very well, perhaps the most emotionally moving end to an animal story I¿ve read. Once again, the focus is less on the pig himself, and more on the manner in which he had affected the lives around him.In short, ¿The Good Good Pig¿ is a light read on the surface, but with surprising depth for those who look for it. It is as much a study of personal growth and development as it is a tribute to a beloved pet, friend, and family member. It¿s the next best thing to pig ownership... or possibly even better.
glade1 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Read this over the weekend. It was a sweet, touching story but not the best animal tale I've read. I felt I didn't know Christopher that well, but I enjoyed learning about how the author's circle of friends grew because of him. Good story for an animal lover!
legaleagle on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This was a delightful story about the life of a special pig Christopher Hogwood. The author adopted Christopher as a runt and was not sure he would even survive the first night. But he did that and much more - he lived 14 years of mischief and love. Over time, Christopher touched the lives of many interesting individuals. The book is as much about those individuals and relationships than it is about the pig. My only criticism is that I would have liked less of the author's ramblings on the history of pigs and her travel adventures and more on the pig and his people. But all in all I thoroughly enjoyed this light, airy read!
msmalnick on LibraryThing 10 months ago
An absolutely delightful, well-written account of owning a charismatic pig, the sort of unusual & large animal that brings a small town together, down to the 1 town policeman, who carries apples with him to lure Christopher Hogwood back home after frequent breakouts. Part Marley & Me, part Charlotte's Web, only the coldest of animal-haters could scoff at this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A reminder that we make our own happiness and friends make it better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And how they lived in rural area and neighbors. Loose animals in country are a problem and they were very lucky their pig was never run over or shot for digging up a crop pigs can be very dangerous and here deer hunters are asked to kill feral pigs as long as they are out hunting this is also one of the ugliest pigs i have seen recently a person was sued for overfeeding the pig they were sitting and endangered its life