For a number of reasons, I decided to leave JPL/NASA after 10 years. Actually the only reason I had stayed as long as I did was that it was closely tied to Caltech where I was failing every year to make progress on my Ph.D. I chose to work for Gordian partly because whatever was wrong with JPL was right with Gordian. The only problem was that it was 60 miles from home, the route passing through what was affectionately known as "The Orange Crush".

Anyway, what I didn't count on was that, unlike parts of Los Angeles, the areas around Gordian are actually pretty desirable places to live. Demand is high, supply is low, so rents are high, and landlords are very choosy about their tenants. Someone with a pet pig was not easily going to find a rental. Pigs are known to sometimes decide that lawns are not arranged to their liking. If so, the little obsessive-compulsive animals then rearrange the sod systematically 'till it's "right". This often means that all the grass dies. My pig had never done that but then, there's always a first time, right?

While I searched for housing, work was generous enough to let me stay on the job 24 hours a day. I moved a camping mattress and sleeping bag to work, and put them under my desk. I kept a week's worth of clothing in a duffle and stayed at work continuously from Sunday night to Friday night each week. I paid my roommate to feed my pig while I was gone. Like Emperor Marcus Aurelius, I was able to start work within a few minutes after waking each morning, and go to sleep a few seconds after stopping work (jealous aren't you?).

This went on for over two years.

Finally, in September 2000, I found a house to rent in Huntington Beach. I moved first the pig, then all my possessions. The pig move was by far the most difficult part of the move. Previously, when I had taken her on drives, I was able to tempt and coerce her into my car relatively easily: only half an hour for each loading. However, she hadn't traveled in over two years and had grown accustomed to "her" yard and didn't want to move.

Every trick I tried, she saw through and countered. She stopped following the trail of food when she found where it lead. Leashes, ropes, and harnesses just slipped off her (pigs are shaped somewhat like eggs). I enclosed her in slowly shrinking fenced area. I backed the fence with hundreds of pounds of water-filled containers and gardening tools. As the fence closed over the space of about two hours I was confident that she wouldn't dare injure her sensitive nose by charging through the fence. Then, she suddenly turned and charged, rear first. After three hours I had to concede that Piggy had outsmarted me.

I began what was to be a two hour wrestling match with the pig. By this time, Piggy decided that I had failed the Mandate of Heaven and that my position as dominant member of the herd was no longer deserved. I was faced with an angry biting animal that outweighed me by over 50 pounds. Whenever I was able to pin her, her squeals woke the entire neighborhood (pigs can be louder than jet engines). Neighbors came to check if the pig was being attacked by coyotes. I finally prevailed at about 1 am. I took some vacation from work the following day with this email .

Piggy finally arrived at her new house at about 2 am. After I tumbled her out of the car, she refused to move. I decided not to upset the new neighbors with the noise from another bout with Piggy, so I let her stay where she was. I put down a piece of carpet for her to sit upon, and some water in a bowl. The next day, she again refused to move, even for food. Leaving home and fighting to the point of exhaustion had put Piggy into depression. She had a yard but refused to move more than a foot from her carpet patch in the garage.

When my friends came to help me move the rest of my stuff from home, we went through the garage and right past the pig, just a foot from its nose. She made one of her many "I am annoyed" sounds but she was too depressed to get up to chase the intruders away.

Every day I fed her near the carpet and moved it about two feet after she got up. She wouldn't go back to it if I moved it further. After a week, she was out of the garage and onto the walkway on the side of the house. After another week, she was at the end of the walkaway. Finally, she entered the yard and lay down to nap. She was still depressed and, because of that, not very mobile. I left that morning for work, pleased at the success.

That afternoon, I got a call from a visiting friend of my landlord. She told me that the pig appeared sick and that I should come home to take a look. When I arrived, I indeed found the pig nearly passed out from heat stroke. The sun had risen during the day and had been shining on her for hours. She was too depressed to move so she lay motionless in the sun. Moving her by force now was out of the question, so I poured water over her and erected a tent around her. It was another few days before she finally moved from the tent.

Soon, she recovered from depression and began exploring the bounds of her new home. As I had promised the landlord, the pig did not dig, but rather mowed the lawn. At every house the pig had visited, she had cut the grass short, and taken to her bed, every blade of grass she could gather. Cutting and transporting bedding one mouthful at a time does require a lot of time and Piggy spent hours each day making her bed this way.

After about a month, piggy had adapted to her new home.

Unfortunately the story wasn't over at this point.

My landlord needed cash and so decided to sell Piggy's new house. The asking price was quite high and I was not about to buy such a pig sty so I was forced to go house hunting.

Since it has taken me two years to find this house to rent, I knew it was impossible on such short notice to find another rental for Piggy. The only solution was to buy Piggy a house. I had to move quickly or the house I was in would get sold before I could move into another. Previously, I had found some mouse-eaten food in the garage so I left mousetraps and the partially eaten food lying conspicuously about the house. That would delay the sale a bit. The pig's defence of her yard from all visitors would delay the sale even more.

I began the house hunt. Initially, I didn't have much luck. Houses had inadequate yards for Piggy or they were priced too high.

I found two realtors, Rob and Terese Ivory, who knew of a place coming on the market soon. Most other realtors thought that this house was already sold. It was a nice place with a large yard. It was coming back on the market because a buyer had dropped out. The owner was a very nice old woman who had unfortunately, lost her husband, and so was selling the family home and moving East to be with the rest of her family. She needed a quick sale so I gave her an offer that day. Unfortunately, I was late and there was another offer on the house at the same time. My realtors told me that, sometimes an emotional appeal to an owner will help, so I wrote the following letter

Letter to Mrs. Widner.

Mrs Widner was confused on what she should do with the two offers (which were nearly the same). She decided to flip a coin and the coin decided that I lost.

However, her agent was so impressed with my letter that he offered his yard to the piggy, if she should need one between when I had to move out and when I could move into a new house. Piggy was saved! I still had to find a house of course.

Meanwhile, Cable TV heard about Piggy's plight. The show, House Hunters, on the Home and Garden Channel, shows people shopping for, buying, and moving into their new homes. Of course, Piggy's story was much more interesting than the usual house hunting saga, so they asked permission to film as Piggy and I searched for housing. Here is the website for the resulting episode.

Finally, after a few more offers and rejections, I found a house for Piggy. From the start of looking for a house, to moving in, was about one month.

This time, I knew I needed help to move Piggy, and I called upon the pig rescue community. Kelly Moon generously offered her aid as pig wrangler and she finished the job with the help of a few of my friends, in half an hour. I was amazed.

Kelly was amazed when I told her that I had moved Piggy by myself. She said that she thought that Piggy might be close to 300 pounds (and I am half that).

Anyway, Piggy took well to the smooth move. The next day, she began wandering about the yard and making her bed. She wasn't depressed at all. As if she knew that I would not have to pay a landlord for the destruction, Piggy, for the first time in her life, started digging. She dug for days until the entire yard was "finished". Piggy was home.