ST. PAUL — Daisy Mae, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig who once fought City Hall (and won), was knighted by the St. Paul Winter Carnival and even made the cover of National Geographic Magazine, died last week, on Sept. 28. She was 15.
“She struck fear in the eyes of many which is a true gift, but was also gentle and kind to her friends in the community,” wrote her human, Sarah Davis Jastram, in a post on social media. “I will always be a pig lady because of her, and I’m totally ok with that title.”
Daisy Mae might have intimidated some because of her size — she weighed approximately 300 pounds — but she started out small, just 7 pounds when Jastram adopted her from a hobby farm in 2006.
A few years later, Jastram and her boyfriend (now husband) and Daisy Mae moved into a rambler near a busy intersection in West St. Paul. With a chain-link fence, the rambler’s backyard provided a secure and sunny spot for the potty-trained pig — who was blind — to roam.
It was also a high-profile spot near a middle school and an elementary school. Before long Daisy Mae became popular among children as they walked to and from school, as well as a familiar figure to drivers in the area, and pedestrians and bicyclists.
She was not universally popular, though.
A “concerned person” squealed on the pig to City Hall in 2010. This was how Jastram learned that the city had an ordinance on the books that classified pigs as dangerous, exotic animals — along with lions, tigers and gorillas.
Fortunately, a neighbor helped Jastram organize a “Help Save Daisy Mae” campaign; it led to a petition with 11 pages of signatures from more than 400 neighbors.
City officials were sympathetic. Eventually, after some research into the matter, the ordinance was edited to allow for this type of pet pig.
“Although I don’t recall how that whole situation went, which ultimately allowed Daisy Mae to remain on the property, I do know we have come a long way on adjusting the ordinances to accommodate non-domestic animals,” said Dave Napier, the current mayor of West St. Paul, in an email. “We recently adjusted an ordinance to allow more chickens. As you may know, it really comes down to noise, smell and perhaps transmission of diseases.”
The city of West St. Paul in Dakota County is already home to a variety of “noises and smells” from animals at Dodge Nature Center. You might have seen some pigs there through the years, in addition to horses, goats and chickens. The mayor sure has.
“I have been around pigs since I was 15 years old when I began working for the Dodge Nature Center,” Napier wrote. “Daisy Mae was quite famous here in (West St. Paul). Although she did have to face a little challenge living in the middle of a residential area, she survived. Some would say she thrived, as she actually became a daily attraction along Butler Ave. I am sorry to hear she has passed on.”
The late pig’s earlier battle with city hall led to international attention: It led to National Geographic writing about and photographing Daisy Mae, who was featured prominently in a March 2011 cover story, “Taming the Wild.”
The years since have been quieter, although there was the knighting by the Winter Carnival as well as serving as an ambassador for a local food drive.
Life isn’t exactly quieter for Jastram and her husband, Tony, who now have two kids. But home is a little sadder without Daisy Mae — and the schoolchildren have already noticed the pig’s absence from her backyard.
The condolences on Facebook are comforting the family. The comments include these:
“She was so special. Definitely a WSP legend. I’m so sorry for you loss.”
“She was loved by so many people in the community.”
“For years, my kids looked forward to see if Daisy was outside during our walks. Please know that she gave so much joy and happiness to so many kids and families.”