WAVERLY TWP. — The Waverly Community House’s resident Instagram star generally enjoys playing dress up, but one recent afternoon, he was having none of it.
A dark blue bandana emblazoned with three stars lay unused on a nearby table as Dobby the skinny pig stood stark naked — no garments and barely any hair — on Kaylee Cummings’ lap and let out an occasional squeal.
“Usually he likes to wear clothes,” said Cummings, assistant director of the after school program at the Comm. “He was fighting me about his bandana.”
Skinny pigs are a mostly hairless variety of guinea pig and Dobby — named for a house-elf from the Harry Potter series — is about a year and a half old. He has lived at the Comm in the After School program area for most of his life, delighting students and staffers alike. After a previous pet, a hermit crab named Mr. Krabs, didn’t work out, Cummings decided on a skinny pig for the program because they’re a little different and very clean due to their lack of fur. Most skinny pigs, like Dobby, do have some hair on their heads. Another benefit: They are hypoallergenic.
Since coming to the Comm, he has served as something of an “emotional support pig” by being a great icebreaker for conversation, cheering children up if they are feeling sad and welcoming new additions to the program, Cummings said. Dobby has even inspired local families to adopt skinny pigs of their own.
“He instantly puts kids at ease,” she said, adding that children even read books to Dobby.
However, owning a skinny pig does present a few challenges. For example, because they are mostly hairless, their skin tends to dry out. Owners can’t use lotions because the pigs will lick the ointments off and can get sick, Cummings said. Instead, after bathing Dobby each week, she applies a coat of extra virgin olive oil to his skin to keep it moisturized, Cummings said.
Shortly after bringing him to the Comm, Cummings and staff there started to dress him up in costumes, usually ones that coincide with holidays or events. Around the Super Bowl, he donned an outfit that made him look like a football. For Halloween, he dressed as his namesake from the Harry Potter canon, Cummings said. She eventually decided to put him on social media so parents could share in the fun their children have at the After School program, Cummings said,
“I thought, ‘what a good way to involve the families here, make an Instagram, and then they can see the silly things we do with him through the day,’” Cummings said.
Dobby has since amassed more than 160 followers on the app, including parents of children at the after school program and other skinny pigs with names like Popo, Squrell and 50 Cent.
But Dobby’s biggest fans are the children at the Comm.
“I like Dobby because he is so cute and he nibbles a lot,” said Christopher Lewis, 8.
Dobby likes celery and other veggies; carrots are his absolute favorite. He dislikes fruit.
Sometimes, Dobby will even gently nibble a finger, Evan Petalver, 11, said.
Sophie Sebring, 8, said she likes it when Cummings lets Dobby out of his cage and the children make a circle around him. Dobby will make his way around to visit each of the children, she said. Declan Kane, 7, said sometimes, if he is feeling sad, Cummings will let him hold and pet Dobby.
“It makes me happy,” Kane said.
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To follow Dobby on Instagram, check out dobbytheskinnypig on the app.