Hero Pets: A Pig That Calms Special-Needs Kids

For special-needs students in San Francisco, pot-bellied pig Buttercup provides comfort—and a bit of fun.


When speech pathologist Lois Brady, 49, visits special-needs students in San Francisco schools, she often brings along her assistant: a jet-black, 70-pound miniature Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named, naturally, Buttercup. Strange enough to intrigue some of Brady’s most withdrawn students, Buttercup is a hit.

After the encounter, the child spoke to other students in the class for the first time.

Last year, a severely autistic 11-year-old boy ventured out of his hiding place beneath the teacher’s desk to run his fingers along Buttercup’s flank and through the pig’s long, coarse hair. After the encounter, the child spoke to other students in the class for the first time. “It was a remarkable breakthrough,” says Brady.



Dogs have long been used as therapy animals, offering comfort to hospital patients, people in retirement homes, and others. But pigs? Yes, says Brady. Their placid demeanor and unusual appearance makes them a good fit for special-needs kids. “Pigs are very calm and friendly, so they don’t startle or frighten autistic kids,” she says. “Even if the children hit or kick or pull his tail, Buttercup just walks away. He doesn’t bark, snap at them, or fight back.”

When he’s not working as a classroom aide, Buttercup lives in a dog house in Brady’s backyard. Sometimes, Buttercup even comes inside. “He loves sitting by the fire on cold and rainy days,” she attests.

More: Seven amazing hero pets »

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Funny Jokes

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

Funny Jokes

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

Funny Jokes

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


Funny Jokes

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.