Pigs, sugar gliders among exotic animals keeping Portenos sane

Millions of people have found solace during the pandemic in cuddling a dog or cat. For a few, comfort comes in other forms — those of a horse or a pig, perhaps a possum-like sugar glider or even a tarantula, the Associated press reports from Buenos Aires.

As the new coronavirus began to circulate last year, Luciana Benetti found her plans for a big traditional 15th birthday party scrapped.

In its place, her parents gave her a pig.

Without Chanchi, “I wouldn’t be me,” said Benetti, who often sleeps alongside the 20-kilo (45-pound) Juliana pig that greets her with a squeal of delight when she arrives at her house. Chanchi turned out to be a loyal and loving companion — racing to her side when she fainted.

“One day my legs gave way and he came running. He grabbed my hair and raised my head,” she said. She had been taking online classes at home, unable to see friends or schoolmates. “I didn’t feel well. I was dizzy because I couldn’t leave.”

In her Buenos Aires home, Lorena Álvarez keeps 28 pocket-sized marsupials commonly known as sugar gliders. “They create pure love for me,” she said. “Do you know what it is to lay down … and they smother you with kisses?”

Álvarez, who teaches statistics at a university — online these days — lives otherwise alone, but said the pets have helped her feel like she has company — sometimes popping up atop her head during Zoom calls.

“I get up and I live for them. They are my engine of struggle and of life,” she said of the animals that scamper over her looking to be petted, or leap and glide down to the floor.

© Copyright LaPresse