By Josh Saunders
Meet the adorable watermelon-chomping minipig brothers who are melting hearts online as they train to become therapy animals.
Miniature potbellied pigs Thunder and Bolt have attracted a horde of fans for their adorable antics as they train to help people in hospital and nursing homes.
Their owner Heather Barrow, 38, from Tampa in Florida, USA, decided the porcine pals would “give back” after she was on hospital bedrest for three-months while pregnant with her son.
A high-risk pregnancy led to mandatory time away from her family and friends but Heather was cheered up the therapy animals’ weekly visits.
Heather’s piggy pals, now four-months-old, have already been headhunted as ‘excellent candidates’ to work in hospitals but still have a little way to go before they’re ready to waddle down the wards.
Until then, the Barrow family are showcasing their funny exploits from chowing down on fruit and swimming to learning dog tricks in hilarious yet heart-warming videos.
Heather, a mum-of-two, said: “I show everyone my pigs whether I’m at the doctors’ office or wherever, I think it’s really neat seeing them in such cute poses.
“We’ve been told that they will be excellent candidates for therapy pigsbecause of how sociable they are and their temperament.
“Being stuck in hospital or a nursing home can be very difficult when you know everyone else on the outside is going about their normal life, so I know our pigs can help with that.
“Also, it’s unique seeing pigs who want to sit and interact with you, while you pet them, it’s so unusual that it brings a smile to your face.
“They are definitely buddies, while they are constantly competing over food they are also always sleeping together, cuddling and struggle to cope when they are separated.”
Heather decided she wanted to train a therapy pet after her time in hospital.
She said: “When I was pregnant with my son, from 24 weeks onwards I had to be placed on hospital bedrest until he was born.
“Every week we had a pet therapy programme where a woman would come around with a Cocker Spaniel to play with and it helped me endlessly.
“When I was in hospital and missed my husband or daughter that time with a therapy animal made it manageable for me and the rest of us on the ward.
“After I gave birth and got back home I realised I could train a therapy animal and while our dogs didn’t make the grade, our pigs seem to be great candidates.”
Since getting pigs Thunder and Bolt, Heather says her previous beliefs about the animal have been completely shattered.
Heather said: “They don’t actually smell at all, they are litter trained, never have accidents inside and remind me of a cat because they are constantly cleaning themselves.
“They are super clean, obedient and want to please, especially if there could be a treat on the other end, they will do anything for watermelon.
“Also, pigs pick up tricks way quicker than dogs, having Thunder and Bolt has definitely made me rethink everything I know about the animal.”
The Barrow’s have taught them dog tricks and say watching them battle for a bite of food helps them capture some of the pigs‘ funniest moments.
Heather said: “Watermelon is a really special treat, they started chasing around the fruit trying to nudge the other guy out the way and chow down as much as possible.
“It’s hard to have a bad day when you see a pig ringing a bell for treats, gobbling watermelon or any of our other videos, it definitely brightens your day.
“They are always battling to be ‘top pig’ like with the watermelon where Thunder is kicking Bolt out of the way so he can eat more.
“By the time they had finished Thunder had it all over his face and head, when we took it away they were not impressed.
“They’re really clever animals and learned to ring a bell for treats in five minutes, we also taught them to sit, spin and are working on stay.
“Hilariously they would get frustrated and try to shake the bell when they weren’t fed quick enough.
“Then for the bell ringing trick I was giving them Cheerios but by the second or third time they were given the treat they learned it, they are very clever.”
They have made an Instagram page to document the comical moments of Thunder and Bolt, which now has over 5,000 followers online.
Heather said: “I started the page as I didn’t want my friends and family getting overwhelmed by my posts about Thunder and Bolt.
“Now we have people from all over the world following them from London to New York to Hong Kong.
“I’m not surprised they are so popular, everyone who meets them falls in love with how adorable they are straight away.”
You can follow their page: @thunderboltpigs