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Emotional support pig, Penelope, reunited with her family

Kaitlyn Riley

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Penelope is an emotional support animal for a Sparta boy living with Autism.
Photo Credit: Sparta Police Department

Sparta, Wis. — Penelope the pig sounds like the title to a children’s story, but she is the real deal for a Sparta boy living with autism.

Penelope caught attention, after the Sparta Police Department shared photos with her.

They helped her reconnect with the Frisk family, after she was found walking down the street.

Joseph Frisk said Penelope is his son’s registered emotional support animal. He said they’ve tried typical house pets like cats and dogs to help with his unique challenges, but it was the Juliana micro pig from Green Bay that did the trick.

“For whatever reason, Penelope worked,” Frisk said. “We kind of gave it a week trial run, and they really seemed to get along well. It is kind of just a comfort thing. It is hard to explain. They just have a unique bond that works.”

Frisk said Penelope is very loving and smart, which may be why she escaped. The family was on a mini-vacation, so Penelope was staying at grandma’s house when she made her getaway.

“We think that she actually might have been just coming to find us,” Frisk said. “They are highly intelligent animals. She found a way to escape a fenced-in yard and made her way down the street.”

Frisk called Sparta Police once he learned what happened. Police kept Penelope calm until she was reunited with her family.

Penelope is different than service animals. According to Frisk, emotional-support pets can be any animal that provides comfort to a person in need of it. His son has a prescription from a therapist for Penelope.

His advice for anyone who may be interested in having a pig for a pet is to keep in mind they are very loving, affectionate animals and to check with local laws and ordinances.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.