When Molly Lefevre learned that her rental home was on fire last Tuesday, she worried that Bacon was burning.
Bacon isn’t breakfast to Lefevre and her boyfriend, Lance Plowman. It’s the name of their black miniature pig that Plowman brought home as a 3-week-old piglet from an animal auction in Arcadia a year-and-a-half ago.
He was home when the fire broke out last week at 6430 Gulfside Road. He survived with just a few scratches on his belly and snout.
Bacon apparently knocked down a screen as smoke filled the room and broke through a small glass panel of a jalousie (louvered) window, somehow managing to squeeze himself, potbelly and all, through the small opening.
Plowman, a boat captain, saw the fire from afar and thought it was a brush fire until a friend called to say that the house was burning.
Lefevre was working at the Cortez Kitchen when she started getting frantic phone calls. She rushed home and found that firefighters had blocked off the area.
Bacon, however, had fled the scene.
He wandered to a neighbor’s yard, where he planted himself under a palm tree. He was eating the orange nuts that fell off of it.
Lefevre still isn’t sure how Bacon managed to wiggle his way through the tiny window opening. She credits Bacon’s survival skills to the natural intelligence of pigs.
“He is smart, but sometimes it’s like he’s too smart,” said Lefevre, who bottle-fed Bacon when he was a piglet. “It’s like having a 3-year-old who knows how to get open the drawers and open the cupboards. Thankfully it came in handy for this situation, because that’s my little boy.”
Another factor that worked in Bacon’s favor: He’s physically fit — at least for a pig. He doesn’t pig out all day. He swims, takes regular walks and enjoys trips on the boat.
“That’s probably what saved him,” Lefevre said “For a potbelly pig, he’s a lot smaller and not quite as potbellied. He’s kind of in shape.”
Unfortunately, two other pets at the home didn’t escape: a rabbit named Moustache, and a 4-year-old Australian Rottweiler, named Mia.
Jose and Paola Chichande, who rented the other part of the L-shaped home, lost Moustache and Mia in the fire.
“That’s the only thing I wish I could have saved was the dog. Everything else was salvageable,” said Jose Chichande, a Harry’s Continental Kitchens waiter and manager who was at the beach with the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Emma, when the fire engulfed the home.
He tried to open a door for Mia in the house when he returned, but flames burst out of the door. Since last week, he has had a difficult time explaining to Emma that Mia isn’t coming back.
The Chichandes have stayed at a friend’s condominium since the fire and will probably rent a home in the Longbeach Village.
On Sunday, friends held a fundraiser for the family at Skinny’s Place on Holmes Beach.
Although friends have discussed holding another fundraiser, Chichande said he doesn’t want another event.
“I really feel like I have enough to get by,” he said. “I appreciate everything everyone has done, but now I have to work hard to get through this on my own.”
Lefevre and Plowman, who were able to save some of their belongings, also want to rent a place in the Village. It’s tough to find a landlord who will rent to a couple with a pig, but Lefevre said that pigs are actually “very clean animals.”
Plus, they come with an added benefit — they don’t bark like dogs.
Although Lefevre is relieved that Bacon survived, she is also “heartbroken” about the death of Mia.
Before the fire, she was already planning to bring Bacon to walk in the Humane Society of Manatee County Paws-in-Motion parade March 9.
But, now, she plans to organize a team of Bacon and other pets and name it “Team Mia” in honor of one of Bacon’s best dog pals.