Move over, Miss Piggy. Back up, Babe. Watch your back, Wilbur. There’s a new piggy out to conquer Tinseltown. The producers behind animal rescue films Free Willy and Hotel for Dogs, have hired writers to develop a screenplay based on the improbable tail of a gay couple who adopted a piglet who grew into a 650-pound social media sensation and subject of three “New York Times” best-sellers.
Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter adopted what they were told was a micro pig or a “tea-cup” piglet that would grow to weigh between 50-150 pounds. As the adorable piggy continued to grow and GROW, the couple was forced to reevaluate their living arrangements, their diet and many other aspects of their lives.
Steve and Derek started a Facebook page for Esther in 2013 where they’ve share her day-to-day shenanigans: lounging around the house, playing with the couples’ dogs, cuddling with her humans and eating cupcakes. Her fanbase has grown exponentially since. Esther currently has over 1.4 million FB fans.
As Esther grew, the couple knew it was time to seek larger accommodations. With the help of Esther’s army of social media followers, the couple were able to raise money and secure a 50-acre farm outside Toronto, Canada. “Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary” opened in 2014 and is now home to over 60 rescues including cows, rabbits, goats, birds, a donkey, and a cat named “Wilma Ferrell.”
Jenkins and Walter, along with Caprice Crane, have written three bestselling books: “Esther The Wonder Pig: Two Men, a Wonder Pig, and Their Life-Changing Mission to Give Animals a Home,” “Happily Ever Esther,” and the picture book of “Esther The Wonder Pig.” Esther’s official website sells merch galore: tee shirts, caps, pins and more. They’re currently working on another children’s book and a cookbook titled “Esther Approved!”
During an interview with CBS News, Jenkins stated, “Esther has become a real bright spot for many people, a place to come for a laugh and to forget the crazy stuff going on around us. We get messages from people all the time who tell us Esther helped them through a really hard time, a lady who said, ‘Thank you for showing my sons it’s OK to have two dads,’ even a man who said Esther’s photo helped his mother smile — she is suffering from dementia, and he hadn’t seen her smile for weeks. It’s really incredible.”
Esther has also raised awareness for animal welfare issues. When Esther came into their lives, the couple were omnivores, eating plants and animals, including pork. One morning while cooking bacon, Steve and Derek made the connection between what was in the skillet and what had become a major part of their family. They started transitioning to a plant-based diet that day. “People are beginning to see pigs like Esther as individuals. We try to remind people in a very gentle way that Esther was bred to be our dinner, and that this animal so many of us have fallen madly in love with, is no different than the millions of pigs like her who will never be so lucky. She really gives food a face, and for many people that’s an incredibly powerful thing,” Jenkins tells CBS News. “That’s what made us personally shun animal products, and start to learn about the animal welfare issues, environmental impacts, and health concerns that surround that animal agriculture industry. Esther has an incredible ability to connect with people in a very deep and meaningful way, and that translates to her having a very big impact on many aspects of their lives. It’s very hard to explain, but we call it ‘the Esther effect.’”
But all has not been truffles and Sprinkles along the way. Last year, “the dads” noticed something was different with Esther. She was having back pain, seizures and would hyperventilate. Steve and Derek were desperate to get a diagnosis for their pig daughter, but no animal hospital in Canada had a CT scanner large enough to accommodate her. The couple took to social media and were able to crowdsource funds and raised over $700,000 to pay for the larger-format scanner. The couple got the discouraging news that Esther had breast cancer. But after surgery to remove the cancerous tumors, she’s been declared cancer-free since September. The couple wanted to “pay it forward” and now the scanner is available for public use for any large animal that needs a CT scan.
As Esther continues to frolic with her friends at the sanctuary, we can’t help but wonder, what will she wear on the red carpet when her biopic sweeps the Oscars. For now, we will have to wait. The producers of the film, Lauren Shuler Donner and Jack Leslie recently hired scripters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis to begin work on the screenplay.
For more of Esther’s adorable and inspiring adventures, check out her personal website and her Facebook page.