In his heyday, he appeared on TV, was a popular celebrity at local schools, and even graced the cover of a national magazine.
Nowadays, Wilbur the potbellied pig leads a quieter life on a 3-acre spread on El Pintado Road. He's 15-years-old now and enjoying his golden years in the Danville hills with his owner Aloha Saunders and adopted sibling Petunia.
Wilbur, who weighs in at 200 pounds, also enjoys two square meals a day, a potpourri of mushy cereal, bananas, cantaloupe, applesauce, bunches of dandelion and alfalfa—and, for dessert, a graham cracker treat.
Saunders adopted Wilbur when he was just a few weeks old.
"I call him my 'hairy angel' because he came to me just after my beloved sister died," says Saunders, who named Wilbur after the pig in Charlotte's Web.
Wilbur had been abandoned on a busy Danville street when he was spotted by Saunders' neighbor Ramsey Stevens, who was driving to work. Stevens rescued the Royal White potbelly and took him home. Stevens' mother, who was manager of a TV station, broadcast Wilbur's plight, in hopes of finding his owner. When nobody responded, Saunders stepped up to give Wilbur a home.
Saunders signed up with the California Potbellied Pig Association, based in Pleasant Hill. The group helps in the rescue, care and placement of potbellies.
"We provide food and shelter for homeless potbelly pigs while we search for appropriate adoptive homes," says Saunders. "I adopted Petunia about 12 years ago from a woman in Jackson County who was living in a rented home and couldn't keep her any more."
Pigs are known to be intelligent creatures.
"They're extremely clean and easily housebroken," says Saunders, who built a cozy pen for the pigs, right next to her house.
While Petunia is shy, Saunders says Wilbur is confident and outgoing. His temperament made him an ideal visitor to local schools over the years.
"He made visits to third-grade students who were studying Charlotte's Web," says Saunders, a retired San Ramon Valley Unified School district teacher who also raced horses and worked as a truck driver.
She says one time Wilbur was visiting a school in Lafayette when they met a young special education student in the hallway.
"He looked at Wilbur and said, 'pig,'" says Saunders. "His speech therapist told me that was his first word."
Wilbur was also a contestant in Heather Farms' Waggiest Tail Contest in Walnut Creek and a photo of Wilbur in his finest Easter attire graced the front cover of Pot-Bellied Pigs journal. He also turns heads on the freeway when Saunders drives him up to U.C. Davis for his regular physical.
Saunders says there aren't words to describe how she feels about Wilbur.
"I love him with all my heart and soul," says Saunders.
To learn more about potbelly pigs, visit the California Potbellied Pig Association at www.cppa4pigs.org.