Sally Gracie TwispBy Sally Gracie

Six little piggies. Six tiny little piggies in a big blue tub in the back room at Valley Veterinary Clinic, where Stata Powers keeps them workdays while she is at the front desk. Dan and Terry DeWeert, whose business is animals, are sympathetic to Stata’s trying to save the piglets’ lives.

One of Bill White’s sows had a litter of 21, and as she couldn’t feed them all, six were taken in by Stata and her family. Stata has been bottle-feeding the piglets every three hours since they were born a little over a week ago.

Stata and her son Tanner Lund, a 13-year-old sixth-grader, made a business agreement with Mr. White. For each of the six that survive, Tanner will receive $75 as payment toward one or two of the pigs that is still being mothered by the sow. Then, Tanner will raise a $150 pig as his first 4-H project.

Stata Powers feeds one of the hungry little piglets. Photo courtesy Sally Gracie

Stata Powers feeds one of the hungry little piglets. Photo courtesy Sally Gracie

At Stata’s house, the pigs are housed indoors in a large, wire dog crate. They seem to think she is their mother, Stata says, and follow her around when she lets them out of their cage. Today at the vet’s, one nipped Stata’s hand as she took it from the tub to give it the bottle. “They have sharp teeth from the day they are born,” she said. They suck greedily at their bottles of an all-breed formula, mixed to suit pigs. In another week or so, Stata will add pig starter to their diet.

When they are old enough to be moved into the barn, they will live in a portable pen that Mr. White built. They should be out of the woods if they live to be four weeks old.

When they’re so tiny and cute, it’s easier to think of them as a young boy’s lovingly-cared-for 4-H project than as bacon.

Well, the “Dog Thief Trial” (my title) wasn’t “Judge Judy,” but it wasn’t boring either. I was in district court in Okanogan last Thursday until the jury left to deliberate.

I learned the results on Facebook the next morning. On the three counts, Judy Brezina Camp was found guilty on one: obstruction of justice. She admitted on the stand that she had elbowed the deputy in the ribs.

But Judy had not denied the other two charges: stealing (“taking”) a pet and making misleading statements to the deputy (“lying”). When both public defender and prosecutor had completed their closing arguments, and the judge had read the instructions to the jury, my notes indicate I would have voted upside down from the jury’s decision: “Guilty” on both the dog theft and the lying charges and “not guilty” on the other. After all, my friend Judy did take the dog from the property.

I suspect jury nullification must have been the reason for the six jurors’ decision. Despite the prosecutor’s admonition not to determine the case for emotional reasons, I think that’s exactly what they did. I will never understand why the graphic photos were allowed; they showed the inhumane conditions Judy found the dog “Tank” in and probably played a role in the final verdict.

What I’ve learned from the trial is that this valley — the entire county — needs a dog shelter at least as much as a recreation district. After her sentencing on April 11, Judy says she and others will begin to plan for that shelter.