On a 20-acre stretch of land off the dirt path called County Road 90, Lory Yazurlo spends most of her days and part of her nights driving an electric wheelchair through mud wallows, followed by an ever-growing legion of pampered swine."A pig thinks he's your equal, and I'd have to agree," Yazurlo said as she scratched Violet behind her ear and waited for the pig to roll over, kitten-like, to receive a belly-rub.
Fat Costanza, named for the self-absorbed Seinfeld character, moves in to steal a Pepsi from the back of her wheelchair. She lets him, and Fat tears through the can. Toe-Monster and Mud-Stuck nuzzle in snout-first for head pats.Yazurlo, who takes pride in being known as the "pig lady," would have it no other way. She indulges every piggish whim of a herd that has swollen to 550 in her rural patch of Flagler County land.
She calls her place Pig Tales, a sanctuary where unwanted pigs can live out their lives in mud-wallowing safety. The end will never be on a butcher's block, but in a small pet cemetery after illness or old age comes calling.
Yazurlo doesn't think she spoils them too much. After all, only 10 or 20 are permitted to sleep with her in the house -- letting themselves in and out through doggie doors.
Those are the nights when Yazurlo isn't in the pigpen, trapped when her wheelchair became stuck in the mud. Living alone and unable to summon help, she would doze in the mire, surrounded by snoozing swine.
Her mother, Charlene Yazurlo, now calls every night to make sure her 39-year-old daughter isn't mud-bound again.
It didn't bother the younger Yazurlo, who felt she was in good company. Although the smell from the droppings seems eye-watering to visitors, it isn't anything to her and the regular helpers. They announce loud and often: "Pigs don't smell."
"I just like pigs," she said. "They're cute. They're so intelligent; you can't outsmart them. Some of them think they're people."
Her pig-love knows no breed, but her farm is inhabited mostly by the Vietnamese potbellied variety that were a pet fad in the mid-1990s -- that is, until people realized that some of the so-called miniature swine could grow up to be 250-pound porkers.
Some owners turned the pigs loose in the woods or at store parking lots.
One batch of pigs was living with wild cats near a Wal-Mart, eating handouts from employees and learning that "Here, kitty, kitty" means dinner is served. The Wal-Mart workers corralled the pigs and brought them to Yazurlo after some teenagers tied one of the animals to a car bumper, she said.
Other pig owners dropped their pets off at the Flagler County Humane Society, which wasn't equipped with mudholes. Amy Wade-Carotenuto, the shelter manager, has been sending the unwanted pets to Yazurlo for years. She gives Pig Tales high marks, saying, "If I was a pig, I'd want to live there."
It might seem a porcine paradise, with mud pools refilled daily with fresh water, dozens of doghouses converted to hog houses, a barn with electric fans for hot days, children's plastic wading pools, and plenty of straw.
The sanctuary operates mainly on a network of friends who go out each week procuring unusable or rotting food as well as donations. The critters feast on old fruit, wilted vegetables, stale doughnuts, grain, and sometimes bananas, horse feed and old dog food.
Most of the pigs came from dealers who were going out of business and brought them to Pig Tales -- 10, 20, 50 and once even 100 at a time.
It started back in 1995 when one of Lory Yazurlo's sisters, Lisa Yazurlo, gave her a potbellied pig -- "Miss Piggy" -- as a Christmas present. Then she bought two more. When the potbellied pig craze ended, she just started taking them in, said another sister, Lynne Yazurlo.
Lory Yazurlo got her first pig just two years after her crippling accident.
A car cut off her truck and forced it into a concrete barrier, throwing Yazurlo and the whole front seat through the windshield and onto a highway. She is now a paraplegic, able to use both arms and hands but unable to walk.
Before the accident, she never gave pigs a second thought. Her obsession was with horses, but riding now is nearly impossible.
She says the pigs help keep her mind off her troubles -- a life irrevocably changed.
"There are so many responsibilities, so much to do; I don't have time to let things get me down," Yazurlo said.
"If I didn't have the pigs I don't know what I'd do. I'd probably just give up."
She'll give the pigs up for adoption if a good home is found, but she has high standards.
"I only placed one. I'm real picky," she said. "They should be pampered."
She knows each by name and can identify their mothers.
"That's Leather; he looks weird," she said of a wrinkled pig with a few strands curling out of his bald body. "His brother's his father, so I guess that contributed to his hairless condition."
If Yazurlo is working alone, it takes a full day to feed the pigs, dishing out about 750 pounds of food in a locked corral, letting the animals in all at once so they each get their fair share. She has a few helpers, including sister Lynne and a friend, Judy Haywood, who bring over pumpkins and old vegetables from a flea market.
Yazurlo is always looking for donations of food or pig-loving volunteers to help at Pig Tales.
There are some people who don't like pigs and have let it be known.
Someone recently lured one of her pigs, George, to a fence with a handout of corn and then shot him with an arrow at point-blank range.
George is recovering, but Yazurlo's friends are offering a reward for information on who did it. Someone also recently vandalized the bread truck.
Yazurlo tries not to focus on the bad things, but is afraid to leave the farm now for fear someone will hurt the pigs.
She puts her attention on her favorite time of the day -- feeding time. When all the food is ready, Yazurlo grabs hold of a big ship's bell.
"You don't want to touch this until you're ready," she warned a visitor. "Watch."
Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang.
It caught the attention of every pig on the farm, and they all came running, hooves thumping in the dirt.
"Hey, watch the one way in the back," she said, squinting at a black, four-legged blur.
"That's Marky Mark. He's last again."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times