Belfast Telegraph

Lots of hogs and kisses from little Athena for latest addition to her pet menagerie

By Cate McCurry

The schoolgirl who touched many a heart after saving a turkey from slaughter at Christmas has an adorable new addition to her animal farm - a micro pig.

Little Athena Bryson, who celebrates her eighth birthday next month, only wanted one gift to mark the occasion.

Standing at 13 inches tall and named Honey P, the micro pig has settled well into his new surroundings.

Scarva Primary School pupil Athena featured in the Belfast Telegraph after she adopted the turkey in Christmas 2015.

Her dairy farming parents Graham and Melissa helped make their daughter's festive wish come true.

However, months later tragedy struck when the turkey was blown away in its cage during a stormy night.

Despite the family's efforts to find the bird, called Valerie Lucky, she could not be located.

Athena has been a vegetarian since the age of five because she loves animals so much she does not want to eat them.

She also cares for two geese, lambs, goats, hens, cats, guinea pigs, horses, rabbits, cows and two miniature Yorkshire terriers called Toto and Tootsy.

The family, from Poyntzpass in Co Armagh, live close to their dairy farm, where Athena enjoys tending to the animals.

Mum Melissa said it came as no surprise when Athena asked for the unusual birthday gift.

"She loves animals and has so many of them to look after, so it was completely normal when she said she wanted a micro pig.

"She will turn eight on February 12, so we wanted to get it a bit earlier for her."

After searching online, Melissa found the perfect pig for sale at £90.

"It's a lovely little pig and we put a collar on it too," she said.

"It's about the size of a small dog, it's a pedigree micro pig and won't grow any bigger than it is.

"She has called it Honey P and has made up a song about it and has taught her friends in school too.

"Athena would never eat meat and loves all different animals. She doesn't really play with toys, but loves looking after all her pets.

"I got her a beautiful British blue cat at Christmas, who she takes to bed at night, and for her birthday last year she got two lambs, who she fed with a bottle."

Athena said she always wanted to own a pig and is delighted with her new pet.

"It feels great to have Honey P

- he is now my favourite pet. He's very good on the lead and is smart too," she explained.

"I love animals so much and love looking after them." As Melissa, Graham and their son Jensen are all meat eaters, the mother-of-two cooks separate meals for her daughter.

"She eats lots of vegetables and fruits," she said.

"I worry that she doesn't get enough vitamins, so she takes vitamin tablets in the morning.

"Even though she loves looking after her animals, she is still quite feminine and wears a dress and paints her nails."

Athena, who wants to be a vet when she grows up, also cared for two orphaned kittens after their mother was knocked down by a car.

"We got special milk from the vet and she bottle-fed them," her mum explained.

"She even set her alarm during the night to make sure they were fed. Unfortunately they got an infection and sadly died, but she knows she did everything she could to help them.

"Her dad Graham is really proud of her, they do everything together with animals.

"She would often help out on the farm and is always looking after them any way she can.

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