The legend of Melvin, a 6-year-old, mixed-breed, potbellied pig with three legs and no ears, is growing.
In August, Odd Man Inn Animal Refuge owners Josh and Wendy Smith of Washougal were notified that they had won the “Rescue Your Rescue” contest put on by Tractor Supply, a national retail chain of farm-supply stores. Customers were asked to nominate their favorite animal rescue organization for a chance at winning part of a $25,000 prize.
A photo of Melvin, an Odd Man Inn resident since February, was posted on the Tractor Supply website and received the most online votes within a four-day period.
“For us to be even selected in a contest like that felt like a big deal, and we took it really seriously,” Wendy said. “We were definitely surprised we won, but we spent four days trying to get votes. It just took over our social media and our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of something like that. We made it a really fun, positive contest. I think we were surprised to be nominated, but at the end of the day I was like, ‘We worked hard for that win.'”
The Smiths decided to pair up with another vegan animal sanctuary, Arthur’s Acres Animal Sanctuary in Parksville, New York, for the contest.
Before the voting tallies were announced, the two organizations agreed to split their winnings evenly. Odd Man Inn took the $10,000 first-place prize, while Arthur’s Acres’ photo of its pig Princess received the second-most votes for $5,000.
“We were only 100 votes away from each other. We were neck-and-neck,” Wendy said. “We did a really good job of playing off of each other on social media. People were entertained by watching us online go back and forth with videos of our animals and making jokes on completely different sides of the country.”
An Aug. 20 post on the Arthur’s Acres Facebook page reads: “The best part of the whole contest was the amazing bond we now share with Odd Man Inn.”
Injured pig displays resiliency
Before Melvin came to Odd Man Inn, he suffered serious injuries as the result of a dog attack.
“(He wasn’t given) proper medical care. By the time we took him, he had been suffering for three months with a leg that was super infected and broken,” Wendy said. “Also, the dog chewed off both of his ears, and his head was full of infection. We took him down to Oregon State University (in Corvallis, Oregon) and got him medical care. He’s now a three-legged, earless pig who lives a dream life here.”
In the winning photo, Melvin is pictured wearing a pair of crocheted rabbit ears on his head.
“It’s pretty darn adorable,” Wendy said. “I was like, ‘You know what? We’re bringing our A-game. We’re entering a three-legged, earless pig with fake bunny ears on his head. That’s our entry.'”
Melvin’s rehabilitation is an example of the services provided by Odd Man Inn, a nonprofit farm animal sanctuary and adoption shelter that works with surrounding animal control agencies to medically and socially rehabilitate abused, neglected, displaced and discarded animals of many different species.
The Smiths, who run the sanctuary out of the front yard of their 4-acre property, have rehabilitated and found homes for 275 animals since 2016.
Melvin, who has limited hearing out of one side of his head and walks around on his three legs, “is kind of a big deal around here,” Wendy said.
The Smiths commissioned the design and printing of two different Melvin T-shirts — sales from which have brought customers from all over the world and raised $5,000 for the sanctuary.
“People were compelled by his story,” Wendy said. “Melvin blows me away with how he doesn’t behave like he has any sort of disability. He’s feisty and energetic. He loves all the same things that any animal loves — a warm bed, a good meal, a belly scratch and a family who loves him. Pigs are some of the most incredibly resilient animals, (and resiliency) is what is what saved Melvin’s life. Resiliency and the ability to forgive and trust humans again are two of the most incredible qualities we see in most all of our pig residents here at Odd Man Inn.”
Contest win provides ‘legitimacy’
The contest win has provided Odd Man Inn with more opportunities to increase the farm animal sanctuary’s reach.
Recently, Josh contacted Black Heart Records, the label of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and said, “We have a pig named Cherry Bomb. She is named after the Joan Jett song. We’ve been a fan of Joan Jett for 30 years. We were wondering if they might be able to send a guitar that we could use as an auction prize with a framed picture of Cherry Bomb for our fundraiser in October.”
A representative responded and said the label could provide a gift bag for the October event and tickets to the band’s Sept. 3 concert in Ridgefield. The Smiths raffled the tickets as a fundraiser.
The label also provided the Smiths with four backstage passes, two of which they gave to the raffle winner, to meet Jett before the concert.
“The press agent was like, ‘Make sure you keep my number.’ If we can do our part to impress them as marketing partners, which we are good at, that leads to (more opportunities),” Josh said. “We have the Tractor Supply picture with the check. We’ve got a picture with Joan Jett. We’ve been invited to apply for a grant with the Newman’s Own Foundation. That’s invitation-only, and that gives us legitimacy.”
Odd Man Inn’s annual SaSQUASH Art Fest fundraiser will be held from 3 to 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12, at Lacamas Lake Lodge, 227 N.W. Lake Road, Camas.
The event will feature a silent art auction, raffle prizes and make-your-own-art stations, plus food, beer and cider. Participants are asked to donate a squash for the animals as an entry fee.
In its first two editions, the event was held at the sanctuary, but the Smiths believe the move to Lacamas Lake Lodge will increase Odd Man Inn’s visibility.
“I think it’s important that as our organization matures that we’re not a nonprofit that’s just always asking for something from the community,” Josh said. “We’re trying to create something that in the long run will be an annual event that will be a driver for the community. What could be better than being a nonprofit organization that becomes an economic driver for our town? We look for partnerships. We don’t look for handouts.”