By Leah Fallon
Pebbles the pig garnered regional attention after being rescued from his second house fire two weeks ago. The fire on the La Cheval Farm near Aldie displaced four people, 18 horses, 15 cats and 3-year old Pebbles the pot-bellied pig.
But if anything good can come from something so catastrophic, homeowners Ruth and Tommy Peters have found it. In the days since the fire, they have experienced the strength and selflessness of their neighbors, the local business community, and others who were once strangers.
Chris Jefferson and his fiancée Courtney Kockler have lived next door to the Peters for two years, but they had never met their neighbors. After seeing billowing smoke coming from the Peters’ garage on the morning of Jan. 7, Jefferson and Kockler hurried over to find the couple, both in their late 70s, safe outdoors but fearful for the safety of Pebbles.
The 150-pound pig was too frightened to escape. With little hesitation, Jefferson entered the smoke and fire. “I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I didn’t know where I was going because I’d never been in this house before.”
He knew he couldn’t come out without Pebbles.
When he finally found the pig lying on the kitchen floor, he didn’t know how he was going to get the stubborn pet to safety. Using a lead rope, and after lots of struggling, lifting and pulling, Jefferson was able to maneuver the frightened pig outside.
Ironically, it was a house fire that first united Pebbles with Ruth and Tommy Peters. On Thanksgiving Day, 2014, he was rescued from a fire that had engulfed a home in Warrenton. He was taken to Middleburg Humane Foundation for treatment of severe burns, and was adopted by the Peters the next summer.
The couple said they consider the pet pig a part of the family, and they’re eager to reunite with him. Pebbles was unharmed in the recent fire and is again in the care of Middleburg Humane Foundation until the Peters have a place to call home.
“He’s my baby,” Ruth said, “and I’m the only person he likes.”
The couple lost three cats in the fire, including Molly, Pebble’s best friend. “Molly would groom Pebbles. They were always cuddling up,” Ruth said.
But the Peters have focused their attention, and gratitude, toward the outpouring of help they’ve received from the community.
From the moment word spread about the fire, neighbors have been jumping to lend a hand. By that evening, Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast Managers Henriette Buell and Ali Werner provided them with a room at the Middleburg inn, with a promise of a warm place to stay as long as they need it.
“The generosity of the community has been unbelievable,” Tommy said. “I couldn’t possibly thank everyone.”
Each morning, Federal Street Café prepares the Peters’ breakfast, and each afternoon Trotter’s Perk Bistro provides lunch. And there have been endless donations of food, clothing and money.
But the needs of the couple’s 30-acre horse farm go beyond meals and clothing, and the folks of Middleburg and Aldie have contributed in abundance. Southern States Co-op has provided feed for the animals, while White Stone Farm has donated gallons of water. Other neighbors have contributed bales of hay, a generator, and blankets for the animals, and some are housing several of their horses.
Horses can’t handle the kind of stress a fire brings, Kockler said. “In stressful situations, animals need routine more than ever.”
Ruth Peters, who used to show horses for a living, lost one of her horses shortly after the fire. She said he had health problems, and believed the trauma of the fire was too much for the horse to handle.
As she and her husband watched their home burn, Ruth said she has never hugged so many strangers. The two-story house built in 1975 held their legacy; so much of their lives burned with the fire. “We’ve been married 58 years. At this stage of our lives we have lots of family memories, things we want to pass to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said.
But all is not lost. Although many of their belongings were ruined, they hope to recover some items and begin rebuilding their home. Until then, they will continue to build relationships with their neighbors.
The Peters have asked that any donations be directed to the Middleburg Humane Foundation, at middleburghumane.com/donate-now.html.