This week on FreddieSez, we continue our Amazing Animal Series with the story of Lu-Lu, the potbellied pig and her incredible effort to save the life of her owner!

It’s been long said that dog is a man’s best friend… but time and time again, the bond between pets and owners eclipses the stereotypical “dog/man” mold and shows that love and mutual respect often is the driving force in that forever bond. There are unbelievable stories of cats, snakes, goats and even cows becoming “instant heroes” in the face of overwhelming odds to save people that they feel a connection with, humans that the animals love as members of their own family. On an August day in 1998, the bond between a Vietnamese potbellied pig and her human Mom was such a story.

Ann Altsman and her husband were on a camping trip, vacationing in rural Pennsylvania. They had setup their trailer at a campground near Lake Erie and Ann’s husband was already out on the lake, looking to catch fish for their evening meal. Lulu often traveled with the couple on these trips, along with the family dog Bear, who was an American Eskimo. The two animals made great travel buddies, often playing together. Lulu weighed in at over 100lbs but was full of energy and Bear was a stout 35lbs of muscle. Bear could always get away through the dog door in the camper and scamper off, if he needed a pig-free moment. Even though it was an odd pairing, this mismatched duo were best buddies.

Strangely enough, it was an unexpected turn of events that lead to the pig being at the campground at all. Lulu was actually first owned by the camping couples daughter, but after spending time with her “grandparents” while the daughter was out of town, what was a temporary baby-sitting job turned into a lifetime link. The pig moved in with Ann and her husband on a full time basis. Lulu felt a special connection to Ann that eventually would lead to a life saving series of events, one that many people still have a hard time believing.

On that August day on Lake Erie, as Jack Altsman cast his line out on the water the rest of the clan rested in the camper, it was a “take it easy” kind of day. It was, until fate stepped in and changed the fortunes of a pig and her Mom.  Ann, still young at 57, was gazing out the window of the camper when she suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, felt pains in her chest. The pressure was equivalent to, what Ann believed, an elephant sitting on her chest. Shortly following the pain and pressure, Ann’s left arm started to go numb… at this point, she knew what was likely happening, these were the signs of a heart attack.

Ann acted as best as she could in her condition, her strength weakening and the pain increasing, breaths becoming harder to take in and a general fog starting to envelop her mind. She grabbed the closest and most heavy item she could find, an alarm clock, and was able to throw it at a window in the camper, shattering it. At this point, Ann collapsed on the floor, unable to stand or walk any longer. She cried out for help, her voice weakened by the medical emergency underway, Ann was hoping against all hopes that someone would hear her cries and come to her rescue before it was too late.

Bear acted as any dog would, confused and frightened, sensing that something was horribly wrong, he barked and paced.  However, their efforts were not enough, the camper too far away from the ears of anyone that could provide help. Things looked bleak for Ann, as she continued to yell for anyone to come to her aid and the pain increased. Time was running out, every passing minute took her closer to permanent physical damage or worse, she might not make it at all.  It was at this point, when things were at their worse, that Lulu jumped… or waddled… into action!

Seeing her Mom on the floor, helpless and screaming, watching the panic in her best friend Bears actions, Lulu’s pig brain clicked into gear and she devised a plan to save the day. Somehow, that 100 pounds of pork found a way to squeeze herself out of Bear’s doggy door in the camper.  Looking at the size of the door and the size of Lulu, that simply shouldn’t have happened, but when faced with adversity, the pig found a way.  Having beaten the odds and overcome one major hurdle, Lulu was not out in the yard and immediately met another obstacle in her way… she had never been out of the yard alone. She had taken some walks with Ann and Jack, on a leash, at a nice slow pace, always easy and comfortable but NOW she was faced with a locked gate and fencing… and short legs, no thumbs to work the gate latch and nobody in sight to help a pig out! Again, Lulu had a major problem and had to come up with a solution, and FAST, Ann’s life depended on it!

As if a light bulb went off over her head, Lulu seemed to realize that if, at her size, she could get a her short legs to a good speed, she could use her weight to batter down the gate and get beyond it… and that is apparently what she did. The gate was knocked down and Lulu was out of the yard, on her own. Knowing that people drove cars and remembering that cars were on the roads, she ran to the crossroads at the entrance to the campground.  Lulu would run out into the road and stand, forcing cars to swerve around her, hoping one would stop to help her, or at least chase her so she could lead them to Ann back at the camper! Several attempts at this lead to nothing more than horns and hollers to “Get out the road”! Lulu could hear Ann’s cries for help but knew they were becoming weaker and the gaps between the screams was longer. Lulu had to do SOMETHING before it was too late!

As odd as this all seems, even more strange are Ann’s later reports from inside the camper as Lulu was looking for help. Ann’s retelling of the story indicated that Lulu returned to the camper several times, forcing her way back through the doggy door, and trotted over to check on Ann. Once assured that her Mom was still breathing and alive, the pig pushed her way back out Bears door and again ran to the road to flag down help. Determination had a name, and it was Lulu!

Finally, Lulu hatched a slightly bigger ruse for her plan. This time, she plopped down in the middle of the road, not moving and pretending to be dead. It took almost no time for a car to come along, see a 100 pound of potbellied pig spread out on the highway, and stop to help! Once Lulu had a “fish on the hook”, much like Jack… she reeled him in. The young man from the stopped car reported that, as he approached, the “dead” pig jumped up and ran back towards the campground. When he did not immediately follow, the pig would come back to the edge of the road and attempt to get him to follow it. Finally, the man got the message and walked with Lulu back to the camper.

Inside the camper, Anne was barely hanging on to consciousness, weakly crying for help with what feeble voice she had left.  Lead by Lulu, the man reached the camper and heard Ann’s yelling. He knocked on the door and Ann explained she was having a heart attack and begged him to get help, quickly.  The man ran to the find a phone and within 15 minutes of the knock at her door, the paramedics were there, performing triage and placing Ann into an ambulance for transport to a local hospital. Once at the Medical Center, Ann underwent emergency open heart surgery that saved her life. Doctors told Jack that had 15 more minutes passed, it would have been too late for Ann. That is how dire the situation had become.

When the amazing story of Lulu, the hero potbellied pig, hit the presses, she was an instant celebrity. Lulu was invited to New York City, where she was given a Hero’s welcome, a room at the Mayflower Hotel and received at Tiffany gold hero’s medal from the A.S.P.C.A.  She was also a special guest on the Late Show with David Letterman and did an interview with Oprah Winfrey! Babe and Wilber may be fictional pig hero’s in make believe worlds, but Lulu is a real life swine savior! She is amazing.

Do you think this story is too good to be true? Could a pig have created a plan, overcome the obstacles and fooled a human into stopping their car and following her back to the camper to save Ann? Would Lulu have the ability to reason deeply enough to realize Ann was in critical condition, so frequent trips back would be needed to check on her? Is it possible that Lulu was actually intelligent enough to pull off this master plan and save the day? Or is this just and over embellished “wives tale”?

Consider these facts before you pass judgment…

  • Beyond Ann’s accounts of Lulu’s frequent trips back and forth to check on her condition, the pig had scrapes and scratches that showed she had been through some ordeal that caused trauma to her midsection. Also, the doggy door had been damaged.

  • The gate was off its hinges and open, pushed out and away from the camper. This would not have happened if some force had not pushed or pressed against it from the inside of the yard.

  • Witnesses stated that a pig was running into traffic, as if it was trying to run them off the road.

  • The man who finally stopped, confirmed that Lulu was lying in the road, motionless. Her injuries to her midsection were concerning enough that he felt the need to get a closer look in an attempt to help her. As he approached, Lulu jumped up to get the man to follow her. The pig would not give up and eventually led him to the camper.

Pig are considered the smartest domestic animals, even more intelligent than cats or dogs. They are also very clean animals and have a great sense of community and loyalty. With all the evidence and the known factors, it is not a reach to believe that everything reported by Ann, and the man who found Ann, was all a part of a well thought out plan by one very determined, worried and loving potbellied pig. Lulu went into action when there was no one else to save the day!  That is one tasty pork story…

That is our Amazing Animal tale for this week. We hope you enjoy these stories of valor, dedication and love between man and animal. It helps to reinvigorate the spirit and belief that we all share a common bond, regardless of the species and language.  Love is eternal and everyone speaks some form of it.

From all of us at #Freddie Central, we hope you had a fantastic Valentines Day and we wish you the best for the week ahead.  As we always say, you can read our blogs as long as you like but, once you’re done, you can’t stay here! To our fur families out there in internet land, much love and “be good to each other”, #FreddieSez


Research material for this blog:

This Pot-Bellied Pig ‘Played Dead’ To Save Her Dying Owner (

Lulu | Unsolved Mysteries Wiki | Fandom