Tampa girl trains pigs to bring people happiness

Posted at 3:26 AM, Mar 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 06:39:56-04

TAMPA, Fla. — When people go through tough times, some come out stronger and with a mission to make sure no one else has to experience what they did.

That is Claire Barrow's story. The 11-year-old Tampa girl is trying to add happiness to people's hospital stays with two pigs.

"This is Bolt. He loves to cuddle. This is Thunder. He's the smartest," said Claire.

When Claire was much younger, her mom spent a couple of months in the hospital. Heather Barrow was on hospital bed rest due to complications around the birth of her son. Like most young kids, Claire did not like the hospital.

"She came on a Wednesday, which happens to be the therapy dog visit day," said Heather. "You bring this dog in the picture and she just totally changed." 

"I love the therapy dogs so much that I wanted to do the same for other kids," said Claire.

Fast forward to last year. Claire convinced her parents to let her try raising pigs instead of dogs. She spent the whole summer training them.

"A really fun summer for me," said Claire.

Thunder and Bolt just turned one. They are now certified therapy pigs through the American Mini Pig Association. Claire and Heather take them to visit patients at Tampa General Hospital, nursing homes and even schools for education purposes.

"It just makes me really happy," said Claire. "Whenever we go home that day, I am always in a great mood after the hospital visits and so are they". 

Claire works with the two pigs before and after school as early as 5 a.m. She is working to build up their repertoire of tricks, all to put smiles on other people's faces.

"This is just the beginning. I will be interested to see what she can think of... nothing that I could," said Heather.

You can learn more about Thunder and Bolt at or by following their adventures on Instagram: