Petunia was not the only pig at the Monroe County jail.
But her extra-porcine personality -- and memorable 850-pound weight -- made her an unforgettable fixture at the Monroe County Detention Center petting zoo, which she had called home since April 21, 2001.
Now she is gone, and if there is one gift Petunia has left to the people who knew her best, it is affirmation of how much furred, bristled and feathered friends can bring out the best of the humanity that lies within them.
Capt. Penny Phelps, a Monroe County Sheriff's Office veteran, whose involvement with Petunia included saving her from hurricane floodwaters, is among them.
"I never would have believed it if somebody would have told me 10 years ago I would have had a hole in my soul over a pig," she said.
Deputy Jeanne Selander, the animal farm supervisor who works closely with all the animals there, is equally distressed, although Petunia's death Tuesday was not unexpected.
Diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Petunia was allowed to live out her life at the farm, and when the time came for it to end, she was euthanized with dignity. Humans whose voices and hands had become familiar to her for years were there to comfort her.
A black pot-bellied pig named Opie, Petunia's constant companion for years, laid peacefully on a pile of hay Thursday morning, her gaze fixed toward the gate Petunia and she once walked through together for daily visits to the unusually broad, fenced barnyard where the jail zoo's animals get measured recreation time.
Selander and the inmates who care for the animals have been watching Opie closely, but so far she is eating, which is what matters most.
One of the inmates said he had not only helped care for Petunia during his incarceration, but had met her during a visit to the zoo prior to that. People who saw or petted Petunia as schoolchildren are now in college or have children of their own.
Nobody is quite sure precisely how Petunia ended up in the unique menagerie, but the story told repeatedly has to do with a younger life on Big Coppitt Key among humans who had bought her for eventual consumption as barbecue.
"I was told the neighbors started a petition to save the pig," Selander said. The owners acquiesced and Petunia was brought to the jail. What followed was a life of steady feed, along with grapes, corn and other treats. Green apples were her favorite above all else.
"She loved belly rubs," Selander said. "And she was a talker."
As Selander or others rubbed the big pig's belly, she would grunt her approval, occasionally letting out deep-throated murmurs.
She gained a reputation as a pig who would do anything for a bag of corn, and that aspect of her personality, officers agree, helped save her life, and benefitted other pigs, when Hurricane Wilma ravaged Key West in 2005, prior to Selander's arrival and appointment.
The water was up 4 feet and she and other pigs were swimming. Phelps and others on the staff, already struggling to cope with the storm's effects, tried to do what they could.
"Water from the Gulf and from the ocean was pouring in when we got into the farm, and the water went over their heads so they weren't touching any bottom," Phelps recalled. "They were squealing and you wouldn't believe you had heard such ungodly noises before. We grabbed them and got them in a position where we could touch bottom and hold them up."
Phelps spied an aluminum picnic table but she, other officers and the inmates didn't know how they would lift Petunia onto it.
"The only part not under water was the top. We got on top of it and found bales of hay and started stacking them," said Phelps. "We learned Petunia could climb mountains if there was corn involved."
And so with the lure of corn atop the table, Petunia helped her helpers get her clambering to safety.
"We started lifting and pushing her rear end," Phelps said. "Once she was up there she was happy."
Once the other pigs saw Petunia feasting, they were more inclined to cooperate. And that is how Petunia, Phelps and the other humans saved the rest of the pigs.
"She was the pied piper of pigs," maintains Phelps, who found corn again useful once deputies created a pig carrier for hurricanes. Again, Petunia not only was successfully lured into the carrier during a drill, but appeared to have taught the other pigs as well.
What was amazing to Phelps was Petunia's response to human voice commands, which also came in handy.
It was Selander who noticed some lesions in 2007, and the long ordeal with Petunia's illness began. She had contracted skin cancer.
Dr. Doug Mader, a Marathon veterinarian who regularly checks on the jail's animals, did what he could, but chemotherapy for Petunia would cost far beyond what the jail's budget could ever spare.
"Pigs don't normally live long enough to get cancer," said Selander, who never did figure out Petunia's age. "At the end I was giving her a pain shot once a week. Dr. Mader was saying to me it could be two weeks, it could be two months or it could be five years."
For Selander, those years weren't easy. Every time she was on vacation or otherwise off duty, she had concerns about Petunia and about being there when the end came. To people at the jail who knew of Petunia's penchant for hanging on, she became somewhat of an inspiration, and she appeared so determined to keep on that they nicknamed her "Robopig."
By Tuesday, a decision had to be made.
"When you work around animals a lot, they let you know when it's time. She was to a point where she had lost a lot of weight, she had lost about half of her body weight," Selander said. "Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions. I agonized about it."
After the end came, Petunia was consigned to ashes, after her shrouded remains were gently carried to a pickup bed with the help of four somber inmates.
"Her strength is what impressed me the most," Selander said. "I learn something from every animal here, and every one is different and they each have their own personalities. And if you didn't know Petunia, some part of me thinks it is unfortunate that you didn't"