Larry, demonstrating the muddy state of the pig yard
Patches is 12 years old, and suffers from the usual indignities that come with old age: arthritis, and greater difficulty in getting around. She spends most of her time in the smaller pig barn, which is where most of the older pigs prefer to hang out.
It rained quite a bit this past week, so the pig yard was a mess. A boot-sucking muddy mess.
Patches had left the barn after being hassled by one of the other pigs, and she just couldn’t get herself back to it. Normally she can, but not only does she have arthritis, she has some weakness in the rear legs, and the mud makes it a thousand times more difficult.
In other words, she needed some help.
So, we have: a 500lb pig (I’m guessing at the weight), who is arthritic and weak in the rear legs and we also have a muddy quagmire of a pig yard. And we have Dave and four women. We might be strong, but we’re still kind of puny.
The mud was cold, and she was shivering. Dave got an old burlap bag or something of the sort, that he rolled up so we could use it as a sort of sling. This was all so much more difficult than you might imagine. First, Patches was laying in a way that didn’t have her rear feet under neath her, so we had to shift her to the side a bit and back her up so that she was facing the right way and had her legs under her. By sheer chance we were able to get the towel under her belly. Of course for a second we had Dave’s leg under her as well! Thank goodness not much of her weight was on his leg!
Once we had the towel under her belly, we tried lifting her rear end up. Two of us on each end of the towel. This didn’t work all that well, so we then got it behind her, sort of under her butt. Sheryl on one end of that towel, me on the other, Dave directly behind Patches using all his strength and his body too to help push her along, all of us slipping and sliding in the mud. Amy and Lisa were to her front, directing her toward the barn, motivating her with cantaloupe bribes , and keeping the other curious pigs away.
I wasn’t sure we’d be able to do it for a while, but then suddenly we got Patches standing up! Even then it was difficult, because the mud would suck us all in, and at the same time it gave us no purchase. She had a hard time lifting her feet out of the mud, but of course we were all having that problem. She slowly would take steps forward, and when we finally got to the area closer to the barn the ground was solid, our system collapsed, the towel slipped, and Patches was half laying down again.
We all rested and regrouped, and Patches was trying again before the rest of us. We quickly put our backs into helping her stand up, and damn if she wasn’t up and moving again in a heartbeat. Much easier on solid ground!
She got into the barn, mostly with Dave’s help by then, and laid down in a pile of hay, comfortable and dry again, and I’m sure quite exhausted. Her leg muscles were quivering from the exertion. So were the rest of ours.
I can’t remember the last time I have been so covered in mud! Dave actually had to change before finishing the rest of the chores with us.
Some people might hear this story and wonder how much Patches is suffering, or question the quality of her life. The truth is this: Patches has arthritis and she is on meds for that. She is not suffering, and normally she can get around, though with increasing difficulty. Her time is slowly drawing to a close, as all life does, but the end is not here yet, it is not yet her time. We’ll keep helping her, fighting with her and for her; getting muddy is nothing compared to what I would do to help these animals.
Patches on 12-25-2009.
Meanwhile, Terry was on her way to a vet hospital about 3 hours away. A cruelty case in NC where the animals were starving to death and living without shelter, where piglets had frozen into the mud and died, ended up with the judge giving all of the animals back to the person who neglected them so severely. A couple of them were sick enough that their “owner” considered them worthless and therefore allowed them to be rescued; after spending a week at the vets, those three are home now at Poplar Spring.
Helping Patches reminded me of helping Wilbur, back when he struggled so mightily to stand and walk. And both are testaments to the strength of will that we all have to survive. To live.