Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Taking a mudbath for Patches

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.


17 responses to “Taking a mudbath for Patches

  1. b January 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Having a safe sanctuary space continues to be part of my long term plan, something I regularly think about and plan for, even if in terribly small ways for now. But when I hear stories like the one Terry was dealing with, I wonder how I’ll be able to do that part of it without having a nervous breakdown in a courthouse somewhere. I don’t want to get to the point where that kind of story doesn’t make me physically ill and blind with rage and sadness, but how else do you manage to work across the aisle and save friends who need your help? That might be a rhetoical question :-/

  2. nothoney January 24, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    See? I knew you’d tell this story better than I ever could. Nice work! And you are dead to rights when you say that getting muddy is the least of what we’ll do to help our sanctuary friends. We’ve all sort of bonded with Patches now, and I want to keep an eye on her.

    Oh, and I’ll try to get pics of the new pigs next Saturday and send them to you or put them in my blog.

    I’m really glad we were able to – somehow – get Patches back into her cozy barn. I’m kinda proud of our efforts.


  3. Deb January 24, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    @b – running a sanctuary is so much harder than people think, and in ways that probably would surprise them. Part of it is the way abusers are given back the animals they abused because those individuals are considered “property”. Terry isn’t involved in the court cases, personally. She works with a different part of the system, only after the court cases have been completed. Which isn’t to say that she wasn’t upset about how it all happened…but I think to survive you have to focus on the ones you are able to save. As Terry has said, they get to be the happy ending. It still isn’t easy, I don’t think, and it’s the kind of thing that I hope everyone who considers running a sanctuary thinks seriously about. Talk to some of the people running sanctuaries about it…and definitely intern at a sanctuary for 6 months to a year. There is so much to learn…especially when you consider that the vets are often over their head, simply because they don’t treat farmed animals often, and certainly not ones who are past “slaughter weight”. Anyway, it is an amazing thing to want to do, but it’s a lot harder than it might seem on the surface.

    @nothoney – yes, we are definitely bonded with Patches now! I’m sure you could tell the story at least as well if you sat down to do it. You’re the one with the journalism degree! I’m kinda proud of our efforts too, though I’m sure Dave took on the brunt of it! Can’t wait to hear how the new pigs are! I will miss being at the sanctuary next weekend, though it will be very very nice to be in a warm sunny place for a few days…

  4. The voracious Vegan January 25, 2010 at 5:35 am

    It was so wonderful to read the story of you all taking a mudbath for Patches! Hahaha, I can just picture the chaos. Loved it!

    I can’t believe the judge gave the animals BACK to the abuser!!? Seriously, what is wrong with people!?!

  5. tristan January 25, 2010 at 9:25 am

    It is great to hear that while society consider’s non humans “property,” there are some of us who value their lives. Please try Traditional Chinese herbs and accupuncture. I have tried it on pigs, cows, sheep and it works wonder. Maybe they can donate their time.

  6. Marina January 25, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Oh, my, poor Patches. I wish I could have been there to give you a hand. You guys are wonderful. The judge, on the other hand, is a mental midget, and the laws that allow him to do such a thing must be changed.

  7. Kristen January 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I know tons of old people with arthritis, and I hope we don’t question their quality of life and whether they should be put down early because of their issues…

    I saw a truck this morning in the parking lot with a bumper sticker that says something like “I love wildlife” in bold at the top and underneath it says “for fishing and hunting” – I wanted to key his car but the inner peace in me decided not too…

  8. Deb January 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    @tvv – lol. it was pretty crazy! I think the mud was six inches deep in places.

    The judge giving the animals back is also crazy, but when you think about it, the point of the farmer is to kill the animals. From his and the judge’s perspective, as long as the farmer keeps the animals alive until they get to the slaughterhouse, why would they care or bother themselves about anything else? Those pigs are property under the law, and just as was true when women were property of men under the law, the owners can do anything they want. Terry says that the only time neglect/abuse cases end with the prosecution of the person and they don’t get the animals back is when their neglect/abuse has already killed almost every single animal who had been under their care.

    @tristan – I’ll mention it to Terry and Dave, though I know they have tried many natural remedies in the past. There’s not much documented on geriatric pigs, as you might imagine, so what they know they’ve mostly learned through experience.

    @Marina – unfortunately I don’t think that the laws will ever protect animals as long as they are considered property. This is why I just try to get people to go vegan…

    @Kristen – what a creep that guy with the truck is. Or woman. Or both. I wonder if they love their kids too…

  9. Frances February 12, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Hi there,
    I’m here via the Challegeopression site (just found that too) and love your blog and what you’re doing for the animals. I’m sure Patches will fight even harder to live as long as possible with you helping him! Thanks for all you’re doing, planning on being a regular reader here.

  10. Stephanie Ernst February 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

    How did I miss this post when you published it? I’m sorry that I did. I am consistently in awe of all of you, your work and your hearts.

  11. SoCal Muchacha February 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Gosh it feels good to be reading your great posts again, and ESPECIALLY to enjoy the fabulous photos you take–BOTH of which pull me right into the story! Congrats to you guys for the valiant (and productive!) effort you put into getting Patches roaming around again…I got tired just reading about it! 😉 And as someone who works at an animal hospital and literally just had a conversation with a client yesterday about quality of life, how others define that as opposed to how the caretaker of the animal does, I agree 100% that those with our 4-legged friends day in and day out, are the ONLY ones qualified to give a truly accurate assessment of the quality of life for said being. 🙂

  12. Kay Evans March 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Deb,

    Are you OK? I’ve been worried about you because it’s been a while since you wrote on your blog. I hope all is well.

    Take care,

  13. Deb March 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    @Frances – thanks for stopping by!

    @SoCal – thanks! it was good to see you posting again!

    @Kay – thanks so much for thinking of me and asking. I am doing okay – I have been trying to make up time at work from the snow days I had to take, and it’s left me with little blogging motivation. I will try to get something up tonight. I did just post something over at the group blog:

  14. ocveganista May 7, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Your pictures are ABSOLUTELY wonderful. So nice to read about someone who is as compassionate with these lovely beings.

    🙂 OCveganista

  15. Pingback: A hopeful return « Invisible Voices

  16. nothoney May 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Dave and I reminisced, briefly, about this event and he told me that Patches weighed about 850 pounds! I will always remember her and that muddy day.

  17. Pingback: Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Open House 2010 « Invisible Voices

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