No, not Pamela Anderson. I’m sure she’s fine. Well, actually, I have no idea how Pamela is, but she has looked incredibly healthy every time I’ve seen her on television, so I have to believe she’s fine.
It’s my dear pig Spamela Anderson that is under the weather. It’s not the first time she’s been sick in her life. Every now and then she seems to get a stomach upset that manifests in loss of appetite, lethargy, and…and…well, sorry, but vomiting. Yes, pigs vomit. Impressive amounts. Enough said? I thought so.
Anyhow, the first time Spamela refused her dinner was about eight years ago and I will admit I panicked a bit. She’s a hog, a really big hog literally and figuratively. She loves food, so a lack of appetite is noteworthy. Everything I read about hogs at the time said that if a pig refused to eat for more than 24 hours it could indicate a serious illness.
Well, that first time she did go without eating for more than 24 hours, so I called on my pig veterinarian to come check things out. Now, keep in mind, this veterinarian is wonderful, but the pig patients she normally sees are potbellied pigs, not 600+ pound farm hogs. So Spamela presented a bit of a challenge for her, but she was game. She said she would bring an assistant and they would come out to do a blood draw and check my gorgeous girl over.
By the time they got to our farm, it was dusk. Dr. Wolfe hopped out of the truck with her assistant, a young man who I’m sure was very strong, but, well, he probably didn’t weigh much more than I did and stood a few inches shorter . Far be it from me to question the good doctor’s judgment, but I wasn’t sure how this potential wresting match was going to play out. My one hope was that Spamela would just somehow decide to sleep through the exam and needle stick to her ear. Yes, they draw blood from a pig’s ear because you really can’t find a vein anywhere else. It would be like trying to draw blood from a boulder.
Spamela had burrowed into a large pile of hay out in her pasture, so we all trooped down the hill to find her. The initially confident assistant—you know, the guy who would be in charge of snaring the pig’s upper jaw in a loop attached to a pole so he could “hold her still” for the veterinarian—got very quiet and very pale when the hay mound moved and the impressively statuesque Spamela emerged. I recall him just looking quickly back and forth from Spammy to Dr. Wolfe…Spammy to Dr. Wolfe.
Spammy decided she wasn’t up for entertaining so many people so she headed to the barn. Oh good…we would tackle this in the barn where the light was brighter and I could get a better video of the mayhem…umm…I mean Dr. Wolfe could see better to perform the exam.
Did I mention that at this point the assistant was walking way behind everyone and starting to eye the distance to his truck?
Ok. We were all standing in the barn and the assistant had his cute little pig snare stick in hand. Just as we were about to give this restrain-the-giant-porker procedure a go, Spamela walked over and gave the gate to her pen a mighty rattle.
No, she was not trying to escape. This behavior is actually her equivalent of ringing a dinner bell. When feeling a bit peckish, she will ever-so subtly pound on her gate with her saucer-sized snout while I dish up her meal.
She punched the gate again. Dr. Wolfe suggested I offer her a little food to see if she might be feeling better, so I did. And she was. In fact, she decided she was starving. I do believe I saw actual tears of relief pooling in the vet assistant’s eyes.
We’ve had two other “therapeutic vet visits” over the years that pretty much played out the same way. There is a certain magic about Dr. Wolfe just stepping foot on this farm that seems to be the cure for whatever ails Spamela. Dr. Wolfe gets a call fee…I get relief from worry…we have a nice visit…Spamela gets a well-deserved meal. For the record, I have never seen that assistant again since his first introduction to Spamela.
This time around, Spamela’s symptoms are very similar to the few times she has been sick in the past. Last night I had to go out to find her in her pasture, then had to cheer her on a bit as she followed me slowly up the hill to the barn. I offered her a pan of food and she turned away. I offered her a carrot and she refused to take it. She just stood there, staring blankly like a little kid who has stayed up way past his bedtime.
Perhaps, once again, it is not cause for huge concern, but something feels different this time. Something is pulling at my heart when I look into her eyes. There is something different about the way she is moving so slowly. She does not appear to be in pain, she just seems really tired. So very tired.
The reality that I have to keep in mind is that Spamela is an old lady pig now. The average life expectancy for pigs like Spammy, she is a Yorkshire pig, is six to 10 years. Spamela is now 12 glorious years old.
I remember very well the day that Spamela came into my world. It was during a rocky time in my life. I had just separated from my husband of 15 years and was heading down the divorce trail. Life was anything but rosy. I was in full what-now mode…trying to figure out whether I could manage to keep all of my animals, trying to decide where and how I would live.
However, when the call came in from the animal shelter asking if I would take in a baby piglet, I didn’t even hesitate. Maybe my judgment was clouded by stress…or maybe it was because the one animal my soon-to-be-ex-husband had always told me I should not bring home was a pig. Well, I showed him. I brought home a pig. Really Nancy?
Spamela trotted into my life on her cute “high heel” hooves and I fell immediately in love. She was the size of a football and perfectly charming. I even sold my no-longer-necessary wedding ring to raise money to buy panels to construct a pig pen. HAH! That showed him. (Vindictive? Noooooo. Practical!)
So yes, I have a long history with this lovely, funny, friendly, smart pink pig. It’s hard to see her grow old. It’s hard to see her not acting like her normal hungry self. Even our other pig (well of course we eventually added another pig), Jerry Swinefeld seems to sense the difference in his buddy. He was actually being quiet and mannerly at mealtime last night. Something is definitely up.
Hopefully, this morning, I will walk to the barn to check on my girl and I’ll find her up, banging the gate with her normal enthusiasm. Hopefully she’ll be demanding a morning brunch while snorting my concerns away. I am ever hopeful. I am also realistic. When you live with so many lives that are more temporary than your own, you have to be.
Yes, this time something just feels very different. I’ll keep you posted.
Time to head to the barn.