This Little Piggy Learned to Fly

DSC04147 (2)My life is filled with some interesting animals. There are dogs, horses, donkeys, a mule, a sheep, and still more dogs. And there are pigs. Big, glorious, not intended for bacon pigs. But today, there is one less pig.

My dear, fabulous, stupendous, brilliant pig among pigs, Spamela Anderson died today. We have known for some time that she was nearing the end of her days. She was quite old and honestly, I think she just got tired of being here.

I am sad. I will miss my beautiful pink girl. If you have never had a long term friendship with a pig, and I’m betting that most of you have not, you have truly missed out. But sadness will not define Spammy’s memory. Not by a long shot. I’m not writing this to mourn the loss of a special animal or to gain your sympathy. Spammy pig’s life was filled with too many great moments to allow me to do anything but smile when I think of her.

SPAMELA-06 (2) I’m writing this to celebrate the fact that this little piggy got to live a long, natural life, something that most pigs never experience. I’m also writing in remembrance of all of the good things she brought to my world. Yes, I do believe a pig was one of my most profound spirit animals.

SPAMELA-03 (2)I last wrote about Spamela in October when she was under the weather. In that post (read it here), I detailed how Spamela trotted out of the animal shelter and into my world as a tiny, pink, perfect piglet on her little high-heeled hooves. She captured my heart from our first hello.

I often refer to Spamela as my divorce pig. She entered stage right, as my husband of 15 years was exiting stage left. In my new-found independent state, I welcomed the one animal into my home that my husband had always said we could never have. “Whatever you do, don’t bring home a pig. I don’t like pigs.”

So when a pig literally fell into my lap, and despite the fact that it was during a very uncertain period in my life…I wasn’t even sure where I was going to live…I welcomed her little wrinkled nose and curly-q tail with open arms and lots of strawberries. She loved strawberries. Spammy was a funny little bright spot during an otherwise exhausting time. Is it possible that a little pig gave me strength? I have to say yes.

I will tell you that I even sold my beautiful wedding ring and used the money to buy panels to build a hog pen. Yes, I did.

I think my husband had a premonition about this. When we were parting ways and playing the this-is-mine-that-is-yours game, he asked if he could have the ring because he was afraid I would just sell it. Well, hell yes, I sold it. It was precisely the exclamation point I needed to close one chapter of my life and kick off another.

 (By the way…I don’t hate the guy. Divorce was not fun, but OH the great life that followed it. Yes, I was/am grateful for divorce…and so was a pink baby pig.)

So my little piggy and I started figuring out our new life together.

A few days after I got her, a friend named Jim came by to meet her and when I asked him what I should name her, the name Spamela Anderson popped right out of his mouth. Perfect! Who knew that a year later that guy named Jim would be an important part of my/our world. Spammy, you little matchmaker, you.

This leads us to one of my all-time favorite Spamela stories. That Jim guy had been out taking care of the animals in the barn on a cold winter evening. When he came back into the house he looked a bit dazed and had two perfect cloven hoof prints on the front of his coveralls.

What the heck?

Well, it seems that Jim had tried to convince a very hungry, very large Spamela that she should calmly wait her turn to be fed. Yes. He was telling a 600 to 700 pound hog to “wait.”

Spamela had other ideas that resulted in Jim finding himself flat on his back in the doorway of the barn. The quote heard ‘round the world that night was, “Normally, if I tell you I saw nothing but pink tits passing over my face it’s a good thing.”

I should have expressed proper concern over the fact that Jim had just been trampled by a large hog. I really should have. I failed. Oh how I failed. I’m still failing that test to this very day. Sorry Jim, but it was hysterical. Bruises fade, but the mental picture of Spamela running straight over the top of you will stay with me forever.

216578_1027815339302_8307_nFast forward a bit more to the time when a local television reporter came out to do a story about the amazing Spamela. He had read an article about her in our local pet magazine and thought she would make a fun human interest piece. You see, Spamela could do all kinds of tricks. I had trained her from the time she was a piglet and she easily learned to sit, stay, lie down, kick a soccer ball, and even do some of the agility exercises our dogs could do. That pig could run a good set of weave poles in her day.

Of course when the reporter showed up with cameraman in tow, Spamela, who was normally quite a ham (yeah, I went there) walked out of the barn, yawned and did absolutely nothing. Nadda. Not ONE trick. She wouldn’t even sit.

Needless to say the reporter had to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (oh yeah, I went there too) to pull a story out of that fiasco. Spamela looked lovely standing perfectly still on camera while the reporter and I talked about the tricks she supposedly could do. I now know how nerve-wracking it is for parents when their kid freezes on stage during his kindergarten play.

And you know, from that day forward, Spammy never did another trick. She was still her lovely, friendly self, but she made it clear that she was her own pig and her idea of fun was to nap in the straw, root around in the mud, and plant a dirty nose print on any unsuspecting human’s butt. She didn’t need no stinkin’ party tricks.

Important life lesson: You can lead a hog to weave poles, but you can’t force her to weave. You can take that literally or metaphorically. (I’m not that deep though, so take it at face value.)

But of all of the memories I have of Spammy, my very favorites are simply the times that she and I just got to hang out together on a pretty day. A girl and her hog.

Nan and SpamI will also always remember the special little noise she made just for me since she was a tiny baby. It was a soft, guttural “ah, ah, ah” sound. I always liked to think it was pig-speak for “mom”…or it could have translated to “human who brings food.” Whatever it meant, I believe it was an expression of endearment on her part.

And now, just a couple of months shy of her 13th birthday, the little piglet who became a very old hog has moved on. I don’t believe she is hanging out anywhere waiting for a reunion following my demise. No, I think Spamela will come back as something new and equally fabulous. Perhaps a fashion model. Or more likely a New York socialite. Or a famous movie star. I can absolutely see her spirit gracing the big screen.

sit stay goodWhere ever she has gone, no matter her new adventure, I know I’ll always be grateful for this little piggy.

This little piggy never went to market. This little piggy found a loving home. This little piggy lived a long, wonderful life. This little piggy earned her wings.

And now, this little piggy has learned to fly.

Thanks for everything, Spammy pig. Ah, ah, ah right back at you.

Spam and Monte Spam and Jerry HERE PIGGIE PIG (2) Bitty ride spam (2) IMG_7834 (2) Jerry and Spammy

This Little Piggy

IMG_7838.3Spamela Anderson is sick.

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.

Spammy profileThis 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.

SPAMELA-06 (2)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?

Really.

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.