Lost: Large Pig, Answers to Jerry Swinefeld

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What do I do? Do I put posters on street corners? Do I put his picture on a milk carton? Perhaps I should issue a Hamber Alert?

But seriously, somehow we have misplaced a 700ish pound hog.

Lost: One-eared pig that looks like a giant Oreo cookie. Reward offered if you’ll take him to your home instead of returning him to ours.

Yes, Jerry Swinefeld, our resident rescued Hampshire hog, is not where he should be. His stall is empty, his pasture is empty. It appears our hog is on the lam. And we actually do want him back.

I am not entirely sure what inspires a normally lazy, sedentary porcine to suddenly up and abandon his happy home – you know, the one where he receives daily meals delivered wallow-side? Well, actually, I do have an idea. The culprit was likely last night’s rain showers and subsequent cooler temperatures. Nothing inspires a big pig to kick up his heels more than the end of blistering summer heat.

I’ve looked for Jerry. I’ve called for him. Jim has looked in some of Jerry’s favorite nap spots. He is nowhere to be found. You might think we would be terribly worried, but frankly, we have about 75 acres of hiding places at Tales You Win Farm and there are few things that a giant hog with sharp tusks has to fear.

Oh sure, we have a lot of coyotes in the area, but anytime I have seen a hogzilla-meets-scrawny-coyotes encounter, the latter creatures tuck their tails and head for the hills. They truly have no interest in trying to put pork on the evening’s menu.

Jerry at the porch 2It’s not the first time Jerry has made a “run” for it, and frankly he doesn’t usually run very far, or for very long. Meals are not served beyond the confines of his comfy, spacious pasture and true to stereotype, this big boy loves his meals. I expect he’ll find his way back to the barn – or even more likely, my front porch – at some wee hour in the morning. I’ll know when he does because my dogs will explode in a Charles-Manson-peering-in-the-window type of frenzy.

That’s always a fun jolt to consciousness.

Or I’ll get THAT call from the neighbor. Yeah, historically, he HAS made the 1/4 mile trek to see what the neighbors might be offering up for a midnight snack. Jerry is not exactly svelte or athletic, so I’m crossing my fingers that the wee hour in the morning wake-up call doesn’t happen on their front porch instead of ours. Any hopes of winning that neighbor of the year award would certainly be dashed.

I’ll keep an eye out tonight. Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll find my naughty teenager-equivalent passed out in the barn after a night of rowdy fun. When I do find him, I’ll scold him and I’ll send him straight to bed, but not without his breakfast. Dear lord, you do not deny Jerry his breakfast.

Then I’m pretty sure fence repairs will be at the top of my to-do list. Again.

John Denver fibbed. Life on the farm is NOT “kinda laid back.” But then again, I’m guessing John never lived with the likes of Jerry Swinefeld when he decides to test his boundaries.

Dammit Jerry.

How to Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move. Riddle solved.

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Jerry…the picture of noncompliance.

Before I tell you the answer to my riddle from earlier this morning (if you missed out, you might want to read here first), let me walk you through the events that left me a tad battered and bruised, but victorious on oh-so-many fronts.

Ok, when I last shared with you this morning, I was looking forward to the prospect of going out to convince one wayward Jerry Swinefeld that he should not be living as a gypsy pig, he should move back into his comfortable digs in the barn. Behind a gate. Behind a fence. Two things I consider essential to responsible large hog/small hippo ownership.

I was pretty convinced that if I just went out, sweet talked Jerry a bit, maybe scratched him in all of his favorite spots (under the jowls and belly being the very favorite), and offered some past-the-point-for-human-consumption strawberries (YUM! A Jerry favorite), my big guy would just haul himself to his feet and lumber along with me back to the barn.

I was sure of it.

I walked over to the spot where I left him last night to find him still firmly, lazily planted in the brush, under the trees on the backside of the pond dam. He even grunted me a little “ah-ah-ah” good morning greeting. I felt this was a positive sign. Was Sir Never Miss A Meal a tad peckish?

I sure hoped so.

I sat down in the tall grass and brush beside him…tree branches hanging low over my head. It did not escape me that I was serving a little round of brunch hors d’oeuvres in prime blood-sucking, mini vampire meets mutant zombie territory. You might know them as ticks.

Since it was Sunday, I took the opportunity to offer up a hopeful little prayer…”Dear God, Far be it from me to question your wisdom. I know everything you designed has a purpose. But ticks? Really? If there is any chance you are feeling up to banishing them from the earth now and forever, I’d be crazy grateful. If that’s asking too much, just banish them from this immediate area, OK? Thank you, God. Amen.

I’m guessing I gave God a good laugh. And the ticks too. Nobody was banished this day.

Anyhow, I sat and talked with Jerry who was more than happy to accept my offering of strawberries. I scratched in all the right places. He closed his eyes and sighed in bliss. I showed him MORE berries in a nearby bucket. He drooled. On my leg.

I hopped up enthusiastically and said, “OK, let’s go to the barn!” And off I went, nearly skipping with optimism.

Jerry? Not so much. In fact, I am fairly sure I heard snoring from the underbrush and possible teeny tiny giggles. Damn ticks.

Ok. Plan…what are we up to here…I think C by now. I decided that Jerry was boycotting his pasture until Bob the ram was relocated. Plan C: Catch and move Bob.

Sounds simple enough, right? You would be wrong. Bob is not a fan of being caught. You can pet him, you can feed him, but put a rope on him? Yeah. Cute little rodeo time.

Lacking a dog in my entire pack with a clue as to how to properly herd a sheep, I was on my own. I took my “sweet talk the hog” course of action and modified it to the “sweet talk the ram” plan of action.

bob

Farm tip…when a ram holds his head down and eyes you like this, it’s best to not stay in front of him. The’re called rams for a reason. You’re welcome.

I whispered sweet nothings to Bob. I scratched in all the right places (SEE Jerry? You DO have something in common with Bob!). I used mad ninja skills to slip a rope halter around Bob’s neck and up and over his nose.

Ta da!

And now we lead the ram…we lead the ram…oh, the ram leads us in bucking circles. Ok, that’s fun too.

I finally got Bob to the barn and got the bright idea that I should give a couple of long spots on his hooves a trim before moving him to the donkey pasture and releasing him. I called Jim and informed him of my grand plan and asked him to bring the hoof snips to the barn.

When Jim arrived, I had Bob calmly tethered to a post in the barn. This was going really well!

I reached down to pick up a foot and Jim says, “Wait! Give me your phone!”

I look up to see a smirk on his face and a twinkle of mischief in his eye. Oh hell no, Mr. Gonna Hit It Rich On You Tube. Not today.

As you can perhaps imagine by now, Bob was not feeling cooperative about the whole hoof trimming scenario. Someone was going to get stabbed with hoof snips at this rodeo and I didn’t want it to be me.

Plan D: Make Bob lie down.

The easiest way to shear Bob, to trim Bob’s feet, to worm Bob, to do ANYTHING with Bob, is to get him down on the ground. He calms right down and somehow seems to think he’s stuck.

Let me interject here that Bob the ram is not the brightest Crayon in the box. In fact, on the MENSA scale of animal intelligence, Bob ranks on the low end of “bless his heart.” If you’re from any region of the U.S. where you believe y’all should be in the dictionary, singular and plural (all y’all), then you totally understand that.

Not in the mood to wrestle with a ram that is well past the cute little lamb stage, I proceeded (yes, with Jim watching and snickering) to make Bob lie down. You do this by standing facing his side and you reach under his stomach to pick up his front foot on the opposite side. Usually, if you pick that foot up and bring it back, he’ll just fold like a miserable poker hand.

Of course not today. So, I had his far front foot in my right hand and reached across his back with my left hand to tuck his back leg up and ease him down.

That was what was supposed to happen. What DID happen is that we both “eased” down, with a tad more force than I had planned, on top of my left arm.

The good news is that Bob was fine and securely down in the “bless his heart” stuck sheep position. The less-than-good news is that I found out I am not Gumby (younger people, look it up) and elbows are really, really only designed to fold one way.

I am a tough woman, but I will tell you I was in some pain. Oh, but Jim was watching and I was going to suck it up. No wimpy girl moment. No sir.

I did warn him that I might need to cry for just a moment (in case he wanted to do the right thing and look away…he did not), and then I channeled my inner Taylor Swift, decided to shake it off, and started trimming those hooves sticking out from that temporarily paralyzed ram.

Job done, I convinced Bob that he could, indeed, still stand up all on his own and Jim and I marched him from the barn to the donkey pasture—Nan playing the part of border collie, Jim in the part of shepherd.

I can’t say that the donkeys were happy to see Bob back. So if donkeys don’t care for you, and a hog can’t stand you as a flatmate…well, Bob…it may be time to have a little talk about hygiene or something.

Ok, Plan D accomplished, though it was not really the plan I needed to accomplish.

Plan E was to leave a tempting meal in the barn for Jerry, refresh and fluff up his bedding, and leave the gate open. Surely he would get tired of his little camp-out and decide to head home.

Yay Plan E! I would return to the barn after a few hours away to surely find Jerry napping happily in his bed. A simple gate to shut and all would be right on the farm.

I showered, de-ticked myself (nasty little blood sucking bastards!), did the grocery shopping, and headed back out to celebrate Jerry’s return.

Have you guessed? Have you? Yeah. No Jerry.

Plan F: Channel your inner Future Farmer of America kid and MOVE THAT PIG.

You’ve seen them do it at the county fair, right? Kids, little kids, are moving big hogs around with nothing more than a stick in their hand. Hey! I have a stick!

So I grabbed a long crop we keep in the barn and headed back over to Jerry’s nesting spot. In the grass. And brush. Under the low hanging trees. Where the ticks are.

No Ms. Nice Guy now. All business. “Jerry, get up, get up (tap with stick), get up!”

Holy cow, he got up.

I got behind him and started tapping. Just like the 60-pounds-soaking-wet kids at the fair.

“Go to the barn!” (tap-tap-tap his left side) “Go to the barn!”  (tap-tap-tap his right side) “Go to the barn!” (repeat) (repeat) (repeat)

What do you know? He went to the barn. He walked right into his pen and ate a bite of his welcome-home dinner and checked out his bed.

Plan F, I embrace you!

I learned a lot today.

1. You cannot convince Jerry that Bob is a pig in sheep’s clothing. No bromance there.

2. I still really hate ticks. They still really love me.

3. Elbows should only bend the one way. It’s bad if they bend the other way.

4. Ibuprofen is our friend.

5. You CAN move a 700+ pound hog that does not want to move.

I’m not really sure I answered my riddle. Sure, Jerry is back where he is supposed to be, but I didn’t find and repair his escape hatch, so we may be repeating this whole joke-on-me tomorrow. My hope is that with Bob gone from his world, Jerry will settle back into his happy routine of eat, wallow in mud, sleep, wallow in mud, eat again, sleep some more.

20150412_103901And me? Well, I’m giving myself an “atta girl” for tenacity today, and a “bless my heart” for trying to rearrange my elbow.

I can already see tomorrow in my crystal ball…”Hey Nancy, how’d you hurt your arm?”

It could be a long Monday. Hey Jerry…STAY PUT.

Riddle: How Do You Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move?

Jerry at the porch

Jerry on a previous walkabout.

Do you have an answer to my riddle?

No?

Shoot. Me neither.

This post could also be titled: When Good Pigs Go Feral. It all started after Spamela Anderson, our grand dam of the farm, passed away at nearly 13 years of age. This left Jerry Swinefeld alone in his pasture. I interpreted “alone” to mean “lonely.”

I may have been wrong.

You see, about a week or so ago, I moved Bob, our resident bachelor ram, into Jerry’s pasture. There’s some nice grass springing up, it’s a safe little pasture with access to roomy shelter in a section of the barn, and the coyotes tend to steer clear of the big hog…so that would afford Bob some security (he is not one tiny bit savvy and falls for the “follow me little lamb” line every time a coyote tosses it his way. If not for the donkeys and the mule Bob would have been a main course years ago).

Thinking like a human, I came up with the idea that Bob would be great company for Jerry Swinefeld. Bob would nibble grass while Jerry would luxuriate in his favorite mud hole. The two would nap side-by-side in the shade. The odd couple would share the spacious stall in the barn at night, snuggled in the sweet-smelling straw.

Paradise, right? Wrong.

The day I moved Bob to Jerry’s pasture, Jerry moved out of his comfy digs in the barn and dug a new bed in the farthest corner of his pasture from the barn. He would not come back to the barn, not even to eat. This is is a profound piggy statement because, well, it’s FOOD and he’s a PIG.

So I thought I’d give them a little time to work it out. You know…give them a week and surely Jerry would decide that Bob wasn’t such a bad roommate after all. Right?

Wrong again.

Jerry has upped his game. He up and moved out.

We’re still not entirely sure how a 700+ pound hog has managed to subtly slip out of a seemingly still intact fence, but he has. Now he has taken up residence by the pond, up against the backside of the dam.

And he is not budging.

Usually I can lure him back to the barn with promises of grand feasts (this means rattle a bucket with anything remotely edible in it and he’ll jump right up). But he’s not falling for it this time.

Bob seems concerned. He spent the night standing confused by the fence, staring at his wayward friend snoring on the other side.

So today I get to figure out how to convince Jerry to come back to his home…and I need to do this before he decides to head off to see if the neighbors might have anything interesting to eat. That NEVER goes well.

How do you move a huge hog that doesn’t want to move?

Well, I’m going to solve that riddle today. My first guess is that I need to move Bob back to the donkey pasture.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Bob’s seemingly uninventive name after reading names like Spamela Anderson and Jerry Swinefeld? Well, he named himself.

Baaaaaahb. Baaaaaahb.

Stay tuned…this riddle is very likely to turn into a full-fledged joke.

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.

A Terrific, Radiant, Humble Happy Birthday

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If you had told me 15 years ago that I would someday have a pet hog, I would have…well, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. In fact, I would have likely just said, “Cool! When?”

Yeah, that’s how I roll.

I have always been “that kid,” and now “that person,” earning me nicknames like Horsey Girl, Chicken Girl, Dog Lady, Squirrel Mom, Bunny Mom, etc…so naturally, Pig Mom felt so very right.

It was May of 2002 when I got the call from Dave, a good friend who worked at the City of Tulsa Animal Shelter. I volunteered at the shelter on a regular basis at that time and Dave knew I was “that person.” He called with a special request for a foster home. Three pigs had just come to the shelter…yes, the shelter set up to house dogs and cats, but NOT pigs…and one was very young and very tiny. Dave was afraid the piglet would not survive if housed in the shelter.

Would I provide a foster home for a baby pig? Well, hell yes! There really wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. My only questions were:

  1. Where is she?
  2. When can I pick her up?

I would figure the rest out as I went along. A lack of plan seemed like the perfect plan.

Now, let’s set the stage here. At that time I did live on a small acreage that boasted a barn where my horse, a llama, and my growing donkey family lived. I also owned 75ish acres that I had hoped to move to. Hoped. But at THAT time I was in the middle of a divorce and everything seemed way, way up in the air. I wasn’t sure where I would be living over the course of the next six months. I wasn’t sure if I could keep my animals. I wasn’t sure about anything.

Was it a good time to take on a baby piglet? Well…sure! She was just a foster pig, right? (Yeah, I’m laughing too.)

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So skinny at first! It didn’t last long.

The piglet had been transferred to an area veterinarian for a checkup. Beyond being a bit malnourished and having a case of pig lice (ewwww!), she was proclaimed healthy. I did quickly learn that pig lice are species-specific and that they had treated her for them, so I parked my heebie-geebies at the door of the vet hospital and rushed in to claim my new little charge.

I believe I heard her before I actually laid eyes on her. Squealing all the way into the exam room, a tiny pink bundle was delivered into my waiting arms.

Oh my. She was adorable.

Big ears, a wrinkled little snout, button eyes and a pricelessly curly tail—it was love at first snort. She was truly no bigger than a football (forgive the cruel comparison!). She walked on tiny, cloven high-heeled feet. She loved to snuggle. She was all personality. I was completely smitten by my first pig encounter, beyond the destined-to-be-bacon pigs at the state fair.

I quickly ran to the feed store to purchase some appropriate food and then also hit the produce stand to buy some fruits and veggies I knew she might like—nothing but the best for my little bundle of joy.

I bedded her down in my spare bathroom because that somehow made sense at the time. The dogs met the pig and miraculously made friends. They even played together. It was quite a sight to see my Dalmatians racing around with a little pink bullet at their heels.

Within 24 hours I knew this pig would NOT return to the shelter. If the owner of the pigs returned to pay the fines and claim them, I knew she would be destined for slaughter. If she remained unclaimed, she would be sent to auction where her fate would likely be—you guessed it—slaughter. That was just not going to happen.

So I called Dave at the shelter and told him the pig was staying put and he needed to figure it out on his end. His answer (God love this man…I know I caused him stress) was to list the piglet as deceased. Yes, he wrote on her intake card that she had been too young and malnourished to survive. (By the way, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent…) We joked for years afterward that Spammy was the healthiest dead pig anyone had ever seen.

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A girl and her pig.

Now I had a pig. Wow. Now I had a PIG. My up-in-the-air plans officially needed to accommodate a pig that would swiftly turn into a full-fledged hog. A lack of planning on my part perhaps not such a good idea? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the piglet continued to charm everyone she met. Jim (who was not my partner quite yet, but soon would be—lucky, lucky me!) named her Spamela Anderson within the first few minutes of meeting her. GENIUS. A quick, quick wit. Just another reason why I fell for this man.

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Spammy and Monte demonstrating a good “stay.”

Spamela, affectionately known as Spammy, quickly became a beloved fixture in my home…well, actually in my barn. The “let the piggy live in the house” idea changed pretty quickly. Did you know that pigs like to back up against the walls of your bathroom to poop? Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Creating poop art on the walls issues aside (and in her defense she DID “go” on the papers we put out…well, her feet were on the papers), Spammy was clever. She learned tricks and behaviors just as easily as the dogs did. She liked to play, she liked to eat. Oh she really liked to eat. My tiny pink piggy swiftly grew into a beautiful, huge hog.

Now fast-forward 12 years.

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Spamela Anderson napping with Jerry Swinefeld. Friends at last!

Spammy and I have been together through a lot of life changes. Well, life changes on my side of the board, anyway. Her life, on the other hand, has been fairly stress-free and even keel.  She has always had a comfortable barn to snooze in. She has always had lovely mud to bathe in when the weather gets warm. She has always had plenty of good food to eat. She has always had room to roam and graze. She even eventually got a younger adopted brother that she wasn’t too sure about in the beginning, but grew to enjoy his company (except at dinner time—he’s such a pig!).

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Spamela and Monte were best of friends. They played together until I decided she was just too big and might hurt him accidentally. It was sure fun to see them romp. Interesting side note, Monte would never accept one of those pig ear chews. Turned his nose completely up. What a loyal friend!

All these years later, we get to celebrate Spamela Anderson’s 12th birthday. So few pigs live to see this milestone, so it’s special. All the more special because, after a bit of research, I found that the average lifespan for Yorkshire pigs, who are actually allowed to live, is listed as six to 10 years. You go, Spammy!

This little piggy has lived a very good, long life. Together, we survived divorce, we survived figuring out where and how to live, and we survived changes in family, career, and lifestyle. Through it all, Spamela has been blissfully unaware, but she did play an important role in swaying many a decision and I am grateful for her not-so-silent influence (have you ever heard the noise a 600-plus pound hog can make at mealtime? Think roaring lion.).

Now Spammy’s years are showing. Her once impressive bulk has faded. She is a little slower to rise and enjoys naps a good deal of the time. She still meets each meal with the enthusiasm of a young porker and she still loves a good wallow in the mud. I know we don’t have a lot of time left together, but whatever time she graces us with, will be wonderful.

To borrow words from another famous pig story in which a clever spider named Charlotte documented the attributes of her porcine friend within her web, I would have to say that Spamela is, indeed,

“Some Pig,”

“Terrific,”

“Radiant,”

and

“Humble.”

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Portrait of a senior pig.

After all, she was a bit famous in these parts with articles documenting her life in magazines, newspapers, and even on the news. Through it all, she remained unaffected, and slightly mud-caked.

I would have to one-up dear Charlotte’s list, however. My last web-message for Spamela would have to be “Much-Loved.” And she is.

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to our dear Spamela Anderson. You are one very fine pig.

 

Following are more photos from the life and times of Spamela Anderson. Here’s to hoping we get to add many more.

 

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Yes, she would let me ride her. Sort of.

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We were our own little side show.

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She could heel better than most dogs.

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Hanging out with her horsey friends.

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Carrots. Always a favorite. She loves all fruits and veggies, but does not like cake…especially stuff like Twinkies. This could be a key to her long life.

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Spammy, at her full size, enjoying a visit from friends. She was quite impressively large in her prime.