Pigs are great. So great that people will do anything to save one from an otherwise unknown fate....that speaks volumes about any species. Pigs are very special, they have human-like feelings and will cry if their feelings are hurt much like a person would. Pigs don't make the greatest indoor pets though. We all see them glamorized everyday and celebrities getting these little pigs and people excited to get their piglet or waiting anxiously at the airport for their arrival....I often wonder, do they know what they're getting themselves into? Sometimes yes, sometimes (and more often) no. That's sad that people do more research to pick out a television than they do before they get a pet to add to their family. If my tv wasn't everything it was said to be, would I get rid of it? Would I ask someone else to pay for my tv because I no longer had time to watch it? Or would I just let it sit there collecting dust and be obsolete the next time I used it? Well for me personally, I take my obligations seriously, at least now I do. I was once one of those people who ran out and got a pig on a whim with absolutely no research, there was no FB at the time and I knew nothing about pig rescue or how to spot a shady breeder, all I wanted to do was fill the selfish want and did it. I got my pig. It was a disaster from day 1.
I searched for local people that had potbellied pigs for sale and found one, about 45 minutes away from me. I stopped by the bank, grabbed some money and was off to buy my piglet. I was told to give him sweet feed and was handed a baggy full of that. He was around a month old and according to the woman, he was no longer nursing from his mama. I watched as she "caught" this scared little baby as he ran around a small outside pen, I was heartbroken watching this little guy running from her, fearing for his life, but again, my selfish side had to have him. I wrap him up in a blanket, like a baby, and drive home holding him in my lap. When I get home, I took him into the house and set him down...he runs away from me. Clearly, he likes to run, he was doing the same thing at the breeders house when I first laid my eyes on him. Luckily for me, he won't get any bigger than 45lbs....not nearly as big as this little tiny pigs mama who I saw....she was skinny but a much bigger pig than what I paid for. (Yeah, right.) He has all kinds of open sores, and is scratching himself on anything he possibly can. As soon as I walk close to him, he takes off. I wonder what I am doing wrong?
Day 2....our baby, we playfully named Porkchop, wouldn't eat dinner last night and now he won't eat breakfast either. I called the breeder who said sometimes they just take a few days to settle in and that he will be fine. Don't worry about the open sores, he must've been cut up in his outside pen when he was trying to escape. I'll tell you one thing....this little baby loves belly rubs, so I am now a self proclaimed belly rubbing expert and now he tips over when we do it. (It was seriously the cutest thing I had ever seen) My kids love him, he will now come to me, well he will come if I have human food....I guess it's true, the way to any mans heart is food.
Day 3....what have I gotten myself into? This dang pig is peeing everywhere, he finds a spot and just pees, he doesn't go in a litterbox like I was told he would do and now my carpet is starting to smell like someone may have died in my house. (I did invest in a carpet cleaning machine shortly after he arrived) Still no eating his food though....he absolutely refuses to eat this mixture of stuff that was given to me. So I made him some human food. Oatmeal to be exact, and I added in some vanilla yogurt just to be sure he was getting enough to eat. Success...Yay! He loves it and is eating that mixture twice a day. (I go out and buy all the instant oatmeal I can find)
Day 4....he is still scratching himself on anything he can find and now I am all itchy....my kids are complaining that their arms are itchy occasionally too....he loves the food that I prepare for him, so it seems like we've finally done something right....whew. He's slowly warming up to us now. He will now willingly come to me, usually it's because I'm eating something and he wants a bite. He does this really cute thing where he picks up my feet as I'm making his food....like telling me to hurry up. We video it and laugh and laugh, we show all our friends and neighbors our cute little porkchop and all the quirky things he does. Everyone loves him.
Day 5....nothing eventful, he's still a playful little fella, stinky urine, but now we've closed in a spot in our back yard so we can take him out. We have to carry him to the makeshift pen because the area where we made it isn't right outside the back door. Luckily, our neighbor has a dog and can keep an eye on little porkchop. (This is obviously before I knew the dangers of keeping pigs and dogs anywhere close to each other as well, thankfully, my neighbors dog never hurt my pig, but because I had no idea that they shouldn't be together, that was someone up above looking out for him because I had no idea that could ever happen way back then. I am now well aware of the dangers, but wanted to include that fact in here because a lot of people aren't aware of the risks)We never leave him out alone, we're scared someone would come steal him. Everyone just loves to come over and watch him pee on the carpet while completely ignoring our calls for him to come to us.
Day 6....this is when it starts to get interesting. Porkchop is still playful and still has a lot of open sores, so I call a vet and the sweet man on the phone says they'll actually come to my house if I need them to....Porkchop is just a little guy, so I make an appointment for later that afternoon and take him in. Well, there was good and bad news. Good news is that his sores are due to the fact he has mites....better news is that there is medicine that can treat that and he won't have them anymore. Bad news is now I have to go to my MD and let him know that I have a pet pig and he was diagnosed with mites and now me and my family need to be treated for mites too....Mites in humans are often referred to as Scabies and I was humiliated to call and make an appointment. Being a nurse, I know whenever you go to the doctor and any treatment you get becomes a part of your permanent medical record and now I will look like some dirty person with nasty kids who has a dirty house and doesn't keep things clean....luckily for me, my primary care physicians first degree was actually animal science....he was a vet before he transitioned to human medicine. Not only did he understand and sympathize with my situation, but now he wants me to bring porkchop to the office to meet him and his staff. How fun is that? He tells me that these mites won't actually live on people, but can cause some itchiness for a few days. (Me or my family never had scabies, but, scabies are a mite, just not the same mite that pigs get. We would've gotten better with or without treatment because they wouldn't have been able to reproduce and would die off, we sorta jumped the gun as far as going to the doctor was concerned.) Lesson learned.
Let's fast forward to around day 14....now porkchop isn't acting right, he's eating his oatmeal and yogurt, like every single bite of it and has been for a couple of weeks, but now he isn't walking right, he's falling down and unable to get up. I immediately called my vet. He rushes over to my house and spends the next 3 hours with me discussing pigs. When I say I knew nothing, I literally mean nothing. I've had a pet pig for 2 weeks now and have no idea what I've gotten myself into. Well, after he consults with a vet from another state, he believes he now knows what is wrong with my baby. He is basically malnourished. He isn't getting the vitamins and overall nutrition he needs from oatmeal and yogurt. Duh. He needs pig food. He doesn't know exactly where I can get it, but that I should check around and find food specifically made for pigs. So I do. And I find a little mom and pop shop about 40 minutes away and they have a bag of pig feed. Thank God! After he gets done with the question/answer seminar he had no idea he was entering, I rush out and buy pig food. At the time, there were no Tractor Supply Stores or any big box retailers that had agricultural type feed.
Day 18....I am doing everything short of cramming this pig feed down my pigs throat to get him to eat it. He needs the balance of vitamins and minerals to get better. He is not a fan, but I found that wetting it and mixing it in with his oatmeal and yogurt seems to do the trick. I am feeding him as much as he will eat. I can see his strength is getting better and his endurance is also improving. Awesome.
Day 21....porkchop took off running! I have tears in my eyes as I watch my baby run through the yard, making an odd barking noise, I take a video and send it to everyone who has been texting me to check and see if he's doing any better. Looks like we are finally on the right track....This is a short video of him running through my house, playing with my 3 pound chihuahua. That barking has always made me smile and yes, those noises aren't coming from the dog, all the sounds are from the pig. He is awesome.
Skipping to day 45....porkchop is a pig I every sense of the word. His weight exploded, as he's been eating sooooooo much pig feed....it's cute how he begs for food while we eat. He used to be able to fit under the dining room chairs, but now he's way to big to do that. He loves playing with our chihuahuas though, they run and chase after each other....the dogs don't like it when porkchop tries to eat their food, but otherwise, porkchop behaves a lot like they do. (All of this interaction between the dogs and my pig was far before I learned the dangers of pigs and dogs being left alone together...FYI) He's not the friendliest animal we've ever had, but, if he wants a belly rub, he will literally fall down beside and even sometimes even on you so he's in a better spot for you to be able to accommodate his belly rub demands. Needless to say, what was cute at 5 lbs was no longer cute at his size now. He was able to bully us into giving him our food, he would bite if you didn't comply with what he wanted. He would routinely flip over chairs over and move furniture. We started calling this poltergeisting....(definition of poltergeisting: when your furniture moves around "on its' own" when it is close to meal time for pigs.) Needless to say, he got what he wanted. He had us fully trained.
Moving on to about the 3rd month, his urine is really stinky and because he is everywhere, everything has this nasty foul smell on it. My vet suggested that I have him neutered and this will help not only with the awful smelling urine, but also with the humping. This pig will mount anything he can jump up on. The kids, chairs, a step stool, my bedspread that fell on the floor, his favorite "partner" was a stuffed animal dolphin. Guess he's not that selective. I am a nurse in real life, so I know how hormones work. I know hormones are secreted and they drive behavior and are responsible for his development and have other specific functions within the body...I also know having him neutered should help curb or cure that undesirable behavior. I will say, this pig is nothing like the cute baby we first got, he is nothing like a dog, despite the things we were told, but he does LOVE to eat and yeah, that's about it. He's still not very loving, doesn't like to cuddle or spend any "quality time" with us, but he seems to enjoy to be outside.....the makeshift pen we originally built for him is now useless, he learned that he can just lift up the cheap fencing we put down and then wanders around the back yard. So, he enjoys feasting on the treasures that he finds in the backyard, mostly dirt, but also acorns and crab apples that have fallen from the tree....and of course he loves mounting anything that doesn't move out of his way. Overall, we love him very much and we are willing to make whatever changes are necessary to keep him safe. His neuter appointment is approaching fast, but he needs vaccinations and a routine check up beforehand, so he has an appointment to be checked out later that week.
A couple of days later.....we arrived at the vet. Porkchop is now too big to ride shotgun and is limited to the back seat of my BMW. Naturally, he poops everywhere and the seats are heated and cooled, so now there is an overwhelming poop smell whenever I open the doors or turn on the heated/cooled seats. Ugh, gross. The vet is preparing for porkchop's neuter next week and gives him a tetanus shot, rabies (although used off-label) and a couple of other shots to prevent common illnesses in pigs. My vet is a doctor of animal medicine, so I trust that he knows what he's doing, I don't object to any vaccinations....I feel like anything I can do in a preventative way would be helpful in the long run. The following morning the vet calls me when the blood test results came back and my Porkchop has an issue with his liver. The liver enzymes are elevated, so this is an abnormal result and my vet is concerned about it. Worse news ever. His neuter was been put on hold until we can figure out what is wrong with him. It's not a good idea to sedate an animal whose liver isn't functioning correctly, it's a risk that neither one of us wants to take. He's eating good, gained about 60lbs over the last couple of months, has the cutest fattest cheeks you've ever seen. Walking fine, and everything else seems to be functioning good. Only now his urine not only stinks, but it's also a brownish color. The vet is coming to my house tomorrow, so he will check him out then.
The next day, the vet comes back to my house to draw some additional blood work. Porkchop isn't what you would call a pig that's interested in what you want to do, porkchop is more like the king of the house, so the vet didn't really have much luck holding him down and trying to draw blood. Porkchop was a bit of a biter too. He hated water, wouldn't let you near his mouth or eyes. So he always looked dirty, but again, we loved this pig so much, we didn't care. While the vet was there, he observed Porkchop, is his own surroundings, and watched him go through the XXXL dog door we had installed for him and walk right out to the oak trees. He vet called his pig savvy veterinarian friend and told me that he can't eat acorns. "Acorns will make him fat and sick." I had NO clue. When eaten in massive amounts, like he's doing, they can be toxic and do damage to their liver. So, elevated liver enzymes combined with the brown colored urine is all a result of him eating acorns? Really?? Wow.
Fast forward to the weekend....I had a fence building party with my friends. I bought all the supplies and had some of my friends come over and help me build a fence...a fenced in area that didn't include the area where the acorns were. They were about ankle deep at this point, one big giant acorn tree was to the left of the property, but we were going to try our best at sectioning off a part of the yard-that still gave him plenty of room to play and run, but also kept him out of the acorns.
By the next weekend, we had it done. It took much longer than we anticipated and it cost a lot more money than I had originally thought too, but that is simply life with a pig now. Another two weeks go by and his urine is now clearer again, it still stinks, but appears to be improving. The vet feels like it is much safer to neuter him now and does manage to draw one more set of blood work. The liver tests come back ok, liver enzymes have decreased and are back within a normal range. Woohoo! We are around 5 months now and Porkchop is finally being neutered.
On the day of his neuter, the vet tech wasn't available, so my vet asked me if I wanted to scrub in, uh, yeah!. SUPER EXCITING!! I had scrubbed in many surgeries and was very familiar with sterility and general surgery, but obviously I had never seen or been a part of a pig procedure. I really didn't assist in much, they had a wooden box they made for pigs that they used for neuters which put them in an anatomically correct position for a neuter. But, Porkchop was too fat and didn't fit in it like younger or smaller pigs would, so I held his head (which got very heavy near the end) and handed surgical instruments to the surgeon. Surgery went off without any complications, thankfully. At home, we had become frustrated with his potty habits, so we built a 4 foot x 4 foot litter-box and in the front we had a separate section for his food and water. I've noticed that he pees when he's drinking. At one point, it was funny....it's not funny anymore. The carpet in his room had to be ripped up and replaced with tile. It was our laundry room, but a good sized room, so we made it work and kept making whatever improvements were necessary to accommodate him.
Porkchop was the talk of the town. We are the ONLY ones who had a pig in my area. He's still was not very friendly and would bite you if you try to remove the crust from his eyes, he's had a couple of baths, but as soon as I try to clean his face, he would bite and his teeth were sharp and it hurt. I'm slightly scared of him and I think he knows it.
6 months after getting Porkchop....the mounting of objects has stopped. He still pees whenever he wants, but he is only allowed in the main house when we are home or can watch him. He's a destructive guy, he's eaten part of the wall in his room, he's broken the baby gate that separates his room from the kitchen. He's learned that cabinets contain food, so now all the cabinets have childproof locks. I remodeled my kitchen (and by remodel, I mean that I gutted it down to the 2x4's and completely redid it, new everything, cabinets, appliances, even new Sheetrock.) Now my brand new stainless steel refrigerator that I haven't even finished paying for has holes drilled in it because this A-hole pig keeps breaking into it and eating everything in site. We mainly laugh at it and try our best to control it. But we also understand that he is a pig and he will continue to act like a pig...pig proofing is a must.
6 months and a couple of days....our house was broken into not long before we got Porkchop, so I had an alarm installed. We were close to the city, but considered agriculturally zoned, why someone would want to break into my house was beyond me, but I wanted to make sure we were safe. One day while I was working, the alarm people called and the house alarm was going off. Here we go again, my main thought was praying Porkchop was ok. The kids were at school and I didn't have anything anyone would want, but my house was accessible while hidden from the main road, so it was an easy target. My job requires I travel a lot locally, so I was there before the police. Thank God I had an alarm and the house alarm started blasting and I could only imagine that poor Porkchop was scared to death or worse, gone. I am one of those people who believe in the right to carry a firearm and having a concealed weapons permit allows me to carry a gun in my vehicle, so I grabbed my gun and proceeded to go inside the house. I called the police back and let them know I went ahead inside even though they told me not to, but honestly, I was more concerned with my pig and his well-being than anything else. What if they hurt him, what if someone broke in to steal him (they would've brought him back I'm sure) but a million things were racing through my head. Embarrassingly enough, Porkchop was the one who set off the alarm and the police were in route. When I walked in, all I saw was a mess. Even more embarrassing was letting the police come in to verify that yes, there really was a pig there that triggered the alarm and see the HUGE mess he made. When they called dispatch to clear the call, they stated there was a pig in the house, the dispatch chuckled and said we know you're there and they proceeded to laugh and explain they meant a "real pig".... now everyone wanted a picture with big ole Porkchop and luckily, he was full from everything he had eaten and just laid there and allowed them all to touch all over him and take pictures laying beside him. Good times. We cleaned until almost midnight that night, that dang pig had literally pulled everything out of the cabinets, breaking one in the process, tore all the labels from all the cans, so I had no idea what was in any of the cans...we later used that as a game of what are we having with dinner tonight? Could be peaches, could be peas....
8 months...we've settled in with Porkchop and he really is the boss of us all. He loves one of our chihuahuas and they sleep beside eachother every night. They tolerate eachother, but eat separately. Porkchop is well over 100lbs at this point and still growing. But all in all, we're doing good. The vet has become number one on my speed dial. If Porkchop has a runny nose, I called the vet, if Porkchop wasn't acting right, I called the vet. He's visited my house so much, that now he knows where the hidden key is, the alarm password and doesn't even mandate that I be home for him to come see Porkchop. He is very familiar with him and doesn't usually need to actually lay eyes on him now. I will share a couple of things I called the urgently on and now I feel foolish, but all in all, it made me the person I am today. I called him a month after I had him because I thought he had worms coming out of his belly, or had accidentally laid on a screwdriver, whatever it was, it was long and scary. They really got a good laugh at my expense, my vet informed me there were no warms, but that was his penis! LOL. Once you see a pigs penis, you can NEVER "unsee" that. Once I called them because he had holes in his legs....both front legs. I couldn't believe it, he must have some parasite or gotten into something and now has a flesh eating bacteria. The vet looked it over and agreed he had multiple abscesses and gave me an antibiotic spray and suggested that I clean them daily and keep the ointment and spray on the actual wounds until they've healed. (This was one of the other vets in the practice, not my usual vet who was away on vacation) needless to say, when he returned and saw I had been in the clinic and saw that my pig was diagnosed with some mysterious flesh eating infection, he made a call to his pig vet friend and found the holes in both front legs are simply scent glands and they're not abscesses and no treatment is needed at all...matter of fact, he suggested that I leave them alone period. Another time I called them. Porkchop was squealing and seemed to be in excruciating pain, he wasn't able to walk without falling down and I just knew there was a serious problem, my vet came out and said I don't think we're equipped to deal with this, you may need to take him to a specialist. The specialist was about 5 hours away, in another state. So again, he called his friend who was a pig vet and she suggested that it may be dippity pig syndrome...what?!? Now my pig has have rare genetic disorder, I've already spent an enormous amount of money on vet bills, I don't know what I'm going to do now. So he and I look up that disorder and are relieved to know it's short lived, not life threatening and Porkchop will make a full recovery. And again, she was right....he did experience this several more times throughout his short little life, but now, I felt like the dippity pig expert. By this point in me and my vets relationship, I had done extensive research about pigs and was no longer leaning on them for every little thing, he knew if I called, there was truly an emergency. He actually started having other people that were interested in getting a pet pig call me first so they would know what to expect. I was no expert, and although I hadn't been a pig mama for long, I had a lot to offer. I would have to guess that I talked more people out of getting a pig than I talked into getting one. Not because I didn't like pigs or thought pigs were horrible, but because I was honest and told them how challenging it was.
9 months....this pig is huge! 125lbs now and only 9 months old. Wow. And he wasn't supposed to be any bigger than a beagle. Hahaha. Biggest joke ever. Anyways, moving along, Porkchop was having some difficulty urinating. Again, because I am in the medical field, I notice subtle things. I have noticed that he hasn't peed in the last 8 hours....gave him more water, perhaps he's dehydrated....no pee. I call my vet, he is alittle concerned about a possible bladder rupture, porkchops belly is rigid and not soft and squishy like it usually is. Now, to add insult to injury, he is hunching over and trying to poop and nothing. Nothing is coming out, he acts fine though, doesn't seem like there's an obstruction, he doesn't seem to be in pain and the vet is already on his way. Well, he was on his way and had another emergency that trumped mine, so since Porkchop wasn't in a life threatening situation, he will come by later. I watch this poor pig try and try to poop and pee and nothing ever comes out. I put on some gloves and use Vaseline to make sure he's not impacted, I get a few balls of poop out, but clearly his bowels aren't functioning correctly, it's just not coming out for whatever reason. The vet arrives and I can see he is really concerned. He walks back to his truck and calls his friend and tells me, well, we are definitely not equipped to deal with this. We don't have the surgical equipment needed, we don't have the right anesthesia or monitoring equipment for Porkchop. I can send you to a specialist or I can euthanize him. He explained that some people didn't want to "waste their money on their pigs", some people just didn't have it to spend and some people felt like that was the most humane thing to do....I explained that he knew me better than to ever suggest euthanizing Porkchop and that I would get a second mortgage on my house before I would let anything happen to my baby. This was around 1pm that day. He gave me the address and name of a clinic one state over in North Carolina. They were "potbelly pig specialists" and would be able to help him. That's all I wanted, for him to have a place that was equipped to handle his situation or have surgery if that was needed, whatever was necessary to make him better. Porkchop hadn't been in the car very much since he was a baby, and the times he was put in the car, he was going to the vet and given shots or had blood drawn or lost his manhood, so, my little BMW was not a place he wanted to be. An hour later, after chasing him around the yard, I finally muster up every bit of strength I have left to pick him up and get him into my car, wipe my tears, stop at my mama's house to grab her GPS, because my car didn't have GPS back then and we are finally on the way to the specialist. They close at 5pm and it's a 5 hour trip and it's already 2pm. I called my work and told them I had an emergency and won't be in the next day or and would be taking off the rest of that particular day. Everyone at work knows how much I love this pig and I tell them the truth, Porkchop is sick and I'm having to take him to a pig specialist in NC. They didn't hesitate to send well wishes and prayers for him.
Well I can hardly drive because I'm so scared and upset. I don't know what's going on, I don't know how I am going to pay for it, I don't even know how much money is available on my credit cards, I am overwhelmed, I'm super emotional, I call my mom to get the kids off the bus and make sure they cared for until I get home and let her know that I would keep them updated. Fast forward to around 9pm, several calls back and forth to the vets office we were headed to, the stupid GPS was apparently set to avoid highways, therefore, it took almost 7 hours to get there on all back roads, everyone is calling asking how he's doing, and he's still slumped over trying to poop in my backseat. I am still crying and with each turn this stupid GPS is making me do, I can see him getting sicker, causing me to panic even more and by the time we get there, I am an emotional train-wreck. I have mascara running down my cheeks and I am just a mess all the way around. Luckily, he has his harness on, but it's going to be a challenge getting him inside the office. They may see a lot of pigs, but they've never met MY pig and MY pig does what HE wants...this isn't always what I want him to do though. They have some men there who are willing to brave the A-hole pig I have described who risk being bit and thankfully, they get him out of the car. Much to my surprise, He willingly walks into the office. In hindsight, I now realize even he knew he was super sick and I don't believe he had any strength left to put up a fight. The vet plans to keep him there at the clinic, and they're expecting him to be there for the week. They want 1000.00 up front. And because we didn't arrive during "normal business hours", there is an additional 250.00 emergency fee. On my way to the vet, I figured this was going to be a costly trip, so I called my credit card company and had my limit raised. Thank God I have good credit. They brought him back immediately and started their workup. I was more in the way than I was helpful. I explained what was going on and as much as it broke my heart to leave him there, I had kids I needed to tend to and a job. I paid them the deposit they required, gave my tearful goodbye to Porkchop and made her promise me she would do whatever was necessary to make him well. 5 days later I get the call that we can pick him up!! Let me add, I spoke to the vet at least 4x a day and the vet techs multiple times to check on him, it wasn't feasible for me to stay in a hotel 5 hours away, I have to work and I have kids who need their mama....in any event, we finally get the call that Porkchop is ready to go home!!! BEST NEWS EVER! I take off of work, borrow my brother’s SUV, keep the kids home from school and we make the drive back to pick him up. That was the Longest. Drive. Ever.
We were excited, it was 3 days before Halloween and the radio was playing the monster mash and thriller back to back...I still have a hard time when I hear those songs even though this all happened many years ago, but at the time, we were singing and dancing and anxiously excited to see him. It's been 9 months since we've had a hoof-free house and we missed the messes, missed the loud squealing to let us know it was time to eat, we even missed the head swipes when he was a jerk. Most of all, I missed laying on the floor and having 125lbs of pig slide down to lay right beside me making sure something of his was always touching a part of me. He was a jerk, but he was our jerk. We pull up to the vets office, I eagerly run in and expect to see him waiting for us, but he's not. They point me in he direction of the stalls that are outside, now I'm more pissed than anything else. It's October, it's cold outside and you've kept my pig outside? Seriously!? I was extremely irritated while the vet was explaining things to me because I was hyper-focused in on the fact that my indoor pig was kept outside for 5 nights...but, I heard the magic words, he's all better and he's peeing and pooping. I don't know how they knew that because the stall was nothing but a giant litterbox, full of wood shavings and straw, however, they were the experts and had him in their care this whole time. He was so happy to see us, grunted with excitement and more vocal than I've ever heard him be. He was running around the horse stall and running up to me, letting me pet him, and running away and running back to me again. He was acting like a little piglet again. I expressed some concern over his belly still feeling rigid and not soft and squishy like it usually was, but she assured me that he was fine. I paid the outrageous bill that had accumulated during his time there, I believe the grand total was somewhere around 4,000.00 and got my baby boy loaded in the truck.
So, we started on the looooong trip home. We stop about half way to use the bathroom, he stood the entire trip, wouldn't lay down or even sit. By the time we pulled up in our driveway. He was vomiting, poor thing must be carsick, but luckily we are home and he's here with us....I am so tired and emotionally drained and it's obvious that he is exhausted as well, we laid right on the floor in his room and fell asleep. I woke up 2 hours later and Porkchop woke up soon afterwards and my baby was literally struggling to breathe. I don't know what happened, but he can't catch his breath. I called my vet and he rushed over. I called my mom and asked her to come get the kids because they didn't need to see this. I knew we were in big trouble. They were crying, I was crying, I was completely panicked, Porkchop was getting worse by the minute. He is struggling for every single breath.
My vet arrives and it's not good. Porkchop is in full blown heart failure. He grew so big so quick, his little heart wasn't able to keep up with the demands and his belly was full of fluid. My vet called the pig "specialist" and had a few choice words for her, I heard the entire conversation; although he was a true professional and stepped outside to speak to her. This was not the same specialist he routinely called for advice, but another vet that "specialized" in pigs. I heard him say, you had no business sending this pig home in this condition, now this pig can't be saved. So, 3800.00 later and a borrowed car, several days off work, kids missing school, all the worrying and heartache came to a close when I heard that statement. He couldn't survive the trip back to NC to the specialist, and I wouldn't have EVER took him back there anyways, but he couldn't even survive the 30 minute drive to my vets office for an emergency paracenthesis. Porkchop was suffering, drowning in the fluid that has been accumulating in his belly and there was literally nothing that could be done to save his life at that point. I've never been more heartbroken over anything in my entire life. I've lost family members that didn't affect me like losing that pig. Porkchop was my world and now I had to say goodbye to my best friend. That was literally the hardest thing I have ever had to do up until now. This pig was a part of our family, a sibling to the kids and one of my children. I had to know why!? I sat there crying and holding his big body halfway in my lap as the veterinarian gave him the injections to make him comfortable and then the injections to stop his heart. I do NOT suggest anyone EVER watch that process. (But, I do feel like it's important to be there so your pet isn't searching for a familiar face or trying to find their family as they take their last breath) There is nothing that can take that kind of sadness from your heart, nothing can ever replace a pig that has literally stolen a piece of your heart, you never get that piece of your heart back. A piece of me died that same day.
We did a necropsy there on the floor in my laundry room because I had to know what happened. His belly was so full of fluid that I am surprised he didn't just pop. He hadn't gone to the bathroom, all the fluids he had for a few days had collected in his abdominal cavity, eventually the fluids reached his lungs and caused flash pulmonary edema and there was no recovering from that, the only option was to stop the suffering. The lungs ability to expand was compromised due to the fluid accumulation. That was enough to cause breathing difficulties, but with the fluid filling up in his lungs, he literally couldn't breathe. Part of his untimely death was a result of a congenital heart defect, but, part of this was my fault too, had I educated myself to begin with, I would've known the proper diet to feed him that would've met his basic nutritional needs and known acorns were bad, I would've know about scent glands and dippity pig syndrome, I would've known about mites and simple curative treatments. I would've had a vet that was equipped to deal with an emergency close to home with operating capabilities, I would have had a vet that was familiar with pigs and didn't need to constantly call his friend to consult. And I would've known better than to let someone ignore my gut instinct that something was still wrong. I am a much wiser person because of this experience, I've rescued since then and fostered and socialized pigs until they found permanent homes, but...it was a long time before we were ready to open our hearts to another pet pig of our own. We now have Buttercup, she is our world much like Porkchop was....I write all of this to share an experience, share what I learned from it....please do your research, please make sure you have a vet that knows pigs, please have an emergency plan....prepare for the worse and hope you never have to access those plans, but, make sure you're prepared nonetheless. There were no FB groups then, there weren't any vets that would advise me online how to treat something (the internet was still fairly new), there were no group files, there wasn't even anyone else I knew who had a pig, so we literally learned as we went. My vet was great, although not a pig vet, they were willing to learn with me and put up with my constant calls and questions and because of my situation and Porkchop, they too, learned a great deal about pigs and how to care for them. My work gave me a week off for bereavement after Porkchop passed away. Neighbors sent casseroles and several friends even sent flowers. Porkchop touched a lot of lives in his short life. More importantly, he was my everything and they all knew that.
Since then, I've been fortunate enough to have met some great people in the pig world, I've met some not-so-great people too, but overall, my experience in the mini pig community has been a positive one. I am a proud pig mama and still eager to learn every chance I get. I look for opportunities to learn and I also look for opportunities to educate. I don't ever want anyone to feel as alone and helpless as I did during that time....nowadays, there is an audience for pretty much anything you want to say and that's awesome, I wish pages and groups of pig people would've been available back then. There are credible pages and groups now on Facebook and other forums with lots of experienced folks, and had something like that been available way back then? Maybe things would've been different, but, maybe not. I'll never know. But I do know Porkchop is waiting for me, with other pigs that were taken too soon, and he will find me when it's my time to leave this Earth. In the meantime, I will continue to move forward and try to educate as many as I can and continue to research and learn. There are so many smart people out there and I am grateful for each and every person who has encouraged me or supported my stance or views on things and even those who didn't/don't, I admire them too, they've made me think outside the box and see things from different perspectives, all in all, this made me a much better person, pig mom and a true pig advocate.
This situation encouraged me to learn more about pigs, caused me to research EVERYTHING and although my experience as a human nurse has absolutely helped me in pig world, it does not make me an expert or a veterinarian or even part of the animal science field. What it does do is make me way more proactive at telling people what happened to me and ultimately my pig because of MY ignorance. It has made me a better person, a much better piggy mama and also the reason this website was created. (With the help of friends, of course)
I told my story because I think it's important, I don't want sympathy, I also don't want rude comments, I know the mistakes I made, I'm sharing because there may be someone else out there experiencing exactly the same scenario and maybe this would be helpful to them, maybe not, but sharing stories and experiences is how we all learn. Nobody can tell me anything that I haven't already told myself, no one can make me feel worse than I felt that day. I will rehash the events and try to figure out if I had done this or done that, would his life had been spared- until the day I die. Porkchop took his last breath on 10/28/98. It was the end of his life and the beginning of my mission to learn, research, educate and advocate for pigs. This is one of the situations that I refer to as "life-altering" and one that taught me a huge life lesson, one of those experiences that will remain with you until the end of time. Rest assured that I am not the only person to ever get a pig that made mistakes, and I won't be the last either. They say experience is the best teacher, I hate what happened, but openly chose to write about what my experience was like so others could learn from my mistakes. Our dog, Tico passed away shortly after he did, I presume from a broken heart (they really were the very best of friends, I know dogs and pigs aren't ideal or even recommended, but again, this was before I knew all of that)....Rest in paradise sweet boys.
Written by Brittany Sawyer