INSPIRED BY A PIG
By Annette Fisher
Six years ago I met a lady who was selling horse equipment at a tack swap. We were comparing notes on how difficult it was to go on vacation and have someone take care of your horses and farm animals in the way you want them to be cared for. She said that she was getting ready to go on a vacation and would be glad to pay me if I would come over every day and take care of her animals. I immediately agreed to help.
Upon arrival at her farm to learn about feeding and daily routines, I was shown quite a variety of horses, dogs, cats, a donkey, a farm hog, and a long list of other furry creatures. We came to a small door that opened into a tiny, completely closed-in pen located inside her horse barn. While peering through this small door, I could see thick spider webs and their creators hanging low from the ceiling. There, in her own filth and waste, lay a 150 pound potbelly pig. She was unable to move, and her front legs curled up underneath her. She had no hair; her skin was thick and peeling.
In complete amazement at seeing this poor creature, I blurted out, "My God, what happened to this pig?" I was told that someone had brought her to the farm about six years ago and they had dropped her getting her off the truck. "I think they broke her legs," the woman calmly explained.
"What did your vet say?" I asked. My mouth dropped open in utter disbelief as I heard the reply, "Oh, we never called a vet."
The farm's owner then left on her vacation and was supposed to be gone only three days. This pig tore at my heart and haunted my thoughts each time I would leave the farm. I would open the door so that she could get some fresh air. I found straw for bedding so she wouldn't have to lay in such filthy conditions.
The owner decided to stay gone for another day, then another day. Finally a week went by before she returned home.
"How much do I owe you for feeding?" she asked.
"How about just giving me your crippled pig?" I replied, terrified that she wouldn't agree to such a request. The deal was agreed upon, and I took Janice, the pig, to our local veterinarian for a complete physical and exam. Having worked at that farm for a week, not only did I not make any money, but it cost me $280 in an hour at the vet clinic.
X-rays showed that Janice's legs weren't broken but had atrophied due to being kept in such horrible conditions in such a small area. She would never be able to walk normally, and the bones in her front knees would continue to fuse. I discussed euthanasia with the vet and asked if it would be kinder to let her go.
The vet's reply was kind and sympathetic with an emphatic no! "Annette, this is the best the pig's ever had it," the vet said. "Let her enjoy life for a while, and she'll let you know when she's ready to go." That was six years ago.
What the vet was talking about was that we had built Janice her own log cabin, fairly large, complete with heat lamps in it for the cold winter temperatures. We filled her log cabin with extra thick straw for her bed and gave her old sleeping bags and blankets to snuggle under. Her fur grew back, her skin healed, and I had gained her trust.
She would look for me to bring her healthy snacks and hold her water bowl so that she could get drinks easily. Janice was given an arthritis supplement for any discomfort in her legs, and we gave and continue to give her daily body massages.
A few months had passed after welcoming Janice to our farm. We then again rescued another potbelly piggy, a youngster we named George. We presented him to Janice as her companion. The two eventually became best friends and they enjoyed each other's company immensely. George grew up with Janice and now loves her with all his heart. George travels around our farm and takes stories back to Janice about the other animals he meets and greets.
This heart-breaking experience with Janice made me wonder - if this poor pig was hidden in a barn and needed help, what other farm animals might be hidden in barns but need special care? I started to inquire with county humane societies and animal protective leagues across our state about what happened to farm animals that were removed from abuse situations. Their options weren't always great. Some agencies would euthanize the farm animals, since many were designed to handle only domestic animals. Several agencies were reluctant to even remove the farm animals from neglect because they had nowhere to take them.
I decided that people needed to learn to treat the farm animals with compassion and give them the proper care and respect that they deserved. Janice, the pig, was my inspiration to create the organization now known as Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Ravenna, Ohio. We focus on the rescue, rehabilitation, and adoptions of farm animals who have been removed from situations of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
This beautiful, loving, sweet, crippled pig, who now loves peppermints and belly rubs and good conversations, is credited with founding an organization that has now helped over 550 farm animals. In the past six years abused and neglected farm animals have received medical treatment, hope, love, compassion, and a chance at enjoying a life of peace and comfort with their new human companions.
My bond with Janice is incredible. She continues to be healthy and to thrive on attention. I have come to understand her language, and she is very vocal about her thoughts. She makes a rather low and quiet noise that sounds like the word "boof" when she is happy and content and all is right with her world. When expressing displeasure about a late meal or not being in the mood for her drink of water, she very loudly proclaims a noise that sounds like "uhboooooo!"
Janice still scoots around as opposed to being able to walk normally but she enjoys her time outdoors and loves the smell of her freshly-washed blankies. Thanks to this one very very special pig and what she endured in her earlier lifetime, an overwhelming number of other farm animals were given a new lease on life. These rescued animals have, in turn, touched the lives of so many people -- their caretakers at the sanctuary, the vets who treat them, and their newly adoptive families. I have to very humbly say that Janice is one absolutely incredible pig..