What a freaking week or 2 it has been! If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably know all about my crazy lately. It has been an emotional roller coaster ride, pretty normal around here really. You'd think I would be used to it by now. This time was a little different though. A first for us in dealing with a very, VERY sick pig. It is bound to happen at some point when you have livestock. Animals are born, animals thrive, animals get sick, animals die. It is just how it goes.
Hildy had her first litter of piglets March 1st. A small and frustrating litter of only 5 with 2 passing away shortly after being born, due to failure to thrive despite me best efforts. I had to work the next few days so Nate was on piglet duty. When we went to bed Friday night he told me that Hildy didn't eat that night. Very odd for a momma that just had piglets. They are usually ravenous. I was a bad farmer and didn't check on her that day or the next morning due to pure exhaustion from some crazy ass days working and let Nate deal with things. I told him that if Hildy still didn't eat on Saturday then we need to have the vet out because something is up. Sure enough, Hildy was really freaking sick. Nate pulled her last living piglet to be hand raised...that's a whole other story though.
A few weeks prior she had a random bloody nose which was very odd. Checked with my favorite facebook pig group and the consesus was that since she was acting fine otherwise, to not worry about it. I wish I would have done something though because I think that's when everything started really. Farrowing a litter of piglets comprised things and put her in a bad state. The vet said it was pneomonia. Antibiotics and a pain reliever/appetite stimulation was put on board. Draxxin and Banamine to be exact. The next day she started bleeding from her nose again. More than before. And she had a horrible cough to go with it. We had to force her multiple times a day to get up so that she didn't have constant pressure on her organs. No matter what we put in front of her, we could not get her to eat. I made multiple phone calls to the vet during the week. We decided to switch it up and add on a steriod, Dexamethasone, as a last ditch effort. The word Euthanasia came up in one of our conversations. I can't begin to tell you what a shitty feeling that was. We are pretty in touch with the fact that the majority of our animals are here for food reasons. Momma pigs are here to make babies that can be raised for pork. When their job is done, they become sausage. No waste that way. No suffering either. But this, it just seemed cruel to me. Hildy being so ill, so miserable, only to die from it all. We wouldn't be able to harvest her because you never, ever want to eat a sick animal, and then you add in the fact that she was pumped full of drugs. Now forget about the food aspect of this. These pigs are like family. We see them at least twice a day, everyday. They are loved, snuggled with, given treats, nicknames, they all have their own personalities, likes and dislikes. We have a connection and bond with them. Some of them more than others. But we love them all. We are the stewards for these creatures and feel we need to do best by them. Even if they are just a pig.
I didn't want to say goodbye to Hildy. Not because I would have wasted almost $400 on this pig for nothing, not because I would have been out her life and 4 out of the 5 piglets, not because I couldn't eat her, but because dammit I care about her! I have never had to say goodbye to a farm animal this way. The time will come one day when I have to but I would like that to be as far away from now as possible.
I had Nate pick up a few more doses of Dexamethasone and a new antibiotic on Friday. This would be our last effort. "I'll give her til Monday." I think she heard me because we couldn't get the darn shots into her anymore. She was now getting up and running away when we poked her. Where before she would just lay there. I became frustrated. "You damn pig! Don't you know we want you to live!?" At that point I was giving up hope. She still wasn't eating and now we couldn't even help here medicine.
Don't give up hope...
I was reminded of this great lesson Monday morning....her last chance...She ate! 3 chicken eggs and grain! Not going to lie, I cried. From happiness, relief, and for this giant weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I hadn't realized how much I was stressing over this. And how badly I wanted her to pull through. I really thought we would lose her. But with teamwork and deterimantion, we got her to pull through. I am hopeful now, once again, that she will continue to improve.
Was it silly to care about her so much? Maybe. Was it stupid to put that much money into a pig? Maybe. But there is the side of me with farming that I can't ignore. The passion and love for these creatures. They all count, big or little. My hero, Steve Irwin, is always in the back of my mind when caring for them. It might be the side of me that makes me not the best farmer from a realistic stand point but I do try to be somewhat rational. Would I have spent every last penny on trying to save her? No way. But I also wouldn't have let her suffer.
It just so happened that we had the most gorgeous weather Sunday and Monday. It made me feel new again! And then with Hildy, my hope had been restored. An overwhelming amount of happiness all around! Being able to soak in the sunshine, the sheep getting to frolic around in the front yard, the birds singing in the trees, and my kids playing so very happily outside until it was dark was just what my soul needed. This winter has been rough and I'm seriously shocked that I want to keep at this. I'm crazy so of course I do! Hildy has been just the reminder that I needed, to keep pushing forward even when shit gets rough. There will always be sunshine at the end.
Photo Credit: Brooke Hampton fb/barefootfive