Honky the pig or HRH (Her Royal Honkyness) is disabled. She is immobile. She can’t stand or move much more than shuffle forwards or sideways. She now needs as much care as a disabled human (feeding, watering, cleaning).
Her daily routine is as follows:
Breakfast at 7.30am followed by a drink of water.
She shuffles forward most days for her bucket so that I can clean under her. I remove all the wet, dirty straw and replace with fresh. I clean her tail. It got infected by her sitting on it in her own waste. I clean it with warm saline, dry it then slather it in honey. It was very inflamed and I was afraid she’d get septacemia. But the honey has sorted it.
Then I tackle her back elbows which are effectively pressure sores. I clean them and alternatively slather honey or a waxy barrier cream I got from the chemist on them. So far this is working and she seems to be comfortable enough.
She’s eating really well. She seems happy in herself and she’s interested in what’s going on around her.
I give her some seaweed and sea spinach I gather at the beach. She also gets lots of haylage. This keeps her occupied when the others are gone outside. Seanie (the rescue donky from the Donkey Sanctuary) pops his head in and shares some of the haylage with her.
Then when the others come back in they all have a snooze until its time for the evening feed at around 4pm.
She gets fed and cleaned again and her sores treated. She gets more haylage and is then bedded up with fresh straw. If it’s cold she gets a blanket and a heat lamp.
Before I go to bed I go out to check her and give her a banana.
I’m not writing any of this because I’m looking for sympathy. I know there are loads of people out there who think I should shoot her. That I’m keeping her alive when she has no quality of life, that I’m being cruel etc.
Well the fact is it would be much easier on me to shoot her (or get her shot). I hurt my back recently because of her, it’s not easy trying to move a 350kg animal. I don’t need to hurt myself. But how can I destroy a perfectly healthy, happy animal because she can’t get up? We keep humans alive with infinitely poorer quality of life than she has. Why do we treat humans differently to animals? We all share the same planet. We all have our place. We are not better than animals. We are not more important or more necessary (in fact, if anything we are less necessary).
She is here because of me. She has lived this long because of me. She didn’t ask for any of this. And as long as I’m able, I will care for her. When I decide her life is not worth living (because she will tell me), I will make that decision. I’ve done it before and I will do it again.
But for now she’s staying and I will do my very best to keep her healthy and happy.
I got a mad notion one night recently and decided to “rescue” a donkey (as in take one from the Donkey Sanctuary.) I’d been thinking a lot about one I had actually rescued a few years ago; who is now in a lovely home in Cork. I had called him Sarcozy because his feet were so overgrown he looked like he was wearing high heels (similar to his diminutive namesake.)
It came about, because one day I went for a cycle with the dogs and as usual my neighbour’s dog, Bubbles was waiting at the gate. He wore a collar that gave him a shock if he moved outside his own perimeter but the batteries frequently ran down and he was very quick to realise. I didn’t mind because when you’ve 4 dogs anyway, what difference does a 5th make? I’m sure I get called all sorts by the few (very few) who throw their eyes up to heaven and mutter when they have to slow down on the narrow rural road with grass down the middle. Generally I just mouth “pleasantries” back at them..
Anyway one day, the bould Bubbles who paid no attention whatsoever to me and athletically vaulted garden walls to have a nosey, came out of the deserted cottage at the end of the road with a hedgehog in his mouth.
I managed to retrieve the poor little thing and took him back to where I thought he’d been found. I made a mental note to go back later and leave out food for him and his family. It was a bitterly cold, damp day but I was really busy baking all day so didn’t get down until dusk. When I got back he was still there curled up and frozen so I brought him back here and set to action with my syringe and my, by now, fail safe combination cure of honey, kefir and salt.
I put it out on Twitter and asked for advice. Mother of God, some of the replies I got. You’d swear I’d actually set out to torture and maim the mite. Most of them (and they were mostly UK based) were shouting aggressively to take him immediately to a hedgehog rescue. I’m not sure why but most of these accounts assume everyone else on Twitter is (a) English, (b) living in the UK, (c) living in an urban area down the road the road from a local hedgehog rescue open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day! Instead of the reality, in the middle of no where in a goddamn pandemic where travelling is restricted and at 10pm at night. You wouldn’t even get a doctor at that time.
Anyway I digress. I got him warm with a hot water bottle, got fluids into him (switched to cat milk immediately), they can’t tolerate cow’s but kefir would have the lactose fermented so it probably wouldn’t do him any harm, got the fly eggs laid by a bluebottle off him. He thrived and the Kildare Wildlife Rescue got back to me next day after I had left a voicemail on their helpline. They sent a volunteer to collect him and took him into their care.
I was sad to see him go but knew it was for the best. I think that’s why I decided to adopt a donkey.
Incidentally poor Bubbles was hit by a car and trailer just a few weeks later, being driven down the road early on a Sunday morning like a lunatic. He survived a few days after but sadly didn’t make it. I’d say he had internal injuries because otherwise hadn’t a mark on him. He was a beautiful, spirited, gentle, kind dog who did not deserve that. I was heartbroken.
I contacted the Donkey Sanctuary and in a day or so had a reply, then a phone call, then an inspection. My feet hardly touched the ground. I suppose this is the time of year when they need to off-load. I was offered Seanie. Told he had spent his entire 18 years tethered. Of course she knew as soon as she walked in the gate I was a soft touch. She commented several times that every animal looked so healthy and was flabbergasted at the big pigs stretched out snoring in the hayshed.
Seanie arrived a few days later and has settled in really well. He’s the boss over the goats which is just as well. They need manners putting on them. The big pigs are afraid of him too but the small (#littleshits) couldn’t give a damn.
I named the small pigs the #littleshits from early on. I’ve been keeping pigs for 8 years now and these almost cured me of my addiction. They broke my heart escaping. I braced myself every time my phone rang and usually in the middle of baking (one cake in oven with 10 minutes left), another ready to go in and another in process) – for the inevitable “your pigs have gone over the road…. “
They had made firm friends with the goats and followed them everywhere. The goats are cute enough to find their way back in the way they got out but the #littleshits just kept going. I walked out into yard one day and heard the familiar grunt conversations between them, except this time it was coming from the road. I just happened to see them trotting past the gate. They had discovered next door’s dog (poor Bubbles’) food was left outside the back door. They knew the yard across road had a big dung heap that flooded and was marvellous for a wallow. Don’t even ask what they looked and smelled like after that.
I had them booked in the very last day (before Christmas) I could at the abattoir. But one day I just flipped and rang to get them in sooner. They roared laughing when I told them why.
Yesterday was D day. Everything went smoothly until I tried to pull out of the field. It was very wet but my jeep is 4WD so I wasn’t that worried. But the wheels started to spin. I ran up to my neighbour (the best tractor mechanic in the country) to see could he give me a pull. He arrived down to see. Messed around with the brake lever and said the brakes had seized. He went back to get a trolley thingy and in the lashing rain and the mud, slid under the trailer with a can of WD40 and a hammer. I stood there praying. It worked. He then drove around the field in a big circle leaving massive wide tracks. But I got to the abattoir. I hate doing this with a passion. It never gets easier. Even though they broke my heart, I still feel guilty and sad. But the alternative is become vegetarian because I won’t eat intensive pork.
Today I pulled all the reinforced fencing out and the goats moved into their shed. Life goes on. The goats miss them I know, but they have Seanie now.