The Piglet

Having gone through weeks of hell with Honky I was ready for life to return to normal. To nip out at 6.45am to feed all and be back in bed with a cup of tea at 7.15 to listen to the news before the day starts.

Blackbum

But it wasn’t to be. One morning I noticed little Blackbum didn’t want to get up and had no interest in breakfast. This was highly unusual because normally after a week or so new weaners get into the swing of life here and are out bawling with all the rest as soon as they hear the dogs bark. But these, despite being here over three weeks still hadn’t got into the daily rhythm. They also ate very little.

I had discovered that what little I had left them was being polished off by the goats. The goats barely eat their own food so to see them eating the piglets’ food soaked in milk was infuriating.

I watched Blackbum for a couple of days and saw him drinking a lot. I had a gut feeling all wasn’t well but then I’d go back to check on him and he’d be out rooting. Sick pigs don’t root. Or do they?

Last Saturday I was going away for the day so decided to load him up and take him into the vets first. The more dealing I have with vets (about pigs), the more I’ve realised they know nothing about them. Initially, when I felt he wasn’t right I rang to get the dosage for a wormer I had here. They are both really small and the wormer only had quantities for larger animals on it. The vet said you can’t give that if they haven’t had their iron injections. Bloody hell, free range pigs don’t get iron injections. They’re out with their noses in the soil hours after birth; getting iron the way nature intended. Not like the poor bastards raised in concrete sheds on rubber matting (if they’re lucky).

Anyway I loaded him into the dog crate and she examined him. Said he had pneumonia. My good pal Martha in Wales (who farms free range pigs) said he needed Penstrep. I suggested this to the vet but she said no, Baytril. Vets hate when you make suggestions. She gave him an anti inflammatory and said that would stop him drinking so much. It didn’t. The antibiotic had no effect. I got onto Martha again. She said if Penstrep doesn’t work try Draxxin. I rang the vet. No, she had no Draxxin and it would take days to get it but I was to bring him in, again!

She examined him again. He still had a temperature and he’d lost more weight (which he could ill-afford to). She gave him what she said was a drug in the same family as Draxxin. She also gave me steroids.

When all the scientists were arguing about what cured Covid and what didn’t, some expert concluded that steroids worked. I then saw a tweet from a vet saying that finally the medical profession was catching up with the veterinary one. When all else is failing, prescribe steroids. This flashed through my mind.

I went home with him with literally zero faith he was going to recover but like with Honky, he wasn’t going to die of starvation on my watch. I got milk, kefir, honey, garlic, egg and cream and I made up a daily concoction and syringed it into him several times a day. He fought me with vigour. At times he looked like he liked it but mostly he acted like I was trying to kill him. God knows what the neighbours thought I was doing to him.

My neighbour asked me one morning how he was and my reply was “well he’s still here.” He asked me did I want him to inject him with Penstrep. I said no initially because the last injection he’d been given was a long-acting antibiotic and I didn’t want to overdose him. But then thought what is there to lose, so said yes.

The next day he called in and injected 0.5ml. The vet had only injected 0.2ml. He was only just over 7kg but it seemed a tiny dose. The following morning he shot out from under the straw and ate breakfast. The first time he’d eaten anything in days. He had also stopped drinking gallons.

On left, eating

Since then he’s made steady progress and although he’s coughing like a wheezy old codger on 60 Woodbines a day, he’s out and about rooting and more importantly eating rings around himself. My neighbour who thinks vets are a complete waste of money and also thinks I’m crazy every time I call one out is now nodding sagely saying “I told you so”…..

And what’s worse, I’m beginning to agree with him.

There’s been a dearth of applications from Woofers/HelpX/Workaways and any I’ve had, I felt wouldn’t be a good fit here. But out of the blue I got one from a Uruguayan vet (the irony) who’s been in Limerick for a few months and wants to improve her English but also get experience working on a smallholding. When she asked would it be okay to do an on-line English course for a few hours a day but she’d work mornings, evening and weekends, I said yes straight away. Usually I get asked how many hours they have to work and you know that they’re more interested in the hours they have off.

Now maybe I can get back to normal without worrying about sick animals. I hate when any animal is unwell. It also means that it takes up masses more of my time. Time that I can ill-afford. I’m already so behind on stuff in the garden and polytunnel and there has been literally no maintenance done this summer. I realised during the lockdown that it would be virtually impossible to keep this place running on my own. I need helpers. I also miss having them about the place. And worst of all I’ve a tonne of food in the freezers that needs cooking and eating.

The Fat Cat

Always broody looking

The Fat cat aka Fat Kitty was put to sleep today 21st March 2019. I had him almost exactly 9 years. I found a photo of him from May 2010. We got him from a farm in Trim Co. Meath. He was pulled out from his nest between bales of straw by my daughter and her friend from pony club. She later read that when you take a kitten away from it’s mother too early it makes them very nervous. He was really, really odd. My brother called him The Enigma because he only ever got a glimpse of him. When strangers arrived he hid. In fact he hid under my bed when my daughter came home from university and then used sneak out and sit on the stairs observing her from a distance until he decided it was her. My son named him the Fat B*astard (he never stopped eating) and as he had mostly been called Kitty up to this, he became Fat Kitty. It suited him. And he knew his name.

Keeping watch over Honky robbing chicken food

He played with my first Jack Russell. He played with every kitten. He was gentle with the piglets that I raised (initially he was scared of them). He then slept out in the woodshed with Honky in my last place. He often lay on the ground in front of the pigs and had a roll. They would sniff him and he would jump up and hop off indignantly. My son described his run as a “big gay one” and it was.

When I decided to move here I actually had sleepless nights worrying about how he would cope. If he escaped he would be so freaked he would head for the hills. When he was outside he reverted to really weird and there was no way you could catch him. It was a major operation to fool him once the removal company had left. He knew something was up and was highly suspicious. I did manage to catch him and The Thug, my daughter’s cat who I was minding when she went off around the world. They both spent the night in the empty house and next morning were put into cages and travelled down here. Neither stopped complaining for 4 hours. They didn’t get on and had fought from the beginning. In fact FK had been to the vet a couple of times with injuries. The Thug was far more aggressive than he was and he always came off the worst.

I had to keep them in for a month. The Thug went out after 3 weeks and FK escaped one night when I opened the door to let the dogs in. I was distraught and figured that was last I’d ever see of him. But next morning he appeared out of the hay shed and when I opened the front door he shot back in. I think he slept with the pigs and realised if they were here, it was home. He didn’t go out for another few weeks. And then he was more relaxed than he’d ever been. He seemed to be much less freaked when strangers were around, and there was a lot with builders, plumbers, roofers etc. He loved the fields and used lie up on the ditches waiting for baby rabbits to appear. He lay under the hedge in the first paddock watching all the goings on out on the road and around the yard.

He was a different cat: until Nelly appeared. He wasn’t scared of her initially but when she grabbed him in her mouth and shook him, that really freaked him. He vanished for a day and a night. Once more I thought I’d never see him again. Once more he reappeared but he wouldn’t come near the house or the yard. It was about this time I began to feed him in the shed and put his bed out there. He spent the nights outside during the Beast from the East. He was actually quite cosy because he had a luxury dog bed on top of straw bales.

I thought he and The Thug had reached an entente cordiale as they seemed to just circle about each other all last summer. But I think now this abscess that ultimately killed him was from them fighting. The results came back as a round cell mass caused by his attack or defence cells fighting an infection. It was a type of lymphoma. He just couldn’t fight off the infection that set in after the surgery to remove the mass. He had 7 antibiotics, anti-inflamatories, steroids, two surgeries, a night on a drip, intensive care treatment here including from my son and his NICU nurse girlfriend when I went to my aunt’s funeral in Galway. He was almost put down twice but we gave him every fighting chance.

Relaxing in the sun on Paddy’s Day

This last week he was eating, drinking and seemed not to be in pain but only because he was still on the anti-inflamatories. Since he stopped them and went onto the steroids he virtually stopped eating and was pitifully thin. Last night before I went to bed I watched him wobble over to his litter box and realised the swelling on his neck was making him lame in his front shoulder. I made the decision I probably should have made a week ago.

I rang the vets first thing and asked if any of the vets were in the area would they call in. They rang me back to say Mary was. She treated both Honky and the weaner pig last summer. She sedated him first so he just went to sleep on his chair. Then when she administered the stuff he began to breath really roughly. I was very upset because it reminded me of when dad got his first morphine when he was dying.

I buried him in the field I kept promising him he would be out again in the summer when he got better. I’m going to plant a tree beside him soon, something that flowers now. And from now on I’ll think to myself Fat Kitty’s tree is flowering.

His grave

I went for a walk in Tintern at lunchtime. I cried the whole way around and God help anyone who said anything to me about Nelly not being on a lead. We only came across a couple and their young children who took one look at my tear stained face and said nothing. I picked some lesser celandine and ferns for his grave and there’s a small clump of primroses growing beside where he’s buried.

I told him to find dad and go sit on his knee and tell him how much I miss them both.

When I got back to the house his empty chair made me cry again.

He was just a cat; but he was my cat.

Be happy Fat Kitty.