September 29, 2009
Exactly one month ago today, Ruby Ranch lost a very special resident. One of our first group of rescued pigs, from even before we started Ruby Ranch.
George Kune was a special pig in many ways. He was at least part Kune Kune pig, a very rare breed in Canada. Kune Kune’s originated in New Zealand, and are different from the potbellies in their shape, coats, temperment, and the fact that most of them have these unusual appendages hanging from their chins, called Piri-Piri’s. They are like fleshy tubes, like goats have. Georgie had a beautiful, silver coat of bristles.
George was found on someone’s farm up Newmarket way, or so the story goes. The lady only went there on weekends, and needed to find someone to take Georgie. A good friend of mine found him a home at a donkey sanctuary, where he was named Clarence. Georgie was suspicious, fearful and unhappy. If I remember correctly, he was transported there in a huge livestock trailer, and we don’t think the trip was very pleasant for him. The donkey sanctuary owner never really felt comfortable around him, and he never really settled in there. When I found out that the sanctuary owner was looking for a new home for him, I wanted him so badly. I really didn’t think hubby was going to agree to another pig, since we were now up to three in our little suburban semi-detatched. But when I told him in the back yard one evening, he got up from his chair, and started measuring a corner of the yard for a pen! I couldn’t believe it! I was outwardly calm, but my heart was pounding, and I was smiling like a kid at Christmas.
Bob built an amazing pen for Georgie, complete with a great little house a friend had found us on Freecycle.
The day finally came that we were to pick up our lovely new pig. It was a scorching hot summer day, and once we had Georgie loaded in the piggy mobile, I worried all the way home about the effect the heat would have on him. As soon as we got him home, he thundered down the ramp from the van, down the path to the backyard and straight to the cool earth beneath the apple and pear tree, where he promptly started digging a cool wallow. We put some cool water from the hose into it, and he was so happy. He spent the next few hours checking out his new yard, and he seemed to approve.
At first, Georgie was very wary of us, but it soon became clear that he was once someone’s beloved pet. The first time he dropped for a bellyrub, I was ecstatic. He was still nervous, though, and would leap up suddenly and try to bite us. He warmed up to Bob much more quickly than he did to me. One day, he was down enjoying a bellyrub, and this time when he jumped up and tried to bite me, I smacked him lightly on the nose with two fingers and said “NO, George, BAD!” He screamed and slunk away, like he knew he shouldn’t have done that. From that time on, he was much more gentle with me.
He hated when I smelled like other pigs. When we came home from volunteering at a friend’s farm, he could smell their pigs on me, and would chase me. I remember being in his pen and he chased me right up the fence, where I stayed for some time hoping Bob would come and rescue me. He didn’t. :0)
George LOVED applesauce. He would slurp it off of a spoon, his lower lip smooching out adorably. It seemed he had been taught a trick at some point as well. Whenever he was getting treats, he would take one gently, then touch his nose to the ground and look up for another. He didn’t mind his hooved being trimmed, nor the Hooflex that we rubbed on the pads of his feet. He had evolved into such a sweet, trusting boy. Whenever it was his turn to roam the back yard, all it would take is for Bob to lay a blanket down, and Georgie would be there, ready to snuggle. He would lie in front of Bob, and Bob would reach around and rub his tummy. We called this playing the “piguitar.”
Georgie loved rain, and we’d watch him in the back yard, running and barking, before retreating to his nice, dry house.
It wasn’t too long after George’s arrival that we decided we needed to sell the suburban house and look for our farm. We needed to move the pigs to another location while we painted, sodded, re-floored, and eventually showed the house to prospective buyers. Our friends whose farm we volunteered at offered to board Georgie, Ruby and Bart while we got these chores done. I’ll never forget the day we moved George. We were worried about getting him into the piggy mobile, because there was a stretch of several feet between the fenced back yard and the ramp to the piggymobile where he could possibly bolt, and I was terrified he was going to take off. I got some of his favorite treats and lead him out of the safety of the back yard. He followed me right up the path, and straight into the piggymobile. I was relieved, but so sad that he trusted me so completely and here we were moving him again, from his very happy home to something new and unknown for him. I cried all the way to the farm.
When we arrived, George was very agitated, and once we got him into his nice large pen, which already had his little house in it, he couldn’t be settled. He ran from us, and wanted no part of our attempts to console him. The entire time he was there, about 6 months in total, he was angry. He wouldn’t let me near him, and I was crushed that he felt I’d betrayed him. Bob could spend short periods with him, before he got upset, and Georgie also bit my friend’s arm while she was reaching over the fence to feed him. He was so angry.
When we’d finally sold the house and bought the farm, I couldn’t wait to bring him home. It was a freezing day in January when we finally went to pick him up. I was leery of him, since he had been so distrusting of me since being boarded. We backed the piggymobile up to his new home, and he marched down the ramp and into his new pen with a look that seemed to say, “What took you guys so long?” He adored his new condo that Bob and his brother built for him. He immediately started rubbing his big head on Bob’s knee, a game that he liked, because he’d rub so hard that Bob had to really flex his legs, or George would knock him off balance. It took a few days for me to be brave enough to pet him, since he’d tried to bite my hand several times at the other place. One day though, I just got in his pen with him, and started petting him gently and telling him how happy I was that he was finally home. He flopped over for a tummy rub, and I cried. Our sweet Georgie was back.
When spring finally arrived, he was thrilled with his new yard. What made him even more happy was when we let him out to roam the farm with us, and he could eat whatever grasses he liked, and he’d follow us anywhere. He loved taking trips alongside us with wheelbarrows overflowing to the manure pile way out back. A blanket still produced the magical pull for him to charge over and flop down beside us. He spent hours in his yard, often munching grass till well after dark.
George was healthy and happy until one day in August. We arrived home from work and he wasn’t in his yard to greet us. He was curled up in his condo, and no amount of coaxing would bring him out. When he still wouldn’t come out for his dinner, I was really worried. After the other pigs were fed, we managed to get him out and take his temperature. He had a fever. I tried to get an injection of antibiotic into him, but he was well enough to resist my unskilled attempts at that. I knew he needed them, so we decided if he still wasn’t well the next morning, we’d take him into the vets. My thoughts were that they could just get a shot into him, give us some oral antibiotics, and we’d take him home to recover.
The vet, however, wanted to keep him overnight, and try to get some blood samples. As ill as he was, he resisted her every attempt. We reluctantly left him there overnight, in the company of strangers, after returning home to get his juice, his bowls, his blanket, and his food. He was very tired.
The next morning we both had to work, and Bob called the vet from his office. She told him that George was acting very aggressively, and though his fever had broken, he still wouldn’t eat, and when he wasn’t trying to bite them, he was acting lethargic and depressed. She was in the midst of rounding up a team to anesthetize him, in order to get blood, x-rays and ultrasound. When Bob came to my work and told me this, my immediate reaction was to wait. If he was behaving aggressively, he was likely feeling a bit better. I called the vet to ask her to hold off on the anesthetic. I was very scared of letting him be put under, and had a very bad feeling about it. She told me that if we didn’t get the tests done right away, it would be Monday before anything else could be done. Oh why did you have to be sick on a Friday, George? I very reluctantly agreed that the tests should be done.
Late that afternoon, the vet called to say that all the tests results were back, and inconclusive. He had an infection, that much was clear, but it’s origins were unknown. He was having some difficulty coming out of the anesthesia, but she had just given him another shot to bring him out, and she thought he would do best to recover at home. We could come and pick him up after work, and she would give us some oral antibiotic for him. I was thrilled. Georgie was coming home!!
We got to the hospital, and George was awake, but very groggy and not himself. He was only too happy to get into his crate for the trip home. He knew exactly where he was going. He fell into a deep, snoring sleep on the way home, and we stopped and picked up his favorite treat of all time..applesauce. When we got home, it was hard to wake him. He groggily got up and snuggled right into his condo. We stayed with him for a while, but he was out like a light. I thought he just needed to sleep it off.
The next morning I had to rush out to work very early. I called home a little while later, and Bob said he couldn’t wake George. He had wet himself during the night. I told Bob I was on my way home, to call the vet and say we were bringing him back. It’s a 1.5 hour drive home, and I was out to break all landspeed records, until I got a call from my neighbor, saying Bob had come over and borrowed her SUV to get George to the hospital, and he would meet me there.
I got there before Bob and sat and waited, fearing the worst. Finally Bob pulled up, and I jumped out of the van to meet him. I knew from the tears on his face that it was too late. George had passed on the drive, fighting mightily to breathe, to survive. If ever there was a pig who loved his life, it was George, and he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight. We sobbed over his body for some time, before wrapping him in a blanket and taking him home. Bob dug him a grave amongst a peaceful grove of trees, and we laid him to rest.
The week after his passing consisted of some of the best weather we had had all summer, and all I could feel was anger, that George was missing it. I was in a fog of despair and guilt. I felt that if I had just listened to my instincts, and not let him be anesthetized, he’d still be with us. I couldn’t function, and it was impairing the care and attention the other pigs were getting.
One week to the day after his passing, I got an email from my son’s ex-girlfriend, who had just heard about George. Reading her words, it was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders, and the sunlight that had been beating down on the barricade I had built around myself was finally getting through. I cried, and I got up and started to go about life again. This is what Vanessa told me: