If you walk south from our house, across the lawn, under the Chinese Elms, past the pond and through the hedge to the orchard, you come to Pigley’s House. There she lives in luxury with the 6 Boer goats we bought to keep her company – Leisl, Gretel, Scarlett, Evie, Fleur, and Matilda. All is usually happiness and bliss in this part of the world, but recently Pigley split one of her hooves and has been limping, so the vet has been called and she will be sedated in order for a manicure to be conducted! Not easy to trim the toenails of a 150kg pig and to keep her still for the procedure lots of sedative is required, so the lovely girl at the surgery explained. At great expense I might add, but what can one do? A lame pig is not a happy sight. So before leaving for work yesterday morning, like a guilty mother over-compensating for a sick child, I gave her a treat to take her mind off her sore toe. In the pantry I had spotted a packaged pavlova (I know, I know!) which had been invaded by ants … and this, added to a large bowl of porridge, was delivered to the patient. Blissful grunting and groaning followed as Pigley gulped her way through the delicious treat. Then last night after work, still worried about her wellbeing, I raced over to see how she was coping and took with me the remains of a tub of ice cream I had spied in the freezer, past its prime and with Pigley’s name on it. She trotted swiftly over (lameness momentarily forgotten) and the still evening air was split by the joyful smacking of lips and gleeful mutterings as her giant snout licked hungrily for ages at the remains of the tub. She is a big pig with a big personality.
Pigley was sold to us as a ‘miniature’ pig and from the moment we carried her home from the Burrawang Markets she owned us … never the other way around. We were conned. Nothing miniature about this Berkshire piglet. And, no-one bothered to explain the bit about bottle feeding her every 15 minutes … for 3 months! If food wasn’t instantly forthcoming she would squeal at the top of her lungs until she got action. I had to take her everywhere, even to Sydney in a little carry crate. Eventually I rigged up a bottle on a chair on the deck so she could feed on demand. We called it the ‘piglet cafe’. She adopted our sheepdog Sam as a surrogate mother and snuggled up each night beside him. She grew and grew and grew and grew. Soon, too big for the house, we moved her out to live with the chickens and she had a lovely little kennel of her own. This she quickly outgrew and a bigger kennel was found. Again, she soon became wedged in the opening. So a new shed was built in the house paddock and she was transferred over to live with the sheep. But she hated it and there was no doubt she was quite lonely on her own … she never related to the sheep and was friendless and upset. Around about then a notice at the local produce store advertised Boer goats so a call was made and they arrived as cute as buttons on a little truck. Instantly they bonded with Pigley and a love affair began. They all sleep together in a large mass of white and tan and black bodies snuggled in Pigley’s giant straw bed.
This morning I delivered another large bowl of porridge as a last little snack before fasting begins tonight prior to sedation. I’m incredibly anxious about the whole procedure … what if something goes wrong? I can’t bear to think about it. Instead I must just think about how much happier she’ll be when her feet are in order. Until you’ve known (owned) a pig, you cannot understand their compelling personality and extraordinary intellect, which is ranked second only to dolphins in the animal kingdom. Winston Churchill knew about pigs. He famously said: ‘Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.’
I’ll keep you posted about the pedicure.