Monday, November 29, 2010

Remembering Harley

Sheryl, my trusty friend and supporter of all things piggish, has a penchant for lost and neglected pot-bellied pigs--as do I. If there is a pig nearby who needs help in the form of transport to a pig sanctuary, being rescued from a neglectful home, or protecting a pig in an abusive situation, Sheryl comes forward to help.
Such was the case when, through the grapevine, she learned, some five or six years ago, that a family was just "sick and tired" of their pet pig, and if someone didn't adopt him, he would be put to sleep.

Some people, especially ones that aren't too bright, adopt these pigs with only their one weak brain cell in gear. "Oh, boy!" they believe, "How cool to get a pig. I'll do it!" That's as far as they can reason. They do no research and fling themselves headlong into porcine ownership, not prepared for the consequences: that a pet who is smarter than its owner can easily control people and can rule the home; that a smart pet does not bolster a stupid person's sense of self-esteem; that the more intelligent pig will manipulate the human to its existential needs and drive the human to furious frustration. Despite the difference in intelligence, drive, and motivation, eventually the pig will lose--he or she, at the hands of the imbecile, will become grossly overweight, crippled, or blind; he or she will end up in a shelter, or he or she may be abused because the human possesses no insight to train and respect the instincts of a pet pig. Though a normally intelligent person enjoys the company of a pet whose smarts allow the two to "converse" and spend mutually beneficial time together, a pet pig in the company of a dolt always spells "DISASTER" for the pig.

So, one winter day Sheryl asked me to go along to rescue and possibly adopt this young yearling pig whose owners couldn't control him. We stepped into the house, and it was clear that we were dealing with a mother and older son who shared at least two flacid brain cells. After getting a few nebulous answers to some very important questions about his age, behavior, and breeding, Sheryl looked at me. This pig, Harley, was in a no-win situation; he needed a worthy home. So, Sheryl offered to give him the home every pig deserves.
On the way to her house, the pint-sized Harley sat in my lap in the passenger seat of the SUV. He was such a small, young pig--about as big as a wooden magazine rack. He wasn't a baby--more of a pre-teen. As Sheryl drove, I cradled Harley in my arms and assured him he would have an excellent home. He stared, looking out, his snout up against the window, and enjoyed the car ride and the snow-covered trees and sounds of traffic. When we stopped to turn left at a traffic light, another car pulled up on our right. Though our windows were closed, Harley and I both happened to look over just as the other driver looked at us. Meeting the gaze of a pig, the woman did a double-take. Her flabbergasted expression said, "What! A pig in a car! Sitting on a woman's lap!" The woman's mouth gaped in a wide grin; she turned to her passenger; and the other woman leaned forward to check out the spectacle. The light changed, and the three of us turned, Sheryl and I laughing at the confounded driver we left behind.
So, Harley came to Sheryl's home where he became one of a family of two other pigs: Porkchop and Forrest. The three tolerated each other initially and then became on and off friends and rivals in a relationship that always remained a power struggle. As do horses, cats, fish, and many other species, animals work out a pecking order amongst themselves. Harley, being the newcomer, was relegated to "underpig" and quickly learned to acquiesce to the other two. Lucky for him, Sheryl privileged all three pigs equally--no one was more loved or valued than the other.
Harley delighted in his new indoor home. In fact, since he was the "low" pig in the herd, Sheryl gave him his own room so that he wouldn't be picked on when she wasn't home. At night after she came home from work, the three pigs ate from their separate dishes, each sitting next to the other as they received their favorite treat of the day: a cream-filled Vienna Finger.
For the next five years, Harley, Porkchop, and Forrest were true "bros". On crispy mornings after breakfast, they burst through the doggie door into the backyard--always in search of a tasty morsel hiding in the grass. Each evening after dinner and the cookie, Porkchop and Forrest claimed the sofa and chair while Harley cuddled up with Sheryl on the living room floor to watch TV. He lay down beside her leaning his heft into her, the two--human and pig-- stretched out on the carpet. Porkchop and Forrest "owned" the furniture, but once in awhile when the others were outside, Shery called him to join her in the overstuffed sofa where he soaked up a long belly rub.

Yesterday, after eating breakfast, Harley died suddenly. Though Edgar was rushing to try to save him, it was too late. He died far too young, but he died, comforted, in Sheryl's arms.
We buried Harley here at our farm alongside our own pigs: Lucille, Miss Piggy, Sniffer, Arnold, and Ashley.
Harley rests in peace in our pasture of dreams.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Suzie the Warthog--The Sleeping Beauty

Once Carol had cleaned up Suzie's attempts at a closet makeover, she decided to take a well-deserved nap. Suzie was still asleep in her leather chair when Carol hung up the last of her work shirts and headed toward the bedroom. Very quietly, so as not to disturb Suzie, Carol slipped under the covers and began to doze off.
The next minute the bed shook under seismic shocks resembling that of Mt. St. Helens. Carol exclaimed, her eyes wide, "What in the world?" But the only reply was a high-pitched, singular grunt--coming from right beside her.
Suzie had leaped into the bed.
"Oh, Suzie," Carol whispered with a smirk. "You did have a rough day cleaning up Mommy's closet. And you need an even bigger nap now, huh?"
Suzie turned to look at her human mom's head peeking above the covers, and she uttered a sharp, agreeable squeal.
Carol patted Suzie's back as the warthog squirmed to get comfortable in the bed covers. She arranged her legs beneath herself, leaned up against Carol's body, and settled her snout into the soft comforter--the sheets of which smelled just like Carol's perfume. Carol stroked the thin, soft hairs of Suzie's mane, and coaxed her wild pig, "Go to sleep, Suzie. Go to sleep."
And Suzie closed her eyes, let out a long, heavy sigh, and was soon breathing deeply in sleep.

Suiey the Warthog--The Closet Organizer

Those who do not share their homes with a warthog may just not understand that, as housekeepers, warthogs tend to have OCD--Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My friend, Carol, of The Tusk and Bristle Pig Sanctuary, certainly can attest to the fact that warthogs fashion fastidious domiciles.
When Carol went outside a few days ago to feed her sanctuary pigs, Suzie the Warthog, who is living inside with Carol and her husband for the winter (Suzie's bristley coat is much too thin to keep her toasty outside in the winter elements), offered her housecleaning and organizational skills.
First, she sauntered into the bathroom, sniffing the edges of the toilet and sink with her keen nose--checking for any noxious odors. She stuck her head in the shower, gave it the sniff-test, and declared all satisfactory. The loo must have met Suzie's approval, for, in seconds. Suzie whipped right around and trotted furiously down the hallway toward Carol's closet--the clothes closet would stand the real inspection, for sure.
According to Suzie. Carol's closet needed a serious makeover, and no one was better equipped to handle the job than she, a fussy African warthog. She set to work with a vengeance, picking up a smelly, discarded sock and placing it inside a shoe, which she tossed under a chair. At the back of the immense, walk-in closet lay a couple of extra pillows, which Suzie easily dispatched to the middle of the floor--they would make a good bed after she had finished rearranging everything. And a blue-plaid work shirt definitely didn't belong hanging so high with its shirtails nearly touching the ground. That would have to become more easily accessible because workshirts needed to stay handy. So, Suzy pulled the shirt to the floor and nosed it alongside the pillows. Then she grabbed the next few shirts in the line-up and tore those off their hangars, too. There--that was better--one didn't need to stand on tip-toe to reach the shirts.
Suzie wasn't particularly discouraged by the chair taking up space in the closet. She rammed it with her hard head onto its side atop the pillows, and then turned to the cubbyholes holding stacks of neatly-folded jeans. They, too, would have to come down, Suzie decided--to a more easily accessible area of the room. Afterall, what was the sense of having a closet full of clothes if they were always out of reach?
In less than 45 minutes, Suzie had "organized" Carol's closet so that all the accessories--shoes, jewelry box, scarves, farm boots and other work clothes--became much handier. Silly humans--putting stuff so far out of reach.
Later that afternoon, after Carol had come in from doing chores, she noticed Suzie spread out, asleep in her leather chair. "Boy, Suzie," Carol laughed, "You think you had a rough day?"
Suzie's eye cracked open, she stretched, and yawned. Cleaning up a human's messy, unorganized closet was, indeed, tiring work, but sometimes a warthog just hds to do what she had to do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sometimes No Sleep is the Best Sleep

I'm so screwed up because of the time change.
It was only nine o'clock last night when I climbed the "woody mountain" to bed, but I had had enough of the screaming TV and Edgar's jumping up and out of his chair every time Stewie had that cross-eyd "I might hafta pee" look in his eye. I had had Stewie's daytime pee duty; Edgar had the night-time shift. I needed some peace and relaxation.
Before I climbed into the sack, I opened a bedroom window, and a soft cool air escorted me to the chamber where I pulled back the casing and slipped inside, the crispness of the sheets and their clean smell enveloping my body as I sank into the feather bed. I inhaled a deep breath from the fresh cool pouring through the window and pulled the comforter up to my chin.
And I fell sleep.
In the middle of the night, I opened an eye--one o'clock. Edgar was fast asleep beside me. Toasty under the body-heat layer beneath the blanket, I tasted the night air and sighed--Mother Nature's luxurious gift.
My instinct was to fall back to sleep, but I didn't want to. Having had four hours of sleep, I lay there enjoying the scent and the sounds of the night streaming through the window: the misty coolness of the night cradling my head, the sounds of the wind brushing over the tree branches. I lay back and looked out the 31 windows in our bedroom--something many people had said, when we were building the bedroom addition, we would rue. But I haven't regretted making our bedroom so open to the outside, though I admit it is a bit frightening in an electrical storm.
From our bedr0om I could faintly see the outline of the barn and indoor riding arena where most of my animals were sleeping. How quiet the barn was, asleep with its four horses, seven pot-bellied pigs, Donnie the Duck, and the myriad cats. Complete calm surrounded all those animals as they slept in their pens and stalls.
Sometimes, especially in spring when the raccoons and opossums awaken from their half-sleep, they wake me up with their galloping around the deck surrounding the bedroom. They chase each other up and down the trees, land hard on the deck, which to them must be like a mini-racetrack, and they screech and yell at each other--all in fun--but in the middle of the night. Even though we're awakened by the ruckus, it's entertainment of a different sort: Mother Nature doing her thing while the human world sleeps.
So, last night with that cool air lofting over us, I stayed awake simply enjoying the nighttime. I enjoyed this treat until sometime after 4 AM when Mother Nature's night fingers finally massaged me back to sleep.
In the scheme of things, this was only a moment in time: my time and nature's time. Yet those few hours breathing in and feeling nature's calm coolness was priceless. It was worth, many times over, the sleep I did without.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Softness of the Rain

The day is soft,

Today I feel no tenseness in the air. The TV is off, Edgar off to work, all animals fed and resting in the calm that reigns under the padding of the rain. On not a very cold, razor-skin cold day that is typical for November, the air sliding in through my open window feels mild, mind-moist--comfortable.

As I write this entry, our new pup, Stewie, plays quietly on his bed, a prelude to cozying into a nap. Donnie the duck, no doubt, is paddling silently around his kiddie pool in his barn stall. Lately when I visit Donnie, he babbles in a strange language. His peeping has morphed into hoarse, duck-like squawks. My baby is growing up.

Should anyone tip-toe into our barn habitated by myriad cats, Donnie, four horses, and seven pot-bellies, he or she could savor the silence--especially in today's rain-cushion. Everyone is at peace--only rest on the mind. That's what is so settling about, so comforting about living with livestock and other animals: as long as they are well fed, sheltered, and in good company, be it animal or human, their world is at ease.

Imagine, in contrast, a room with so many people. What a cacophony of discussion and competition: rehashing workaday woes, bragging about each's gifted children, retelling efforts of multi-tasking, trips to the grocery store and the casino, talking of engines, cars, or the latest technological devices--arguing politics.

Unfortunately, I'd guess that we humans are not content most of the time. We sometimes feel uncomfortable under the umbrella of a soft rain like this. For many of us, the rain is a hindrance, a nuisance to our tasks. We need; we want; we seek; and we converse until we drop, dead-tense, into bed at night. We fail to hear the silence of the rain.

But today I'm embracing this gift of the padding mistlets--the soft sounds of silence. The rain has made me more malleable in mind and more sensitive--this rain that reflects a muffled-melody on a blanket of leaves: background music for my sleeping pup and my thoughts.