It was the winter of 2012 when I decided to start the search for a pet pig. Don’t ask me what triggered it, I have no idea where or when the seed was planted but I jumped in with two feet and began my search.
At the time, I worked at a vet clinic and made the most of my down time looking into rescue, rehome or adoption options. I remember falling short as “mini pigs” were just about to take off in the novelty department and blow up all over the latest classified ads.
I ended up purchasing Gilly from a farm that had just started to breed “mini pigs” as the next best pocket pet. Not my proudest moment of encouraging this kind of start up business however this lesson learned was about to change my life and the life of other pigs to come.
Our first year together was a magical whirlwind of everything pig related, all day everyday. Days were full of walks, day trips, car rides, family visits and Gilly’s favourite, drive throughs.
Gilly was a fast teacher and he lacked patience where food was concerned, something we both had in common. I started to learn rather quickly all about pigs and their very specific wants, needs and above all, smells. Gilly would release a specific, disturbing odor when he was scared that could clear any room or entire house it occupied. He taught me never to pop the top of a banana unless you coughed over the sound of it so that he couldn’t hear. He taught me that no matter how important I thought my time was, a belly rub was essential to squeeze into my schedule and that when the rain touched his hard piggy skin, it would make the hair stand on end resulting in the perfect little, black ball of fluff. I was spiralling down this rabbit hole and falling more and more in love with this little creature and all the lessons he had to offer.
Just before Gilly turned one year old, he started to get sick. By sick I mean, straining to pee. We wasted no time and made our way to a vet appointment, the first of many to come over the next year. Diagnosed as a bladder infection, we came home with some meds and hoped for the best.
Apparently, we didn’t hope hard enough.
The next full year consisted of appointment after appointment, trial after trial, exploratory surgeries, meds and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. We visited specialists, universities, drove Gilly hours to be seen by people who wanted to help and spent any good days we were having, worrying or researching to try and figure things out on our own. I took him to holistic vets, played around with healing foods and essential oils but every sleepless night I came back to my computer to research his symptoms.
During this period of research and vet overload, Gilly remained patient with my efforts and constant experimentation. I can only assume he knew I meant the best for him. He took his days in stride and if it turned out to be a shitty day, I would be there, all day, if for nothing else but to provide the best belly rubs I could give.
We were told that it was highly possible that he had a blockage somewhere in his urinary tract. So after an exploratory surgery, we still did not have any answers.
Long ass story short, one summers afternoon, not too long after Gilly’s second birthday, Greg found Gilly straining on his side beside the house. This was way more exaggerated then most times so we scooped him up and rushed him to the vet. The only decent pig vet was an hour away and I remember it being a Saturday after hours so we got on the road and called them when we were en route.
Once there, we tried a couple options and eventually left many hours later with no progress. It was about 10pm and we just made it home. Gilly was laying in the back of our van, still in distress and me still crying overtop of him. I quickly rushed inside for a much needed pee but on my way back out, Greg came running in to get me. By the time we both got back to the van, Gilly had taken his last breaths and moved on to greener pastures without me.
And that was it…
Looking back, I cant believe just how full those two years were. Besides the obvious abundance of appointments, travel and meds, I’m overwhelmed by the many emotions that filled and fueled those two years. I wish that I could explain the kind of happiness Gilly brought to my life. The pure joy of seeing his chubby face every morning, the grunts of approval he would share and the wet snout-snot in my hair after a long day were exactly what I needed in my life and not a moment too soon.
Since then, the “mini pig” trend had taken on full steam and people where purchasing these pigs thinking they would stay small forever and they could be carried around in a purse like some kind of accessory. Only weeks later, they were up for sale because they grew up, lost their novelty or city bylaws forced them to be rehomed. Funny thing is, all these years later, it’s still happening! They are being advertised as “mini pigs” or “teacup pigs”. Just a word to the wise, there is NO SUCH THING AS A “MINI PIG” OR “TEACUP PIG”. They all grow up! They do not belong in an apartment! They are pigs and like to graze and run and roll in mud! Do not deprive them of their needs! As you can tell, I get really fired up about this topic. I just hope for people to take it upon themselves to educate and learn about them before bringing a pet pig home.
Since loosing Gilly, shit started happening really fast. We brought in 2 more pigs, moved to the farm, then brought in 3 more pigs, among other critters. They all have some kind of story to tell and have come here to retire and live out their spoiled lives in peace. Well, I use the word “peace” lightly here, as I’m sure they see it differently. I probably inflict a small degree of harassment in the form of snuggles (sometimes forced snuggles), screaming their name in excitement too early in the morning, chasing them across the farm with the hopes of squeezing their chins, an abundance of selfies with them and so on. But, those are spoiled pig problems. The only problems I hope they have in life.
I’m so lucky to have loved and lost such a huge game changer. The loosing part sucks, but the loving part built me and prepared me for even more love in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to properly thank Gilly for what he did, so I’ll just try to show it everyday with the ones who need it.