Pam Ahern from Edgar's Mission rescued two heavily pregnant sows from Tasmania. A month after the rescue, the sows gave birth to numerous piglets. One piglet was black with white trotters and all the others were completely black. Pam kindly offered me a piglet or two because she knew about my loss regarding Oinky. I still needed time to heal so I declined the offer. I felt really bad saying no to Pam because I knew she urgently needed homes for the piglets.
A couple of months later, a work colleague (Craig) told me about two piglets that walked onto the property of one of his friends (Shanra) in the Gisborne area. Shanra had no idea where the piglets came from. The piglets wanted to stay but Shanra was unable to keep them and she had no particular interest in pigs. I spoke to Shanra and she was unsure what to do with the piglets. She offered the piglets to me but I said no for the same reasons I had declined Pam’s offer. I made a few phone calls to help Shanra rehome the piglets, but I was unable to find a new home for the piglets.
A few weeks later, Craig told me that Shanra has surrendered the piglets to the Melton Shire Council weeks earlier. Craig explained that the piglets were in the pound and would be auctioned off if the owner didn’t come forward. Craig said that if the piglets did get auctioned, there was no doubt they would be acquired by someone who would eat them. Upon hearing this, I called the council and spoke to the ranger. The ranger said that if the owner of the piglets didn’t come forward in 8 days then the piglets would be auctioned, along with a handful of other livestock. The ranger said that, in all likelihood, the piglets would be purchased to be eaten. With that knowledge, I was overwhelmingly compelled to attend the auction and secure the piglets fate.
I spoke to my partner, Stephan, about the events. Before I could express my strong desire to save these piglets, Stephan simply asked when the auction was being held and that he was not going to let anyone eat the piglets. Stephan took the day off work to accompany me to the auction. With an open cheque book and horse float in tow, Stephan and I went to the auction. I was extremely nervous and anxious as I watched several people arrive for the auction. Listening to their conversations, Stephan and I deduced that all bar two other people were there to get a cheap feed. Following discussions with the auctioneer, we understood that many people were only at the auction looking for a cheap feed.
Recalling the banter among the people at the auction, they were laughing and mocking the piglets, saying that "they'll look good on a spit" and "I'll have to call the misses and get her to fire up the barbie". I felt sick. Stephan could see my anxiety had risen dramatically. He reassured me, saying, "don't worry; they are coming home with us today. We'll pay whatever price to get them home." I felt a bit better but was still a little nervous in case the piglets slipped through our fingers.
The auction began. First up were a cow and her calf. Next, a solitary, very sad looking whether (castrated male sheep). We watched as the farmer, who commented about the piglets on a spit, made the opening bid on the sheep. We couldn’t let this poor sheep suffer such a fate so, we bought him. We named him Bob. Next went a Shetland pony and a very friendly Billy Goat. They went to a woman I sensed would give them a good home. Next for auction were the piglets. There was only one other bidder, the same farmer that bid against us for the sheep. Bidding started at $50 for the pair of piglets. He bid $70. I bid $90. He bid $110. I bid $130. Final call… No further bids… Sold! We secured the piglets fate. I went to the back of the auction yard to look at the piglets. I felt happy.
We made the necessary arrangements then loaded the piglets and the whether into the horse float and drove home. I telephoned Pam on the way home to tell her about the piglets. She was so happy for me. I again reiterated that I felt bad not taking some of her piglets. Pam said "You've saved two others, that was great in itself." She offered to take the whether but I wanted to keep him too.
We got the piglets home and fed them. Loved them and scratched them. They took up residence in Oinky's shed and her prized Pigola. They were extremely lean and very hungry. I gave them short walks in our secured back paddock to assess whether they would take off. They didn't. Aris and I would play games and hide among the tall grass out of view. The piglets would go ahead of us and not notice we were no longer following then they would come bounding back searching for us until they found us. We laughed at their antics.
After a few weeks I started planning for the piglets desexing. After Oinky's incredible journey I had a genuine fear of any surgery that involved the midline. Our local vet, Dr Dan suggested a flank approach. I liked that idea. I wanted to leave their bellies intact. I didn't want to weaken an already weak part of their anatomy. So off the piglets went to the vet on the 8th of May. The piglets were taken to the vet separately because one of the crates we borrowed for transporting them was uncomfortably small. First, the black and white piglet, Scout, second the all black piglet, Giselle. They made a mess but Dr Dan was very understanding. I said goodbye.
Later that day, at about 2 PM, I received an update from Dr Dan. The first thing he said was, "We've had a set back." I felt my heart sink. He then went on to tell me that he could not find a uterus. He tried the flank approach and then a midline approach, but still no uterus. "No uterus? What do you mean no uterus?" He said Giselle had already been spayed. I said, "No way, as far as I know they were either born in the forest or dumped". In no way did I ever consider that they might be already spayed. Poor, poor Giselle. Little baby girl now had an operation unnecessarily. I was sad for her.
Dr Dan did not do an operation on Scout because he was confident she had also been spayed. There was, however, no visible scar on her belly to confirm this. Oh my God. Who would have spayed them so little. Where did they come from? Later that day I went and visited Giselle. She was doing okay and recovering well. We also arranged to take Scout home. Dr Dan and I had a brief discussion in the foyer of his clinic about the set of circumstances that we found ourselves in. My parting words to him were "without any history how would we ever have known they have already been spayed?" I was sad but had to accept that I committed to the surgery for Giselle because it was the best thing for her. She was still little and I wanted to ensure that her future was going to be good.
I said goodbye to Giselle and we loaded Scout into her crate, then the crate into the trailer. I said goodbye to Dr Dan and walked out the front entry of the surgery. Stephan was in the car waiting with Aris.
My phone rang. It was Pam calling to ask about the girls. I told her what Dr Dan had said about the absence of a uterus. Pam asked me the colour of the piglets. I said black. She asked if they were all black. I said, "No, Scout has white trotters." I was confused. Why was Pam asking about their colour?
All I could hear was Pam in total disbelief almost crying from happiness. I didn't know why. I then said, "Pam what's wrong, tell me what's happening." Pam explained that the two piglets I had rescued were her two favorite piglets born to the sows she had rescued from Tasmania. She said she had rehomed them to a woman in Woodend. Apparently they had escaped in late January.
I couldn't believe it. What? The piglets we rescued were Pam's piglets, the same ones that she had offered to me in November last year which I declined because I wasn't ready to have any new pigs. The same ones that we photographed with Aris at Carols by Barn light and rubbed their bellies, patted and scratched. I couldn't believe my ears. Those two little piglets made their way from Woodend to Gisborne and through sheer luck I found out about them and bought them at auction! Pam was so happy at the news that the lost piglets were safe. She and some of her volunteers had searched for the piglets in Woodend hoping to find them. Pam had fretted for months and was mourning the loss of the piglets, always wondering what happened to them. Her biggest fear was that someone had stolen and eaten them.
The piglets had walked about 40 kilometers through heavily forested terrain crossing major roads and farmland. How did they stay safe from hunters and dogs? How did they come to me? Did they recognise me and Stephan the day we went to the auction? Pam said the piglets were meant to be mine from the start. The piglets knew that, it just took me a little bit longer to realize. I love them x
Kind regards, Marg and Oinky