These little piggies went to the vet—and screamed the whole way

Hung-over Auntie Gertie* and Princess Beatrice Buttercup went to the vet’s in Lima today, and they both lived up to their adored full names.

I awoke this morning to the meeps of little Birdy—ironically a cat—pacing back and forth in front of my door, whining to get out. Beatrice stood on the other side of the egress, snuffling and rooting at its base. I pulled my sleep-addled self out of bed and dressed myself quickly.

Birdy shot from the room like a streak of lightning, while Beatrice attempted to bull her way in. Pushing her back caused a grunt and grumble of indignation, and she squealed in anger as I shut the door in her face.

unnamedMum (or Anne as you all know her) was rushing around in the living room, slapping the kettle on and brushing back her hair in impatience, as she always does after her run in the morning. She looked up and grinned , then ran about a little bit more, cleaning out the back of her small Toyota Matrix. We threw back some tea as fast as possible, and hopped to the process of loading the pigs.

The three of us, Mum, Dad (Steve), and I, decided that the best course of action was to load Gertrude first, being the less likely of the two to spring from the car. So up she went, straight from the porch into the car, which was parked right off the edge. (Thanks to the weather for no more rain, but a wonderfully hard-packed and frozen ground.) She bellowed and kicked as she was hauled in, nearly knocking me down on the descent from porch to ground, but she’s so much smaller than she was, it’s almost easy getting her to go where it is you want.

Little Pig (now, amusingly enough, the larger of the two), however, is ridiculously difficult to move about. She’s built like a tank but moves as fast as a bullet, make no mistake. So this time, Mum and I set to cornering her in the house, but our efforts were pitiful at best. Outside she had to go, but never near enough to the edge to spring for it. Unfortunately, she screams like a banshee, and Gertie is highly protective of her big wee bunkmate, so when Beatrice starts caterwauling, Gertie moves faster than appears possible.

She sprang forward out of the car, got her front feet on the side of the deck, slipped, did a spectacular flip, and hit the ground, unharmed but trapped. She remained there, dazed but much calmer, while we figured out how to get Beatrice into the car. We ended up flipping her upside down and holding her aloft by her little legs. This sounds cruel, but it didn’t hurt her, and I ended up with plenty more bruises and scrapes in comparison by the end of the morning.

After getting her half into the car, I leapt in with her and pulled her front end whilst Dad pushed from the back, and in doing so we finally managed to get her squealing self in. Mum had to pull the car forward so we could get to Gertie, who stared up at us with an expression of utter distaste. Mum and Dad held her up and thrust her in and I scrambled out of the back before either could jump for it.

I moved into the front passenger’s seat as Mum leapt into the driver’s and we took off to Lima. On our back-route way to Lima we ran into a construction area with a one-lane stretch. Each of the ODOT employees we passed did a double take, their Carhartted forms spinning, allowing the small slit of exposed flesh and eyes to stare. I am sure that beneath their scarves and masks, bemused expressions adorned their faces.

We arrived at the Lima Animal Hospital at 0915, and I went in to make sure that the appointment was still doable. The woman at reception assured me that we were fine, but could we please go through the back as there was a woman in with a euthanasia patient. I said we would—it was in fact the route which we looked on as preferable. Princess Beatrice, however, had other plans.

We hauled her out and were pulling her toward the door when she slipped out of her rope and headed into the parking lot. This vet’s office is along Elida Road in Lima, a very busy main route that runs past the mall and many shops and fast food restaurants. Terror is what is experienced when your four-legged fellows make a dash across a short lot by this road.

Mum and I chased her a bit, and I did—if I say so myself—a spectacular dive into the asphalt, collecting myself many of the aforementionedS nice scrapes and bruises. I managed to get a grip on one of her hind-legs and Mum the other, but we lost it again (and my glasses to a bush). We finally wrangled her closest to the front door and pulled her in. Mum went back out to close up the back of the car to ensure that Gertie wouldn’t make a leap, however unlikely it would be.

As I opened the door, this poor woman looked up, her eyes puffed and red, looking at Beatrice in slight nervousness. I apologized again and again as the woman looked on. She looked nervously at Beatrice and asked tearily, “Does she bite?”

“Oh no.” I patted the princess and looked up at the woman. “You can pet her if you want; she’d love it.”

So the woman leaned down and patted Beatrice’s face. I would like to say that Little Pig responded in kind and brushed her face against the woman, but being as disgruntled as she was, she merely grunted and walked the length of the hall, away from the two of us. The woman gave a choked giggle and left through the front. If she ever reads this, I hope she knows that she is not alone:  the mad girl with insane hair with the even madder pig and other company understands and hopes that she has many more wee friends in the future.

I stayed in the patient’s room with Beatrice as Mum got Gertie out of the car and into building (through the side door this time, as asked). It went pretty smoothly after that; Gertie went in to have her hooves trimmed first. She was true to form and shuffled slowly in and went straight for the cushioned bed. The doctor and Megan McCoy carried her out to the car and eased her into the back while she was still out.

unnamedBeatrice whined and grunted, pushed and pummeled, until Dr. Babbitt got the mask over her snout, and she fought the laughing gas as long as she could until she lowered herself—still not on the cushion, thank you!—and fell into sleep. Her hooves took very little time to trim, and then we had to figure out how to get her back to the car as well. Beatrice hasn’t been weighed since she was tiny, and she has gained quite a bit since then. The four of us, Mum, Megan, Dr. Babbitt, and myself, hauled her up by rolling her onto her back and carrying her by her hooves, each of us to a leg. We went back in to pay, and off we went. The poor pigs were so out of it, but Beatrice sat up the entire trip, staring dazedly and moodily back at the ODOT workers as we passed by them again.

We lifted the still-groggy Gertie out of the car and urged Beatrice to jump out on her own—we’d done enough lifting for the day.

This is a cautionary tale for all those who think that the cute little piglet would be a wonderful pet. While they bestow joy and great fun, and a kind of bond and understanding one finds very rarely, they are not to be taken on lightly. They’re work, hard work; the term “pigheaded” wasn’t created as an amusing joke, it is true. I rarely meet anyone so stubborn as Beatrice or Gertie. They grow from that cute wee piglet into adulthood the size of a medium to large dog—at least Beatrice did. She was supposed to stay as small as she was when we got her. She did not. And you should try putting her in a harness. Lord, the screaming. However, if you are up to the task, pigs are ahhhh-mazing. There is nothing quite like sitting with a cup of tea and a book in hand, your feet propped up on the stomach of a pig. (And you had better be working those feet in a scratching way. Elsewise she will get up and leave you. Jerk.)

*I named Gertie “Hung-over Aunti Gertie” in recognition of her behavior. Her temper is short, and is almost always found on her cushion beneath the stairs, a blanket pulled up over her head. When she snores, I swear, I almost see the fizzes and pops coming from her nose as she expels breath.

Sixteen Chicks and a Kit

It’s only Tuesday and it’s already a busy week.

On Monday, we received a call from the Pandora branch of the United States Postal Service.

“There is,” a woman explained, ” a package for you.” Long pause. “And it’s talking.”

Chicks TiredThe chicks we’d ordered late last winter had arrived: five Black Australorps, five Black Giants and, as it turns out, six (though we only ordered five) Buff Orpingtons. Now ordinarily we don’t buy the animals that live here. There are more than enough domestics out there in need of a different situation that we don’t have to. But chickens? Well, they hold a special place in my heart and, frankly, they feed us. Not with their bodies; we’re vegetarians. But we have absolutely no issue with eating the eggs they produce, Chicksparticularly since the eggs they lay are infertile. This is not to say that we don’t take in wayward chickens. We do and have: Barbara the Australorp, Karen the Rhode Island Red and Big Girl, the Ameraucana,  just to name a few. But there’s something about raising a chicken from virtually her first breath. At least, there is for me.

Then, on Tuesday, today, we received a call from Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education. A couple in our county had found an orphaned red fox kit and were looking for assistance. I met Rachel and Andy in Ottawa in the parking lot of the local Rite Aid. They explained that they’d found him huddled next to a dead sibling and kept a watch out for the mother. 003When nearly two days had passed without an appearance, they took the kit in and contacted NN, which in turn called us. We provided him with a little watered down formula, which he gladly drank, and, since he was severely dehydrated, gave him a subcutaneous injection of sterile saline solution. So he’s here for the interim. Tomorrow, we’ll try him on a slurry of soft cat food and formula.

From there, thanks to Rachel and Andy, the sky’s the limit.

The Unbearable Lightness of Turkeys

Rear ViewDon’t let the turkeys get you down. Have you seen this thing? A simple drawing by Sandra Boynton of an elephant driven to its knees by six or seven of the aforementioned birds? It was everywhere for a while a long while ago (and apparently lives on as t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters and greeting cards; but, then, everything that ever was still is somewhere on the internet).

The message was simple: any troubles you have are analogous to turkeys and you shouldn’t let them get you down, those darn turkeys.

Big GuyYeah? Well, bunk. While I suppose that there are some turkeys out there that are a constant headache, that would do everything in their power to make a person’s life absolutely miserable, the turkeys with which I’ve interacted have been a pure joy. Case in point, the two newest residents at The Quarry Farm.

A couple of months ago, Laura Zitzelberger, operations director at Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education, contacted us about possibly taking in three bronze turkeys that had been seen wandering in a residential neighborhood in Toledo. And, while three were spotted, once volunteers from the center arrived on-scene, only two were found. Of the two, one was suffering from a variety of injuries (the consequence of getting on the wrong side of a dog). So, after Inigo, Willow and Fezzikrehabbing the bird and determining absolutely that these were indeed domestic and not wild turkeys (bronzes bear a remarkable resemblence to their undomesticated cousins), they contacted us late last week and made arrangements for us to pick them up.

We bundled them into the back of Rowan’s Subaru Forester and made the hour long trek back south to Putnam County where we set them up in the same run as Johnny, the Canada goose, and Andi, the Pekin duck. During the whole of the trip, despite being unceremoniously lifted from the home they had come to know and dragged into a whole new situation, not once did either bird make more than an idle and near-inaudible complaint.

So here they are now, these two birds we’ve dubbed Fezzik and Inigo. And glad we are that they’re here.