Grace was listed online as, “Good enough for dog food.”
After being bred too young, Grace, a Hereford pig typically used for meat, required a c-section to get her piglets out. Her incision then ruptured because she wasn’t kept calm enough during her recovery period at home. Rather than pay to have her fixed, her family sold her for dog food. She was just a year old and disposable to those who had stolen her babies from her.
We paid a $50 ransom to free her from that life.
DEATH SENTENCE REVERSED
When we took Grace to Oregon State University for an evaluation, the surgeon asked us about her quality of life. The implication was that she may be better off if we euthanized. “She just came to live at a vegan animal sanctuary,” we said, as we implored them to help her. She’d just hit the lottery!
Grace had a post-op hernia, which would happen to any of us if we were too young and playful after a c-section. The hernia was the size of a rugby ball- we could actually fit two fists inside the defect in her abdominal muscle. That’s what they call the opening in the muscle. The defect. The incision can’t support the strain of a young pig like Grace running and jumping, so the muscle wall splits open where the surgery happened, and the intestines literally fall out into a sack of skin. In most every other situation, pigs like Grace do not get picked up by farm sanctuary people, and this diagnosis is a death sentence.
And this was our orientation into the world of medical rehab for farmed animals.
PATIENCE AND BEER
We took Grace home from the hospital with instructions from the surgeon to keep her calm as we waited another six weeks for the hernia to develop scar tissue on the border of the muscle. The scar tissue would need to act like a grommet on a tarp. Without the scar tissue to cinch the defect together, the stitches would never be able to hold. We spent the next six weeks wrapping Grace’s abdomen in the biggest velcro maternity belts we could find to help hold her intestines inside. She lived in our barn. She ate only the best food. She had an occasional cheap beer for relaxation. And we held our breaths hoping we could fix her.
And when the time came for a re-evaluation, the surgeons agreed to try the surgical repair (along with a hysterectomy) to help put “Humpty together again.” The surgery was HOURS. It was risky and it cost over $5,000.00. There was no guarantee it would hold, but we had no option but to try. We then kept her on strict stall rest for another 6 weeks in an effort to let her heal properly.
And she did.
That was three years ago, and Grace has flourished under our care. She’s smart and sassy and agile. She loves to eat, but we mind her weight incredibly close. Being overweight is too much strain on her incision, and that long-term care is serious business. We obsess about putting our hands on her belly to make sure it feels smooth and secure.
Grace is a beautiful ambassador for her kind as a resident of Odd Man Inn. She enjoys the outdoors and fresh dirt and belly rubs. She harasses the potbellies whenever she can. She loves to get face to face with me and give me the “gorilla.” It’s what we call the excited grunt she makes when she’s happy. She loves her giant friend, Oliver, who himself was a discarded meat pig of another breed.
Grace has no idea this is all so strange. She doesn’t know that the vast majority of pigs in her situation would never have made it to a Craigslist ad, much less this far. She doesn’t know that farm vets rarely get an opportunity to perform this surgery on her species, which means she actually advanced the practice of veterinary medicine with her case. She doesn’t know that her entire species is considered a commodity to most of our species, which means that when she is no longer profitable to her captors, her life is over. She’s a disposable item of ownership in most every other situation. Here with us, she is someone. Grace’s survival is about so much more than just Grace. She’s lived to tell her story and to speak through us to educate and advocate for all of her kind.
We give Grace a life of safety and peace and freedom here at Odd Man Inn. We are her family. Her friends. Her caretakers. We love her unconditionally, and we share her amazing success story every chance we get.