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The Rock-itt : April 2012
Sometimes it just takes a gentle pig to touch hearts and make us realise miracles can happen. I gave Alice the most wondrously soft straw bed but at first she was frightened of the sight of it. She would stand in the doorway and stare, waiting for the huge straw monster to move, then step by step she would inch closer. One of my most happy memories is finding that Alice had not morphed into Houdini and escaped the yard but had found sanctuary in the inner workings of my straw bed! Her happy piggy grunts were a dead giveaway she was there. As the days grew warmer I made her a wallow, right there in the middle of the yard. That the muddy patch would spell ruin for the yard meant nothing to me, Alice was my friend and a wallow is a reason for a pig to live. My greatest challenge was for Alice to see me as a friend. As the months rolled on Alice did find reasons to live but sadly I had not become one of them. It would be nine long months before I could lay a hand comfortably on Alice and from there I was to dext erously manoeuvre it to her tummy, then she got the idea - my smile could not betray my joy. I think the greatest things that Alice ever showed me was the capacity to forgive and the importance of trust. Many people measure their life in awards won or prizes gained. That Alice did find reasons to live will stand as one of my greatest lifetime achievements. Her antics with her buddy Daisy were truly heartwarming. There was the time when we had a pile of screenings delivered to make pathways around the farm in readiness for one of our open days. After a heavy morning shoveling we knocked off for lunch only to return and find the ever adventurous Alice and Daisy had found the pile and made them selves a comfy bed. W e didn't have the heart to move the two sleeping beauties. Countless were the tim es we would open a stable door, go to the straw stack or shavings pile and find the intrepid Alice and Daisy all curled up asleep, no one having spied their entry. And Alice loved Edgar and she would go in search of him each day. But sadly this was unrequited love, or so I thought. If Edgar hadn't already made his way to his day bed he would scoot off as fast as his short, fat, little piggy legs would trot, screaming all the while. If Alice stood on guard outside his day yard grunting her love, Edgar would lie really, really still and hope she would not notice his mammoth form amidst the straw. While Edgar became famous for the raucous belly grunts he would deliver whenever he heard my voice, he would refuse to answer my calls to him when Alice lay in wait, least he give the game away. Alice could often be found in the stable Edgar had just vacated lying stretched out in the straw drinking in Edgar's masculine piggy smells. A priceless moment came when I spied Edgar on one of his daily jaunts about the farm, standing outside Alice and Daisy's paddock grunting piggy delights to Alice. "Edgar, you sly one" I uttered. Alice's world indeed, became rich and full, she loved watermelons, wallows and walking with branches. Boy did she love branches!! Whenever she found one in what had become her vast home, she would seize it between her teeth, carting it back to her bed and fashioning a nest. Each day when I would tidy her bed I would move the branches out, Alice in clear indifference would storm past m e, grab the branch and storm back past me giving me one of 'those' glances as she would defiantly plonk the branch back down. I learned that mother pigs would go to great lengths to fashion a nest to safely give birth to her babies in, something Alice was never allowed to do, yet something so clearly natural. Mother Nature did not get it wrong. Over the years I was able to find so many reasons for Alice to live and I truly believe hers became a life worth living, but sadly I am all too keenly aware that pigs do not live as long as humans. I guess I saw the writing on the wall a little while back when Alice's dear buddy, Daisy, passed away. For two days and nights Alice slept on Daisy's grave, refusing to eat or move. While grief is one of the most natural of human emotions, it is not ours alone. Elephants grieving their kind is something that is becoming well documented and here before m e was a pig grieving her buddy. I do not believe it is anthropomorphic to think this but human arrogance to not do so. I knew then that it was going to be tough to keep coming up with reasons for the aging Alice. Each day, Alice would move less and less, getting up and down, even on the huge straw bed, became more difficult. Her favorite treats failed to excite her. Her back became more roached and walking tougher. I dug deep into my bag of tricks with pain relief, sweet smelling food and kindness beyond belief. Each day I could see the light dimming and me facing yet another of life's great challenges. Many sleepless nights would follow. And today I ran out reasons and I recognised my mortality in that I am not God and that I cannot wave a magic wand to restore youth and remove the pain of old age, yet today I would play God. A good age for a pig is about 10, for Alice to reach almost 12, incredible. I told Alice softly I loved her and said "Go find that handsome big pig, he will be waiting this time". I tell the stories of the animals who have found a special place in my heart by finding their way to Edgar's Mission not to break people's hearts, but to help put them back together again. I believe in an age not too far off humanity can rebuild its fractured relationship with the animal kingdom. For when we love unconditionally all creatures with whom we share the planet, we are whole. My heart aches dear Alice as salt water wells in my eyes. One truly has not lived until they have loved a pig. "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” Alice Walke