Companion to Jo Marie Cope

Jo Marie's Poem and Tribute to Tristan

September 27, 2005

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A Hard Lesson Learned

At the beginning of this month, September, we rescued 5 unaltered males from a horrible horrible place.

This place started out as a sort of zoo, with a variety of animals. The veterinarians around here, especially the one who I hire to do most of my vet work, have tried for years to shut them down. Well they are shut down now, however there are still a bunch of animals living there. The old man died and his widow, who really does not like animals, has been "caring" for the animals and has now sold the property. The new owners did not want any of the male pigs, so she sold what she could and gave away others. The place is so disgusting that I cannot even describe how horrible it is for the poor animals who live there. It is littered with filthy, too-small pens, which have escape holes for babies, who are then chased by their horrible dogs and most of them get killed.

When we checked on the pig situation we found as many as 20 unaltered male and female pigs living in a tiny 6 X 12 pen, with one tiny house which they had to take turns sharing, no floor, no straw, no blankies, food thrown into the mud, and nasty water. I am concerned for all the animals who live there, however we are only prepared to hold and care for the pigs. The Yorkshire girl, who was raised from a piglet and very sociable, was slaughtered and eaten before we arrived. The pots have never been handled except by their back legs when piglets, and chased and killed by the dogs.

When we arrived prepared to take out 2 babies, which was our original plan, (this gal did not want to release any more to me at this time), and I saw the condition of these poor pigs, I was determined to take out as many as I could right then. We took all the 6 week old babies that were left, (there were only 3, the rest were killed by the dogs). Then I saw a tiny guy with a bad hernia, and I told her that I was going to take him so I could get his hernia repaired. She also allowed me to take another male who was living in the same pen as the babies we took out. I believe now that he was the babies’ father. I did not have enough crates with me to take out any more then this, and my crew was exhausted from catching them. We had to net most of them with salmon nets. These guys were extremely wild! So we left, with a determination in my heart to come back and rescue as many more as I could out of this hell-hole.

Being a zealous sanctuary director, I made their vet appointments as soon as we arrived home and had these guys all settled down in their isolation pen. The vet appointments were on Thursday, September 15th, at which time we neutered, vaccinated, wormed them and repaired the little guy with the hernia. We also name them as we treat them. The biggest guy we named Jesse James, (who I believe was the babies’ father). The tiny guy, (20 pounds and who the vet determined was a year old) with the hernia we named Tristan. The baby’s we named Huey, Luey and Duey.

The neuters all went very well, with only a minor complication with Tristan, the hernia guy. He was under anesthetic longer then the rest and did not come out real smoothly.

We brought them back home and settled them into their new temporary digs. We put Jesse James up in a nice grassy sizable pen by the pond where he could graze and relax in a nice comfy pigloo. He did not. He paced and paced the fence until he wore a muddy trail alongside the fence. Then he rolled in the muddy trail until he was filthy again. We began teaching him some social skills and I had him eating out of my hand, however was not able to touch or pet him at this time.

Last Wednesday I noticed that he did not eat his breakfast. I dumped out his bowl, cleaned it up and put in his supper. He was walking rather stiffly and I suspected that he was sore from his recent neuter and all his pacing. The next morning he was dead. I took him in to my vet for a necropsy, which did not reveal any obvious reason for his death.

Tristan, (the little hernia guy) we put in a pen on the deck. I wanted to keep a close eye on his incision and make sure he would be ok. He had an 8X8 pen filled with straw and blankies and the 14X28 covered deck to run around on. We began socializing him and he was responding quite well. So many people run back and forth on this deck that it would have been impossible NOT to socialize. Everyone who went on this deck would give him a treat as they passed through and spend time talking to him. Tristan loved John. John would get down on the floor while Tristan gave him little piggy kisses on his nose.

Monday morning, I noticed that he did not eat his Sunday supper very well and appeared to be walking a little stiffly. I called my vet and immediately took him in to be observed. Every time we handled these little guys they panicked, because of their never having been handled previously except for rough handling by their owners. At the vet Tristan panicked and screamed hysterically. All my work with socializing him went back out the door. There was no fever and no infections from the incisions, in fact they were almost all healed up. There were no visible signs of what might be the problem and determining his condition was difficult. My vet put him on heavy doses of penicillin and gave him an injection of banamine. I brought him back home with instructions to give him the penicillin injections twice a day and the banamine injection for 2 more days. He did not live long.

Yesterday, Tuesday morning, Raymond and I gave him his injections and I held him for a while. I called my vet in the afternoon, after Tristan steadily deteriorated throughout the day. He could not bend his legs, and stood as much as he could. When he did lay down his legs were stiff out in front of his little body and he could not tuck them under him. When he tried to get up, he would thrash around and scream until he could get his legs under him enough to stand up. When he did attempt to walk, he came to the patio door and look up at me, making tiny little squeeking noises. I went out with him as much as possible between feeding and caring for the rest of the pigs. He would not eat. He refused even his favorite treats. His back begin to stiffen up and he could no longer scream, but made little squawking noises without opening his mouth. He was obviously in a tremendous amount of pain, in spite of the banamine injections. During the day his breathing became extremely labored and shallow. His entire muscle system appeared becoming too stiff to function properly.

When I was able to return him my vet in the afternoon, we determined that these little guys were suffering from tetanus. The bacteria, was carried here in their systems from their previous living conditions and entered their little bodies at the time of their neuters. Even though we vaccinated them at the time of their neuters, it did not take effect in time to save them. These little guys were so wild and frightened of human handling that their stress level was extremely high also causing their immune systems to fail. Tristan’s condition was badly deteriorated. Any further treatments at this time would only prolong his suffering. I held him in my arms while the vet masked him with ISO and made the injection that allowed Tristan freedom from his tortured body and join the angels who went before him.

We buried Jesse James and Tristan in the grassy area below the pond. We had them for such a short time. For the last few days of their lives they knew love, a warm clean bed, and freedom from fear of being killed by dogs or slaughtered by humans.

I looked back over this situation and discussed with my vet the lessons we learned from this. We decided that in the future if we rescued pigs from filthy and horrible environments that we would vaccinate at least 2 weeks before neutering them. This would give the vaccinations time to work before we stressed them any further with neuters or treatments for hernia’s etc. My vet stated that if we could get past 2 weeks with the 3 little babies that we have a fairly good chance of them making it. This Thursday will be 2 weeks. As yet I have not seen any of them exhibiting the same behaviors as the other 2 did. I hope and pray the babies will be ok.

Jo Marie Cope, Executive Director
Country Critters Rescue Corral
Phone: 360-854-0205