It has been seven days since I took a leap of faith and found myself, just a simple pig from New Jersey, the center of international attention.
People keep asking me what my name is, which is funny because in my old life no one but my mother ever showed interest in calling me by name. They tell me that the tag in my ear says 303, but I know that is not who I am.
The people here are calling me Porky, and I know from the way that they say it that they mean it affectionately, but that is not my name, either. My mother had a wonderful name for me, but it has been so long since I have seen her that I can’t quite remember it. It slides onto the tip of my tongue every once in a while, but before I can get it out, it dashes back into the corners of my mind, just beyond where I can reach it. I know it will come back soon, though. And as soon as it does, you will be the first to know.
The other thing everyone keeps asking is, “What happened, how did you find yourself on a busy highway in the middle of rush hour traffic?”
Simple. I jumped.
The place I came from was dark, and life was hard there. Those days are over and I do not intend to relive them, but I do want to tell you about the light and smell that kept me going. We pigs lived in a dark and dank barn, but everyday, when the farmers came in to feed us, I saw a light beyond the briefly opened door, and I smelled wonderful adventures wafting in with the fresh air.
Somehow I knew, I just knew, that light and those smells were the freedom we pigs all longed for. And I knew beyond a doubt that someday I would be a free pig.
Most of the other pigs had given up hope, but I remembered my mother singing to me when I was a baby, “Sometimes, I feel like an eagle in flight…” Her song floated through the stillness of the dark barn where we piglets nursed and settled on us as softly as a feather. “Sometimes, I feel like an eagle in flight. Sometimes, I feel like an eagle in flight, spread my wings and fly, spread my wings and fly.” In her rich alto voice, hope mingled with tender mother love and the calm wisdom that sometimes comes from long-suffering.
My mother told us piglets about eagles who fly farther than we could see, about sunlight, grass, and best of all, mud. She told us that pigs at our farm used to live like that– outside– free to feel sunshine on our skin, to dig up delicious roots with our noses, and to roll around in grass and mud, enjoying all that the beautiful world outside had to offer. My mother told us that if we kept those images deep in our hearts, we could be free in our spirits.
That was a long time ago. I was still just a baby when the farmers loaded her up onto a truck and took her away. We never heard from her again, but I have never stopped imagining her a free pig. I just knew that someday I would gain my freedom as well.
My opportunity came last week. The farmers loaded me onto a truck with several others. I was grown up enough by now to know that they were not taking us to our freedom. And yet, through the wooden slats in the back of the truck, I saw light and smelled that air. I started working on the wooden slats with my nose. After awhile, I pushed several loose– enough for me to squeeze through.
“Hey guys,” I yelled to the other pigs, “now is our chance. Let’s jump!”
But the other pigs were too scared. I squeezed through the slats and half fell, half leapt all alone. The truck was going pretty fast, and I tumbled hard on the cold, wet highway. Cars were speeding by. The noise was deafening. I was beginning to regret my decision to jump and didn’t know what to do next.
That’s when he came along– I never did catch his name and I still think that maybe he was an angel and not a human at all. He maneuvered a huge truck around me to shield me from the traffic and most of the noise. He spoke to me gently. He told me that I was safe, that help was coming to take me someplace dry and warm. He told me no one would ever hurt me again. For hours we sat like that, the cold December rain sluicing down our faces, cars whizzing around us, and him talking to me in a soft voice, spinning dreams of freedom. I could almost feel my mother smiling down on us.
The next thing I knew, a whole lot of people were there. They loaded me onto another truck and took me to the barn where I am now. This barn is lighter than the one I used to live in, and I have been given a pen filled with soft, warm straw. Lots of people came to look at and admire me when I arrived.
At first, I had a hard time understanding what it was they admired about a lost little pig, but as the hubbub died down, humans came to talk to me one by one. In the quiet of the barn with only us farm animals to hear, they poured out their thoughts, feelings, and dreams. I began to understand.
The human heart is so similar to my own.
So here I am. I am told that soon I will be moving to a new place, called Indraloka Animal Sanctuary. It is a place where pigs, sheep, cows, and all kinds of farm animals live free. Where humans are our friends and we all have a chance to enjoy life’s wonderful adventures, like wallowing in soft mud and lolling in sweet pasture grass.
Before I go there, I am told I need more doctor’s visits and tests. They plan to move me around the middle of next week, and in the meantime the people here are very nice and are keeping me safe and warm.
Freedom is just around the next corner, and I just know I will remember my name when I get there!
Bitter winter winds pushing them forward, the Humane Officers stepped gingerly around the corpses of ponies and chickens as they searched desperately for signs of life. Out of the corner of her eye, one of the officers saw movement. Was it the wind, or was there an animal hiding in that old cardboard box? She made her way closer and peeked in to find a terrified pig, too weak to scream or run.
In the barn, they found a second pig who was much less frightened.
The pigs, Magdalena and Anunzio, arrived at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in early March, 2007. Having miraculously escaped their living nightmare, Magdie embraced us, immediately becoming the affectionate and playful pig that she is today. Nunzi took a different approach.
He screamed at the top of his lungs every time he saw a human. This means that every time we fed him, gave him fresh water, cleaned his stall, or did anything else in the barn, he screamed the entire time.
In case you do not know any pigs, their scream is actually a higher decibel than a jet engine. Quickly, we discovered that speaking to him, even in a soothing, soft tone of voice, only terrified him more.
Happily, he was never afraid of Magdie, so at least he had a companion. To this day they remain gentle, loving best friends to one another.
One day, I found myself singing in the barn as I worked (it happens sometimes, although it is not pretty, I admit). I realized at some point that Nunzi was not screaming. Slowly and silently, I poked my head into his stall– “What if something is wrong with him?” I worried.
As my head came into view, Nunzi resumed his deafening screams. “At least he is all right physically,” I thought, and went back to my barn work. As I resumed singing, his screams ceased.
When I stopped, the screams resumed!
So, I made it my habit to sing in Nunzi’s presence, and he stopped screaming when he saw me. This was a breakthrough. From there we began, very slowly, to work on building a friendship.
Blue moon, you saw me standing alone,
Without a love in my heart,
Without a pig of my own.
You knew just what I was there for,
You heard me saying a prayer for,
Fast forward 9 months, to a sunny Sunday morning.
I went out to the paddock to see how Nunzi and his pig, horse, turkey, and rooster companions were enjoying the morning sun. Nunzi heard me talking to Sabine (a horse) from around the corner of the barn and…are you ready?…(drum roll, please…) Nunzi actually ran to greet me, grunting softly and contentedly as he nuzzled my hand. This was the first time I had ever interacted with Nunzi without either him screaming or me singing! His eyes twinkling, he practically said in English, “Well, and good morning to you too, sunshine. So nice to see you this morning.”
Nunzi doesn’t scream at humans anymore. And that makes all of the endless hours, backbreaking work, struggles to pay vet, feed, and hay bills, and everything else worthwhile.