The Pig Preserve was conceived with the concept of allowing rescued pigs the freedom to live their lives as close to the way Mother Nature intended for them to live as we could provide while still keeping each pig safe and well cared for. We have, by and large, been able to accomplish this goal. But occasionally we accept a pig into the sanctuary who has limitations on the amount of freedom that he or she can safely handle.
Such is the case with Lucky and Finnegan. Lucky, the older of the two boys, fell off a truck on an interstate highway in KY when he was just a few months old. After four visits to the University of Tennessee and numerous surgeries to repair a badly shattered left front leg and elbow joint, Lucky has very little use of his bad leg. While he gets around painlessly and relatively well, he is not nearly as mobile as the other pigs at the sanctuary. Finnegan, the younger of the two, was born with no front feet. When he arrived here as a young piglet, he spent his first months in the house with us as it was winter and he would have been unable to survive if put out with the other pigs. Once we could assess his level of mobility, it was obvious that, like Lucky, Finnegan would be able to get around adequately…but neither pig would ever be anywhere near 100%.
After much thought, we opted to create a special place for Lucky and Finnegan where they could bond and enjoy their freedom…but within the limitations imposed by their handicaps. We created a pasture consisting of a little more than an acre that was full of shade trees and fruit trees…an area where we had running water and lush grass in the spring, summer and fall. There is also a huge grape arbor on one of the pasture fences and a huge wisteria bush on another fence, which provides a wonderful place for them to hang out in the heat of summer. Of course, being pigs, they immediately fashioned several large mud holes to enjoy on hot days.
Lucky and Finnegan do not have full access to the entire sanctuary. We have given them as much freedom as they can handle safely. Their pasture has also provided us with a place to house other pigs on a temporary basis. Our two baby pigs, Reggie and Plutarch, eat their meals and spend their nights in Lucky and Finnegan’s pasture as they grow from piglets into young adult pigs. Each morning I take some apples down to the gang in this pasture and let Reggie and Plutarch out into the main sanctuary where they spend their days roaming, exploring and meeting the other pigs. In the evening, I let them back into the smaller pasture where they can get a good meal without being run off by the older pigs and where they can sleep in their own shelter. Within the next few months they will probably make the transition to living full time in the main sanctuary on their own.
Lucky and Finnegan’s pasture also allows us the luxury of being able to separate a pig who may not be doing too well in the main sanctuary so we can observe that pig more closely. Because Lucky and Finnegan are so easy going, they do not pick on the occasional temporary visitor to their pasture.
As much as we would like it to be, the sanctuary is not a one-size-fits-all operation. We must consider the needs and abilities of every pig who comes here to make sure that the sanctuary provides each pig with the gift of freedom and that their lives do not become a test for survival. Our elderly potbellied pigs, many of them over 20 years old, are housed separately and fed separately from the rest of the pigs. It would be cruel to expose them to the freedom of the entire sanctuary with their limited mobility and advanced age. Some of our obese new arrivals are confined and placed on a diet and an exercise regimen until they are slim enough and mobile enough to be allowed out with the rest of the pigs.
We must constantly evaluate the progress, health, happiness and security of every pig living here to make certain that we are providing the very best in care to each pig while still affording each rescued pig the level of freedom he or she can handle. It is an ongoing and never-ending challenge.