A will to live

Caring for farmed animals has its ups and downs. One of our pigs, Isabelle, is a shining example of both! Isabelle is a "production" pig, bred to gain weight in a short amount of time for slaughter at six months.

Because of their size, when they fall down or injure their back or hips, euthanasia is often the only option. Unlike dogs and cats or smaller farmed animals, we can't just pick up a 700-lb pig and carry her to the vet. When they go down, it's often for good.

Several weeks ago, Isabelle slipped in the mud and injured the muscles and nerves in her lower back. We put up a shelter around her and called the vet. The initial prognosis was not good, the vet suggested we consider euthanasia if she didn't show signs of improvement after a few days.

Sometimes, you just know when an animal is ready. A look, their behavior, or such clear distress the answer is simple. With Isabelle, this wasn't the case - she was alert, eating, drinking, talking to us and the other pigs...she looked like she wanted to live. We called another vet, desperate for another answer.

The vet came out and suggested electro-acupuncture. It was a last resort and if it didn't work, nothing would. We thought, why not? Euthanasia is always a final option. Since Isabelle wasn't suffering, wasn't in pain, and was acting like Isabelle, we gave it a go.

Not much changed after the first treatment. Our hopes were dimming. Isabelle wasn't giving up, though, so we agreed to do one last treatment as a last ditch effort. The vet was kind enough to provide the service for free, knowing it was an unlikely victory.

Two days after the second treatment, Isabelle boosted our hopes by getting up and walking! She walked a good hundred feet to our center pasture full of fresh grass. After a few nibbles, she collapsed from the effort. We again moved shelter to her and arranged for another treatment. By this point, Isabelle was showing signs that she could feel the acupuncture...and get grumpy about it! That she was showing signs of discomfort was good, it meant she had regained some feeling!

Finally, Isabelle was able to walk all the way up to a stall in the barn and there she's remained. She's showing gradual signs of improvement and is tentatively walking around. We don't know if she will fully recover, and we know the final option may still be inevitable. But we aren't giving up hope, because Isabelle has shown us that she has a powerful will to live.

We'll keep you updated.

-Marji Beach, Program Coordinator