Lucy Jensen

It has been a long time since we had a pig in the family. You read that correctly. Back in 2011, when my daughter was young, she raised an award-winning pig for the Salinas Valley Fair through the high school 4-H Club. For rookies like us, we did amazingly well; except that winning did not mean that Sally got to come home with us that day. We mourned her for quite a time; not to mention the fact that not even a strip of bacon made it through our doors for months. We still talk about her with fondness; she taught us so much.

Over the years, I have casually glanced at ads for potbelly pigs — watched them joyously romping in people’s family rooms. I do love a pig. Before Sally, I had no idea just how smart and fun they were; very intuitive. Sally would chat to us, play with the dogs, get super excited when she knew the marshmallows and strawberries were coming her way … she was a delight and we had raised her from a piglet to when she left us at an award-winning 330 pounds. Needless to say, that was our first and last foray into raising a market hog. None of us could ever stomach it again.

And then I noticed a slow-moving, black creature over at a neighbor’s ranch. She was snuffling around in the dirt. “Sally!” I called, randomly. “Sally O’Malley!” The dogs looked at me with disdain, thought bubbles hovering over their heads… “Oh no, she hasn’t gone and rescued another dog, has she?” The neighbor over yonder seems to have animals coming and going; they never stay long. I asked my other neighbor about the pig. He had been down there feeding the guy’s horses.

“If he wants to sell the pig,” I broached cautiously. “I’ll take her.” And there it was. I had made a step forward or backwards, depending on how you look at it, into the swine world. “How much would you pay for her?” he asks me. (Whatever it takes, I’m thinking.) “$100?” Sold! Sally was going to be mine and she would never have to leave.

Soon a large black squealing creature was being delivered from the back of a pick-up truck to Solace in the arms of an extremely strong man. Fortunately, we had never dismantled the “Pygmy Goat Palace” from when Elvis and Charlie were young and needed to be contained.

We would need to acclimatize Sally for a while. She screamed and cried. I felt so badly for her. I rushed inside and chopped up some lettuce, apples, carrots, banana … I even tried a marshmallow. She fell on the lettuce like a long-lost friend and chomped happily, almost humming with delight. I sat down and looked at her carefully. Initially I had thought she was young and pregnant; but now I could see she had been a breeding sow. Poor old lady was old and worn out; hence the $100 price tag. “It’s OK, Sally,” I told her. “You can rest now. You are at Solace.”

My daughter came flying outside. “Sally’s home, Sally’s home!” My husband was equally delighted. “O’Malley!” It had been 11 years since Sally left. It felt so good to have her back again. Then Max, our llama, caught sight of her and started screaming. Ever heard a llama scream? It’s not an attractive noise. Our llamas were terrified of this large black thing that could move about as fast as a tortoise. Sally didn’t seem fazed though and was so appreciative of the regular food that was delivered and the fresh-water buckets to tip over and make mud pies.

I take her breakfast in the morning and lay down in the straw next to her head. I love the smell and sound of a pig. I can get my head close to hers; but she screams if I touch her, even very gently. I could not believe that humans had done a number on her when she had been nothing but a moneymaking machine for them. Even just a soft touch connection with a human terrified her.

“It’s OK, Sally,” I told her. “We have all the time in the world for you to learn how to love a cuddle.”

So now the Pygmy Palace has become the Piggie Palace and Sally has arrived at her forever home. It makes me miss my Sir Winston White Horse all over again. He would have delighted at another friend to nuzzle and snort at. He would have loved the companionship of hearing her eat and watching her bask in the mud right next to his own palace of a stable. He certainly would not have screamed like a llama! He never had an issue with other creatures that possessed no equine resemblance. He loved the cats that visited with him in his stable and the goats that kept warm under his belly.

My neighbor tells me that the wanna-be rancher across the street, Sally’s original home, now looked like he needed homes for his horses. “He seldom comes around to feed them,” he tells me. The neighbor took over flakes of hay, since the horses had little grazing land left. “Oh no,” I think to just myself; he has a Winston-looking horse. Enough time has passed that I am a likely sucker for a Winston-lookalike that needs a loving home.

“Should we rescue the Winston?” I gently broached to husband, used to my raising a subject of such an ilk. (Normally a prelude to my next rescue.) “No,” he says, categorically, not even looking up to catch my eye.

“We’d better give him a final chance,” I told the neighbor. “Let the landowner know that his tenant isn’t taking care of his animals … maybe he will issue him an ultimatum.” And so, we watch, and we wait, and we deliver food. Neither one of us can bear to see a hungry animal.

In the meantime, Sally’s former abode is just a vague memory for her; of that I’m sure. She greets me with a bit of a whoop and a chortle these days, when I deliver her breakfast. She likes to eat her piggie grain first and then have the fruits and veggies for dessert. I love her; I just love her. My heart is so full. After 10 years away, Sally is finally back home. The planets at Solace have realigned.

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