Most everyone has had some experience in sharing their lives with a companion animal such as a dog or cat; this story is of the friendships between a pig and lots of human friends.
Arnold came to SC-CARES in 2008 when he was 10 years old. He had spent his life in a local pasture area with donkeys and emus, cared for by an elderly man who was being moved to a nursing home.
When Arnold arrived he was extremely underweight and had open wounds all over his body from the donkeys and emus fighting him for the scraps they were given. He was so much smaller than these other creatures that he didn’t get enough to eat. His ears were very thick from scar tissue that had formed from being bitten on the ears repeatedly for so many years.
Arnold quickly went from being underweight to a little overweight from eating fruits, vegetables and pig chow twice a day. He had an area all to himself and was able do just what he wanted to.
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His wounds slowly healed and he soon became a favorite among our visitors. In the past six years, Arnold greeted so many people and loved every minute of it. His wonderful, friendly disposition made him one of SC-CARES’ most popular residents.
For many humans, petting Arnold was the first time they’d ever touched a pig. His leathery skin, prickly hairs and his soft snout made for a wonderful experience. Just touching or petting him wasn’t all he liked, he also loved to get a hug – and I mean a full body hug.
Arnold would gladly get up from his nap to grunt a happy tune for newcomers and you could tell that he recognized his old friends. Arnold even had friends from Canada who would come to visit him every fall and bring him special treats.
The lifespan of potbellied pigs is said to be up to 20 years but a more in-depth search revealed that they are very few who make it longer than 10 to 12 years. Arnold was coming up on his 17th birthday. He had arthritis for the last couple of years and had been on arthritis medications to help him feel better. We delivered these capsules to him hidden inside strawberries or tomatoes. This ritual soon came to be called his “appetizer” by our volunteers.
Over the past few months, Arnold’s health deteriorated. With our veterinarian’s help, we made his remaining time as comfortable as possible by heating his bed, adding extra hay to make it soft, vitamin shots, feeding him whatever he wanted to eat and even syringe feeding him when he wasn’t ready to eat on his own. Each remaining day was a gift, so spending time with him was extremely important to him and to us!
I began posting updates on Facebook to let Arnold’s friends know of his situation. I was shocked at the following he had; if I failed to post for a day people would message me or email to ask about his day.
Arnold had made so many friends and I wasn’t even aware of the number of humans who cared about him and wanted to know how he was. On March 15 Arnold was out of bed and waiting at the door for his breakfast, which had become rare most days. He ate his breakfast on his own, then went on a walkabout and lay in the sun.
Arnold passed away shortly afterward, with several of us there with him, hugging him and telling him how much we loved him. I’m thankful that we were with him and he didn’t die alone.
I’m thankful that the sun was shining, the air was warm; it was a beautiful day for him to enjoy before he left us.
I’m thankful that he died quickly, didn’t suffer and went on his own terms.
Later that day I posted his obituary on our page and was shocked to see nearly 3,000 people had seen it and there were more than 60 comments of condolences.
I’m so grateful that so many people cared for this boy and became his friend. We have not had any creature to date that had such impact on humans. This special pig touched many lives. The memories and the love will be forever etched in the hearts of many.
SC-CARES will not be the same without him, we miss him immensely but we are honored to have known such a wonderful, sweet spirit!