Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The-World's-Grumpiest-But-I-Am-Fine-As-I-Am-Pig about to turn another year grumpier

Tomorrow is Rosie's ninth birthday. If you had told me way back when I first brought Rosie home that a] she'd live this long, and b] I was going to drive her across the country from Oregon to Maine at some point, well, I might have pig snorted.

As one of my former vets said,

"She is lucky she came to you, I'm not sure anyone else would have handled her all these years."

It is true, she is grumpy. She is not like my other pigs who enjoy belly rubs, sun naps on my lap, or a certain amount of polite conversation after breakfast. When Rosie first arrived, she walked the barnyard more, but always with a grumpy cloud above her. It was never a problem, because she stayed out of the way, and preferred to be with Stevie the Kissing Goat, or by herself in a hay bed of her liking. Her care became more of a challenge when her first foot trim was due. I tried everything to get that pig to cooperate. I even gave her beer, an old farm trick-she refused it. I took a day to get one toe done, but it was better than nothing. The next time, I had my vet come out and it took three of us, with a pig snare, to the tune of $175. For the record, I am not one to pay $175 to have a pig's toes done, and I was slightly taken aback by the cost, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Each summer, I lathered her in sunscreen and oils to protect her skin from burning and to help her chronic skin condition. As she aged, and spent more time inside, it became less necessary, but she still needs her ears treated.

In time, Rosie became more of a recluse, and seemed to prefer that. One day I found her in the rain, shivering, far from her normal stall. I somehow got her into Old Barn, and she never left. I tried every spring to push her out into sun, but she liked her private area, away from Eleanor and Marcella and Earnest. I'm sure the other pigs shoved her around and she just isn't a fighter of other animals. She tolerated chickens, and me-on certain days.

It came time for us to move to Maine. I had many discussion with my vets. I was unsure if it was the right thing to move her. But it was not an option to rehome her, never. Nobody would have tolerated her. I just have a gene in me that allows me to be a punching bag for certain things-like grumpy pigs. On the day all the animals were micro chipped, we saved her for last. Somehow, we got it done, with a lot of grumpy words flung our way.

Any vet who has ever had to help me with Rosie, always remembers her,

"Do you still have that grumpy pig?"

Yep, I do. And she is turning nine. Which for her is getting old. For breeding pigs that would be ancient, for her, a spayed, pampered lass, it's like being 75, I guess.

The thing is, Rosie and I have had our ups and downs like any friendship. There were times in Oregon where I really was getting fed up. I worked so hard to make adjustments for her, and she was just plain...difficult. Even though she makes a lot of noise, she has never tried to bite me, or act threatening to anyone.

She is just grumpy.

I questioned if the trip to Maine would do her in. A five day-six night journey, where she would ride, alone, in a handbill princess pig palace in the back of the truck. The minute we got her in there, she went to sleep. She seemed to actually like her new arrangement. On our journey, when we stopped at gas stations, she would awaken, and people would hear sounds coming from our truck bed, but couldn't see her in her enclosed suite.

"That's just our pig," we said matter of factly.

"Hey, they have a pig in there!" and sometimes we'd open the lid of her suite so people could see her nose sicking out of straw.

When we first arrived in May of last year, Rosie continued to live in the truck bed in her private wooden hut, and for about two weeks wherever we went–to the hardware store, or out to lunch–people would be curious what they heard in that truck bed.

"Oh that's just our pig," we said without concern.

Eventually, she was moved to the chicken coop, temporarily, and did fine, but the chickens began picking her scaly skin [she has a skin condition], so we finally arranged a special private suite for her once the new barn was done. She sleeps side by side with the sheep, and Benedetto, and has her own private door. It made me so happy to see her greet me, outside her stall, one morning last summer. I sensed she was happy, and that she had the right mix of space and animal communing without being bothered by them. There are days when she seems to like having her ears scratched again. And this winter, she even tolerated me laying her down to do her toenails-now, "laying her down" did not mean in a graceful, easy way, and she was louder than a raptor fighting so I could only wonder what the neighbors thought-but we got it done.

Just like Benedetto, who loves the snow and cold but is not big on rain, we wondered if our pull to Maine was to make White Dog, and a grumpy pig...find their happy place.

We used to muse,

Maybe she'll never die...

She is and continues to be that kind of presence at the farm. But so were so many others that lived long lives with us, and they died. Everything dies.

So tomorrow, it is her ninth birthday. And it is also our first sheep sheering! I hope my sheering helpers will sing along to her...hopefully she will partake for seconds in a muted grumpy fashion-but why expect that from her.

She is clearly an old crone that knows who she is and has no motive to change.

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