Posted on Apr 11, 2019
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Truffles was only a few months old when she was found abandoned at a closed pumpkin patch the day after Halloween. She was freezing cold, scared, hungry, and covered in mange. We brought her home, healed her, filled her belly, and gave her a forever home and family with us. She was adorable! With the touch of a finger she would fall over for tummy rubs, her tail was always wagging, and she was gentle and kind to everyone. With her all-black body and her shiny white socks when she trotted around the barnyard, she looked as if she were tap dancing.
We had a large farm pig at the time named Susie Q who took one look at Truffles when she arrived and claimed her as her own. Susie Q ate with her, slept with Truffles on her stomach, and protected her as a true mother would. One sunny afternoon all the pigs were napping and snoring, all except our twelve-hundred-pound pig Dunkin who was bored. Dunkin was looking for something to do and started poking around at the sleeping Truffles. Truffles started squealing, asking Dunkin to leave her alone. When the sleeping Susie Q heard her adopted baby cry, she leaped up, ran over to Dunkin, body slammed him into the wall even though he outweighed her by four hundred pounds, and screamed in his face for twenty minutes. Dunkin never so much as looked at Truffles ever again.
Years later when Susie Q passed away of old age, we adopted two piglets who Truffles took under her wing. Truffles went from being the baby to caring for twins, paying all the love forward that Susie Q gave her. The trio slept in a big, warm piggy pile and when I tucked them into bed each night, I would often cover them with the same blanket. It was so wonderful to watch them bathe in the pool together, lie in the sun, or sleep all curled up together.
For eighteen and a half years, Truffles rolled over for belly rubs, wagged her tail, was gentle with our guests, and appreciated our staff and volunteers. She was never angry or aggressive, and everyone loved her. Each morning we would wash her face, eyes, and ears to make sure there wasn’t any straw in them. She would get porridge with fruits, vegetables, Sun Chlorella Algae Super Food, and warm water. She would help us host school field trips and groups of children with special needs, and she was always a fan favorite. On Open Sundays she absolutely loved all the attention from guests and our volunteers. On many occasions, I would come out to her barn with a blanket and a book and join the piggy pile in the straw.
As with everyone, in later years Truffles grew older and less mobile. In the last year, it became harder and harder for her to stand or walk. But she was always thankful for our help. Three months ago she became unable to stand or walk at all and she was so frustrated. I could tell she was miserable. I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said that she wanted to leave. I actually called the vet, but she was out of town and couldn’t come for several days. While we awaited the vet’s return, I wanted to do something to ease her pain and discomfort, so I added acupuncture, massage therapy, and CBD to her daily routine. By the time the vet had returned, Truffles felt much better, loved her therapy, and asked to have more time here with us. For the last three months she slept comfortably, I tucked her into bed each night with warm snug blankets, we offered her water every hour, rotated her sleeping positions so she wouldn’t only be lying on one side, did physical therapy with her every day, had volunteers rubbing her belly, and she was happy.
Then this week something changed. She no longer had an appetite, she no longer tried to cooperate with physical therapy, she didn’t drink water, and she didn’t even want tummy rubs. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that she had had enough. She felt complete, had a great life, was so grateful for everything and everyone, but it was time to be free of her body; she didn’t want to lie here anymore. Truffles was so certain and so excited about leaving, that I couldn’t even be sad; I was happy for her! That last day while we awaited the veterinarian’s arrival Truffles and I took a trip down memory lane. I held her in my arms and spooned her while we remembered when we first met and how tiny she was. We talked about Susie Q and how much we both missed her. She told me how much she loved swimming in the pool, wagging her tail, eating watermelon in the summer, and being with all the other pigs we have loved over the course of almost two decades.
As we lay together and talked about the highlights of her life, I realized that her leaving was not sad at all. I will miss her of course and so will everyone who knew her, but she had lived a wonderful life! She was loved, important, had a big purpose, was adored and happy, and now when she was ready, was transitioning out of a body that she didn’t want anymore to fly free, soar high, and feel full of energy again. Potbelly pigs usually live till fifteen and we have had three and a half more years with her than expected! I all of a sudden felt a rush of gratitude that I carried into the final goodbyes. I wasn’t going to make her passing a tragedy, it was a celebration of a picture perfect life.
As the vet administered sedation and looked for a vain, I kept my eyes closed and stayed connected to Truffles. I told her over and over again how much I loved her and how thankful I was to have known and cared for her. I imagined her lifting effortlessly out of her body and expanding from that tiny piggy form to her enormous, limitless, powerful self. I pictured the sky full of gold glitter and sparkles, I felt her relief and her immense joy. There was not a puff of wind during the entire two hours I had spent with her, but the minute she lifted out of her body, a warm, strong wind began to blow through the pepper trees, making them dance and sway. The wind chimes started playing and I could feel nothing but ecstasy. I remained in the little red barn with Jellie for another four hours, laying in the straw, smiling, unable to tear myself away from the feeling of a free and happy Truffles. The wind continued all night and well into the next day and all I could think of was Truffles saying, “look what I can do now?! I am everything, I am everywhere, I am as big as the sky!”