March 10, 2014

Sanctuary News

Dennis the wild boar

Dennis, the Great & Wonderful

Sanctuary News

It’s me, Dennis. By now ya’ll should know that if I’m doing the post it’s either because there is something funny to tell, or, sad news. Unfortunately, today it’s sad news. We lost one of our own last week. Her name was Pearl. She arrived at the sanctuary long before I did, so I’m going to have to let Giacomo tell you about her.


Pearl came to us when she was about five years old. She was big for a potbelly, and we soon discovered she was more than a little feisty. All pigs get quarantined when they come here so the vet can check them out and perform tests to ensure they aren’t carrying diseases. With Pearl, that would have been a necessity regardless; she tried biting anyone who came near her. It took my wife, Mikki, two weeks just to be able to sit with Pearl while she ate. But Mikki had to play by Pearl’s rules—no petting allowed.

Mikki tried every day for almost a month, and she did make headway, but not much, and not in the petting department. My wife loves to spoil her animals—pet them, groom them, make sure their hooves, or nails are trimmed…you get the picture. She is amazingly good with animals, but Pearl was not an easy conquest.

Sanctuary News, PearlIt Wasn’t Just People

We soon discovered that Pearl didn’t enjoy anyone’s company. After receiving the vet’s okay, we released her into the area with the other pigs. It only took her fifteen minutes to pick a fight, and it was a doozy, requiring three of us to break it up. We built a separate pen (about 1/8th of an acre) and restricted her to that while Mikki tried to acclimate Pearl to the sanctuary.

During her third week in isolation, another new pig arrived, and she was put into the quarantine area. That night, Pearl broke through the fence that held her in, went to the quarantine area, and broke through that fence to start a fight. It took us an hour to get her back in her pen.

It was two years before Mikki had Pearl calmed enough to release her into the main area and socialize with the other pigs. Pearl didn’t fight with them, but she was far from friendly. She ate by herself, slept in a section of the barn by herself, and walked around with an attitude that dared any of the other animals to cross her. The dogs were terrified.

Middle Age

Five more years passed. Pearl mellowed some. She occasionally socialized with other pigs, and she didn’t try to attack the dogs when they walked by, but she still ate alone, and worst of all—at least for Mikki—still no pets allowed.

But Mikki never gave up hope. A few times a week she would take treats out to Pearl and sit in the grass with her. Pearl got to the point of taking food from her hands, but she wouldn’t tolerate petting, and she definitely wouldn’t allow any grooming.

Petey, the guardian


Nurse Petey

A couple of years ago Pearl began limping, and she seemed to have slowed down. This happened shortly after one of the other pigs died, and within a few weeks, Nurse Petey moved in with Pearl. It shocked us all when she allowed him inside her section of the barn.

When Petey moved in we knew Pearl was sick. It’s unexplainable, but Petey knows before anybody, even the vets. And once he takes on a patient, he sticks with it.

After that day, Petey and Pearl were inseparable. He walked with her everywhere, and the two of them slept together every night. The past few months Pearl declined rapidly. We thought of calling the vet, but then she found new life somewhere and began acting like her old self, though not as mean.

A Long Goodbye

Potbellied pig on sanctuary


Last week, when Mikki went to feed them, Pearl didn’t come. Neither did Petey. She found them lying next to each other in the hay near the horse’s barn. Petey went to eat once Mikki arrived, but Pearl wouldn’t get up, which was a sure sign of something serious. She even let Mikki pet her.

We arranged for the vet to come out the next day. Early in the morning, Mikki cut up a cantaloupe (Pearl’s favorite food) and placed some grapes in a cup, and took them out for Pearl. She nibbled on a few pieces, but not with any enthusiasm. And then she stood up and limped over to Mikki—and lay her head in Mikki’s lap. And she let Mikki pet her for hours.

It was a magical moment.

My first thought was that it was so nice that Mikki was there to comfort Pearl as she made her transition. But that night, while I lay in bed something else occurred to me. Maybe Pearl wasn’t looking for comfort; she’d been a loner all her life. Maybe—just maybe—this was Pearl’s way of saying thanks, and offering comfort to Mikki.

If that was Pearl’s intention, it worked. That one show of affection made the previous twelve years worth it.

PS: Pearl was 17 years old.

Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,


If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

2 Responses to “Sanctuary News”

  1. So sorry to hear about Pearl, guys.

    You and Dennis wrote a beautiful tribute, as always.

  2. Thanks, Aliza. Pearl was a special one, despite her temperament.

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