'Till Death Us Do Part
Running a rescue provides a massive amount of variances emotionally, physically and sees day to day change just when you thought you had it figured out. The one big negative to rescue is death. It's something you never get used to and, as we have always said, you shouldn't either. We think that the day you are not affected by the death of an animal is the day you need to give it up. Emotion plays a constant if the true meaning of rescue and animal care runs through your veins. Many have said to us that death is something you have to expect and accept. Expect yes, accept no. Don't get us wrong, you go into this with your eyes wide open and you know what to expect. When you have a high number of animals in your care the law of averages is going to catch up with you. The average says that with many animals there WILL be death at some stage.
None of this ever points to "getting used to it". When you love animals from the start and then invest so much time with them, working to rehabilitate and fix them, feed them and keep them healthy, socialise with them daily to provide love and happiness, you are emotionally invested big time! These animals become your family, your "pets" for want of a better word. They become your life as you would give yours for them.
It comes as no surprise then that when the inevitable happens you feel it as though losing a family member. That beloved animal that you have spent day after day with is suddenly not there, an empty space sits where they once did. As much as people think you must handle it better than most because you see more of it you don't. We in rescue grieve. We grieve hard and we grieve for a long time. We have all lost a family pet - a dog or cat or even a bird. The gut wrenching, soul stripping, heart breaking feeling that we have all felt is what we feel here every time an animal departs. Be the death by old age or way before their time we are gutted.
To have one death is bad enough but the law of averages is often cruel in greater numbers. Recently we lost two massive Furever Farm residents just two days apart. To say you feel beaten and torn is one thing but to have to double that is savage. Made worse is when, despite all you are prepared to do, there is simply nothing that can be done.
We lost our old girl, "Nanna" Lizzie the sheep. Lizzie was "lucky" enough to succumb to old age.
We also lost our beautiful big boy Mocha the pig. A cruel twist of fate would take Mocha far too early in life.
This blog is dedicated to them and we tell their story here.
Lizzie came to us having been lucky enough to have a really good life. She was taken in by a vegan family when the farmer didn't want her as she was born with an overbite, just like we have seen in dogs. These people raised her and she was loved, cared for and lived amongst a small flock of sheep in no kill luxury. Lizzie only found her way to us due to her family moving back to Scotland. They lived nearby and had heard of us and asked us to take their crew.
Of course, when we got Lizzie she was somewhere between 6 - 7 years old. Her "younger" days were behind her and she was to slowly show that age as she went along. Still, Lizzie fit in well here at the farm and soon became the "nanna" to all our younger lambs as they arrived and ventured into the paddock. Such was Lizzie's amazing and caring nature she would take hold of the lambs as they gravitated to her naturally. She would look after them, show them the paddock and what to do to be a "big" sheep. The nickname "nanna" suited her to a tee.
As time went on this lovely lady began to lose weight and energy. Her overbite in older age was starting to affect her feeding to the point that her body couldn't keep up. She was placed on special feed designed to replace that weight and replace the energy lost. That it did and Lizzie initially responded well. As Lizzie continued so her body and face really started to show it's age. She was, though, still mobile and in good spirits. One day whilst delivering morning feed we would find Lizzie down in her shelter. As we approached we could see there was no movement, no signs of life. Lizzie had passed. By all evidence she had passed peacefully, simply laying down and drifting off to sleep. Age had caught Lizzie as it catches us all. Lizzie, by information given, was between 8 - 9 years old. Quite a good lifespan for a sheep, especially one with an overbite that affected eating. Like all before her we were devastated. Lizzie would be buried that day in her paddock which has now officially been named after our own nanna sheep. "Lizzie's Paddock" now holds the sheep and incoming lambs. Future lambs will never know what they have missed in Lizzie's departure.
Two days later we would be forced to euthanise one of Furever Farm's most cherished and beautiful residents, Mocha.
Mocha was an abuse rescue. Saved from the clutches of feral breeders this poor pig came to us early in life beaten, torn and destroyed mentally and physically. His little body upon arrival so scarred and emaciated, his mind so terrified and tortured. Mocha would not come within 200 meters of anyone or anything when arriving. He would not come for food, would sleep out shivering in the rain and would take months and months of rehabilitation.
We still remember it clearly. Us having to place buckets of feed out into the paddock, stand back and hide and watch as Mocha slowly snuck out from his hiding spots to venture to feed. We would remain hidden as should he even spot us he would run terrified of what we might do. This, of course, continued for a long time with food being the only positive in this pigs life. It would eventually enable us to get closer and closer to him as he realised that we might be ok, that we might not hurt him as others have. It happened one day. After months of slowly making progress Mocha would allow us to touch his nose. Then scratch his head. Then scratch his body. It was a bit by bit awakening. Eventually Mocha would let us hug and cuddle him. Such was his giving and loving nature he learned to love it. Not just from us either but from volunteers and visitors. This boy went from distrusting everyone to loving all who came his way.
Mocha was a submissive pig due to his background. This would see him at the lowest end of the hierarchy but, honestly, he wouldn't have it any other way. He simply wouldn't hurt a fly and wouldn't domineer anyone. Mocha loved his food and loved his sleep! Often he would eat, leaving early to make sure all the other pigs had enough, and return to his favourite bed spot where he would remain only to rise in late afternoon for some foraging. Even as we type this we are teary thinking of his beauty and kindness. Mocha was a huge pig....we mean huge! At 450kg easily his frame was big. We always thought that Mocha had very short legs for his body. A X-breed feature maybe? It would be discovered that this was all part of Mocha's abuse and neglect early in life.
This boy was wonderful. So attached we were such was the time we had spent with him in rehab but also afterwards as he drew you in and simply had you wanting to sit and chat with him. We spent a lot of time with Mocha. One day we came out to find Mocha dragging his back legs. He had no function in his rear end but was displaying no signs of accident. He also possessed no sign of pain. Obviously we contacted the vet immediately. That night the vet prescribed Mocha anti-inflammatory and pain relief. To be injected a number of times, improvement should be seen within 24 hours. 48 hours later and after injecting Mocha as instructed there was no improvement what so ever. This time we called out our usual vet who came to the farm and examined Mocha thoroughly. It was diagnosed that Mocha has broken a vertebrae in his back which, in turn, had damaged his spinal cord. In essence Mocha would never walk again. He probably has had this happen due to brittle bones, an affect of very poor to no nutrient feed when with his "breeder" owners. That and being abused had seen Mocha's bones not form as they should, including his legs which remained short.
We were devastated to say the least. A pig so huge and weighing so much simply could not survive without his back end. His pain would increase, his torment grow and it would be cruel to expect him to live. That night the painful decision was made to lay Mocha to rest peacefully and respectfully. Mocha departed the farm with dignity and leaving broken hearts in his wake. Our hearts were (are) broken, our volunteers hearts were broken, visitors hearts were broken, Mocha's sponsor parents heart was broken. Broken hearts everywhere showing just how many lives this gorgeous boy had touched.
Mocha was laid to rest beside one of his offspring that had died as a piglet. He rests where he can forever be visited, forever be spoken to, forever be remembered. Of course, it goes without saying that the pig enclosure is now named after Mocha. A special place named after a special boy who simply owned the term special. He was one of a kind and our memories of him will always be pleasant. He completed us as people here at the farm.
So with two deaths only two days apart we continue to go on. We hurt, we cry, we grieve, we ask why over and over but there are all these animals out there that need our help. We have spoken of pledges before in blogs and we continue to live by ours. We pledge our service and love to as many animals as we can, to advocate for the rest and to honour those passed. We are but human in that we genuinely feel every good time and bad and that includes expecting, but not accepting, death. Our pledge is forever.....till death us do part.
Darren, Hayley & all the Furever Farm team.