Thursday, July 30, 2015

Riley and Tuni's First Post

Anyone who followed my blog probably noticed that I didn't exactly deliver on my promise to chronicle my experience at Farm Sanctuary. There are several reasons for this, which I am not going to get into right now. Lets just say that the main reason was my usual lack of motivation. Since I didn't write anything for the two months I spent in Watkins Glen, I felt kind of ridiculous just starting back where I left off when I got back. So I have been waiting for a good topic to start back on. I think this is about as good as I could have hoped for.

Here is a bit of backstory. While I was interning at Farm Sanctuary I met two wonderful piglets, Riley and Petunia. They were adorable and sweet and I (and, I'm pretty sure, everyone else who met them) fell in love with them instantly. Petunia was brand new to the farm and overflowing with energy and enthusiasm. Riley was a bit older and more reserved, but just as friendly and loving despite the trauma he had endured before finding his way to Farm Sanctuary.

Riley was rescued from a stockyard by a brave and compassionate Farm Sanctuary employee who witnessed his suffering and saved him from a painful death. Despite the best efforts of everyone at the farm and the veterinary staff at Cornell, Riley was left blind in one eye and with his head permanently tilted to one side from a severe infection. Petunia was born with a hernia and was "donated" to Cornell so that veterinary students could practice performing surgery on her. She would have been euthanized had it not been for the fact that Cornell was very familiar with Farm Sanctuary. They agreed to save her if Farm Sanctuary would pay for the surgery. So after her surgery she came to live at the farm.

I got to know Riley and Petunia very well during my internship and was very sad to think of leaving them when it was over. About a week before my last day, the shelter director mentioned that she was planning to adopt out Riley and Petunia. As soon as I heard that, I knew that I had to be the one to adopt them. Thankfully, she agreed that I would make a good pig guardian. So when I got back to West Virginia my dad and I started work on a fence and a barn. After a very lengthy process, and a lot of help from my co-workers, we ended up with a charming, mint-green, barn and an acre of pasture. Then we just had to wait for them to arrive.  

The staff at Farm Sanctuary scheduled Riley and Petunia's arrival for 8:00am July 9th. I spent the last couple of days before they got here making sure that everything was just right, to make the transition as easy as possible for them. I woke up at 5:00 on the 9th, and sat around for hours waiting for the truck from Farm Sanctuary, and worrying about all the things that could go wrong. At 10:30 they finally arrived.

Apparently the two men entrusted with Riley and Petunia had left Watkins Glen at midnight and driven straight through. But their GPS had decided to take the scenic route and had gotten them lost in the ridiculous labyrinth that is the back roads of West Virginia. The fact that they didn't just turn back is rather remarkable to me. Instead they somehow managed to guide an enormous trailer up and down the most narrow, winding, pot-hole-infested "roads" you can imagine and find their way to a place most people, even in this area, have never heard of. For that, they have my utmost respect and gratitude. 

 I had prepared myself for the fact that Riley and Petunia would be extremely upset by the whole moving process and terrified by their completely alien surroundings. I was ready to give them their space and wait patiently for the day when they would finally get to know me again and let me come near them. I was sure that they would not remember me, and therefore probably not trust me at all. I half expected them to hide in their barn and cower whenever I came by. It turns out this was not something I needed to worry about.

When they arrived, they stepped out of the trailer as if it was completely natural for them to be on the road for ten and a half hours and then find themselves in a place they have never seen before surrounded by people they don't know. As soon as my parents and I went into the barn, they acted like we were all old friends. I like to think it's, at least partly, because they remembered me but this may just be wishful thinking. I'm pretty sure I would never associate me, as I look now, with me, as I looked all bundled up in layer upon layer of thick clothing and the absurdly bright, orange, tasseled hat I wore the entire time I was at the farm. But whatever the reason, their immediate friendliness alleviated much of my anxiety about the whole thing.

Riley and Petunia have now been living with me for over a week and I think we are starting to get the kinks worked out of our system. My dad and I built them a pond to discourage swimming in the water bowl, which seems to have been very effective. I've learned to drop the food bowls over the fence to protect myself from being tackled. I discovered that apples are far easier for them to eat when they have been cut in half and that carrots look rather disgusting when they have been frozen and thawed, but are apparently much tastier that way. I have also learned that both Riley and Petunia love company and will follow us all over the field, as long as they aren't trying to eat. If they are trying to eat, everyone else ceases to exist. I have noticed how much they love each other and that they don't seem to spend any time apart. If they do get separated they play their own version of Marco Polo to compensate for the tall weeds and Riley's poor vision. Of course, once again, if food is present all bets are off.

Well, this post has gotten quite long enough. I will be posting updates (hopefully) regularly and (again hopefully) there will be pictures on Facebook soon. If anyone is interested in visiting Riley and Petunia please contact me. They are quite fond of visitors, especially visitors who bring snacks.

This ^ was Riley and Tuni's first day with me.

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