One hundred and twelve days

Hercules

It has been one hundred and twelve days since you left this world. One hundred and twelve very, very long days. So much regret, and so much sadness has plagued me in these 112 days. November 24th, 2018 for me, was just yesterday.

You came to me as a one-day old piglet. You and your two siblings were not accepted by your mother. You were destined to die. Our friend brought you to us. We hand fed you goats milk, kept you warm and held you. Your brothers died one after the other in just the first weekend. You were strong, you were Hercules. You grew as strong as my love also grew for you. You had many illnesses as a piglet. I nursed you through them and you grew to be a cantankerous Mommas boy. The reality was, you really did not like anyone but me. I was ok with that, because I loved you deeply, I could understand why you were how you were. You see, Hercules was kind of like a porcupine. He so needed love, but when someone wanted to love him, he was prickly. He lashed out at those he did not trust and had some serious behavior issues. I understood his pain and accepted him for who he was.

It was a beautiful sunny warm day. We welcomed volunteers at the Haven, helping with food prep, we then headed outside to enjoy some time with the animals in the warm sunshine. As I chatted with volunteers, I heard a distressed cry. Not uncommon when Hercules ventured over to the Pot belly enclosure to assert his manliness on the rest of the herd. I thought they were just having a spat. But I heard it again…. something is wrong.  I ran to the sound to find Hercules on the ground crying out. I fell to the ground to help and console him. The episode continued. I started to shout orders at my volunteers. GET DANNY! GET THE CAR! GET THE KENNEL FROM THE HOUSE! WE NEED TO GET TO THE VET ASAP! Everyone scrambled trying to organize and execute all my demands. The immense helplessness I felt as you struggled to breathe, as you squealed, I could not quiet your pain. It happened fast, I have watched the videos and read how to do CPR and rescue breathing for a pot belly pig. I am a nurse, I should have been able to fix you, but I couldn’t, it was too late. Hercules took is last breath as I held him. It was this moment, when I knew he left me, that I felt my whole being crack wide open. I could not hold back my pain. I screamed, I cried, I pounded the ground needing an explanation of why you had to leave me! As I sobbed, I held your lifeless body and layed with you on the cool ground. I remember occasionally trying to shake you, then nudge you…hoping you would respond. Maybe your eyes would blink, maybe like in the movies you would GASP and take a breath, and all would be well. It did not happen. As I lie with you, crying for you, not knowing what happened. I hear one of my friends ask my daughter if she is OK. I hear her say… I am just really worried about my mom. That shook me. My daughter is also grieving, I am stuck in my own grief…I need to get up and make sure she is OK. I peeled myself from around Hercs body and went to my daughter to console her. She is hurting too, and scared. We held each other, Issy, Danny, myself and all our volunteers and we all cried together.

As we all stood, red eyes, tears, and pain. We watched something powerful happen. Miss Bea went to Herc. She nudged him. She smelled him. She made some interesting sounds I have never heard before as she stood at his body. Then it happened. Miss Bea lied down with Hercules. This is so powerful because you see they had a love hate relationship. They wanted desperately to be close to each other…but they were both such strong personalities. They would never cuddle, or really lie together. So much, the night before I had but a post-up on Facebook asking people to “place a bet” on how long it would take before I catch them cuddling.  It was this day, November 24th, 2018 Miss Bea cuddled with Herc. This moment spoke volumes to how complex of being’s pigs are. Miss Bea knew he was gone from this world. She was paying her last respects and grieving for him as well.

Miss Bea has helped me through this struggle. She is loving and kind and understanding. My days have been long and my grieving process not exactly what one would call healthy. When I brought Herc home after being cremated, I placed him in a cupboard. I could not stand to see his ashes every day. I at times pushed him aside, pushed him out of my mind because it was so painful to think of him.  I felt regret. Regret for not giving him cuddles that morning before his death. I didn’t give him extra blackberries and strawberries that morning with his last breakfast. The worst regret is that I did not give him belly rubs that morning and tell him how much I adored him because I was busy.

 For some time, I have been needing to write down my feelings. I needed to tell the world how much I love Hercules. It has taken me 112 days to speak about him and to tell his story. I feel like it is now time to honor my love, his legacy will live on through the many animals we will continue to rescue. As I sit here and write this, I am with him. His ashes are here with me, as well as all of his baby teeth he lost. It is time you took your place in this house Hercules. I will not hide you away anymore. You will take your place as you should at our new farm. You are the reason we rescue, you are the reason we will save so many more.

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