Monday, September 21, 2015

HOG HEAVEN – Does it really exist?

The pigs at the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary, all 600+ of them, certainly think so.

Once cute and cuddly little pigs– some now weighing in at over 250 pounds– now safe and rescued from abuse, neglect, and let me just say it- human stupidity! Some were surrendered when their owners could no longer handle their now HUGE ‘pet mini-pig’ while others were simply abandoned and discarded like old rags. Ironwood has rescued entire “families” of pigs caste out to live on their own, some in dire need of medical attention, and many taken in from other rescue facilities unable to stay the difficult and expensive course.

Tomato sunset

As Marissa Curnutte states in her article The Big Problem With Mini-Pigs published in the October 01, 2014  edition of National Geographic, “Since 1998, the number of "mini-pigs"– a catch-all term that characterizes just about any small-breed pig– in the United States and Canada has risen from 200,000 to perhaps as many as a million. Most of these animals end up in overburdened shelters or are euthanized once they outgrow their suburban habitats.” And multiply they can: a female can get pregnant as early as 3-months of age, have liters of 5-10 piglets, and do this 3-times per year. Do the math. 

Lulu's wrap

The Ironwood Pig Sanctuary is located north of Tucson, AZ. in a rather remote area, safe from suburban sprawl. When the staff is not running around rescuing pigs, they are performing the many daily chores of the sanctuary. Feeding (pigs love to eat), watering (pigs need lots of water in the summer to drink and in their wallows), keeping the pigs warm in the winter, caring for the old, giving out meds, nursing sick pigs, mending fences, the list goes on and on. Most of these pigs will live out their lives at Ironwood as finding suitable homes is difficult.

Theo the Hero


The Story of Lulu and Theo

This heartwarming saga gives real insight into what goes on daily at the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary:
Lulu had been exhibiting annoying behaviors during her monthly heat and this past March went to the vet to be spayed. Ironwood’s goal is to have all females spayed. The surgery went well but Lulu kept bleeding from her incision. The Ironwood staff stayed up all night applying ice and pressure to her incision but the next morning Lulu was unresponsive and still bleeding. She was rushed back to the vet to undergo a second surgery and stayed overnight on IV fluids but a sonogram the next morning showed she was still bleeding. It was decided, after much research and discussion among other vets, for Lulu to survive, she needed a blood transfusion-something that none of them had ever dealt with before. Another healthy pig was needed to be the donor and Barnabus was chosen. After a couple of laps around the field trying to catch Barnabus, they noticed Theo was just standing there watching them-he seemed to be volunteering for the task-at-hand. Theo willingly walked into the carrier and off to the vet they all headed. Theo donated like a pro and Lulu’s procedure was a great success! Theo and Lulu spent a couple more days at the vet’s. Theo the Hero went back to his field where he received a veggie burrito as a reward. Lulu recuperated in a special holding pen, steadily improving and finally able to return to her home field and to her good friend Sampson. She continues to do fantastic!

Our sweet Lulu
Although a blood transfusion is an extreme, these unforeseen episodes happen often at Ironwood. As anyone who has taken his or her pet to the vet knows, it is expensive. The combined expenses for Lulu’s procedures were almost $3,000. Multiply that by 600! Ironwood has been lucky enough to work with a vet that gives them discounted spay/neuter surgeries 1 day a week and all other surgeries at regular price. The expense of feeding 600 pigs is exorbitant, then add in regular visits to the vet, meds, surgery, emergencies, water (they have to buy extra water in the summertime) and, general overhead, just to name a few.

Lulu overheated

The sanctuary is owned and operated by the forever-dedicated founders and their loyal staff. I know this to be true, because I have been there and witnessed the endless work by a group of people with endless love for these often-overlooked creatures of God. We personally sponsor a pig named Samuel. Check out the pigs in need of a sponsor at: Donna, will keep you well updated of your sponsored pig’s lifestyle and happenings complete with photos plus a wonderfully informative newsletter of all the gang and the dates of the Open Houses if you are in the area.


Before considering a potbelly or mini-pig as a pet, do your homework. Please make certain you have the means, the space, (pigs are not apartment pets) and the time to take on the responsibility a pig requires and demands. Only a few will be the ‘lucky pigs’ that experience the love and dedication of all at Ironwood. The fate of the rest will depend on the perseverance of the few.

A face only a mother could love.

"In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins, not through strength but by perseverance."
-- H. Jackson Brown, Author

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