Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pigs: The Coughing Pig

I was really excited about going to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. I have watched it on television a number of times and really enjoyed it. Mr. Farmer looked at it as part research for a possible entry next year and part family vacation. I didn't even mind that the distance meant that I would have to get out of bed at 3 am to leave at 4 am so that we wouldn't miss the early morning pig exhibits that Mr. Farmer wanted to see. I even begged someone at work to cover my shift that day so that I could go. One of the pigs had other ideas.

A certain black and white pig started coughing about a week prior to the Farm Show. With Wilma expecting, Mr. Farmer wasted no time in finding the culprit. One morning, all the pigs came running out to be fed as always- except one. The last one wandered out, glassy-eyed and visibly thinner than the rest. So he did what any pig-farmer would do: He injected the sick pig with strong antibiotics, and he added a prophylactic dose to the drinking water for the others.

It was too late, however. The sick pig needed a second dose injected, and Mr. Farmer couldn't bring himself to potentially infect the prize pigs at the Farm Show if he himself carried the illness. So, instead of getting up at 3 am, slogging through a cup of tea and fighting to stay awake on a 4 hour drive to Harrisburg, I slept in until past 8 am and... well, that's the story I sat down to write for you just now.

Mr. Farmer's syringe looks like something out of a cartoon. It is an old-fashioned, reusable glass monster with metal rings on it so that you can keep a good grip. He told everyone how he bent a needle doing the first injection, so I figured that maybe those rings were a good idea. The large size allowed him to overfill it a bit, which also turned out to be a good idea...

You see, the first dose was a big help, and while the coughing continued, the pig was feeling better. He was so much better, in fact, that Mr. Farmer knew he was going to need assistance holding him still for the injection. So Young Master Farmer and I put on warm clothes, gloves for better grip, and gear that could get muddy, and went along to assist. Mr. Farmer dumped some food on the ground, we identified the sick pig, and Young Master Farmer grabbed him by the leg. The other pigs were too busy eating to pay any mind, and the sick pig wasn't well enough to squeal or scream. After some shuffling for position, I was able to grab the other leg and hold on. Once I had a good grab I dug my back foot in to keep the kicking from pushing me backwards, and I told Mr. Farmer that we were ready.

The rest of the process was a blur- literally. My hat slipped down over my one eye, but with both hands on the pig's ankle and Mr. Farmer already wiping off the ham with rubbing alcohol, adjusting it just wasn't an option. I held on as best I could, dug in, and waited for the all-clear signal. Out of one eye, under the bottom edge of my hat, I could see the medicine come back out of the needle-stick, then a little blood, then the bent needle going for a second stick, then more liquid running down the hind end of the pig. After what felt like five minutes, Mr. Farmer stepped back and young Master Farmer and I could let go. The sick pig went back to eating as if nothing had happened, in spite of the trickle of blood and extra antibiotic running down its leg.

As with any interaction that involves holding pigs still, there were the usual repercussions. The aching back kicked in just after we came home from the evening out, and I took a few pills before I went to bed. My clothes stayed pretty clean, but my rubber clogs have seen better days. They served me well, though, and I am pleased to announce that all pigs have a clean bill of health once again.

This Kind of Thing is Bound to Happen

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