There was a Little Hands that would take Louisa and me out and let us run around her room and give us treats. She would sometimes squeeze us a little too hard, but I don't think she meant any harm. I liked Little Hands.
There was a Big Hands too. She would clean our cage. She always seemed angry. Momma said that Big Hands took Papa away before I was born. Louisa and I were afraid of Big Hands.
I should tell you about Louisa- she was my best friend in the world. She had beautiful fur, it was growing long just like Momma and Auntie. She was always slim and beautiful. Me- well, I've got short fur and for a while there I was getting fat. As a matter of fact, so were Momma and Auntie.
Big Hands took us to the vet. Bad news- Louisa was really Louis. Auntie, Momma and I were all pregnant. Big Hands told the vet that she couldn't deal with more babies. She asked the vet to put us down. The vet said he could find homes for us. The vet put Momma, Auntie and I into a little cage. Big Hands took Louis home. I never saw Louis again.
The vet found homes for Momma and Auntie. They were both so beautiful, it was easy, everyone who saw them wanted them. He couldn't find a home for me. That's how I came to live with Fenella.
Fenella made me change my mind about Big Hands. She knows pigs. When she picks you up, you don't have to worry about being squeezed or dropped. She did have a distressing obsession about my weight. Every time I turned around she was plopping me on a scale. Weighing obsession aside, she was very nice. She found me a very nice laid back roomate named Cleopatra.
A week after I moved in with Cleopatra, my babies were born- Higgins and Bosley. I have to admit I really don't have a maternal bone in my body. I really don't feel like anyone's mother. Cleopatra was great during this time, she helped me keep my cool around those little upstarts. Since we originally thought that both were boys, Cleo kept reminding me that it would just be a few weeks before the little rats would be gone. Well, the day of reckoning came, and much to our surprise- Higgins was a girl!
So here we are trying to adjust to our lives as a trio, when one day Fenella comes and takes our pictures. Posed pictures. On fleece. Cleo told me that Fleece Photography meant that we were now on the adoption list. Cleo told me it wasn't so bad, we would travel around with Fenella and get to meet lots of Big Hands at the Pet Expo.
Cleo used to amaze me- she is the world's greatest optimist. Everything has some positive aspect. She had apparently forgotten that the adoption list was how she had lost her previous roomie. She was positively looking forward to the Pet Expo.
Higgins on the other hand is the world's greatest pessimist. Everything is a sign of impending doom. I keep telling that girl - if you act like the world is going to eat you, it probably will. She acted like we were going to become snake food.
Next: The Pet Expo
You know, when I first moved in with Cleo, I hadn't seen hay before. Cleo was so nice about it. Anyone else would have laughed at me. She just watched me play with it, jumping on it and tunneling through it. Finally, she mentioned that a more usual practice would be to eat the stuff and she demonstrated her technique of selecting the most succulent strands.
She had a little game she would play with Higgins where she would pretend that Higgins became invisible when she hid in the hay. Higgins would ask"Can you see me?" Cleo would reply "No, all I can see is the hay. Where are you?" Higgins loved Cleo.
The funny thing about the hay hiding is that Higgins, as a PEW, was the least likely of all of us to be able to camouflage in the hay. Of course, the day of the Expo, we were all trying to become invisible in the hay.
The Expo was scary and noisy. There was some kind of auction going on close by, the loud speaker was booming on constantly. We were in some kind of huge tent, the walls would flap a little, which was freaking us out.
After a while, Cleo and I started peeking out through the hay. Higgins kept trying to hide underneath us. We could see a pen full of small dogs across the aisle from us. Most of the Big Hands seemed to be more interested in the dogs than the pigs.
Then I heard them! Little Hands ! A whole herd of them passed by. Cleo was fairly blase' about them. I had told Higggins stories about my Little Hands, and she agreed that they weren't as scary as the Big Hands.
We were just beginning to relax a bit, when it happened. A Big Hands stopped at our cage and pointed at Cleo. Fenella had the Big Hands sit down and took Cleo out to her. The Big Hands told Fenella that she was looking for a companion for her own pig, and that she needed a very laid back, submissive sow. Fenella pointed Higgins out and said she was only 3 months old and very submissive also. The Big Hands said she didn't really like PEW's.
OK, so maybe I do have a maternal bone in my body. I was so indignant about what that creature had just said about my daughter, that I almost missed saying good bye to Cleo. Higgins and I called to Cleo and the creature holding her said " Oh, those two are so noisy! I prefer this quiet little beauty. Come home now, little one."
Cleo was put into a box and then she was gone. We were stunned. Higgins went back to hiding in the hay and I found myself wishing to be invisible as well.
An hour later, I heard some one say "Anastasia and Higgins?". I peeked out and Fenella was having someone sit down and giving her a towel for her lap. The next thing I knew, Fenella was taking me out and placing me onto that lap.
The Big Hands started talking to me and trying to pet me. I think she was afraid to touch me. She petted so softly, it tickled. I butted her hand away and nibbled her finger. No, I didn't bite her! It was just a nibble, she was acting so frightened of me, I just wanted to see what she would do. Well, she didn't scream or jerk her hand away. She just asked me if it tasted good, and explained I was probably tasting hand lotion.
Fenella brought Higgins over as well. Higgins was almost rigid with fear. The Big Hands was nice and flipped over a corner of the towel so Higgins could hide. A Little Hands came over and sat next to us. Higgins came out and allowed the Little Hands to pet her. Then the Little Hands went away. I guess she didn't belong to the Bigs Hands we were with. Fenella talked with the Big Hands some more, and then Higgins and I were put back into our cage.
Much later, that same Big Hands returned with 2 Little Hands ! This time Higgins and I were held by the Little Hands while Big Hands hovered over us both. It's kind of hard to sit in a Little Hands lap. They don't hold still very well. This little guy was kind of bouncy.
Higgins was having better luck. The Little Hands holding her was a little older and a bit more quiet. We were wondering if these folks were going to be our new family, when I looked up. There was a giant Big Hands there. I didn't know they got that tall. It gave me a start, I tell you!
We were hoping that this group would take us with them, but we were returned to our cage and went back home with Fenella. We were sad about Cleo being gone, and wondered when we would find a home of our own.
Next: Bath Day
Which reminds me, if the Big Hands want us to like them, and not fear them, why do they name us after their favorite foods? How can you trust someone who calls you "Cupcake"? At the rescue there was a sow named "Oreo". That poor girl had a complex, I tell you! She would growl whenever she heard her name. We started calling her "Osolita" or little bear, a name that she liked. We hoped the Big Hands would catch on, but no such luck.
Anyways, when I bit Higgins' ear, she let out an enormous shriek. I tried to apologize, but she started running fright flights around the cage. It made so much noise that one of the volunteers came over to check. When she saw Higgins' ear, she put us on the list for a bath. Great, now my misery is complete.
The next day, it became apparent that it was going to be a Bath Day Event. Tons of volunteers arrived, and they began the bathing process almost assembly line style. Now, usually, when the volunteers interacted with us, it was one on one with lots of coaxing and special tidbits. When it came to a Bath Day, however, they were all business. So, before I know it, I'm soaking wet, and getting attitude. Everyone is taking Higgins' side. It's amazing, she turns those big pink eyes of hers on a Big Hands and puts on her patented woe-is-me expression and she's everyone's little darling. If I try to look woebegone, they plop me on a scale and start looking at my teeth!
Anyways, pretty soon the worst is over and we're at the toweling station, getting dried off. To our surprise, they don't return us to our cage. Instead, we're placed on towels in a big rubbermaid container. Somethings up, but what?
Next: Return of the Big Hand
Now, I know that those little boxes usually mean going for a ride in a car somewhere. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what you find in a box. When I was taken away from my first home, the box was empty. No bedding , nothing. It's really hard to ride in a box like that, your feet slide around too much and it's easy to hurt each other. Fenella always had shavings and hay when she transported us. If it was going to be a long ride, there was usually some lettuce as well.
When Fenella put us into the box, there was lettuce, so we knew it was going to be a long drive. There was also shavings and some hay. I should have known Fenella wouldn't let just anyone take us. I felt like I was channeling Cleo's optimism and I was feeling hopeful.
Our fur was still just a little damp, but the air in the car was a nice warm temperature. The lotion hand lady adjusted something so that our box wasn't drafty at all. The lettuce looked good and the hay was the same as Fenella gave us, but both Higgins and I were too nervous too eat.
We finally arrived at our new home. Our box was carried inside, we could hear the Little Hands, so I was still hopeful. However, when our box was opened, we wanted to be ready for anything, ready to run. Normally, you have escape routes to safe havens planned in advance. In a new place, it's really hard to know where to run.
The box was opened and I was lifted into a cage. I kicked a little, but the Hands didn't squeeze or drop me. As soon as my feet hit ground I ran to the far corner where there was a box and a rather small hay rack. Higgins was put in after me and followed me. I usually don't like to share hiding spots, but this was an exception, and we did both fit.
We were both rather thirsty, and I was looking around for a water bottle when I heard a refrigerator open. I held my breath, and sure enough there was that wonderful sound of rustling plastic. I peeked out and there was a gorgeous leaf of dewy romaine being placed into the cage. I ran out and dragged it back to the box. Higgins was so excited, that she grabbed it from me. Now, I don't usually allow such behavior, but again, these were special circumstances, so I'd thought I'd cut her a little slack. There was a second leaf of romaine and I took that back to our corner as well. We scarfed down the romaine and felt much better. I gathered up my courage, I had to set an example for Higgins. It was time to explore our new home.
Next: What kind of cage is this ?
I poked my nose out of the box and went along the side of the cage. There was a water bottle, the water was fresh, so far so good. There was a bowl of pellets, same stuff Fenella gave us, again good. The aspen shavings under foot were clean and in a nice thick layer.
There was a kind of box tunnel so I had some cover as I crossed to the other side of the cage. There I found a brand new pigloo. I turned back to Higgins and called for her to come out, but she wasn't quite ready. So I sat back and looked around. Not too bad really, It was bigger than my first home, and here there were only two of us. It could use some decorating, but we could handle that. Not bad at all.
I was looking past the pigloo and I could see a large ball of hay in the cage next to us, so I tried to see who our new neighbor was. Then I noticed something very strange. There wasn't any wire between us and that hay! Was that part of our cage?
I took a few steps forward and realized, I hadn't been sitting at the end of our cage, I'd been sitting in the MIDDLE of it! I started to explore further, but once I was past the pigloo, Higgins lost sight of me and cried for me. I went back to her and touched noses and insisted she follow me. She wasn't going to believe it!
Here we are doing a piggie train. Higgins is muttering "Is it good? Is it good?" I'm calling back " It's good ! It's very good!" I coax her along as far as the pigloo. When she sees the big ball of hay, suddenly she loses all trepidation and runs full tilt into it. I decide to join her. Banzai!!
Next: Staking claim on the pigloo
Higgins beat me to it by a very slim margin. I nudged her and ordered her out. The pigloo was mine!
Higgins, however, had exhausted her limited supply of bravery and was completely frozen. I touched noses and told her that I would be back. I continued around the other side of the pigloo ( the side toward the front of the cage) and found another tunnel of sorts. This one was stuffed full of hay. It crackled when you walked through it. Once you got used to the idea, it was kind of fun. I experimented a little and found it was the most fun when you ran through it.
At the end of the tunnel there was a round piece of green fleece. It had a raised edge, like a bowl. Inside it was very soft. I stepped into it and found that the edge was the perfect height to rub your chin. It was this amazing shade of green, the color of endive. I figured something that color had to taste good, so I tried sampling it. What a disappointment! No flavor at all, and the texture of the fleece made my teeth itch!
It was, however, very comfortable. I liked the way my feet just sank into it. And that raised edge was the perfect pillow. And I was kind of tired from all the excitement. It had been a long day. I decided to take a little snooze.
I had gone to the very front of the cage for the parsley, and as I looked around I had a good view of the kitchen, of the refrigerator in particular.
I went to check on Higgins. She, of course, could smell the parsley on my breath, and she anxiously asked if there was more. Just then, we heard the refrigerator being opened. We both ran to the front of the cage and watched as several plastic bags were removed.
I've mentioned how Higgins has this patented woe-is-me expression and this demure demeanor. Everyone describes her as timid, or shy. What I haven't mentioned is her voice. There's nothing demure about it. It has the same intensity as a police siren. The problem is, when people hear this piercing sound coming from our cage, they think it's ME making all the racket.
At any rate, the sight of the plastic, the smell of parsley, and the knowledge that she'd just missed out on a treat created the most haunted, tortured, desperate cry ever heard. Wheeekkk !
And I realized we'd reached a very critical point. How would our new family react to this noise? If you know pigs, you know that the Wheek for food is a combination of encouragement, trust and positive reinforcement. You want them to know that they're on the right track- yes, yes, we want food. That you trust/ rely on them for food. That food bringers are good, or you wouldn't be cheering them on. Basically it's like yelling "GO! GO! GO!" during a football game. You expect your team to know what you mean. You'd be shocked if your team stopped and asked" Go where?"
And yes, I'll admit, there's also an implied "Me First!" to the wheek.
But you also find different reactions to the wheek. In my first home, they hated the sound. The Big Hands would hit the cage or squirt you with water. So, I was worried when Higgins released this cry. What would they do?
The lotion hand lady approached the cage. She was smiling. "Are you ready for your supper? Here you go." And it rained salad. Romaine, endive and red leaf, topped off with a sprig of parsley!
Next: Time to exercise
It was a funny situation. We were watching them eat, and they were watching us eat. While we watched them, we were discussing the quality and quantity of our food. This stuff was GOOD. Fresh, fresh, fresh. No refrigerator seconds here, this stuff was prime.
It was a far cry from the wilted carrots and slimy lettuce I had in my first home. The Big Hands there only fed us veggies when she cleaned out the refrigerator. The Little Hands there would give me leftovers from her lunch box: baby carrots, apples and raisins.
Our family finished eating and cleaning the kitchen. We were left alone for the moment. It was nice an quiet.
I think the excellence of the food went to our heads a bit. We were both feeling a little giddy. We started to race around the cage. I showed Higgins how to run through the paper bag tunnel. She was hesitant at first, but soon she was running through at full speed.
You should have seen the speeds we were reaching! It was amazing how fast we could go! We felt like we could fly. We were leaping and tossing our heads and kicking up our heels. Aspen shavings were flying in all directions. We wove intricate slalom courses around the obstacles in the cage. Higgins especially was great at making hairpin turns.
I was winded before Higgins and retired to MY pigloo. Higgins did a few more laps, collapsing the paperbag tunnel at one point by jumping on it. She ended up in the cardboard tunnel that led toward the pigloo. We grinned at each other and settled down for a nap.
Next: The Little Hands need names.
The smaller Little Hands noticed me out of the pigloo. "The piggies are awake!" The boys ran to the kitchen and came back with handfuls of cilantro.
They didn't open the cage, they just poked the cilantro through the grids. The little guy fed me, again holding onto the stems, so I had to eat from his hand. Since the cage was closed, and he wasn't grabbing at me, I didn't mind. The older boy allowed Higgins to take the cilantro from his hand and drag it back to her hiding spot.
Both Little Hands seemed very nice, you could tell they were trying to be quiet around us. The little guy moved too fast, and waved his arms around too much, but I liked him. Higgins preferred the older one, which suited me just fine.
It was going to be way too confusing to continue to refer to them as the smaller Little Hands and the bigger Little Hands. Higgins and I watched them carefully over the next few days. We settled into a routine where several times a day, the boys would bring us goodies and stay to talk to us. I decided to call the little guy "Tidbit". Higgins suggested the older one be called "Treat".
Next: Names for the Big Hands