Operation Charlotte’s Web
I have learned many things from working with pigs; they are indeed among the smartest animals around and they are indeed among the most sensitive. As a result, when pigs become frightened or scared they will panic and quickly whip themselves up into a feverish frenzy.
They are also possessed with a sixth sense that we humans long ago surrendered. Their emotional world is complete and exact; their wants are simple and few. They have a true understanding of Zen; watch any pig on a sunny summer’s day just standing, eyes shut, head gently inclined towards the sky, deep fulfilled breathing, drinking in the feeling of being alive.
With this in mind, I can only imagine their terror when they are loaded up and trucked off to abattoirs to endure the kindness-deprived treatment that ultimately sends them to their horrifying death.
And so, when I received a call last week about three renegade pigs who had taken up residence on a large rural property, I knew we had to try and give them a chance. The local council had already been notified and their attempts to locate the owners had proven fruitless. The trio were looking down the barrel of a grisly outcome could we not rescue them and although my head said ‘impossible,’ my heart did not. Embarking on a reconnaissance mission that would take me across the boggy hills and down the slippery dales the pigs had been occupying, Operation Charlotte’s Web was borne.
I devised an ambitious plan to enlist a large team of volunteers, at least 20 would be needed, to create a path that would usher the pigs from their den and gently guide them along the human alleyway to an old stable courtyard where they could be corralled and bribed into the horse float that would then ferry them to Edgar’s Mission. The land owners greatly welcomed with this idea and the local shire council were pleased with this proposed outcome. But would the pigs be as obliging of our kind offer?
Needing to seize the small window of opportunity that presented itself, we had to move fast for there was an inviting forest that awaited on just the other side of the boundary fence – a fence that was not designed to contain pigs and there was evidence that it had been doing a rather poor job of exactly this. With precious gardens and orchards on neighbouring properties beckoning, and livestock that were easily startled by precocious pigs, the gauntlet had been laid down.
But we had to get our plan right for we would get but one crack at this. Should the pigs escape into the adjacent forest, we would not only be looking at an animal welfare issue but also an ecological disaster, not to mention the road hazards caused by recalcitrant pigs. With a posse of kind souls quickly enlisted, one more reconnaissance was needed to familiarise my deputies, Paula and Darin, with the lie of the land and the task at hand.
After walking the length of the property, scouting the hills and peering into their familiar haunts, no sight of the pigs was found. With heavy hearts we were about to leave, hoping they would return to their familiar digs in time for Operation Charlotte’s Web to bring them to a happy conclusion in the coming days.
Then there in the distance, some paddocks away, three perky pigs pranced and danced. But our relief was short lived for they spied us and quickly and deftly vanished into a thicket, only to then emerge prancing and dancing along a road completely unfamiliar to us. With fading light and failing batteries in our mobile phones, the pigs made true the adage, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray’.
The option of leaving the pigs in the hope they would return was one we just could not afford to take, for at this point in time they were only metres away from the forest and the danger in leaving them on the road was too great. They had already cheated death once and we were as sure as anything we were not going to give up so easily.
After what seemed like a cross country car rally of epic proportions, we tracked down the pigs but by this time darkness had all but descended and my phone battery had completed given up the ghost, unlike our intrepid team who were now more determined than ever to bring forward Operation Charlotte’s Web.
The plan was, as most plans always are, quite simple: to find a suitable area to corral the pigs, head back to the sanctuary hook up the horse float, head back again, load up pigs, return home, unload pigs and reacquaint ourselves with our beds.
Technical hitch number one was finding a suitable holding area. But by some grace of divine being we did, which then saw the amazing Paula and ever resourceful Darin holding vigil over the pigs; watching them eventually settle, fashion a makeshift nest and fall asleep while I embarked on yet another cross country dash to collect the horse float and return. Did I mention that pigs are among one of the most adaptable animals around?
I think our collective willpower was palpable and while no one was prepared to entertain the thought that the exercise we were embarking on was nigh impossible, it was there lurking in the background, waiting to leap.
With our straw-lined horse float beckoning, slowly the little boy pig, who had quickly shown himself as the most curious and friendly of the trio, emerged from his slumber, awakened no doubt by the aromatic scents wafting his way from the warm pig mash I had brewed. Soon he was to follow the Hansel and Gretel trail of this delicious tasty treat up the ramp and into the float.
Our and hearts began to beat faster and faster as he was closely followed by his sibling sister. “All too easy,” we thought and sadly it was. Mama pig was still not convinced that we were the good guys and her trotter steps on the ramp were few and quick, her barking ‘woof woofs’ said, “Kids, outa here now,” and oblige they did.
But undeterred were we. If the motto of the Canadian Mounties is that they always get their man, ours was quickly determined to be we will always get our pigs. And we did!
Slowly but ever so surely, one glorious trotter step at a time, the pigs made their way into the back of the horse float and into our hearts forever. The euphoria that followed was a sight to behold as high fives and hugs were exchanged, whoops of joy and cries of, “We did it!” rang out.
Cold, tired, hungry and happy beyond belief were we; Operation Charlotte’s Web was complete, proving that sometimes we humans can too be among the most adaptive species alive and that kindness can be found in the most unlikely of places!
Home again home again gigitty gig! What better way to start Be Kind To Animals Week than seeing Captain Courageous, Super Girl and Wonder Woman take their first steps on a sanctuary that will never again see a bounty on their heads.