Strong as a Jasper Stone
I have started writing this post and put it down numerous times. I am trying to ensure that I capture Jasper’s story in the most detailed way I can get it. He deserves that.
Without a doubt, Jasper is and was my most emotionally difficult rescue. Until him; I had been sailing by on what now kind of sees like a different side of the veil. For example, I wasn’t present when Fern jumped from a truck or to see the extent of Nellys injuries. Other than Phoenix and Opal- this was the first time I was seeing a rescue through from the very beginning.
When I picked Jasper up, I didn’t get a good look at him. He was loaded right into the crate I had with me. I didn’t even have a lot of pictures and info, I saw a photo of his leg and immediately agreed to take him. When I arrived at the vet, I shut the truck off and I could hear a sound, like a fan was still running weirdly, in the dashboard. I panicked for a few seconds cursing what I assumed would be a mechanical bill upon me- until I realized the sound was coming from the back seat. I whipped around to put my ear to the crate. Jasper’s breathing sounded like the inner workings of a failing engine. I was in a complete fog when my vet came out to take him. She sedated him, gave him pain medication, and took him in for scans. I waited in the car for a painful 20 minutes - 100 years.
I was on my off day from work. A random Wednesday night off in the midst of 4 night shifts. I was tired, having gotten home from work between 3-4am and I had to get Jasper to the clinic for 8am. Needless to say, I was already tired. When my vet brought him out, I held my breath. She wasn’t optimistic but she didn’t insist euthanasia. I held onto that fact so tightly. When Jasper came out of scans, he wasn’t done yet. What we knew for sure is that an infection must have began with a cut, it got infected, the bacteria migrated to the elbow joint, and ate it to pieces. The inner parts of the joint were completely shattered and we could only hope that if he was lucky enough to live, the displaced pieces could fuse back together, however messy- at least he’d be alive.
We needed to drain the giant abscesses that his leg seemed to be drowning in. It was hard to be a part of. Jasper flopped and fought in discomfort as we used a scalpel to cut open the abscesses and clear out the contents. My body shook with adrenaline, my feelings were mixed. I’d never been involved in this type of animal care. My emotions were running ramped and I recall swearing a lot through out the process, not sure how I wound up in this position- treating a pig that I didn’t know for certain could live much longer. When we were done with the abscesses.. I put him on the floor and we gave him a quick bath before wrapping him in clean towels.
I do not remember the drive home. I felt like I just ran an emotional marathon and my body was just in fight mode for Jasper. I got him settled in a fresh bed of straw in the barn. The other pigs didn’t take much notice of him as he buried down in stress.. his breathing still sounding like a motor.
The next few days weren’t any easier. Seeing this tiny pig try to walk broke my heart. Just looking at him shattered my heart. I felt lost in this space where I knew I already loved him and was invested in his life but I also knew he could die tomorrow.. or in a month from now. How could I let my heart get broken like that? It was an internal battle I fought for days. Jasper was extremely unsocialized. He was not aggressive or bitey in ANY way, rather he just wouldn’t let me touch him and backed away from any interaction that wasn’t me just bringing him food. I wasn’t sure what to do with a tiny pig that didn’t ‘like’ me. I concluded that with time, he’d come around- we needed to focus on his health first but unfortunately, giving him a needle every other day wasn’t helping him form a positive impression of me.
About a week or so into Jasper being here, It was starting to get a bit warmer, above zero nights and less snow. Nelly needed to move outside, as she was still living in our basement. I didn’t have any spot to put her in the barn, other than splitting Jasper’s stall in half, and putting Nelly in. I knew they’d need to meet eventually and they were approximately the same age and size. Jasper of course was much smaller for his age and stunted without question. Shane built a small fence to bolt in to the stall to separate them. This is necessary because of the integration process for pigs. They will fight when they are brought together, in order to establish hierarchy. I couldn’t risk Jasper being any more hurt and we couldn’t keep Nelly in the basement any longer. We installed the fence, brought Nelly in, and for a few minutes I watched them get acquainted (we used regular metal fencing with a frame so they could see each other) Jasper was VERY interested in the company as he had only been separated from his litter for the amount of time he had been with me, and pigs are extremely social creatures.
I left the two of them in the stall and returned about a half hour later to find the two of them together on Nelly’s side of the fence. It was like they’d been together all along. I cried and laughed all together at once. I quickly called Shane in to see what I was seeing. We removed the fence, and the rest as they say, is history.
From then on, I saw Jasper change and evolve and improve. He had a light in his eyes. Him and Nelly were inseparable. I don’t know how many times I cried that first week seeing them together, but it was a lot. I’d sneak in the mornings and at night just to try and catch a glimpse of them cuddled together in safety. I believe the medicine was working and he improving… but I also know how improbable it was that he’d get better, and here I was watching this pig thrive. I KNOW Nelly played a role in his rapid improvement.
Today, we are still fighting, however, the infection is not out of our control. Currently, Jasper’s elbow is filling with fluid again (which isn’t surprising) but he is running and grazing all the while, tail wagging. Recently, he let me give him his first belly rub, and he hasn’t looked back since, even letting guests scratch him during tours. This is a pig who wanted to live with every fibre of his little body. I will fight and I will advocate every day of my life for pigs like Jasper. THAT is sanctuary.