Robin Johnson waited nervously on the results of Buddy’s X-rays. Buddy was an eight-month-old male pig, and he’d come to her under sad circumstances.
He and his brother were being raised to fatness by a farmer north of Hugo, Minn., when the two escaped. Buddy was found lying on top of his brother, who froze to death within a few hours.
The woman who’d hired the farmer to fatten Buddy up for her table took him home, thinking she’d just look after him herself until he was big enough to eat. That plan quickly evaporated after she fell in love with him. Just as quickly, she realized he couldn’t keep him out in her shed. Her landlord had discovered him and given her an ultimatum: Get rid of the pig now.
A friend of hers called Johnson, asking her to take Buddy in at Spring Farm Sanctuary, her nonprofit animal rescue. Johnson founded Spring Farm in 2016, and since then has taken care of cows, goats, chickens, turkeys, and pigs for the duration of their natural lives.
Johnson had taken Buddy in. He came to Spring Farm with a limp -- not unusual for farm-raised pigs. Most of them develop joint inflammation of some kind. Buddy’s limp just got worse and worse as time went on, to the point that he was more lethargic than any of his fellow Spring Farm pigs.
Johnson made up her mind to take him to the University of Minnesota’s veterinary center and get him some cortisone shots. The X-ray results revealed the disheartening truth. Buddy’s inflammation was in every single leg joint, every nook and cranny. There wasn’t enough cortisone in the world to make that comfortable.
So they put him to sleep.
About a month after that, Johnson was looking for another pig. Their potbelly pig, Betsy, was down a friend, and needed company. That’s when they got a notice from Iowa Farm Sanctuary.
Out in the Chicago area, a little 8-pound pink piglet, mere weeks old, was found with a broken jaw and dozens of scrapes and bruises. Her rescuers say she must have taken a face plant -- probably off the back of a transport truck.
“This beautiful, unique little piglet was smart enough to escape death,” Johnson says.
The piglet’s Iowa rescuers had named her Marge. Shawn Camp, the cofounder of Iowa Farm, took her home for the night because they didn’t have any room at the sanctuary. That whole night, the piglet was inseparable from the little stuffed animal Camp left in her enclosure. She cuddled with it all night.
Johnson agreed to take her in.
Since then, Marge has flourished in her new home. Puppy-like, she snuggles with her stuffed pig toy and cries when the rescue volunteers leave her sight. They have to mush up her food so she can chew it with the good side of her jaw, but she’s been curious and playful during her time at Spring Farm. Her weight has nearly doubled since her rescue, and she’s due for another jaw x-ray soon.
Johnson’s pleased to say Marge's story has snagged the farm a few more likes on their Facebook and Instagram page, but the positive attention is bittersweet.
“There are a million pigs in factory farms right now, in crates where they can’t turn around and see their babies,” she says. Marge was on a completely normal journey before she either jumped or fell off that transport truck, and it ends in bacon.
“You can relate to that one sweet pig,” Johnson says. Relating to the million who didn’t end up the way she did is harder for most people.
As luck would have it, Johnson just got another call about a piglet roaming the streets of Des Moines, presumably having also been interrupted mid-transport. It’s another sad story, but this one, like Marge’s, will have a happy ending. They’re taking him in, too.