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Remembering Hurley

Monday, July 24, 2017

In late May, Hurley Veterinary Hospital called me about a piglet who had turned up in a client’s yard. The piglet arrived at the vet emaciated, badly sunburnt, covered in mange, lethargic and disoriented. He quickly received a bath, wormer, systemic antibiotics and antibiotics for his eyes. I cannot say enough good things about Hurley Veterinary Hospital – they saved his life, so we named him Hurley.

When he was handed to me, wrapped in warm towels and weighing only 12 pounds, I was struck by how quiet and still he was – words not often used to describe piglets. I guessed him to be two to three weeks old. I gently lifted up one of his very large ears to look into his eyes. He looked back at me with such despair and resignation that it took my breath away. His physical issues were problematic enough but his emotional state was really worrisome. What must he have gone through in his short life to bring him to this state… it was heart breaking.

As I headed back to the Sanctuary, stroking his face as I drove, he fell asleep and started to softly snore. His bed was ready upon my return and I laid him down and unwrapped the towels to see his body for the first time. Again, it took my breath away. He was crimson with sunburn, large areas of hair were missing, crusty patches of mange were everywhere and he was skin and bones. In our work, we see animals in bad shape all too often, but this baby – in this condition – was shocking.

We got to work, doing what we do best – skilled nursing care and gentle loving attention. Rarely has a job or group of people been so aptly named as the caregivers at Woodstock Sanctuary. They did everything possible to help him, even taking him home for the night. His temperature was dangerously low, so we put him on a heating pad and swaddled him in towels fresh from the dryer. The next day he seemed to be a bit better, standing, eating, even trying to make a nest in the straw – a very pig thing to do. We gave him medications, many small meals, rubbed aloe on his sunburnt skin, kept him warm and doted on him.

The next day Hurley was not doing so well. His temperature remained low, his appetite and energy decreased. We all took turns offering him little bits of fruit, stroking him, making sure he knew he was not alone. We gave him a warm bath to soothe his uncomfortable skin. We kneeled around a tub to gently wash him, this precious baby.

The next morning he was looking much worse. I wrapped him in blankets and took him to the vet. I stood in the waiting room with him, gently rocking him, making soothing sounds, just like I had done with my daughter. He was very lethargic and starting to gasp for each breath. After Hurley was placed on oxygen and x-rayed, we discussed taking him to Tufts University Veterinary Hospital, but we knew he would not survive the trip.

I was holding his tiny face in my hands as his gasps for breath became gasps of pain. Then he was gone. My tears fell on his face as I kissed him, and I apologized for not being able to save him. I wrapped his little body in a blanket – a little respect and care for a baby who had not known much of either in his short life.

Words fail to describe the pain of losing Hurley; every death we cope with at the Sanctuary is painful but some strike close enough to the bone to debilitate. Knowing that his whole existence had been one of neglect and abuse, except for whatever brief time he’d been with his mother and his last few days with us, is heart wrenching. And when he was obviously sick to even the most callous eye, he was tossed out of what little security he knew and left to die in fear and pain.

A baby of only a few weeks resigned to despair is something we simply cannot accept, ever, for any reason.

Read the rescue story of Hurley’s family here.


Kathy Keefe, Shelter Director


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