VERNON COUNTY - We were in my backyard on a windy, winter Sunday, nearing the end of our annual mother-daughter weekend.
“Stand in the middle, over there,” I said to Jessica. “When I open the gate, Louisa and the goats will come running to you and you’ll get some great pictures.”
Jessica crouched with her camera and I swung open the gate. Peepers and Luna charged out and practically knocked her down, but there was no pig. “Louisa, come on!” I called. She always comes when called and would never miss an opportunity for snacks and a belly rub.
“Something’s wrong!” I shouted as I rushed into the goat palace.
There was Louisa, lying on her side. I bent down and held a piece of banana in front of her. When she refused it, I knew she was sick—300 pounds of sick. She was shaking and wouldn’t stand up.
I yelled to Jessica, “Can you stay here with Louisa? I need to go call the vet.”
Jessica knelt by Louisa’s head and talked to her while I ran to the house and started making phone calls.
I left a message for Dr. Jean, then sent a Facebook message to a veterinary friend. She responded, “Get her into the house immediately.”
I ran back outside, trying to imagine how we’d move this gigantic, lovable pig out of the goat palace, through the gate, up the hill, up four steps, and into my house.
“She’s shaking really hard, Mom,” Jessica whispered. I knelt down and rubbed my pet girl behind her ears, gently asking, “What is it, Louisa? What’s wrong?” Louisa managed a soft low grunt.
“Let’s set up the heat lamp, Jess. She’s shivering so hard, she must be cold or feverish.”
The goats had wandered back in, and while I ran to get the heat lamp, Jessica shooed them out again to give Louisa some space. As I hurried back with the lamp a few minutes later, I heard a loud commotion in the snake shed. The goats had gone in and buried their heads in the bin full of sweet grain, and Jessica was trying to get them out.
The heat lamp was on when Jessica came back in, her hair messed up and her hat on cattywampus, saying “Geez, those goats are naughty!”
Just then a loud bang came from inside the duck hall. “Quick, Jessica, now they’re in the duck feed!"
I covered Louisa with two thick blankets and tucked them in tightly around her. To keep the bitter wind off her, I fetched a large piece of plywood from the duck hall, closing the door behind me so the sneaky goats couldn’t get back in. Once the board was in place, I left Jessica with Louisa and hurried back to the house to see if the vet had called back. This might be the only time I’ve wished for a smartphone and not just a landline.
My vet hadn’t called, so I tried three others and finally connected with one. After listening to the whole story he recommended penicillin, specifying the dose, where to administer the shot, how often to give it to her, and what to do if there was no improvement.
I called Dane to tell him the pups and I wouldn’t be picking him up for our dog obedience class, then phoned my neighbors to see if they had any penicillin. I also messaged my vet friend on Facebook, telling her about the heat lamp, the blankets, and the wind block. She replied, “That’s not good enough. If you can’t get her into the house, you’ll need to get blankets under her.”
Under her? I groaned as I headed back outside. I urged Louisa to stand up but she grunted in protest. Her massive body was shivering so hard her blanket was moving back and forth on her. I draped myself over her to help her warm up, lying with my cheek on hers, my chest against her side. I apologized to Jessica, who needed to head home to Milwaukee soon.
Jessica went up to the house to shower and pack. Lying on top of Louisa, I drifted off and woke over an hour later, my feet numb from the cold. I got up to head back toward the house and met Jessica on her way down, just as Dane pulled into the driveway.
I told Dane that we needed to put Louisa on top of the blankets, but that I couldn’t get her to budge. I led the way back to the goat palace where Louisa still lay shivering. Dane knelt and removed the blankets, then huffed and puffed as he tried to push her to one side. Finally, he grabbed her and pulled her to a standing position as I scrunched the blankets into the spot where she’d been lying.
Louisa’s loud protests turned to indignation! The nerve of us, pushing and pulling and trying to maneuver her large, lardy body while she wasn’t feeling well. She stood and grunted, stomped her hooves, pushed past us, and waddled down the ramp, out into the pen. She was already munching on hay when my neighbors arrived with the penicillin. We stood and watched in amazement. Wasn’t this the pig that needed medicine ASAP?
Thrilled at Louisa’s recovery, my neighbors went home, Jessica left for Milwaukee, and Dane and I stayed to keep an eye on the her.
Later that evening, when Louisa and the goats were tucked into the goat palace with extra straw and the door securely closed, my vet called. I related the whole scene, start to finish, and her best guess was that Louisa had gotten wet and chilled in our recent unseasonable rain. When Dane was pushing and pulling her, she got mad and warmed right up!
Jessica never got the photo she wanted, but we’re glad Louisa is alive and will be here for next year’s mother-daughter weekend. Hopefully, it won’t end as stressfully as this year’s did!