Sad news about Number Nine

Very quietly yesterday, Number Nine died,  laid between his mother’s front legs, right under her raised chin. His nose directly below hers. He was there with his siblings and his mother not moving from him.  He had not been rejected to die alone in a corner like many animals, he died right there with his family. Right in the scent of his mothers breath.  He must have crawled over there or they gathered around him I don’t know. Or maybe he was sleeping there and died. But they stayed with him. I have never seen anything like it.


She would not let me take the body away of course.It was a female.  Nor would she move from the baby herself. Every time I came too close to the gate she would bark a warning and rise slightly but not disturbing the body. So I left her to herself for a while. She was quiet and I had to make a plan. After a good three hours of this stand off I opened the big sliding door to the outside and threw the hose in there, I swirled the water around in and out of buckets making lots of cool water noise and I called to her like I do every day. Shush, Shush. Come on Charlotte, you big fatty,  Shush, Shush. It is time honey.


Soon she came out to the door just in time to see me jump the fence but she was quiet now. I raced around the side, through the barn, silently jumped the panel into her pen and shut the big door from the inside to keep Char out but she had buried her face in the buckets of water and did not even notice.  Within seconds I had taken little Number Nine out of the pen, leaving her other babies still asleep.  Being very careful not to create a commotion.  Laying Number Nine in a box,   I went back outside and with the gate between us I gave Charlotte a good back scratch. She did not roar at me, or refuse my hand, she just let me scratch and talk. After a while I opened the big doors again and she lumbered back inside.  I shut the door to keep the little ones in  and went to bury Number Nine.  nine-to-eight-050

Later Charlotte ate at last, and brought the little ones out from the back room to play in her  water bowl, not minding that I was right there on the other side of the pig panel. I went  and picked some weeds with lots of dirt in their roots and she ate those too. She had some strawberries from the garden and milk with eggs. She let me scratch her ears, her head down and her back up for more scratching. Leaving me, she inspected each of her little ones but did not look for Number Nine in the corner, somehow in some wild animal kind of way she knew that he was gone now and she moved on. Her mood had undergone a gentle pacific change. She was calm again.

Soon she gathered her brood and took them back into their sleeping area. She gently nudged and cooed them into the corner and going to the opposite wall she pushed the straw around,  almost lying down three times and just as she approached the point of no return  a piglet would move, so she would rise back up, send them back into their corner again, wait till they were still then go back and begin to lay her body down all over again.


After circling round and round like a dog she sunk  right down and then rolled onto her side. There is a very specific soft low bark she uses to call the piglets in to drink. It is a very contented and safe sound. A very old  sound.  A night time sound. The moment the piglets heard it they tumbled out of their pile and raced over and began to feed. She lay down her head and closed her eyes and did not watch me leave.


And so we worked into the evening cutting the hay.


Animals are not human. They are different from us and from each other. I think it is a mistake to attribute human qualities to animals. In fact I would go so far as to say it is a bit arrogant. As though our own human emotions and responses are the only ones worth emulating.  I would not call pigs intelligent, this word has too many levels.  They roll in muck, throw themselves into piles of cow poo. They will fight each other including their children for food. They will tip over and foul their water leaving themselves thirsty. They are not cognitive or careful. They don’t think about tomorrow or plan their actions. I call them intuitive.  They will learn  rhythms  and anticipate my actions. They will watch a gate and work at its opening. They learn pathways and simple commands. They have a repertoire of sounds for different occasions and use different levels and tones of sound for different people. In their own cloud of wordless knowledge they do know the difference between alive and dead.

And I saw this mother pig lie in place with her head raised above this dead piglet for hours. She was on her belly. The others had fallen asleep waiting for a feed. It appeared that she was waiting too. Waiting for time to pass.  Allowing quiet to come again.  Not like a person but like a pig.

Good morning. I wonder if we need to be more pig-like. When death comes to our houses maybe we should just sit a while and wait with it. Allow the death to be. Give it its due. Embrace the weight of it without trying to heal or get over it. Just sit still with our hands quiet in our laps, our heads tipped to the side listening to nothing. Just breathe beside the lack of breath before we go back into the flurry of life and burials and funereal feasts and making sense of it all.

All is well now. That’s enough I think. It is a clear stunning day. Time to start work. Every morning we get to start over, lucky really.

your friend, celi

89 Comments on “Sad news about Number Nine

  1. I’m deeply moved by your beautiful words describing an essential part of life… Death. Bless you.

  2. poor little #9. she has gone to piggy heaven. what a very nice story about charlotte’s mothering! she is such a good mommy.

  3. Even before I read your words, I was thinking the same thing: if only we were more pig-like and still had our instincts which seem to have been bred out of us with higher intelligence and free choice. How instinctively Charlotte parents, and yet she’s never done this before. I was a mess with my first born… xx

  4. What a good mother Charlotte is. Even though little number nine only got one day, she got to feel her mothers love.

  5. The best line in an excellent post is the description of Charlotte’s sound: “a very old sound”. I told my wife this weekend that you are “living the dream so that I don’t have to. Thanks!

  6. What an amazing story. I feel a bit guilty. I am having a barbecue this afternoon and pork chops are on the menu. I would like to think that the pig had a reasonable life. All pigs should be as lucky as yours.

  7. I think we are all animals. And we are probably not all that intelligent either…

  8. Nine made a momentary mark on us all, c, and we should all be so lucky as to do the same during out lifetime. I hope you and the farmy have peaceful day.

  9. I wonder what happens to the behaviour of sows who do not have the benefits of space and light, varied, nutritious food and an interesting environment. Their instincts, by definition, must remain but perhaps are over-ridden.

  10. Lovely post, Miss C. Sorry about poor little #9 …. But life does move inexorably…. Char is an excellent Mom…. Bless her piggy heart….have a peaceful day.

  11. Was so hoping #9 would make it. But so little, and the injury serious, so it was not meant to be. Happy that Charlotte is eating and being a super good mama. xo

  12. So sorry #9 didn’t make it. It is possible that she had other health problems that were not visible. It bothered me when you said she didn’t cry out during the stitches, from my memory little pigs were always quick to squeal/squeak when frightened or hurt.
    What you wrote about death is true. As a society we are pushed to hurry up, have the funeral, get over grieving the loss and move on to happy times as soon as possible. Taking time to contemplate the person’s life and loss should take less than a week, or so it feels.
    Sending dry, sunny days thoughts to you for your hay crop.

  13. Good morning Celi nice of you to memorialize nine that way very nice. there are many ways to go that seemed to be a peaceful one have a blessed day mike

  14. I am very sorry for the lose of the little piglet, Cecilia. It is sad when death visits the farm, no matter what sort of animal is taken.

  15. This is lovely and there is so much to reflect on in here. Thank you. (And thank you also for being so up front with the news — I remember you saying you would if there were sad tidings.)

  16. You truly captured the moment with your words, Celi. So heartbreaking to hear of Charlotte’s loss, yet beautiful to hear of how the whole family stayed by little Number Nine’s side even after she had passed away. This is something so precious. I’ve always believed animals have their own wisdom that we can learn from. Thank you for this reminder to embrace the moment.

  17. aaww – this made water down my little snout reading about Number Nine. I’m so sorry to hear this. I felt a pang in my chest for her loss. Mom explained everything to me and even cried herself. Please give Charlotte some snout kisses from me. My little piggy thoughts are with her. XOXO – Bacon

  18. So sorry for #9. Had a sad feeling when we read about its injury. I would assume little piggies go to the Rainbow Bridge also.

  19. Oh dear. Sad news this morning, but, however briefly, I’m so happy to have met Nine thru you Celi. You’ve written a lovely and moving story and I can’t help but celebrate Nine’s life on the farmy. (big sigh) That’s life, isn’t it? And I’m glad Char has had a change of mood and you have her back for scratches and affection. Char is a practical pig after all. 🙂

  20. You did what you could for wee nine and so did Charlotte. Beautifully handled and beautifully said. I was holding my father’s hand when he died in the wee hours of the a.m., my mother asleep in a hospital cot close by. I stayed there for many long minutes, experiencing the transition between life and death before I awoke my mother. It had and still has great resonance for me and at the time, seemingly opened the door and shed light on what it is to be a human and part the life force on this earth. It was a very instinctual moment, and the experience you just relayed with Charlotte has reminded me of that feeling. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Thank you so much for the beautifully written experience with Chalotte and her little Nine. A work of great insight and clarity. A work of art.

  22. OK Now I am sobbing and can hardly see the key board! But the tears are not all sad ones. Although my heart wrenched reading about number nine and her Mum, I also shed tears for the poignant words from my dear friend Celi. Death is never pleasant, but as you say it needs to be met with quite reflection and time to just pause and breathe. I have held two members of my family in my arms as they died. First my Grandmother and second (and by far the hardest) my Farther. He was only 69 and it was very sudden. However fate had me there in England at the right time and I held him as he went. He died in his favorite chair and Mum and I was with him.
    Dear Celi, thank you for putting into words feelings that can be hard to describe.

  23. I like the warmth in the farmy pictures, the sun setting on another day. Bittersweet, your little patient didn’t make it, but Charlotte remembers you are her friend. Love the “baby” pictures.

  24. Is nature not wonderful… that a pig with a grunt can send her troop to the corner till she is ready for them… yet some of the parents I encounter at the malls cannot control their kids in any way at all… I think there is a lot we can learn from nature.. including the pig…

  25. If ever a post deserved to be Fresh Pressed, this one does. Very powerful
    Nothing is sadder than a mother animal mourning a lost child.
    ” she was waiting too. Waiting for time to pass. Allowing quiet to come again.”
    May we all be given the wisdom.

  26. Aww, I am sorry to hear about number nine. I have had some accidental deaths in my rabbits kits and it’s rough. It’s worse that this is your first litter. I am a little surprised that you are burying nine. Because I am so focused on sustainable living when one of my animals passes away premature I tend to butcher it and feed it to the chickens or dogs. But I suppose it’s only normal to want to give Nine a resting place.

  27. Your sharing of this extraordinary experience is so beautifully written, so thoughtful and evocative, it surely is a work of art.

  28. A sad & tender tale, beautifully told. E.B. White is smiling down on Farmy & all who dwell there.

  29. So sad for both of you, but there are still eight wee lives to be thankful for and Charlotte seems to be an excellent new mum. Better than many humans for sure.

  30. The ripples of little #nine’s short life reached far and wide, to give us all pause for thought, to breathe slowly and reflect. Thank you, celi.

  31. Ah Celi, Sorry for Number Nine’s passing. Lovely writing. This is just what I needed this a.m. I mentioned before on one of your photos, we have a smooth-coated Border Collie, Ten is her name. She is 13 yrs old, and seemingly before our eyes failing. She is not in any recognizable pain, but just little tells- the ever-dimming eyes, the loopy bark, bum hip where a mama sheep pinned her at 5 yrs, now gives out, shaky, acting clingy…Last night at twilight she and I had a long, soulful, eye-to-eye chat. I told her it was ok whenever she was ready, we would let her go. She has been a wonderful worker, companion, and friend to our children. It just seemed right. Yesterday, repeatedly, she would sit on my foot in mid-work. Something she has never done. She never left my side. I always thought winter would be her undoing, but I think time is winding down on her earth walk. I really hope she goes peacefully-

  32. Ah Celi, Sorry for Number Nine’s passing. Lovely writing. This is just what I needed this a.m. I mentioned before on one of your photos, we have a smooth-coated Border Collie, Ten is her name. She is 13 yrs old, and seemingly before our eyes failing. She is not in any recognizable pain, but just little tells- the ever-dimming eyes, the loopy bark, bum hip where a mama sheep pinned her at 5 yrs, now gives out, shaky, acting clingy…Last night at twilight she and I had a long, soulful, eye-to-eye chat. I told her it was ok whenever she was ready, we would let her go. She has been a wonderful worker, companion, and friend to our children. It just seemed right. Yesterday, repeatedly, she would sit on my foot in mid-work. Something she has never done. She never left my side. I always thought winter would be her undoing, but I think time is winding down on her earth walk. I really hope she goes peacefully-

    • It is a wonderful thing to know the time has come. You are going to miss your companion horribly.. I always say that is Ok. Missing is for good people.. Let me know how things are going.. c

  33. This post was beautifully and most sensitively written. I am very glad that I found your blog :).

  34. Echoing others to say that was beautifully written and very touching. You had me in tears. Raising my glass to you, Charlotte, and dear little Nine tonight.

  35. animals can be very dear; they have the capacity to make us love more; lovely reverent writing; I could feel a sacred pause over it all. Lovely the little piggy didn’t die alone; ah the great wheel of life! hugs and love

  36. Charlotte is a good mother, I have never known a pig like her (my grandfather raised pigs but I don’t remember any of them being such good mothers as Charlotte – we lost lots of piglets from careless sows.)
    Sorry Nine didn’t make it, but he died with his mum and siblings around him, Charlotte never abandoned him because he was sick.
    Your post is beautiful and poignant Celi.

  37. So sad as I read that wee little number nine even after being repaired on the outside didn’t make it. She is a good Momma who was also sad she could do nothing to repair her little one. Many lessons in your story mostly compassion for all living things.

  38. Beautiful writing and a beautiful way for little No. 9 to go, surrounded by piggy love. Its harder because they are so so cute. No doubt we have many happier piglet days coming. Joy

  39. It’s a poor farmer who feels no sadness at the loss of any life in his care.

    Nancy, I too have a 13 yr old wirehair pointing griffon. He’s been my husband’s faithful companion, put up countless pheasants in front of his gun. His eyes and ears are failing him, he often needs help to arise and then is unsteady for some time. He’s dropping weight at an alarming rate and yet he seems pain free and happy. But I think next time he lays his head on my knee I will have that conversation with him in the hope that it makes him go peacefully and saves me from having to make that dreaded call to the vet.

    On another note on human death, a dear friend’s father was dying of cancer. Her mother, who was in full blown dementia suddenly said ‘look at him, he’s going to fly’. Within an hour he was gone.

  40. Sorry to hear about Number Nine, but the whole post was beautiful put. Sounds like you have a good momma pig on your hands.

  41. Thank you for sharing this with words methinks only you could write . . . they come from your heart to ours . . . let there be peace and sunshine on the farmy . . . .

    • Have shared with a few . . . those I knew would feel the way I do . . .

  42. Sad, but beautiful post. I think you’re right about death, and needing to just sit with it. We’d be better off if we did.

  43. Sorry about Number 9. But what a wonderful post, C. I couldn’t agree more. And the photos are particularly grand.

  44. There is such tenderness when a little being leaves us.. a feeling of protection resides and the thought of their innocence pulls at one’s heart. This was really sad to read, c.. but you’ve written this so very wonderfully. Thank you.

  45. While it’s sad that the much awaited and loved little Nine didn’t make it, as evidenced by the rest of your post that’s the way of it and the time Nine had was good. You made such a good choice when you selected Charlotte for the mother pig role… whatever type of sophistication we want to ascribe to her, she’s a good pig and a good mum and she’s also managed to negotiate and maintain her realtionship with you… testimony to you both 🙂

  46. This post is so beautiful and touching, Cecilia. You are so right in your second-to-last paragraph. When my mother-in-law died the year before last, I just sat with her for a long time. The people in the Rest Home left us alone, and I told the funeral director to wait until I was ready. It was a special vigil. I like what you say about animals not being human. You have such a good understanding for how they are.

  47. I am so sorry to hear of this poor little life cut off so short. But your are quite right, we should not attribute human qualities to animals and yet we do all the time; they are indeed different, not wrong or bad but different and we need to embrace the differences and perhaps learn a thing or two from them. Though, I am sorry that you lost one.
    I’m loving picture #2, so adorable.

  48. Such a beautiful, well-written post, Celi. Any doubts you may have had about Charlotte’s mothering instincts can be put to rest now. It seems she has a new appreciation of you, as well. For such a short-lived piglet, through you, look at all the lives Number Nine has touched. 🙂

  49. That’s very sad about Number Nine. I’m so sorry you lost one but I guess the animal kingdom is no Garden of Eden. Lovely that you allowed Charlotte to spend time grieving with her little piglet. We humans should do the same with our own loved ones – quite often we’re too quick with our goodbyes xx

  50. Oh darn I knew not to read this post. ugh so sad but so, so sweet that momma seemed to really care and be sad about it. She is such a good momma. I would have cried myself silly if I had been there to see that.

  51. You move me deeply. Sweet sorrow is indeed a companion we should all respect and accept–and then renew ourselves in the quiet after it. A powerful yet gentle story. xo

  52. I think it’s a mammal mother thing. I have seen our sheep and goats do this time and again. Sad, but again, part of life. Charlotte is definitely an elegant sow.

  53. You are wise yet again, c. Oh, to be more pig-like. Hugs to Charlotte.

  54. Sad.
    I was a little bit confused. Was number nine the last born AND the one who got stitches, or are they two different piglets? I had to do this to a chicken once, and it is amazing how calm they can be in surgery without any painkillers. I on the other hand felt awful doing it. A bit to Dr. Frankenstein for me.

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