Sheila lost the use of her back legs three days ago. I tried and tried to get her to stand but she could not.
All through the night we talked about things, out there in the straw, as Poppy slept on. Sheila was sitting most of the time, all through that last night. Huge in the night. Shone by a little moon. Four times my size and gentle. I gave her drinks and hand fed her treats as we talked about old times – about bad pigs and good fields and how she would sit on command and wait to eat and walk down the creek with me and bring me her bowl for food then pick it up and run off with the filled bowl to eat it over there. And how she adopted Poppy when Poppy was tiny but never wanted piglets of her own. She was a pig apart. My special girl. Ni night she said again and again. The only word she ever learned – ni night I said back to her.
In the morning I brought the vet out for her. Amazingly while I was in calling him and getting dressed, she dragged herself all the way out of the barn and into her garden. I don’t know how. All I saw were the drag marks.
Then she turned her large body around to face the gate where I would come through and lay down.
I sat with her, she and I, for a long time again- waiting. Her voice had changed – it was urgent and low- after a while she was jawing at the pain, and she lowered her head to me.
Both the vets came out. The senior who has vetted me through all my farming (though it was his day off) and his young vet who pulled Del’s dead calf. Do you remember her?
By then I had no words / all I was saying to her was shh shh – shh, shh shh – as though to hush her to sleep. To not see them coming. My throat was closed around the awfulness of losing my companion of almost nine years. At the end my elder vet’s jaw was working, the younger vet was in tears , and I just stood and howled. My head down and my arms straight at my sides. I just sobbed.
The vets said things I don’t remember and left us with her huge dead warm body. John brought the tractor round, his hat low over glistening eyes and began to dig her grave.
I sat again with her – but in the end I let her go.
I miss her more than is reasonable. And I keep thinking I will tell her because I think she would get it. CShh shh I say to myself every time I begin to cry again. Hush, now. Ssh ssh.