I get this question a lot, and my answer is always the same.
As our mission statement says, one of our main goals here at JAFAS is to provide a loving and safe forever home for our rescued pigs. The term “forever” is intentional. We believe that the actual rescue is just the first step in the journey. For the rescued pig, it’s the beginning of a life lived on their terms, free of fear and loneliness. It’s a new life surrounded by a loving herd of pigs and compassionate human caretakers.
Watching newly rescued pigs bond with their new herd is where the magic happens.
Imagine this situation. Let’s say I rescue a pig from a traumatic situation, allow him to integrate and bond with the other pigs here at JAFAS, and then suddenly snatch him away to another home? Sure, he might adjust eventually and make new friends, but why put him through that unnecessary trauma? Pigs get very attached to each other. They form very complex social hierarchies in the herd, and we avoid upsetting that structure at all costs.
Separating bonded pigs is emotional torture and shouldn’t be done unless absolutely necessary.
If you’re still not convinced, let me tell you about some incredible stories of bonding that we’ve experienced here at JAFAS.
Stella and Ellie
Photo credit for Stella (left): Daniel Turbert
Photo credit for Ellie (right): Jordan Mills
Stella was an introverted, scared pig when she arrived at the sanctuary. She had been living in a small outdoor containment area all by herself for the first several years of her life. Her caretakers had the best of intentions when they fed her table scraps and sweets to make her happy. Unfortunately, her unhealthy diet combined with lack of exercise made Stella fat and lazy. And, because she was never socialized with other pigs or given the opportunity to be part of a herd, she was incredibly lonely.
Here at JAFAS, Stella was able to coexist with the other pigs, but she never fully integrated into the herd. She spent her days hanging out in the woods by herself, avoiding the rest of the pigs, and getting extremely agitated whenever another pig would get too close. We eventually had to move her to a smaller containment area with only two other pigs so she could feel safe coming into the barn to eat and sleep.
We had almost given up hope for Stella bonding with another pig until something miraculous happened - she started bonding with little Ellie! At first, we saw them hanging out in the woods exploring together. Their tails were wagging, so we knew they were comfortable with each other. Then, we started seeing them sharing food bowls, sleeping together under the straw, and giving each other little nose nudges (a well documented sign of pig affection). We were absolutely thrilled. Stella had finally bonded, and it was a pure joy to witness.
Ellie and Stella remained best friends all the way until the end of Stella’s life. Stella contracted a deadly intestinal virus and died only two days after she started showing symptoms. Little Ellie would not leave Stella’s side, right up until we had to rush her to the vet school where she later died. Ellie soon started showing the same symptoms as Stella the following day, but fortunately we got her treatment in time for a full recovery.
Pedro and Petunia
Photo credit: Daniel Turbert
Pedro and Petunia came here to JAFAS after being rescued from a horrific, abusive situation. They were found living in a mud-filled pit soaked in urine and poop, malnourished and traumatized. It’s no wonder that they formed a deep bond, since all they had was each other. Their love for each other was so intense that we considered them to be a married couple from day one.
Fortunately it didn’t take long for Pedro and Petunia to adjust to sanctuary life. We loved watching them exploring in the woods, softly grunting and nudging their snouts together. They were totally inseparable and completely in love. They warmed our hearts and souls.
They say paradise doesn’t last forever, and unfortunately, that saying proved true for Pedro and Petunia. The same intestinal bacterial virus that claimed poor Stella also took our lovely Petunia, just two days after Stella passed. Despite the antibiotics, she started showing symptoms late one evening, and she passed away that same night. When we found her in the barn the next morning, poor Pedro was pacing back and forth beside her lifeless body, nudging at her belly, trying desperately to wake her up. When we removed her body, he followed us as far as he could to catch a last glimpse of his wife and soulmate before we closed the door behind us.
If you don’t think pigs feel grief, then let me assure you that you’re 100% wrong. Pedro was completely overwhelmed with sadness for literally months after losing his sweet Petunia. His tail rarely wagged, and he spent his days moping around in the woods by himself. Sometimes he would just stand in one spot all day and stare into the trees. It was truly heartbreaking, and we didn’t know how to help him.
Fortunately, time has helped Pedro overcome his grief, and today, he’s a happy boy. He hasn’t bonded with another pig like he did with Petunia, but he’s thriving in the herd and living a good life.
Check out this cute little story we wrote about Pedro dancing with Petunia for Día a de los Muertos.
Maggie and Daisy
Photo credit for Daisy (left): Daniel Turbert
Photo credit for Maggie (right): Jennifer Hadley
Maggie and Daisy’s bonding story is nothing short of amazing.
Daisy came to JAFAS from a livestock auction in Durham. She had been picked up wandering the streets, looking for food. She was scared when she arrived, but she quickly acclimated and soon became a mother figure for the herd. Unfortunately Daisy’s eyesight started deteriorating with age, and soon we discovered that she was fully blind.
One day, we were in the middle of our evening feeding, when we noticed that Daisy was missing. We looked out into the woods, and there she was, way off in the woods, trying to find her way back to the barn. She had stopped at the edge of the small creek, squealing in frustration, too scared to walk across the rocks. We were about to go out there and guide her back when something miraculous happened.
Little Maggie, who was only about 3 or 4 months old at the time, heard Daisy’s cries and immediately ran out to her. She nudged Daisy's belly toward the barn, and to our surprise, Daisy started walking in the right direction. Maggie led her all the way back to the barn, straight to her food bowl. As of that day, Maggie is officially known as Daisy’s seeing eye pig.
We hope you've enjoyed these beautiful stories about our pigs. And trust me, there are many others I could tell you about. Just come out for a visit, and we'll fill your ears with some of the most amazing stories of love and bonding you've ever heard. And you will know exactly why I don't adopt out our pigs.