Thursday, August 27, 2009

Faith's History

This post is the one that we have all been for since February: Faith's true identity and an insight into her past. Sit down and make yourself comfortable, because this is quite surprising...

Last Saturday, while watching my horses warm up at a show, I received a phone call by a very nice lady who had a story she wanted to share with me. I leaned against the fence rail and took a deep breath. I knew where this phone call was going; I have been waiting for it for over 6 months...

She began the conversation by saying that her name was Katherine and she used to own one of my horses. She said that it took her a while to contact me, due in part because she felt guilty about the path that this horse's life took. My heart sank when she muttered the name, Capri.

I stood motionless against the fence, ignoring the horses schooling in front of me and the announcer's broadcasts. She then began the story that I have been waiting patiently to hear...

Back in 1991, she bought a Trakehner mare named Capri from Fox Horn Farm in Charlotte, Vermont. The mare had been shown on the Hunter Jumper circuit and was one of the top equitation horses in New England. She was spunky, had quite the attitude, and an even bigger buck to her. But she was elegant and refined, had a work ethic to die for, and she was beautiful. Katherine brought her home and taught the mare a new discipline: the art of dressage.

They worked as a team for over eleven years, through the thick and thin. Over a decade and three children later, Katherine could no longer keep the mare. She gave her away to a humane society in hopes that they would place her in good hands. Obviously her wish did not come true.

She told me about her personality and that she has always been considered a "grouch" in her stall. But that she was lovely to ride and was eager to work each day. They spent their time schooling in the arena and enjoying the trails together.

Katherine then told me that I had been wrong about a specific piece of information. "Faith" was not 17 years old as we suspected. She was not born in 1992. In fact, she was born the same year I was, in 1982. Yes, you read that correct...

This mare is twenty-seven years old.

I contacted the Trakehner registry yesterday and they confirmed that yes indeed, this is the same mare. Born in 1982, she is a daughter of the legendary stallion "Tannenberg" and out of a mare named "Carina". Her bloodlines are impeccable, her family is considered royalty; the more I read about them, the more I learn how valuable her lineage is to the Trakehner breed.

This is what has been said her sire:

Bred in 1966 by Dr Hans Dietrich of Wagner, Germany, Tannenberg was Reserve Champion of the 1968 Neum√ľnster approvals. He was a popular sire in Germany until being imported to Canada in 1975. He has more approved Trakehner sons than any other ATA stallion, 10 German-bred and 1 American-bred. Among his German-bred sons were the well regarded Schiwago, Herztrumpf and Morgenstrahl. His American son Meistersinger *Ps* is a well respected FEI dressage horse and sire of FEI dressage horses.

The German Stallion Book provides the following comments:

Excellent in the type of the Trakehner horse with beautiful, masculine head; best position, length and carriage of the neck; good shoulder and good withers; harmonious body overall that is carried on four good, correct, sufficiently strong but a bit long legs; the midsection of the body is well-coupled to the forehand and hindquarters; particularly emphasized should be the broadly set hocks; his way of going is elevated and impulsive, very slightly paddling in front; in spite of his size he is very uniform overall and significant in his overall impression. His magnificent type is usually passed to his get, and so is the harmonious overall figure, with a rather good way of moving; good medium size is predominant.

Here is a picture of Faith's sire, the legendary Tannenberg:

I am glad to find out her true identity, but the phrase that keeps popping into my mind is, "if I knew then when I know now..."

Would the events of last February have been different if at the time I knew her real age? Would I have made the same decisions? I'm not certain I would have.

Granted, I'll never know for sure, but I do not think this story would have unfolded the way it did. If I had found her in that condition and knew she was 27 years old, I think I probably would have had her humanely euthanized.

Never in a million years would I think that a horse of that age, in that condition, would have been able to recover from being nearly starved to death. I would have thought that her condition would have been impossible for her to overcome. It is impossible, right?

What would you have done?

Thankfully, Faith kept quiet about her age, as any true lady does, and has made a miraculous recovery. Her story has continued to inspire, and does even more now that we know the real story behind this impressive, magical mare.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guess Faith's Age!

The ad worked! I was contacted a few days ago by one of Faith's former owners and found out a lot about her history. I will post the details tomorrow, but for the time being, I have a question for everyone who reads this blog...

We originally thought Faith was around 17 years old from her teeth. Granted, the fronts of most of her incisors are chipped or have large pieces missing, so it was pretty difficult to judge by them. But from what our vet thought, we guessed that she was born roughly around 1992.

So the question remains, how old do you think Faith is?

Let the comments begin!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Linus is Back to Work!

Today was the big day - Linus' first day back under saddle!

Let's start at the beginning... Linus came to us with two known "issues". First, we were informed that "he absolutely CANNOT be crosstied!". Supposedly he used to pull back and panic, but after a few days of working with him and teaching him to give to pressure, he stands nicely and behaves himself like the good boy he is.

The second thing we were told was that, "you cannot tighten his girth indoors." Well, come to find out, it's not where you tighten his girth but with what force you choose to do so. As long as his girth is tightened incrementally, Linus is fine. He doesn't blow out, or up, and stays quiet and relaxed. I have been working on this with him diligently over the past few weeks, and he has done wonderfully.

So today was the big day...

We put Linus on the crossties, gave him a good grooming and made him shine. He enjoyed every part of it, especially having his butt scratched. (Some things will never make sense to me, I guess!) Lucy put on her riding boots, strapped a helmet to her head, and the three of us headed off towards the arena.

I walked him around while tightening his girth a hole at a time and he was fine. No bolting, no sucking in, no rocking back on his hindquarters. He just needs to be handled slowly, that's all. The girth was tight enough, and with an easy leg up and Lucy was in the saddle. Linus stood like a gentleman and waited for her cue.

They began walking around the arena and within a few moments, he dropped his head down and relaxed. He seemed comfortable with the day's activities, content to be back to work, happy to have a purpose again...

After a while they picked up a trot. It was difficult at first - Linus really isn't in a hurry to go anywhere and Lucy's short legs weren't very convincing to him. It took a lot of squeezing, a lot of clicking and eventually he decided he couldn't stall any longer and picked up a cute little suspended trot. A little squeeze back on the reins and a "whoa" and Linus went right back into a relaxed walk.

We reversed direction and asked for both gaits again. It still took a bit of convincing, but he eventually decided he would give us another trot. After that came our final test - the canter. After seeing how lazy he was at the trot, I had really low expectations of him actually picking up the canter without the use of an artificial aid. But, as fate may have it, he not only picked it up, but stepped into it beautifully from the walk!

His canter was... different. Not how I would expect a 16.1 hand horse to move, but cute nonetheless. He naturally stays very collected and is a smooth but lofty mover. Lucy said he felt different than our other horses, but she liked it.

Although we haven't taken him out yet, we have heard from his previous owners that he was a quiet, trustworthy mount that used to carry 6-year-olds on the trails. After what I saw today, I wouldn't doubt any part of that.

The good news is that Linus is sound and ready to return to an easy lifestyle of being a family horse! The sad news is that we are hoping to find him a good home and he may be leaving our farm here.

We hope that over the next few weeks of working with him under saddle more, that he will be ready for a new home by the end of September. I am hoping that I will be able to find a family that will be able to adopt him or lease him long term. The "perfect home" comes in many shapes and sizes, but my biggest concern is that he is well-taken care of, and of course, adored like the sweetie he is. He deserves it.

The positive side to Linus's moving on is that this will open up room at our farm here to take on another rescue case if one should come this way.

If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in giving Linus a perfect, long term home, please contact me at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On The Road Again

In preparation for Faith's "debut" in October, we decided to haul her to the showgrounds today to let her get accustomed to the scenery. The fairgrounds are scary enough without the crowds, so this was a good opportunity for her to get used to the arena without as much commotion.

This was the first time we have trailered her since we brought her home in February, and I must say I was quite a bit skeptical as to how willingly she would load... and behave. Sure enough, the old lady stepped right on without even the slightest hesitation!

We had three horses going to the showgrounds this morning, and therefore needed to bring our bigger slant-load, step-up trailer. Faith waited patiently as we had to make some adjustments for her - she is too large to fit in a single stall, so we had to move the partitions back so she could fit comfortably.

Faith made the 30 minute trip wonderfully. She rode quietly and didn't seem the least bit nervous or sweaty when we unloaded her. The only thing that was a little bit of an issue was stepping down from the trailer. It was a little difficult for her, so the next time we trailer her we'll put her in our two-horse that has a ramp.

Much to my surprise, Faith was very quiet and well-behaved. She stood tied to the trailer for about 20 minutes while we brushed her, wrapped her and tacked her up. I led her towards the warm up arena and she willingly followed, stopping once to whinny and again to look for boogey-monsters in the trash can.

My good friend Courtney graciously offered to school Faith for me. Courtney and I have been buddies for quite a while, Courtney coming from a background of showing Hunter/Jumper warmbloods and myself coming from a background of showing Morgan and Arab hunter pleasure on the flat horses. Needless to say, our styles are quite different, but it makes for interesting conversation. We have learned a lot from each other. She can now canter with her butt in the saddle; I now have a better understanding of "hunter hair". I no longer use show bows or stock pins; she now tolerates a bit of "bling" on her show outfits and no longer ties her number with a shoestring. It's all about compromise. We're a fun pair. :-)

Faith getting used to the scenery...
Faith looking at a small crowd that gathered to watch her...

She looks interested in her new surroundings, but still relaxed...

Courtney being a wise-ass and practicing her long crest release... (This horse's days of schooling over fences are long gone, but her rider today has a great sense of humor!)

Schooling at the trot...

Courtney practicing her "perfect 30-degree upper body position" that her idol George Morris requires...

A focused team...

A content pair, both with smiles on their faces...

Cooling out in the field. The sign may say "2", but we all know that faith is #1...

Courtney looks at home on a warmblood again...

Enjoying a well-deserved peppermint...


Friday, August 21, 2009

We Celebrate 200 Days with Faith

Two hundred days ago she was on the verge of death with little hope of survival. Two hundred days ago she had nearly given up hope. Two hundred days ago, I nearly did too...

Over the course of time, I have witnessed what I consider a miracle. What I saw was an animal determined to survive, refusing to give up, and driven to overcome her past. She was bent on proving everyone wrong, that she could rise above the immoralities that had been done to her. And she has.

Two hundred days later, I have amazing news to share...

Faith will be attending a horse show. Our Faith.

On Friday, October 2nd and Sunday, October 4th, she will be competing in the Walk & Trot Hunter Seat Equitation division at the Deerfield Fair. This show is one of the biggest open shows in our area and will be held at the fairgrounds in Deerfield, New Hampshire. Lucy will be showing her and has been practicing diligently to prepare for the event.

We are not going into this with any hopes of ribbons, trophies or prizes. We are going into this to prove that overcoming challenges is attainable, no matter how bad the situation may be.

Faith will be at the horse show all weekend, and we would love for people to come by and meet her in person. We are located at one end of Barn G, (think "G" for Greenwood) and will have our drapes and display set up for all to see, complete with flowers and pictures of our horses. Perhaps there may even be a picture on our wall of a dark bay mare with a story to tell...


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two Weeks Without Sleep...

Our little piggies are still going strong! They are all doing quite well and are growing very fast. They have at least tripled in size and get bigger with each passing day!

They have graduated from eating every two hours to eating every three. Lucky me... We recently have offered their milk in bowls instead of using the "Nanny". They are quickly learning how to drink from them, but still prefer the bottles. Also, we have slowly introduced them to a piglet grain mash made with goat's milk and they have some interest in it. Although they seem to enjoy digging through it as opposed to eating it, but it will come in time.

Our dear friend Renee (who helped with Linus' rescue and recovery) has helped once again with our piglets! She found a lady with goat's milk and brought us nine frozen gallons of it. A special thanks to Lucy and her goats who helped our little ones survive!

I had time to take a short video clip of the piglets last night. The last few seconds of the clip are hilarious. Our littlest piglet, Alex, has a tendency to fall asleep after he eats. Watch what he does at the end! Enjoy!

Faith is doing well! We have been working with her under saddle about 3 times a week to help build up her muscles in her back and hindquarters. She has remained sound thus far - knock on wood!

Linus is also doing well. He is putting weight on nicely and is still as sweet as ever. We have plans of starting him under saddle within the next couple of weeks to evaluate him under saddle. I will have pictures online for everyone to see his progress!

Here's a question for our readers...

Let's just pretend for a second that Faith was going to a horse show and needed a "show name". What do you think would be fitting of her? I have one in mind, but look forward to hearing your creative names!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Little Piggies...

Little Gracie and Edwin

This past week has been stressful to say the least. I am both mentally and physically exhausted and desperately need a vacation.

Here is an update of what has happened over the past week:

Last Thursday night at five minutes til midnight I was awoken by the Derry Police saying that a horse had been hit by a car on Route 28 and they needed assistance. As I was heading downstairs to get the trailer hitched up, I noticed that Charlotte had a companion in the stall with her and that labor had obviously begun. I brought the horse back to our farm and Dr. George came to stitch him up. I never posted about it because of the next day's events, but eventually I will get around to sharing the story and posting pictures.

Friday... Well, Friday just sucked. Everyone knows what happened and I'm still heartbroken about it.

On Saturday, the transmission in my truck went.

Sunday we lost three of the piglets. We're not sure why, but oxygen deprivation seems to be the culprit. Piglets only have a 50/50 chance at survival when they are orphaned. We brought them into our house and put them in a basket under a heat lamp. For 12 hours through the night we tried to nurse them back to health but to no avail. We now have five left.

Deep breath...

Our remaining piglets are: Alex, Charlie, Duke, Edwin and Grace. Grace has a permanent home here and hopefully she will grow up to be just like her mom. Here are some pictures that will hopefully put a smile on everyone's face...






Charlie and Alex taking a snooze together under the heat lamp...

Miranda helping Alex nurse with Charlie in front of her and Grace climbing up her leg...


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beautiful Gifts

The piglets are doing well; myself and my "crew" are beyond exhausted. The last few days have been happy, sad, exciting and exhausting all at once, but worth every second.

Our piglet count is down to eight. Two of the "c-section" babies grew very weak, went off milk, and never recovered. If memory serves me correctly, I believe that they were the last two pulled out, and even though Dan and Dr. George worked at lightning speed to save them, the two piglets may have been deprived of oxygen in their final moments before their birth. (There is a term for it, and I am falling asleep typing this and can't think straight, so if anyone wants to chime in with a quick vocab lesson, it would be greatly appreciated!)

The piglets are currently being bottle fed every two hours with goat's milk. We are running low in supply and have powered milk replacer ready if need be, but are currently looking for another supplier. If anyone knows a goat milk supplier in the vicinity of Derry, NH, please let me know!

Dan spent the second half of the night with the piglets last night so I could get some sleep. It was cute to walk in and see one piglet in each of his arms sucking on bottles, and two fast asleep on his lap.

I think the lack of sleep has finally gotten to him though... Dan used to build custom furniture for a living and decided to put his brainpower and creativity to work last night. He constructed what I refer to as the "Nanny". This thing is basically a wooden bottle holder that somewhat resembles the shape of a pig. It is braced on each end and has two long boxes on either side of it, both with five holes cut out of the bottoms. We warm the milk bottles up, place the bottles into the slots, the nipples pop out the bottoms, and presto! Just like that, the little piggies can nurse at their leisure! So far only half of them have figured out what this contraption does. The others we have to hold while they feed.

Miranda, Nicole and Lucy have slept over the past few days here and are absolutely wonderful helpers. They quickly learned how to prepare the milk, warm the bottles and bottle feed squirmy, squealing piglets. Camelia and Lilly, two of my younger students and their mom Liz stopped by today to help out as well.

The piglets are as follows:
Alex - a black piglet with a small white band around his back and white front legs. He was the first born.
Bertha - a redhaired lady who is a spitting image of her mom! She does NOT like to be held while being bottle fed. She squeals like a... well, pig.
Charlie - a black piglet with a wide white band across her back and white front legs. (Yes, "Charlie" is a she. The name stuck before we realized our mistake...) She is by far the most annoying of the group! She is pushy and loud, squeals at a pitch that makes your ears ring, and the biggest of the bunch.
Duke - a black piglet with a narrow white band across his back and white front legs. He also has a cute white spot on the end of his little snout. He was delivered by myself (let me tell you, that was an experience I will never forget...)
Edwin - a solid black piglet who is the smartest and was the first to figure out how to use the"Nanny". He is an easy keeper and pretty social.
Ferdinand (aka Boo-boo) - a solid black piglet who is the runt of the litter. He was born with a small scrape on the inside of his front left leg, hence the nickname "Boo Boo". He is tiny, built awkwardly and resembles a very miniature elephant...
Grace - a beautiful red haired girl. She falls asleep nursing and could sleep through a war. She pounds drinks back like you read about - we may need to sign her up for AA... Or as Miranda says, MA.
Hilda - our only "pinto" piglet! She is light red with white and sounds like a duck quacking.

Here is a picture of the first piglet born snuggling to keep warm, and the last one we have of Charlotte, content and happy being a mom, if only for a short time...

Although her loss tears me up, Charlotte gave us eight final beautiful gifts...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sad News...

I am writing this post with tears in my eyes... It has been a long day but I finally have a few minutes to get everyone updated. I have had 3 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours and I apologize for the short, unedited post.

Charlotte started delivering her first litter of piglets around midnight. The first two came out fine, but then she needed help with the next three. Unfortunately piglet number 5 was stuck and after hours of trying to free him, we knew that he was not going to pass through and that Charlotte wasn't going to make it... We made the heartwrenching decision to euthanize her. It was tough, but we knew there were no other options. A c-section at that point wasn't possible. :-(

After she quietly passed, Dr. George and Dan worked quickly and took the remaining six more piglets from her. The one who was stuck in the birth canal had a broken jaw and needed to be put down. Altogether, we have ten surviving piglets that are now orphans and need to be bottle fed every 90 minutes...

They are doing well and are adorable. They are all different colors, red, black, pink, brown, some with white, some without. There is a special little solid red-haired female piglet in the litter that I am taking a liking to...

I am off to feed them now, then head to bed for an hour and go back downstairs to feed again. I will post as soon as I have time.

Rest in peace, Charlotte. We will always miss you...


Thursday, August 6, 2009

If Charlotte had a seam...

...she would burst open at it!

Still no piglets! We are getting closer though. She has begun to nest and is becoming restless. And she is getting more and more talkative! Every time I go into her stall she grunts and oinks until I scratch her favorite spot behind her ears. She has bagged up pretty well but still hasn't secreted any milk, so we are still at least a few hours off. Hopefully I will have some good news in the morning!

The kids have finally decided upon a naming system. We're doing it alphabetically and have chosen both girl and boy names for each letter. They are: Abby or Alex, Bertha or Brett, Cindy or Charlie, Daisy or Duke, Elsie or Edwin, Fergie or Ferdinand, Grace or Garron, Hilda or Humphrey, Isabella or Ike, Josie or Jimmy, Kelly or Kent and Lucille or Lloyd.

Thanks for all of the comments and advice! Her stall is set up with a corner of it blocked off so the piglets have a safe place to lay so they won't get squished. There is a heat lamp set up and ready to go once our new arrivals finally decide to get here. It is right next to a heat and smoke detector, which is on the same alarm system as our house.

We will be up again checking in on her every hour tonight. I have the first shift at midnight...


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No Piglets Yet...

...but Charlotte is getting very close to delivering! She is resting comfortably in her stall with fresh water, hay and grain within easy reach. It has been hot the past few days here, so she has a fan hanging on her door to help keep her cool. My students have kept a close eye on her, making sure she's comfortable and happy.

She started bagging up a few days ago, then took a bit of a break, and now has slowly begun to continue. She has begun to go off feed and hasn't been eating as much as she normally would, which is another sign that delivery is getting closer.

Whisper_the_wind left an interesting comment about the mothering nature of pigs. Would you mind sharing more of your insight? Any advice on delivery and caring for the newborns? I'm new to this and could use all of the help I can get! Also, if anyone else has any words of wisdom or stories, please leave a comment!

Tomorrow is the full moon, so I am guessing she will deliver tomorrow night. For now, we just sit back and wait for nature to take it's course...

Also, if anyone would like to come down to see the farm and meet Faith, Linus, Charlotte and all of our other "famous" critters, you are more than welcome! We love visitors!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Story of a Piglet

A quick update on Faith and Linus and then an entertaining story about one of our farm's residents!

Linus has started to put weight back on again. The vets reassured me that he probably lost a bit due to the stress of his surgery. We have increased his feed slightly and are closely monitoring him!

Faith is getting another set of radiographs viewed by Dr. Barnes again. We will hopefully have a plan with what do regarding her knee within the next day or two.

I did receive a phone call last week from a woman stating that she may have known Faith when she was four. I put in a phone call to the farm and am waiting to connect with the woman who may have possibly owned her. The suspense is killing me!

Brad Erickson will be out today at eleven to trim and shoe them.

Also, I have exciting news that I will be sharing next week with everyone! Stay tuned!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last fall, an animal came into my life that would forever leave a mark. Her name is Charlotte, and here is her story.

On September 28, 2008 we were packing up from a long horse show weekend. A student of mine happily informed me that he was chosen to participate in the pig scramble at the fair. I told him congratulations and wished him luck. Then came the question that I dreaded, yet somehow knew was coming... "If I catch a pig, can I keep it at your barn, Julie?"

Now, we travel to many shows and fairs each year. I have seen quite a few pig scrambles in my years, with the results of many favoring the piglets. You see, even though piglets are small, they are fast. And they are strong. It's quite difficult for an adult to catch and keep hold of a squealing, squirming piglet, let alone a child. There was no way that he was going to actually catch one, right?

"Of course you can," I replied to him. What was I going to do with a pig, anyway? Just to give you more insight onto my knowledge of the swine culture, here are the three things that I knew about pigs before Charlotte came into my life: They have curly tails. They make cute noises. And they are super tasty! :-) You see, I have never had a pig before. Nor did I ever think that I would. I tend to prefer "fluffy" pets...

I arrived back to my barn a few hours later, unloaded horses and began unpacking the trailer. I received a text message on my phone. It read, "What would you like to name your pig?" I assumed it was a joke and kept doing my work. Then came a text from another student's father. He had stayed with a bunch of my students to watch the scramble. "Julie, you really own a pig now. Think of any names yet? From, Mike"

Forty-five minutes later, Mike's pickup truck pulled into the yard. Out popped my student, a big smile on his face, holding a burlap bag. At first, I was sure they were only joking. Then the bag started moving and oinking.

He carried it into my barn and gently placed it down onto the shavings in a freshly cleaned stall. Out popped a little red-haired piglet. I couldn't believe my eyes. I also couldn't stop laughing. In front of me was the cutest piglet I had ever seen!

At first, we decided to name the piglet "Wilbur" from Charlotte's Web. Then I checked and realized that she was in fact a girl, and we quickly made the change to "Charlotte". The name fit her well.

Thankfully, Charlotte came with a bag of grain and an instruction manual. I kid you not. It was a few pages in length and had great information in it. The first half of the manual explained how to care for her. The second half focused on when and how to butcher her. Gross...

So we made the decision right there and then that we didn't need the second half of the manual. Charlotte wouldn't be eaten, and until we could figure out something to do with her, she was here to stay.

Charlotte learned her name very quickly. Once it was spoken, you could hear her oinking in her stall. She was very friendly and enjoyed human interaction. At night, she would push all of the shavings in her stall into one corner and drag all of her hay on top of it. Then she would take the sack she was brought home in and place that on top of everything. We would peek into her stall to find only her curly tail sticking out from underneath the pile. She stayed warm in her little nest and would sleep into the morning hours when we woke her up.

I eventually trusted her enough to let her out in the yard, and she would follow me around every morning while I turned horses out and fed. She would run from stall to stall as I cleaned them out, sucking up the last bits of grain off of the floor. She kept me laughing and was pretty entertaining company.

However, I felt bad for her. She was used to living with her brothers and sisters, and was now in a new place with no friends. I decided it was time, and I brought the dogs out to meet her. She instantly took a liking to them, but they weren't quite sure what to do with her.

Charlotte walked right up to Molly and sniffed her nose. Molly turned to look at me with a puzzled "do I eat it or play with it?" look on her face. Ginger thought she was pretty cool and tried to get her new swine friend to partake in a game of chase. After a few minutes, Charlotte realized what the objective was, and took off running with them!

The next half hour was comical. The pig would chase the dogs. The dogs would turn and chase the pig. The pig would turn and chase the dogs... You get the idea.

Although Charlotte enjoyed the company of my dogs, it was my dad's dog that she fell in love with.

"Mikey" was a puppy that we rescued for him in December of 2007. Our family's old dog passed away a few years ago, and my father informed us that he was "too busy" for a dog and didn't want another. But the hints kept coming, and soon we heard of a little german shepard mutt that was at a kill shelter down south. A few phone calls were made and Mikey arrived two weeks before Christmas. On Christmas Day, we put a big red bow around his neck, opened the door to my dad's house, and sent him inside. They have been inseparable ever since! (I'll do an article on him sometime, too. His story is inspiring!)

Back to Charlotte...

Charlotte took a fond liking to Mikey, and they played with each every time Mikey came to visit. Their friendship was picture perfect...

I ended up putting them together in a power point presentation and Mike (Charlotte's "Dad") put them online for everyone to see! (It's a big file and it may take a while to load!)

Charlotte grew bigger and bigger each day. Every Sunday morning after we did our barn chores, Dan would weigh her. She weighed in at a whopping 14 pounds when she first came to us. As the weeks went on, her weight gained averaged about 11 pounds per week. That's over a pound and a half a day. She quickly became too large for Dan to pick up, so we found a formula online and began using that to chart her progress. She hit the 200 pound mark by Valentine's Day, 300 pound mark by Mother's Day, and now she clocks in at a hair under 400 pounds. And she's only a year old!

Charlotte is very friendly and exceptionally intelligent! She is by far the smartest animal I have ever had the pleasure of caring for. She lives in a paddock with our two goats and our donkey, Dominic. They have their own 10X10 stall that they go in and out of, plus the goats have their own house they sleep in. Charlotte and Dominic get along quite well and frequently take naps laying next to each other.

A few months back, after calculating how much Charlotte was costing us to feed, we decided to breed her. The piglets can be sold and will pay for her grain for the rest of the year. After some searching, we found a very handsome, solid black husband for her, creatively named "Midnight", who tipped the scales at 525 pounds. Things went well with them, they did what needed to be done, and then he went back to his home in Massachusetts.

That was four months ago. Today, Charlotte is nearing the end of her pregnancy. Although we never had her ultrasounded, we knew that her interaction with Midnight worked. She never went back into heat, which was our first major clue. About three weeks after she was bred, she went from eating 5 quarts of grain each day to 13. Her activity decreased and when she wasn't eating, she was sleeping. And snoring. She snores very, very loudly!

As many of you may know, pigs enjoy a roll in the mud and water. It helps them stay cool and protects their skin from the sun. That combined with the fact that Charlotte is pregnant, we figured we'd do a little something special for her. We were given a child's pool a few weeks back, so we dug a hole in her paddock, put the pool in it and filled it with water. Needless to say, she just loves her very own inground pool....

Charlotte is due to deliver her piglets roughly between today, August 4th and Saturday, August 8th. We have temporarily moved her back into a stall in the barn so we can keep a closer eye on her. She has begun bagging up and the milk production means she is getting close to delivering. We are having a full moon on the 6th, so my money is on her delivering that evening.

She could have up to 14 piglets, but typically their first litter is a bit smaller. I think that she's going to have nine piglets, Dan is betting on ten. We have been trying to come up with names, but nothing has stuck with us yet. Does anyone have any ideas? I was thinking, "Ham," "Bacon," "Sausage," and "Pork Chop", but my students don't approve...