Whilst I am not sure exactly when this diary started, I do know the first tear-stained page was etched in a commercial pig farm that should belong to a bygone era. But sadly, it and others like it do not. Here gentle sows like Princess never have a name, let alone a reason to live. Their existence is in a world allergic to compassion, kindness and even a straw bed. Their beautiful bodies and curious minds are reduced to mere productions units, producing 2.2 litters of piglets a year. Their pitiful lives are measured by output not opportunities. Yet somehow, between this servitude and her salvation, Princess and three of her buddies wound up in the middle of a state forest and herein turned a brave new page of the Princess Diaries.
On 22 July 2018 the plight of a critically injured sow met with the path of kindness. There she lay, bloodied and bleeding, her exhausted and emaciated body barely finding the strength to heave out her next breath. In what would seem like her darkest of hours, Princess was to find her north star in the form of a kind-hearted four wheel drive enthusiast who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Desperate, confused and devoid of phone reception, the kind heart elected to wait it out until another car came along, hoping beyond hope it would be piloted by another equally kind heart. As Princess lay stoic and motionless, save the blood still spurting from her wound, she accepted her lot as a young piglet came into view and refused to leave her side.
While this scene played out, simultaneously only metres down the road, shielded by a tight corner and a hill, two other sows had similarly found their north star at the hands of kindness as they were ushered into a horse float to ferry them to Edgar’s Mission. Although photos were sent ahead of their arrival, nothing could prepare me for the sight, smell and sense of despair that came packaged up along with the girls and their mange, mites and ticks. But it was Princess who pulled greatest at my heart strings. As Manfred (of Five Freedoms Animal Rescue) opened the door to his vehicle, warning that the condition of the animal who lay inside was not good, unspoken words were to convey what our hearts did not want to concede. Slowly moving the makeshift bandage away, the blood began to spurt again, covering my face and crushing my heart. But where there is life there is hope, and in this most hopeless of situations I refused to allow this to be the last chapter in the life of the gentle sow I had now christened Princess.
Over the coming days, Princess and I were to be drawn together by regular bandage changes and health checks. And I began wonder just what would be revealed if she were to pen a diary describing her new world order. It’s funny how things have a way of working out: the chap coming upon Princess and her little buddy Gizmo, of Manfred and our team being only a stone’s throw away, of Manfred even finding the hapless quartet in the first place and of myself bestowing the most fitting name that I ever could for Princess before even truly knowing she was one.
As the days have given way to weeks, Princess has indeed fallen into her role of Princess, with we her loyal servants and the barn her regal realm. Princess, quickly dictating the terms of the arrangement, told that I was NOT under any circumstance to have an assistant help with bandage changes (even though I very much needed one!) And how she did this was to jump up and “woof” madly as Kwok would kindly come to assist me in the tricky procedure that was really better suited to an octopus than a two-handed human dexterously trying to manoeuvre scissors, scalpel blade, disinfectant, wound cream, gauze, Gamgee, vet wrap, Elastoplast, towel and a plastic bag—all the while rubbing her ever-growing pink belly. And if her woofs failed to convey her message, Princess escalated them to a determined, no-nonsense bark that no pig shield could protect you from. So, it was to fall to me to strategically massage Princess’s tummy until she reached just the right Zen moment, then madly dash to treat her leg in the window of opportunity she had granted me. Along the way too, Princess has become a thief to my time, my heart and my camera, as her pleading and innocent eyes, which peek beneath those forward-flapping ears, draw me in each time I pass by her stall. Be it belly rub, poop pick-up, photo opportunity, water check or treats, Princess has me wrapped hook, line and sinker around her dainty little trotters.
She surprises me each day with her gentle enthusiasm, cheerful nature and wide-eyed wonder as she views her new world. But above all else, it has been her capacity to trust the very species that had so wronged her and her kind that inspires me to be a better version of myself and to know my place is to serve, writing my own diary of kindness.
I truly believe that my experiences with Princess are something that comes with the territory of opening one’s heart and mind to the incredible possibility of what it means to be a pig. Reminding one that while we humans live in a world full of choices, animals like dear Princess live in a world where they are victims of ours and the kindnesses we can cast their way will pave the path, not for their redemption but ours. Oh, and what a diary entry that will be.