His life was fortified by our kindness and a straw-filled bed, the latter only the day prior refreshed by an intrepid group of corporate volunteers to whom Max quickly endeared himself. Of course, he did this in his own inimitable and affable way, leaving them walking away with snoutmarks on their hands and in their hearts.
Shadowed by a life before Edgar’s Mission that saw him found wandering the streets in a town made famous for its bacon factory, Max was destined to make the headlines. From his daily sojourns about his little patch in the world at Edgar’s Mission, Max featured on billboards plastered across Australia and the internet, and in major daily newspapers and state news services. Max ruled supreme wherever he was seen, and, let’s be honest, you could hardly miss him. True to the spirit of pigs, Max was a tidy boy, designating a section of his home range for his ablutions and bringing joy to our hearts as he seized a rake between his teeth and put the finishing touches to his straw bed. His antics with his ball broke all expectations of the fun-loving nature of pigs (but sadly, too, eventually the ball!).
Max’s life could best be summed up as a river of turbulence in his passage to find sanctuary here, quickly swapping that for one that was to be peppered with beauty, serenity, wisdom and the occasional bout of proud flatulence (if you’re smiling now chances are you know pigs all too well; if not, you, have something to look forward to -not!). Max indeed made wise counsel; he was a stoic, a Zen master with a glorious Buddha-like belly. If you had a problem, best sit with Max, look deep into those wise eyes (if you managed to catch him when he was awake) and massage that plump tummy and the answer was simple -surrender to the incredible possibility of what living in the moment was, although Max was always quick to add it was better still if it came with food.
Max reigned supreme here at the sanctuary, as we took our rightful place as his loyal subjects: “Is Max up yet?”, “Has Max been fed?”, “Remember Max only likes his apples cut in quarters and he doesn’t like carrots”, “Can someone help get Max up?”, “Max needs more straw”, “Has Max’s wallow been filled? ”, “It’s getting hot, we need to check Max”. It was always about Max and ensuring he had every possible creature comfort we could afford, alas there was always one we couldn’t – a body better designed for mobility than meat production. Despite nature getting it right, human appetite and intervention over the years has seen the shape and colour of pigs just like Max charting a course of expediency and profits that was never going to be kind to pigs.
Did Max know summer was on her way? Perhaps the occasional hot day that November has already thrown at us whispered so into those impressively hairy piggy ears that the most unpleasant time of year for pigs was on her way. A time dear old Max struggled with. And, too, we certainly knew he didn’t like his medicine, as he would inch out each drop and leave it in his feed bowl, meaning we humans had to resort to our ingenuity (which pales beside that of pigs), hiding it in a piece of bread, apple or even kiwi fruit (oh, how Max loved kiwi fruit). All of this meant Max would get an extra treat of something he dearly loved.
Yes, you get the picture, pigs are smart, and Max was no exception. But what Max was an exception to was relishing the company of other pigs, something these highly social animals usually so richly enjoy. Just like dear Edgar, he far preferred his own company and we ceded to his wishes. With all this in mind, we cannot help but take solace that Max’s passing was on his terms and in comfort, taking in his breakfast after spending a night under the stars in the long grass (as did his Eurasian ancestors, Sus Scrofa), then tootling off to his luxuriously comfy straw bed and devilishly dodging his morning meds, drifting off to sleep and never again waking. There was no sign of struggle or pain, in his very handsome, much loved, full-bellied and peaceful form. If only all pigs could pass so peacefully, respected and loved from this world.
There is no doubt Max left an impression on all he met (and a good snout mark or two as well, as our corporate volunteers can attest). One of our favourite Max moments, (and there are so, so many), came just after a journalist had just done an interview with Max: as he was walking away, he turned and uttered the words from a lump filled throat and in a moment of pure honesty, “You know, I cannot look that pig in the eye,” to which someone asked, “Why?”, and he replied, “Because I eat them, and it makes me feel bad.”
Having the privilege of knowing Max as we have had the good fortune to do, we know that we all have a place in our hearts for kindness; for so many, though, it sits just outside, waiting for the invitation to come in. Sometimes all it needs is the gentle nudge of a pig named Max to do so. Oh, Maxy boy, we couldn’t love you any more if we tried, yet somehow, we do and always will.