Scroll down for some of what Fran has written over the decades in prison.
I first met George on a little-traveled dirt road a few blocks from my home. I’m normally a late sleeper, but that morning I had an errand that had me up and away before 6 a.m. I paid small attention to an old cardboard box on the side of the road as I drove by; refuse is often dumped there, and my only concern with it is to avoid nails and broken glass.
But something nagged me about that box. A block later, I stopped and, feeling a bit silly, backed up to inspect its contents. Walking around my van and peering through the not-quite-daylight, I discovered a small and dirty animal looking up at me. It didn’t
whine, didn’t try to stand – just looked at me. What was wrong with him? Why hadn’t he jumped out of the box and gone to look for food, water, for whoever had abandoned him there?
I reached down and picked him up, intending to set him on the ground and get him started on his way. When I did, his back legs folded under him, and he half lay there, propped up on forepaws, looking up at me as if to say: “OK, what now?”
Indeed, what now? I had places to go, and there I was wasting time with a sick dog! I started to walk away, thinking that if he were still there when I came back later, then I’d see what I could do. But I looked back, and though his eyes followed me he made no move to get up, and I knew I couldn’t leave him there.
Back home, I set food and water a short distance from him on the grass, to see if that would stir him to mobility. It didn’t. I moved them closer to see if he even wanted anything – he did! The poor ragged thing must have been starved.
But what was wrong with him? Friends dropped by that day, with opinions from distemper to, finally, that he’d been run over. Cautiously, without the slightest idea as to how to assess whatever I might find, I began to poke and prod, and discovered that both of his back legs bent where no dog’s should, high above the knee joints.
Horrified, and feeling guilty for being so stupid and causing him extra pain, I sat and cried, wondering what I could do for him. What would it cost to have his little body repaired? Whatever it was, I didn’t have it.
I surveyed him as he lay there. He didn’t look like a puppy, and he was too skinny and dirty to be cute. His eyes, alert and intelligent, were his only attractive feature. Then he began to move away from me. He pulled himself along with his front paws, rear legs dragging brokenly behind. As I watched and wondered, he stopped and positioned his body in such a way that, by pushing backward with his front feet, he could force his legs into an involuntary standing position. Then he did what all dogs move away from their people to do.
I was impressed. What pride! I knew I had to do what I could to help this brave animal. A few phone calls, promises, and small loans later, we were on our way to the veterinarian. As I sat in the waiting room, I heard the vet’s voice over the office intercom as he was examining the dog in another part of the building, “This dog has fractures in both legs, and a broken pelvis. I recommend that he be put to sleep.”
The office girl passed on the message that I had already heard. With such a lump in my throat that I could hardly talk, I managed to ask, “How bad will it be for the dog?” I was told that it wouldn’t be so bad for him, but no animal, unless it was a very special pet, warranted the cost or the amount of work it would be to care for an animal in such condition.
I thought it over: a homely, pathetic, dumped thing, broken and unwanted, what did he mean to me? Put him out of his misery now and be done with it? In less than a moment I had my answer: “Fix him!”
I left for home later, gently carrying a small bundle of soft curly fur with two casts on his legs, being very careful not to let their weight put too much of a strain on the broken pelvis, which the vet wasn’t able to set. I begged space for him in my parent’s garage, and prepared myself for the nasty job of taking care of all his toilet functions that I’d been warned he wouldn’t now be able to cope with. But the vet didn’t know this dog! George never failed to find some out-of-the-way place and perform the same impressive feat of backing his body up onto his rear legs.
George never much needed that space in the garage. He spent the summer outdoors, enjoying the company of other neighborhood dogs and determinedly pulling himself over the lawn to be near anyone who was outdoors. He never whimpered or showed any sign of the pain he must have been suffering.
In a few short weeks he became fatter and healthier, quickly outgrowing his casts. It didn’t take him long to learn to walk and run again, and it was a tremendous pleasure to watch him enjoying his new freedom. He kept growing all summer, and I discovered that he must have been, after all, a puppy when I found him, for I now had a very large and at least half St. Bernard.
His temporary stay with my parents turned out to be longer than I had planned, for I failed to find another home for him. Nobody seemed to want such a big dog, or even any dog without papers. We built a dog house for him, but, with no fence around the yard, had to chain him near it. Almost three years have gone by. George, though I’m sure he hates being chained, is still an affectionate and friendly dog who loves to be petted and to play catch with anyone who will take the time for him.
Two of his legs are still slightly crooked, but he doesn’t seem to notice that much, and neither do we. I’ll never know who left him where I found him or what happened to him before I did, but to this day George won’t get near a cardboard box.
This true story, published in Ms. Turner’s small town newspaper north of Omaha, ended happily. Many people, after reading about George, called and offered to adopt him, and Ms. Turner had a selection of good people from which to choose George’s new home. She chose a home which included love and enough room to be free to play and enjoy life, as she knew he deserved.
ARE PIGS REALLY SO SMART?
I first learned about Fran Thompson in the summer of 2003 while poking around on the internet, looking for information about anarchist/political prisoners. Her name showed up on a couple of websites, and an Earth Liberation Prisoners website called Spirit of Freedom (http://www.spiritoffreedotn.org.uk/profiles/fran.html/) had a pretty long article about her. From that article I learned that before she went to prison, Fran lived in Nebraska, had been an animal rights and environmental activist, and had worked against area nuclear waste dumps and intensive animal farming.
The article went on to explain that one of Fran’s neighbors decided that he wanted to get Fran’s land and asked her to marry him. When she said no, the guy started stalking her and eventually broke into her house. Fran was afraid and grabbed her gun. She ended up shooting and killing the stalker. “Fran has never denied she shot and killed the stalker. However she has always denied it was murder. Instead she has always argued it was self-defense.” During her trial, Fran was not allowed to enter her plea of self-defense and the jury was only presented with a murder charge and the fact that she shot the stalker and he died. Fran was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Since I was interested in supporting women in prison, especially women incarcerated in the Midwest, wrote a letter to Fran. A few weeks later, to my surprise and delight, she wrote back!
In her letter, she told me that she started college at the age of 38, after her husband was killed in a construction accident and her son was grown. She said she decided to be a lawyer so she could “try to DO something about all the evils in our country.”
Fran included with her letter the first part of the story she wrote about life with her pig friend Arthur. She offered to send me the second part if I was interested. After reading of her love and respect for the little piglet that grew into a gentle giant, I wanted to know the rest of the story.
Unfortunately, the tale of Arthur does not have a blissful ending. That’s the way it often is in real life. Fran writes to me from a cage, although she never subjected her pig friend to such indignity. Fran is falsely imprisoned because she took care of herself, because she refused to be abused, because she fought back.
Being buried alive has not made Fran quit caring about and trying to help humans and other animals. She does legal work for other inmates for no pay, even when it means staying up all night to finish her own work. She is delighted when supporters send her postcards with pictures of animals or stories of their own animal friends. In my first letter to Fran, I asked her if I could send her anything, if she needed anything. When she wrote back, she replied, “Need any thing? Naw. Not that I can have, anyway, just a retrial. And some more education. We can’t receive anything but letters, photos and money orders—and I don’t solicit those.
“I’d so much rather to have decent folks help the animals. Like donate a few bucks to Farm Animal Sanctuary, or any vegan group, or just do some exciting liberation action (people, animals, help someone) and it’s really exciting as hell when they do it in my name!”
Although she didn’t request that I send her anything, Fran still desperately needs legal help so she can get out of prison. She has never been able to receive and review her own trial transcript, due to prison limitations on “legal materials.”
I have found Fran Thompson to be a righteous person, a lover of living beings. That much will be obvious when you read the following pages and understand her empathy for sweet Arthur the pig.
c/o Lawrence ABC Publisher and Distributor
P. 0. Box 1483
Lawrence, KS 66044
Fran and Arthur’s story is told in two parts. “Are Pigs Really So Smart?” was written before Fran went to prison. “The End of Arthur’s Story”was written once she was incarcerated. Fran is currently imprisoned in Missouri.
Are Pigs Really So Smart?
Everyone’s heard that pigs are the smartest of farm animals, smarter even than dogs, and make good pets. Nevertheless, I haven’t met anyone capable of thinking of a pig in terms other than “walking food.”
Most people can’t consider trying out a pig for a pet: there are city ordinances against that sort of thing. I had a chance to see for myself how smart pigs are when I moved to a farm in ’85, and I decided to find out.
My son and I had never had (but wanted) a pet named Arthur, so we pre-named our pig on the way to a neighboring farm to select our experiment. We brought home with us later a darling little eight-pound girl named Arthur. (Our new neighbors amused me by attributing the choice of name to city-slicker Gender Stupidity.)
Arthur was the first golden pig I had ever seen, in real life or pictures. Photographs of dirty and crowded farm pigs always show them as brown, black, or off-white, usually with spots, and never like this–Arthur wasn’t just blonde, no–she was a shining gold, like buried treasure in story books.
No photograph could show the delicacy, the living pink translucence of those tiny, perfect little hooves and that soft, sensitive, perfectly clean nose. Looking up from admiring and gently touching that nose to see those two bright, curious eyes looking right back at me, I thought of racism…and species-ism. Racism is no longer popular and we are not supposed to be prejudiced against others who have different skin color or nose shape. But it’s okay to be so prejudiced against another that we eat him/her because of many small differences, each of which we excuse in humans? If humans can’t talk, we don’t eat them. If they have big noses, we don’t eat them. If they have no fingers, we don’t eat them. What precisely made Arthur any less valuable than a human? Arthur’s ears were adorable, too–large and furry like a bunny’s, cutely oversized for her baby body. I was glad they hadn’t been “notched” yet. Other, older baby pigs had cuts in their ears, and probably terrifying memories to go with them.
Arthur was only a few days old then, and the farmer hadn’t gotten to tails yet, either. He had done teeth, and hers had already been removed with pliers, but she still had her tail. The hair on pigs’ tails is longer and prettier than on the rest of their bodies, rather like that of a horse. I had never known that: all the pigs I’d seen had only stubs for tails.
Not yet even fully mutilated, Arthur was already rightfully afraid of humans and stiff with fear when first I picked her up. She made eye contact with me right away and inspected me closely to judge this new manner of creature. All the way home, as she tensely anticipated the horrors to come, we promised her that we’d never cause her any more pain and that we’d always be her true friends.
It took days for Arthur to really relax with us. She never ran from us, never hid, but was ever wary as though she feared the pain of trusting unwisely as much as physical pain.
I didn’t think, “Stupid, ungrateful animal! I am being as nice to you as I can be and you’d better love me for it, right now!!” No. I knew that Arthur was just a baby. I knew that she already had painful experiences and was just hurt and frightened.
We figured to love her out of that, and we did. Arthur had not yet lived long, and it took probably that long again to change her first view of the world. I knew we had really accomplished something when Arthie finally began to cuddle in our laps and follow us around the house. I have a photograph of my son asleep on the couch with little Arthie cuddled on his chest: I made many copies and sent them to friends all over the U.S., titling the pictures, “My two little pigs asleep on the couch.”
Arthie’s first evidence of fastidious intellect had been her toilet behavior. She lived in the house with us until she was weaned; I carefully set up a corner with plastic sheeting and newspapers and gently explained to her that that was where I preferred that she…uh…you know.
If Arthie had been a dog, I’d have expected a few initial failures and reinforcement lectures. No problem; Arthie understood instantly! She never once had an “accident.”
Arthie eventually began sleeping in her very own little house (really just a shed), living outdoors like other animals. The transition from indoors to out took some work. I swept out and cleaned an unused farm shed near the house, all except for several very heavy metal objects that I couldn’t move. I bought straw bales and in my inept human way broke and scattered them over the floor.
The very first day that I left her outdoors alone, she showed me she was no dupe!
Leaving Arthie in the yard, I lay to rest on the couch. When a very familiar little nose woke me eventually, I assumed that my son had come home from school and let her in. Nope—looking at the clock, I saw that it was much too early, and we were definitely alone. I could not believe she had let herself in, but when she performed the same trick subsequently, with me watching, I had to believe it. Unable to reach the door handles, she’d still carefully opened with her nose and come through, without damage, two screen doors.
The next day, after her first night alone in her new house, I anxiously took breakfast to a little girl who I hoped had had an okay night. There was so much junk around that farm that I didn’t really notice the new junk outside our door until I went in and saw that she, herself, had gotten rid of the door. And her straw was now neatly spread, piled high in the corner that she’d chosen for her bed. She had been a busy girl and had proven her strength, ingenuity, and independence.
When it started getting cold in the fall, I was concerned for my inability to heat Arthie’s house. (Arthie still came in the house to visit, but lived in her shed.) I had cut her door in half and removed the bottom section so that she could go in and out easily, but now so could the cold north wind.
I bought an old mud flap off a semi-truck at a junkyard and nailed it up over Arthie’s doorway so she could get in and out but the wind wouldn’t. Neighbors told me, when I showed off my neat idea, that she’d tear it down and play with it. They didn’t know my pig! That mud flap survived for over four years, until the neighbor’s cows got out and ate it. I wired the shed so I could set up a heat lamp, bought more straw bales for Arthie to arrange herself this time, and Arthie was set for another Nebraska winter.
The next summer, when Arthie had grown to weigh over 300 pounds (what is normally “market weight”), I began to fear what effect one of those hooves might have on my toes. I wasn’t afraid enough to be overly careful, though; on one of our mile-long walks to the mailbox, I became inordinately interested in a rock with a fossil in it, not paying attention to where my feet were.
All at once I felt an ominous weight on the toe of my tennis shoe. While I had time to think, “Gee, it was fun having two feet,” I hadn’t gotten around to even screeching in pain when, with side vision, I saw that great large body lean awkwardly away from me and felt the weight lift from my foot. Arthie took one stumbling unplanned step, and we walked on.
I was awed. I was sure that she’d realized she was about to step on me and had sacrificed her balance and stride to avoid hurting me. That was the only time I ever saw her move awkwardly, and I think it happened because I clumsily put my foot under hers; Arthie’s movements and actions are always calculated and careful.
When my neighbor brought me a box of cookies for a Christmas gift, when Arthie was almost two, I fed them to her because I don’t eat things like that. Somehow, I had just never found occasion to hand Arthie food before; I’d fed her from a baby bottle, then in dog food dishes, but never handed her any food. And now, sitting with Arth on the kitchen floor, I was going to place, with my very own little fingers, an itty-bitty Christmas tree cookie with colored frosting and candy sprinkles in her mouth? (At that time Arth only weighed around 500 pounds, but her jaws were already big enough to sever a large man’s leg at the thigh.)
I remembered how I had almost lost an arm when my loyal golden retriever, a large but gentle lap-dog-at-heart, was first learning to eat his hot dogs from our hands. He lost all dignity and, with a red gleam in his eyes and bared fangs, lunged with ferocity to capture that wild beast which was attacking my hand.
Yep, I thought about that, but, looking again at my big friend and knowing her gentleness, I showed her the cookie, saying “Yummm….” so she’d get the idea, and then put it by her mouth.
I wasn’t sure what would happen then. I could imagine those humongous teeth going for my hand like the dog’s had done, but I wanted to trust her.
The configuration of a pig’s skull prevents it from seeing what it’s eating while it’s eating it, so Arth couldn’t see the cookie any more. She didn’t, like one might expect, go for it blindly with her teeth, but reached carefully with only her lips to take it.
Now, is that what you’d expect from a dirty, lowly, farm animal, a creature only operating on instinct and incapable of thought? No, Arthie was my friend as much as I was hers. There just is no justification for treating pigs as a worthless life form good only to be abused and eaten.
The most impressive thing I’ve ever seen Arthie do should convince anyone that she is, indeed, an intelligent creature. She deduced a problem without being able to see it and obviously decided that it was a problem she cared about and wanted to fix, for she did. This problem was not hers, it was a cat’s. Arthie’s caring about someone else displays more than simple intelligence. What does it take for us humans to care about others? People think of fine words to describe themselves; we say that we are “altruistic, philanthropic, kind-hearted, Christian…” It would be alien to us to refer to a pig with any of those adjectives, wouldn’t it?
But consider this: On a bitter cold morning over Christmas Break last year, I carried a pan of hot soup made from leftovers out to Arthie’s shed for her breakfast. I took my house cats along with me for the walk (a fine quarter-mile walk with no concrete, no neighbors, no traffic, no signs, no empty beer cans; no cigarette butts, no emergency sirens or honking horns–through silent trees and along a pond, beautiful in summer and even in snow.
The cats always gather around Arthie’s food dish, ready to pounce, while Arthie’s eats; Arth doesn’t mind when they vie for the bits that slop onto the straw. I stood in the warm shed, enjoying being home at last, admiring how quick were the darting movements of cats in competition for food. But…not quick enough, this time.
My enjoyment was shattered by the loudest scream I’d ever hard outside a movie theater and it was coming from a little bitty house cat.
I could see what was wrong, but didn’t know what to do. Arthie hadn’t learned English well yet (who does in than four years?) and there was no way I could hope to raise that foot through my own efforts–Arth weighed about 800 pounds then. I told her, of course, what I wanted her to do, but didn’t expect her to understand.
I stood there like a fool, trying to think of a solution. Sure, I could have hit Arthie to make her move, but it would be wrong to use a deliberate act of violence to correct an accidental one. And I would not hit a friend to whom I could never explain why I had done so.
Then I saw Arth lift her left front hoof. Nothing happened, and she put it back down. Immediately, she lifted another, and when the screaming still continued, she stood back on the floor. Then she raised a third foot. No more scream, and the cat that I thought would be crippled for life disappeared out the doorway so fast he left a vacuum.
Arthie never raised that last foot, but went back to eating, while I, of course, showered her with praise and admiration.
There is no way that Arthie could have known by sight or feel that she’d stood on a cat’s paw. It’s a physical impossibility for pigs to see their feet, and she could not have felt it; her floor was not level, but covered with heaps of straw. (It wasn’t like when she started to step on my big foot out in the flat driveway.)
Besides, could she have felt it, would she have lifted the wrong foot first? And, had she just been raising her legs for exercise, why stop at three?
Logic determines that either Arthie deduced the problem on her own, or she did understand what I had said. Either way, I believe that she was a very intelligent life form whom I’m proud to call friend.
On the way back to the house, I couldn’t find K-baby. I couldn’t think of what to do for him if I did, but I looked. He did show up, healthy as ever, three days later.
Except that Arthie is too big for the doorways and can’t come into the house anymore to watch TV with us, I have to say that pigs are good competition with dogs as pets.
People are generally a little wary of farm dogs, but no one even thinks of getting out of their car when they drive into my yard and see my watchpig. Neighbors (farmers that oughta know) estimate that she’s at 1,000 pounds now, and she’s not even five years old yet.
I’m not proud of Arthie’s size because of what she could bring at a livestock auction. I am proud that she is my big, strong, healthy, intelligent friend and that I have been able to protect her thus far from all this world’s calamities, especially the nasty life forms that wish to kill and eat her–guess which ones those are.
If Arthie keeps growing and lives to be 25, as the vet says is possible, I will have put a lot of money into yearly vaccinations, feed, and cookies but, unlike with a dog, I could get that back. I could be eating ham and bacon for longer than it would keep in the freezer.
But I won’t, unless such a bad accident befalls her that euthanasia becomes necessary. Who could butcher a friend who runs to greet you when your truck pulls up the driveway?
The End of Arthur’s Story
My son, Steve, and I first brought Arthur, a baby girl with already no hope in her eyes, home with us in the summer of 1985. Arthur didn’t know it yet, so I explained to her on the way home in our truck, as she half-sat tensely on Steve’s lap.
Arthur was the result of long talks with God about the value of life. My own weighed and reweighed, the results always negative, I was not grateful for mine. As a woman in a male-dominated society, born into the underclass, I’d had no easy opportunities. Degrading work and abusive men were the story of my life.
I had said to God, “Now look. I want a good life, one worth living. I’m not asking for more than I’m willing to give. Watch me. I will find someone who, also through accident of birth, is in even worse shape than I. I’ll turn that being’s life into one worth living!”
How could I do that when I couldn’t even control my own fate? We had moved to a farm that summer and now had space, farm buildings, and love to share, though little money.
Living in that farming area, I was horribly aware of the many others more foredoomed than I–cute, small, four-legged others. What did their bright, shiny, innocent eyes see from behind the fences? Most everything mine saw driving by. And while little I saw was for me, none was for them.
Their only benefit of the fine vehicles they saw would be two rides: one to an auction, another to a slaughterhouse. No toys, no freedom, for them either. At least I, unlike they, was spared the slaughterhouse.
So, a calf or a pig baby? I didn’t know how to care for either. The sheds near the house were small. So the pig won.
I wasn’t sure at first that it would work out. I already knew, in 1985, that I would begin full-time study at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) it 1988. And who knew? While I could clearly see the evil from which I was saving Arthur, perhaps pigs had some unknown, uncontrollable flaw.
I was carefully, painfully honest with Arthie. I told her that three years was all I could offer, and that even that might not work out if I found that she was, for some reason, more than I could handle. But I was able to, and did, promise her that no matter what, she would die at home. There would be no last ride for her to a slaughterhouse, no terror, no unbearable pain.
No ghastly, unexpected flaw ever appeared in Arthur. Our experiences together, as told in the first “Arthur” story, were priceless. I will always marvel at Arthie’s intelligence and ingenuity, at her sweet, gentle nature.
I had the great joy of my big, healthy friend for seven years. But at the end of the first three, Arth stood in her yard, watching, alone, as we drove away to college in Lincoln.
I hated abandoning her every fall to a long, harsh Nebraska winter alone. I did all I could, arranging for fresh water, and a constant food supply, nailing polyethylene sheets over the old, broken-out windows in her house (shed), and leaving lots of bales of fresh straw for her to arrange.
I’d get home whenever I could, to find Arthie a little annoyed with me, but healthy and safe. So how did I know she was annoyed? The look on her face, and she didn’t talk much. But it never lasted. Arthie forgave quickly.
For four years, I was home only in summer and on school vacations. Arthie survived those years with grace and an astounding instinct and ability which we humans no longer possess.
I will always remember the warmth, the soft blue skies, and the clean smell of the earth as we would walk along our forest trails on glorious summer days. Once in a while, lying head to head in the sandy grass, Arthie and I would “nose” each other. My nose to hers, I would wonder over the great distance between those beautiful, long-lashed eyes, the massive width of her skull…and the cute little stubby hairs growing on the outer skin of her nose…and her big, beautiful unnotched ears with their long, wavy, golden hair…and those humongous jaws that could snap off my whole head in one gigantic bite.
I was acutely aware of her size and strength, knowing that they could be turned against you. Being aware that the male who protects you from the whole rest of the world can turn on you, at any time, for no discernible reason.
Arthie’s lean and muscular 1,000 pounds, which could fiercely deter a stranger or send any critter attempting to raid her feeder running in mortal fear, was never any danger to me. All the differences between us, and yet we were the same: two creatures without harm or guile, wanting only survival and peace. For ourselves, to be sure, but at no cost or harm to others.
The summer of 1991 brought on horrid new concerns to me.
Arthie started losing weight and began walking stiffly, like an old lady. The veterinarian said it was arthritis. What?! She was only 6 years old.
That summer, too, my son dropped out of college to join the Navy. After he was gone, a long-time male friend ceased to be a friend–he began trying to date me, begging for marriage. I was completely satisfied with my life as a single student, but wondered for a while if he were a good enough friend to bother changing my life for.
When I found out that he had a (completely unknown to me previously) history of wife abuse and of threatening girlfriends, my decision was made. I told him to “Forget it!” After he had threatened my life by telephone for spurning him, it was not a total surprise when he sneaked into my farmhouse and attacked me a week before school started, on August 18, 1991.
I defended myself with my late husband’s .357 handgun. [I had already had two disastrous and near-fatal relationships with men, and had sworn that this one was not going to slit my throat, as he’d promised by telephone. I thought that I had a Constitutional right to self-defense, and if he attacked me I was going to defend myself.]
I was charged with first degree murder and, a little upset, took only part-time classes at UNL the next two semesters while Arthie, and “the law,” waited at home.
Home again, summer of ’92, I found Arth barely able to walk. The sickening thought of euthanasia entered my mind. I drew a line for such thoughts–considering Arthie’s very sanitary toilet habits, I knew what it would mean if she ever pottied where she lay. I promised myself, and her, that only then would she die at my instruction.
There was a footpath that ran up the hill to her house. Part of that path was against a dirt bank overgrown with grass and flowers, separated from the path by a fence. Arthie was not a destructive girl, and she could hardly stand at the time; so it was shocking for both those reasons when she uprooted the fence and dug for herself a small cave in the side of the hill.
I couldn’t believe what she’d done. I said, “Naughty girl!” and fretted over the damage until I realized her purpose. The depression was just body-size for her, and she lay in it always after that. The earth around her was body protection for an ailing pig who felt unusually defenseless, and the location was the absolute best for proximity to water, bushes for privacy, and to me. Smart girl!
Arthie never left that spot again, all summer, except for real short, essential errands. Arthie never again met me at the gate, glowing with confident anticipation, saying those pig words that I couldn’t understand but knew what they meant: “Friend Here I am! Notice me! Come!”
Our veterinarian stopped by several times to look for something wrong with her that he could fix, but there was nothing. She was 7 years old and dying of old age.
Humans, engineering porcine genetics to get the kind of food they wanted, had neglected to factor in longevity. But it is not the span of life that is important; it is whether, when all is done and weighed, a life was worth having lived.
I watched Arth struggle up twice each day to go do private things and to drink at the pond. It hurt just to watch, Many times I thought of releasing her from her pain, but rebutted that with recollection of the line I had drawn.
I had lengthy internal debates. Was it right to refuse her euthanasia? It was not Arthie’s duty to live to please me. It never had been. But I just could not know exactly how bad was the pain.
I fed Arthie the cookies that she’d always loved, and put pig-medicine on the open sores flies had eaten through her once-thick, strong skin. Arth was starting to look like the photos of people with AIDS, her skeletal structure becoming obvious. She could no longer jump up or even stand to eat her cookies, barely raising her jaws off ground to take them from my hand.
Arthie was still happy to see me, though she hated the pig-medicine. Even unable to play in the water or go for walks along our paths through her field and woods, she didn’t seem to want to die.
My murder trial started on Monday, August 10,1992. I didn’t think I could be convicted, but then I hadn’t thought I’d be arrested, either. So, to protect Arthie just in case, I had drawn up a notarized order for our vet to euthanize her immediately were I thrown into prison. That was a difficult and tearful job, but I thought a necessary one. I would not shrink from doing anything essential to protect my large friend.
I was literally forced to leave Arthie all day for the first four days of the trial. But not on Friday.
Thursday morning I put on my grubbies to go outside and take breakfast to Arthie (which I had to do before I could dress for court), and I felt strongly that something was different with Arth.
She made eye contact with me for an unusually long time as I knelt by her on the ground. I felt, but hoped I was wrong, that she was saying: “Friend, I have loved you. Goodbye.”
I had no time for emergencies before I had to leave. Besides, I didn’t want to believe what I was thinking. “Arthie, I have to go now. I have to. You can’t see it, but there is a heavy chain on my neck and very bad people that want to hurt me are holding the other end. I’ll be home as soon as I can. It won’t even be dark yet. You’ll see!” And I left her there. Alone.
When I got home that day, I didn’t see Arthie in her usual resting place by the pond as I drove by on the way to the house. I stripped off the stupid nylons and high heels and, grabbing a new box of her favorite cookies, ran down to look for her.
Nope, Arthie wasn’t where I had expected her to be. And she wasn’t in her favorite old cooling-off place in the pond. Panicked, but hoping the truth was that she actually felt better enough go for a walk, I searched her entire four acres. I called for her, checking all of her favorite spots from the good old days, hoping. No answering snort. No Arth.
Completely shaken to the core, totally at a loss, I walked back along the pond toward the house, still carrying the now apparently useless box of cookies.
Almost there, right close to Arthie’s favorite cooling-off place in the pond, but separated from it by water weeds, was that…was that…Arthie’s golden rib cage, now dirty from months of being unable to bathe or get into her house to sleep on the clean straw, protruding from the shallow water? Her hip? Where was her head?
Stepping out into the weeds, I could see her shoulder. Further, an ear. But no face. My instinct was to dash farther out and raise her head so she could breathe. I controlled that.
There was no movement, no struggle, no pain there. The most horrible thought in my mind was “What if she isn’t dead? What if she is dying, and in that twilight unconscious state where she no longer hurts but could be brought back to life, to pain and illness?”
No. I would not attempt to block Arthie’s passage to the spirit world. Not when she wasn’t hurting and didn’t need my help. I stood frozen, silent, wet, mourning, while the sun moved relentlessly west.
But life goes on, and eventually I screamed and wailed my way back to the house to call for help from neighbors with a nice big tractor.
The most wonderful family in Nebraska came over right away and got Arthie’s now 800 pounds out of the water. It was too late to do it that night, so the next day, while I was in court, they buried Arth in her yard, right by her own house. I know there is a special place in heaven for those good people.
The following Wednesday I was convicted of first degree murder. I went into shock. Hadn’t that jury listened to the testimony? I was a respectable student and responsible parent, with no criminal record. The man who’d attacked me had a long record of assaulting women. I heard my attorney, next to me, gasp, “Oh, God!” He could not believe the insanity either. I, for my act of self-defense, had been convicted of murder by people who don’t believe that women have a right to self-defense.
I didn’t say a word. I made no sign of the dismay, hurt, horror, fear, and fury that I felt. The vicious people hurting me wonted to see pain. No, I would not give them that satisfaction. I nonchalantly strolled away with the officers fixin’ to strip, search, humiliate, and handcuff me.
They did. It was awful. But I didn’t pay much attention. There were happier thoughts to concern myself with. I didn’t have to deliver that notarized paper to the vet. Arthie didn’t have to die because of what these stupid cretins were doing to me, and no one could go out to my now-unattended farm and hurt her.
“Do what you want to me, you bastards, but you are never going to hurt Arthur. She is safe from you.” Crazy? Yes, but that’s how the mind reacts to extreme pain.
One of the jurists said later that one reason he decided I was guilty was because I seemed to have something else on my mind during the trial. Yes, I guess I did! The concurrent last illness and death of my closest friend. That made me look guilty of murder?
I had been in a solitary cell in York prison for exactly one month and one day when I first started to write this. I hadn’t thought about Arthie again until that day. Didn’t want to bawl for my captor’s enjoyment.
(The vet and I had discussed Arthie’s death. We decided that on her way to her pond place, she had keeled over from old age—heart attack or stroke?—and had peacefully slid into the water, unknowing. I, personally, need to believe that’s the way it was.)
In my concrete and steel prison cell, I was drowsing off into a nap that afternoon when mind movies of a younger Arthie romping through her grassy yard, playing in the sunshine, and running to greet me, woke me in tears.
I sat up and for the first time realized: I had done it! I did it! I did it! I really did it! I had done for someone else, someone even more miserable and hopeless than I, what God had not done for me. I had made a difference. I had done all I could to make her life worth living, and I did it!
Arthie got seven years, not three. She died at home. She had no babies sold for slaughter. No butcher’s knife touched her golden throat. And I’d made a close friend, someone to love who was always glad to see me, whom I could trust 100%. Never before and never again will I have such a friend.
Here I am in prison. A fate worse than death. Arthie was the lucky one. I had tried to convince God that it might be nice of him to make my life worth living. I had even demonstrated for him my own willingness and ability to do it for someone else, hoping that he could take a very strong hint. But, “they were right–you can’t bargain with God.” And expect anything out of it, anyway.
I did it! Even though my own is not, I made someone else’s time on earth okay. Arthie’s grave will forever stand as a monument to Arthie, to kind neighbors, and to…ME.
Is it true that pigs are as smart as dogs?
Actually, they are much smarter. On the human intelligence scale, pigs are third removed from humans, while dogs are 13th removed. Only primates and dolphins are smarter than pigs. Pigs can learn on a lateral level, while dogs cannot, which means a pig can learn something in one situation and apply it to another. I have found pigs are quick one time learners, and some learn by watching others. You can’t make them do anything. They must want to do it. They are sometimes a challenge. They are always a joy.
Pigs Peace Sanctuary
For more information about pigs and pig rescue, contact
Pigs Peace Sanctuary
Judy Woods, Director, P.O. Box 155, Arlington, WA 98223, (360)435-5435, www.pigspeace.org
Founded in 1994, the sanctuary provides medical care, a healthy diet, socialization, and a permanent home with loving kindness. Pigs Peace offers education about the characteristics and needs of Pot Bellied Pigs and the abuses too often associated with exotic pet fads. Pigs Peace Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a safe home for unwanted, abused or neglected Pot Bellied Pigs add other animals in need, including chickens, dogs, cats, horses.