Back at the beginning of February, it had been too cold to snow for a couple of months, but then a warm front from the Atlantic met a cold front from Siberia which was enough to result in snow. The ground up here in the wilds of North Yorkshire had been like tundra for many weeks, absolutely frozen, so Penny Pig and Snoutychops couldn’t go out and root, which meant me feeding them twice a day.
Being fed twice a day and cold outside is not conducive to healthy and happy pigs, believe me, as all they did was sleep and barely saw the daylight, because there was so little daylight. It was a Saturday and I fed the pigs earlier than normal, at about 5.30pm as it had been snowing steadily since mid day. They both eagerly scoffed their food and as usual, went for a little lie down. They, like their owner, do not like the snow. I think it hurts their little trotters as it is so cold, so the snow sends them back to their sleeping quarters to snooze. I checked on them after they had gone back in to their piggie palace and Penny Pig was shivering around her tummy area. I thought maybe she had wolfed down her food too fast and she had indigestion, so I gave her a little rub to try and reassure her.
I was slightly worried though, and went to check on them again at about 8pm, when I saw that Penny Pig was shivering uncontrollably all over. It was at this point, I became extremely worried about her. She was cold all over; her snout was cold, as were her ears, her whole body. It was still snowing and about 8″ had accumulated on the ground outside and my place was well and truly cut off.
Snouter seemed fine and was not shivering so I edged in to the piggie palace and started to rub Penny Pig all over with my hands. The look she gave me broke my heart. I couldn’t get her warm so I went back to the house and found a couple of old coats and laid them on top of Penny and Snouter. I continued to rub her fur all over to try and warm her up, under the coat, but still she could not stop shivering.
At 9.30pm, after having googled ‘shivering pig’ it seemed from the information I gleamed that she had hypothermia. I called the vet, not really expecting to get hold of anyone, but to my relief, because by now, I was frantic with worry, I spoke to a very nice vet. The conversation went like this:
Me: hello, I am so sorry to call you on a Saturday evening, but I am really worried about one of my pigs. I have two pet pigs, brother and sister, they are nearly three years old and the sister, Penny Pig is shivering uncontrollably
Vet: oh, it is quite cold (it was actually -17 oC), put them in a big box and put them near the fire
Me: long silence…….er…….they are a little large for that
Vet: well, if you can find something to hold them and put them somewhere warm
Me: another long silence…..we are talking pigs, aren’t we?
Vet: you said guinea pigs, didn’t you?
Me: No! Laughter – much needed laughter (on both sides) as I was so worried – no, they are pet pigs and they are enormous, almost three years old
Vet: oh good God, don’t bring them inside
Me: I wasn’t planning on it (though I did have a roaring fire going, I knew this was not a good idea)
Vet: well, do what you can to keep them warm, but I’m afraid I’m not sure if there is anything more I can do. I can’t get to you because of the snow.
Me: I’ve covered them both with old coats, but Penny Pig can’t stop shivering.
Vet: I think you have done all you can. Feed them more and keep them as warm as you can. You will know tomorrow.
Me: well, thanks a lot, I’ll go and check on them again.
I went back to the piggie parlour, crawled in the piggie palace to check on the pigs and still, even though they were lying together, huddled up, Penny Pig was shivering under her coat. No amount of rubbing could stop her or warm her up. I went back to the house, put on another pair of socks, so clad in my piggie suit, a hat and wellies I decided I would settle in with them and try and keep them both warm. I wedged myself between the two pigs and tried to go to sleep with most of my body against Penny Pig. I don’t know how long I was there for, but it was very uncomfortable as Snouty kept moving his legs and putting his trotters in my back, so I gave up and headed back, bleary eyed and cold to my bed.
The next morning, I was up at the crack of dawn with a steaming bucket of piggie food. Snouter heard me approach and came out. It seemed an age before Penny Pig came out, but out she came and tucked in to her hot breakfast after I’d cleared enough snow for their trough.
Later that day, I found an old pair of red velvet curtains belonging to a previous occupant and nailed up a big curtain at the entrance of the piggie parlour and two more in front of their sleeping quarters. I also filched a spare thermometer from work and put it in the piggie parlour so I could keep an eye on the temperature, not that it took much to realise that it was cold, because all the water troughs were continually frozen, despite my efforts of lugging buckets of hot water to defrost them. Just hanging up curtains has made a tremendous difference and now you can feel their body heat when you open the curtains to where they sleep. I also bought some fleecy blankets from Asda and they too make a tremendous difference.
They are now very happy piglets and are nice and cosy and warm, for the nights are still dipping down to just above zero, even now, mid March.