Like so many other pigs in Atlantic Canada, Charley’s life began in an industrial pig barn.
It is a testament to the forgiving nature of animals and Charley in particular that he is so happy and outgoing. His mother was confined to a metal crate, unable to even turn around for most of her life. As a piglet Charley, along with his siblings, shared her small space. In such restricted conditions, Charley would not have learned the many social and life skills that mothers teach their young. After being removed from his mother, but near her, Charley was castrated with a small knife, fully awake and without anaesthetic. At the same time his tail was cut off with a scissors, and front teeth painfully clipped short to the base. These horrific practices are standard in Canada, and taught at agricultural colleges. As Charley recovered from his painful experience and continued to grow, along with many other piglets he was prepared for sale. Farm stores often take orders from those who wish to purchase smaller numbers of animals, and this is likely what occurred with Charley. He was purchased by someone in the southern region of Nova Scotia, and placed in an area exposed to the elements, alone, where he lived deep in his feces . This is where Charley grew to adulthood.
When we first came across Charley it was during the colder days of January. A supporter of the sanctuary had taken the first steps in securing his release. There was snow in his living quarters, having blown in through the gaping square above him where there should have been a window. He was surrounded by his own feces, some of which had frozen onto his body, resulting in large, open sores. During the first rescue attempt, we discovered that Charley had a serious leg injury which prevented him from walking. We were unable to move him, so had to schedule a second attempt. We later found our that he had previously broken his leg and it had fused while he lay there. Charley was depressed and despondent. He lay still, looking at the wall, hoping for something to change. It did. With the aid of six volunteers and equipment built specifically for this rescue, Charley was brought to North Mountain Animal Sanctuary. As soon as Charley arrived, he heard fellow pig Wiggly, and snorted back in return. His eyes lit up, knowing he was no longer alone. Charley was provided with a larger barn, with plenty of dry straw and added heat from above. Every day he made progress.
Our own Clinical Herbalist, Amanda Dainow created a special natural salve to be applied daily to the skin (it healed within days) that had been damaged from frostbite and filth, and a penetrating pain salve to help heal his leg. Almost immediately, Charley responded to our kindness, and never demonstrated aggression towards us. Within weeks, his leg healed enough for him to begin walking again, albeit slowly. Two months later he would be able to skip along quickly. It seemed that Charley had decided to live in the present, and put his past behind him. Today Charley has blossomed into an extraordinarily friendly pig with a great laugh. Despite his large size (500 + lbs) he is a gentle soul, and enjoys meeting with volunteers and visitors alike. Charley has become an ambassador for pigs everywhere – educating folks about the true scope of pig personality and emotion, as well as the atrocities of industrial pig farming and why it needs to end.