With the snowfall on the night of Jan. 21, I was a bit slow getting out to feed Thunder the next morning. I had defrosted the hummingbird feeder first and fed and watered the ducks when I looked up to see a huge black boar heading toward the beach right into the force of the frigid wind. Thunder was out of his pen again! Grabbing a pot that held the remains of my chicken soup from the night before, I ran out calling his name. The wind off the water, even though warmer than inland air, had stopped him in his tracks. I stumbled down the path after him and shoved the pan of chicken bones, carrots and celery under his nose. He seemed a bit slow on the uptake but finally came along with me to his pen, nose into the stream of warm, good smells. I filled his dish with his regular corn and pellets but he would not come the last steps into the pen with me. I had spilled a bit of his breakfast by mistake in the snow and that seemed to satisfy him momentarily.
Instead of his usual headlong pursuit of food, Thunder turned and began walking back toward the house, with me pleading after him and waving the bowl of succulent chicken bones and corn at his backside. No amount of cajoling and oinking from me turned him from his intent, the nature of which was still not clear, at least to me. Thunder wandered around the front yard and finally stepped up on the front deck. I expected to hear splintering boards, but the deck held him and to my amazement he looked right at home next to the front door. Now I had a boar who clearly wanted inside the house, and it dawned on me that his intent was to get warm.
Sensing that I was not about to open the front door, Thunder stepped off the deck and nosed his way into the most sheltered spot he could find, right next to the wood box with his nose down under the deck. He was a miserable-looking cold pig if ever there was one. I ran inside and grabbed a woven rug that was parked “long-term” atop the dryer. It fit very nicely over his back and down to the ground on either side, and I patted him reassuringly. Thunder gave a sigh of relief. This encouragement sent me back inside for more covers, two old polar fleece blankets. When I got back out to him he was rooting around, plowing up the unfrozen earth under the snow. Down on his front legs, he buried his nose in the soft earth and lowered himself gently into the shallow dirt cradle he had excavated. Pigs are geniuses at making themselves wallows under any conditions. I threw the other two blankets over him, gently tucked them around his neck and smoothed them over his back.
On one of my dashes into the house I had called Thunder’s owner, Randy Ben David, who said he would be right over with the trailer. Thunder and I waited together, the boar shivering under the blankets and me shivering right beside him, trying to sound encouraging and upbeat about how Randy was coming and we’d get him warm very soon.
There is something special about hugging 400 pounds of shivering boar and then hearing him sigh as he begins to relax slightly. I’m happy that Thunder tolerated and even trusted my helping him. At one point in our long wait, he got up briefly to eat some food and then settled back down, the covers still around him and me beside him.
It took nearly 10 minutes of Randy patiently talking with Thunder to get him into the trailer. We wondered if his slow responses might be due to hypothermia. There had been a strong west wind overnight and Thunder’s house in his pen faces southwest. He had a cozy nest of straw inside the house and I’d added a bale the night before. Did he sense, as many animals can, that there was even colder weather approaching?
Randy’s parting words were that he’d make Thunder a warm meal when he got him back to the Native Earth Teaching Farm. I’m relieved that he will have warmer quarters during the next few days when the temperatures are expected to go down into the single digits. Now I only have to worry about my two ounces of hummingbird and how to get him through the coming cold snap.
Joanie Ames lives in West Tisbury.