Poking a pig in the poke


Turns out, pigs don't like 18-gauge needs-or the guy holding them

There were trees and vines and ivy and shrubs and bushes and fountains, and a pot-bellied pig.

That's right, one large pig called this paradise home. She was living in the perfect pig world. She had everything a pig could want. There was a muddy wallow, soft soil to root around in, shade, plenty of food and all the attention a pig could ask for.

My mission was to vaccinate the critter for all those bad pig diseases that might sneak into the yard. It was my last call of the day, and I had brought along my 5-year-old daughter. We entered through the house, and the hog owner took us to the pig paradise she called a backyard. I had to stop for a minute and think how wonderful it must have been to live in this yard. As I stood there absorbing the surroundings, my eyes fell on Prudence. She was sunning in a mud hole next to the forest that crept along the back fence. She was framed in ivy that was growing around the trees.

"Is she hard to catch?" was the first thing out of my mouth, as I pondered how I was going to give three shots to a free-roaming pig.

"Oh, no," replied the owner. "She just loves people and will come when I call her."

Sure enough, the lady gave a sweet-sounding yodel. The pig hopped out of the mud and came waddling toward the three of us. We petted her for a while, and I heard all the stories about having a pig living in the backyard.

The pig grunted and oinked as we scratched those hard-to-reach places. Life was good. I decided that the time was right to gently slip the first injection in her neck muscle. I tried the "sneak-it-in" approach. The moment the needle broke the skin, Prudence turned into the fastest-moving animal I had ever seen. In fact, her reaction startled me so much that I let go of the syringe and needle. As bad luck would have it, the needle stayed in.

Prudence shot off like a bullet for the forest. I was hot on her trail. Just before we hit the heavy vegetation, the syringe fell off the needle, leaving only 1.5 inches of the stainless hypodermic needle embedded deep in the muscle of her neck. This was a problem. The weight of the syringe would have surely pulled the whole thing loose, but now it was there to stay.

We ran through the forest, dove past the mud holes, tangled and wrestled in the ivy, and she darted around the storage house. This pig knew every shortcut the yard had to offer.

Eventually, Prudence settled back into her mud hole. But every time I took a step toward her, she assumed the starting position of a sprinter. She clearly had the upper hand.

It was then I noticed a giant beach ball next to my right foot. It was Prudence's favorite toy. I decided to use it as a decoy to hide behind. I laid down and crawled behind the cover of the ball across the yard toward the needle-pierced pig.

The tension mounted as I approached her. The closer I got, the slower I progressed.

I had narrowed the gap to about five feet. My prey was close. Quiet. Slow. I could leap from behind the ball and grab the hub of the needle that was shining in the sun. I could feel the sweat beading up on my forehead as I anticipated the moment.

I pounced from behind the ball like a cheetah starting the chase. She didn't have a chance to move. I grabbed that needle out of her neck and held my hands up like a cowboy who had just tied a calf. Cheers erupted from the laughing 5-year-old and stressed-out hog owner.

We came to a mutual agreement that the risk of catching a contagious hog disease in the middle of town was minimal and decided not to try vaccinating speedy Prudence again.

Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Brock, visit dvm360.com/brock

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