One of the most difficult times in the sanctuary, or at least for me, is when one of the animals that we rescue dies. There are many feelings and emotions involved in our relationships with rescued animals. We take in our arms animals that the industry has completely destroyed: orphans, amputees, dying, insecure, fearful. They do their best to heal and to have normal lives in freedom, and we dedicate our entire lives so that they can enjoy the freedom that they deserve. Many times we succeed together, we get ahead, and we have many years of life ahead of us; many times -regardless of the efforts- we fail. But no matter what the reason is, losing someone you love, someone you cared for like a child, someone desperately seeking freedom, someone who wanted to live, will always be very painful.
In these more than 14 years I have had the misfortune to see many leaves, either due to natural causes or simply because they failed to overcome the mistreatment that humans gave them. For us, as caregivers, it is extremely painful, and I cannot even describe how many times my heart has been destroyed. Each pain is different because each fight and each individual is different, and the next day we must continue with strength because there are many who still need us. The past few months have been difficult. Our beloved Milk Alberta passed away from a disease that almost does not exist in Colombia. Milk was the founder of the sanctuary. We rescued her when she was just 3 days old, which means that she and I were born on the same day. Milk is my soulmate. Milk was a fantastic animal; without a doubt a very special being who died in our arms while we told her how much we loved her. She was 12 years old when she abandoned her body. I pretended that day (so that she left calmly) that everything was fine and she could leave; the reality is that inside I was breaking into thousands of pieces trying to hide the tears so that Milk could go away calmly. I lied to her, I told her that she could go, that I was already prepared. The reality is that I am never ready.
A few days apart, Perla, the pig, died. Perla and I had a very special bond. When Perla fell ill, I was traveling to give a speech in Brazil at the Vegfest. I had a ticket that would keep me out of the sanctuary for 10 days, with no options to change the trip. as soon as I landed in Brazil my sister who was in charge at the moment called me to tell me that Perla could not walk from one moment to another. At that time, from a great distance in the Sao Paulo airport, I contacted all the veterinarians in the country and those from other countries. I contacted more than 5 sanctuaries from other countries with experience in pigs. We all started working at the same time to improve Perla’s health. Perla did not want to eat without me by her side, so we organized video calls so that she would be encouraged to eat, and so she began to eat. That trip was the worst of my life. Being away from Perla when she needed me the most .was a complete nightmare.
As soon as I returned to Colombia, Perla began to show rapid improvement, followed by two surgeries that were very helpful *. Perla improved, ate and started walking, hand in hand with our friends at The Pig Preserve. It filled me with strength and courage for us to emerge as winners of this battle. I must confess that many nights I returned to my room crying (and I do so as I write this), wishing to return to the past so that I could solve whatever caused this illness. We had to help Perla get up to eat and walk a little, as it was part of the therapy. Lifting a pig of more than 250 kilos is not easy. this caused 3 herniated discs that are now a big problem for me. Another time she lost her balance and fell on one of my legs. I was unable to walk for a few weeks. We live all of this together, we fight together hand in hand, like the family we are
One day, I noticed that Perla was not well. My heartfelt something as if she was saying something to me. That day I felt that she asked to see a movie with me once again, and we saw Star Wars The Last Jedi. We jokingly said we were getting ready for the one to come. Perla was very excited about the lightsabers’ fights. That day she ate all of her breakfast, but when I returned to dinner, I found her lifeless body. My beloved Perla had departed, and our fight, our love, our strength, had all gone with her. There I was, on her lifeless body, her calm face with a great smile; I swear, beautiful as always, peaceful. I cried just a little and continued with my activities because it was lunchtime, and everyone was asking for food. An hour later, I informed the rest of the team about Perla’s departure. For some strange reason, a tear did not come out, although I was in total shock …
The days passed, and the day of the tour arrived, two weeks after Perla’s departure. On the tour, the last place we showed was Perla’s. Before she was Poldark, who enjoyed human kisses and hugs very much … While I was explaining Perla’s story, out of the corner of my eye I was looking towards Perla’s area. That empty area, that one with her absence, that area where I could no longer give the tour … I said: “And Perla was in that area …”, and while I was preparing to tell her story, in front of more than 50 people, I couldn’t contain myself and I burst into tears. I cried like a 5-year-old girl, sobbing, and I had to sit on the mud next to Poldark to be able to control my breathing, my pain, and my suffering. I never thought that I would break into tears in front of everyone. I still feel ashamed about this, and everything hurts me infinitely. That afternoon I entered my room and again cried deeply. The pain was so strong that I couldn’t stand up, I just thought about how much I loved Perla, how much she fought for life, so brave, so strong, always so fantastic. My beloved Perla, my superheroine. She was always a fantastic pig. Since she came to us with 4 days of life she only showed strength, intelligence, wisdom, and sweetness. She is one of the people that I admire the most, and I hope someday to have some of her qualities.
A few months have passed and her absence still hurts. Now the place where Perla lived is occupied by Juanito, who has given life back there. This is a part of life that many are unaware of in the sanctuary. For us here, there is no time for mourning. We must continue. We must continue working because we must make money for more than 100 animals. We must continue fighting (and crying) but we must continue. This, I would say, is the most difficult part of having a sanctuary, and really for this, we are never prepared.
* Perla was the first big pig in Colombia who had surgery to save her , help her walk, and have a better life.