Help the pigs
Ethel's surgery
Veterinary technician Sarah preps for surgery
Veterinary technician Sara preps for surgery while Judy watches.…

With over 200 animals living here at the sanctuary surgeries are common. While some are emergency procedures most are planned. Depending on the size of the patient, the procedure is either on site or at veterinary hospitals.

When we first got Ethel I started the search to get her spayed. Adult female pigs go into "heat" every 3 weeks and can be quite moody. It can be more than just unpleasant, it can be dangerous for myself and volunteers every three weeks for years. I knew a spay surgery would help us all.

Ethel is too large to go to the veterinary clinic so the spay was performed on site here at the sanctuary. Here is a peek at what is involved. Our veterinarian's office is 1.5 hours away, so it's an early start for everyone involved, three from the vet and three volunteers to help with moving Ethel while she is sedated.

Dr. Kennedy in surgery

Dr. Kennedy begins
the procedure.

8:00am - The veterinary team arrives at the sanctuary. I walk Ethel into the surgery room where Dr. Kennedy and I spend the next half hour sedating Ethel. I have spent time this past week taking Ethel on trial walks into the surgery room for treats, so Ethel is happy to enter the room and relatively cooperative -a fortunate experience when dealing with a very clever and muscular 500 lb female.

8:30am - The room starts out empty for the initial sedation so that nothing is broken if Ethel resists. Now the equipment is brought into the room and set up. Ethel is intubated and put under anesthesia -then hoisted onto the surgery table and prepped.

9:30am - Surgery begins with an incision. Dr. Kennedy performs the spay and then finishes up suturing the site. Vet assistant Steve cleans up and prepares Ethel to be moved.

Vet assistant Steve wraps up
Vet assistant Steve cleans the surgery site while Judy comforts a still sedated Ethel.

10:30am - Ethel is lifted off the table and onto a wheeled cart. She is then rolled out and into the barn and laid out in fresh hay. She will be isolated for a week while she recovers, though her best friends Isabelle and Ramona are just a few feet away watching and talking to her through the fence as she wakes up.

11:00am - Equipment is packed up and put away while Dr. Kennedy stays with Ethel until he's confident that she is conscious and responding to stimuli.

11:30am - The vet team leaves while Ethel falls back asleep.

6:30pm - Ethel is up and wanting dinner and wanting to visit. With all the other animals back in their pastures for the evening I let Ethel out for a supervised walk and some dinner.

Follow-up - I am happy to report Ethel has recovered well and is enjoying her nursing care by once again being in the yard with me every day.

She will soon be back with her girlfriends Isabelle and Ramona. I find them sleeping next to her at the fence that separates her from the pasture she usually shares with them.


Ethel's story