8 min read

Rescued Senior Pig Purrs When He Eats Out Of His Dad's Hands

He also gets massages and has a flat-screen TV in his stall.

Old pigs don't always get the love they deserve.

Often, it's all about the bouncing baby pigs, rescued from dark places and basking in their newfound lives.

Then again, most pigs don't get a chance to be old. They're born for the dinner plate, most meeting their end before their first year in this world.

But Bear had managed to find a lifeline at a sanctuary in Quebec, Canada.

And it lasted 14 years before he needed to be rescued all over again.

"It was an elderly lady who had been running this sanctuary for decades," Steve Jenkins, founder of Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary in Ontario, Canada, tells The Dodo. "It was a wonderful place. They had done wonderful, wonderful work."

But as she got older, the woman found herself increasingly overwhelmed and unable to care for the animals. Bear developed severe arthritis. He was malnourished, with barely enough hair to cover his back. His toenails had grown to the point of crippling him.

"It's not that she had bad intentions or wasn't good at what she did," Jenkins says. "She had just gotten too old and couldn't handle it any more."

So Jenkins and his partner Derek Walter offered to bring Bear, along with three other pigs, to their refuge, where the animals could join one of the world's most famous pigs, Esther the Wonder Pig.

"Pigs are not bred to live long lives," Jenkins explains. "So they are prone to genetic issues, including arthritis and some cancers and things that happen later in life that there's not a lot of treatment for because nobody's put in the research effort to figure out how to fix it or prevent it."

"It's not a priority for them."

Instead, he suggests, most pig research focuses on quality of meat, not quality of life.

Even veterinarians are stumped when they come across an older pig.

"When we're dealing with our vets, who are amazing, they have very limited experience in dealing with older pigs because the opportunity doesn't present itself," Jenkins adds.

In that sense, Bear is blazing a new trail simply by virtue of being old and happy.

Sadly, there was little Jenkins and Walter could do for Bear's arthritis, except make him as comfortable as possible. And so, they spared no kindness, giving him the best medical care, regular massages, sharing cake with him on his birthday and making sure he had a steady roommate in Leonard, another rescued pig.

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

Still, it seemed a shame that Bear's arthritis wouldn't let him step into the yard and explore his world.

"Pigs are so, so curious," Jenkins says. "They want to see everything. They want to explore everything."

So Jenkins and Walter came up with the idea to outfit Bear's barn with a home theater system.

At first, it was just an old projector and speakers, a hand-me-down from their own home. But a woman who was visiting the sanctuary came up with an idea for a serious upgrade.

She convinced the company she worked for to donate a high-end, 42-inch flat screen TV that could withstand the rigors of being inside a barn.

"It's the kind of TV you would see installed in a panel in a store with 20 other TVs to make almost a billboard-sized screen. It goes right edge-to-edge," Jenkins says.

And for Bear, it is the whole world. Literally.

He spends his days watching a nature documentary called "Earth" - spellbound by all that dizzying aerial photography.

But what may be his favorite so far is a Will Ferrell comedy called "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

"When you watch him - and you sit back and just look at the way he stares - you know he's paying attention to it. It's really amazing to watch," Jenkins says.

Jenkins knows this pig isn't getting any younger. His old bones creak, even though he's always first on the farm to rise for breakfast. Jenkins thinks he's probably reaching his optimal life expectancy at around 16 years old, or about the same as the average dog.

But until he issues his last, contented snort, Bear will keep savoring every slice of birthday cake - and every Will Ferrell joke - like it's his last beautiful day on Earth.

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

Along the way, maybe he will teach us all something about why every pig should live a long life.

"We're learning new things every day thanks to these guys," Jenkins says. "And by just allowing them to be themselves."

"They're just so unbelievably clever."

Want to follow the adventures of Bear and the other animals that call Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary home? Find them on Facebook.

And if you would like to support the sanctuary and its mission to save animals like Bear, consider making a donation.