12 min read

Man Risks Life To Save Mother Pig And Babies From Terrible Fate

“I love everything about them. I love their snouts. I love their sounds. I love their demeanors. And they’re so smart. You look at a pig and it just makes you smile.”

Todd Friedman will never forget the anger and sadness he felt when he arrived at a property in New Paltz, New York, and found eight pigs living in squalor and neglect.

“It was a junkyard with pens that were bolted shut, so there was no way to get in or out of them unless you had tools,” Friedman, an animal caretaker at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, told The Dodo. “There was no shelter … except for a little towel that was maybe 12 inches by 4 inches. It hung over the corner of a pen, and they [the pigs] were trying to scrunch under there.”

Neglected pigs in dirty pen
Agnes and her babies before being rescued — they had no food, water or shelter in their pen | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

This July, Friedman and other rescuers from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, the Ulster County SPCA and Indraloka Animal Sanctuary arrived at the  property with a game plan — they were going to seize all of the pigs, load them onto a truck and drive them to safety. 

But doing so wasn’t easy. The pigs were sick and scared, and they weren’t used to interacting with people.

Neglected piglets at property in New York
Mishka and Peter, two of the piglets, at the property in New York before being rescued | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Before the team arrived at the property, someone had notified them that there was a mother with four piglets among the pigs. They located the mother, but only saw three piglets — not four. At first, they worried that the fourth piglet had died, but then they spotted the piglet — whom they named Pamela — locked up in a separate pen.

The mother pig, named Agnes, ran to Pamela the instant rescuers opened her pen.

“She bolted there,” Friedman said. “She was starving, but she didn’t go for the food, didn’t go for anything — she just wanted to get her baby.”

Pigs and piglets inside pen
Agnes lying in her pen before being rescued, while her baby Peter sticks his nose through the wire | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Agnes was so obsessed with staying close to Pamela that she refused to get into the rescue truck. Time was running out, so Friedman did something very risky to help her.

“She’d spent weeks in malnourishment, and she was exhausted and she’d been in the sun,” Friedman said. “But I saw her maternal instinct was really strong, so I grabbed Pamela and I ran with her like a football. I thought, ‘I’ve got to take advantage of this beautiful pig’s maternal instinct being strong.’ I knew [that was] the only thing that was going to help her get into the truck.”

Man carrying rescued piglet in his arms
Friedman carrying Pamela away from the property where she lived in neglect | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Agnes could have easily hurt Friedman as she tried to get to Pamela, but this didn’t daunt him. Friedman ran all the way to the van with Pamela in his arms, and like he suspected, Agnes followed.

A little later, another adult pig got loose and ran into the woods, and Friedman ran himself to exhaustion chasing after her. “I didn’t have anything in me, but I didn’t stop,” he said.

Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Then there was a terrifying moment when a pig nearly injured Friedman inside the truck.

“One of the pigs ... jumped up because she was scared, and I got slammed and hit in the head,” Friedman said. “But I didn’t feel any pain. My body was running on adrenaline, and I wasn’t going to stop until it was done.”

Man comforting pigs inside trailer
Agnes and her babies when they first arrived at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary — Friedman is coaxing them out of the truck with treats | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

By the end of the day, the team had managed to get all eight pigs off of the property and into the rescue truck, as well as five goats. Agnes and her four piglets — Pamela, Peter, Bradley and  Mishka — went to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, while the other animals went to Indraloka Animal Sanctuary and the Ulster County SPCA.

Friedman played a pivotal role in the success of the rescue mission, Kathy Keefe, shelter director for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, told The Dodo.

Man hugging piglet to his chest
Friedman touching noses with Mishka and Pamela at their new home at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“He just absolutely fearlessly throws himself into that kind of stuff,” Keefe said. “He got slammed around that day, but he never stopped. He said, ‘We need to get these guys out of here.’”

While Friedman adores all animals, he’s always had a particularly close connection to pigs — even pigs who don’t particularly like people. So it came as no surprise to Keefe that Friedman was one of the first people whom Agnes learned to trust.

Man touching noses with pig in pen
Friedman with Agnes at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“When Agnes and her babies first came, Todd was one of the people who went in,” Keefe said. “He was patient and he spent the most amount of time in there. And he’s probably the one who has been the most confident, being in there and watching their moods. And Agnes really needed to learn to trust us, so the amount of time that Todd spent with them was really important.”

Man smiling at piglet
Friedman smiling at Bradley at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“He did a really beautiful job of showing her what people could be,” Keefe added. “And I think he had a lot to do with her relaxing and letting them take care of the babies.”

Today Agnes is like a different pig — she’s healthy, happy and very calm.

Selfie with man and pig
Friedman being kissed on the cheek by Peter, who's now a fully grown pig | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“In time she became a real sweetheart,” Friedman said. “She gained probably 100 pounds in a couple of months. She’s beautiful. Her eyes are bright. And she’s very thankful. I can see it in her eyes.”

Once an overprotective mother, Agnes is now OK with people approaching her piglets, who are now fully grown pigs like her.

Man kissing nose of pig
Friedman touching noses with Agnes at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“We can all give her belly rubs and her babies belly rubs, and she’s fine with it, and she’s not going to attack you,” Friedman said. 

“I’m proud of what I did, and to be able to do what I did,” Friedman added. “I helped change five pigs’ lives.”

Man holding face of rescued pig
Friedman with one of the other rescued pigs who live at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

While Friedman did a lot to help Agnes, her babies and the other animals on the New Paltz property, Friedman insists that they actually did more to help him. At the time of this rescue, Friedman’s beloved dog, Buster, was dying of brain cancer.

Man hand-feeding large pig
Friedman feeding one of the rescued pigs at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“I was so down,” Friedman said. “They [the pigs] got me through it. I’d go to the sanctuary early, and spend an hour with them, and it was the greatest thing. It was like pig therapy for me. They do so much for me, and I’ll do as much as I can to give back.”

Friedman greeting one of the pigs at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

To an outsider, Friedman may look like a pig whisperer with special powers — but Friedman explains that he’s simply taking the time to understand them. 

“I think it’s an energy thing,” Friedman said. “I think they realize that I’m not there to harm them, and it’s always on their terms. Once you’re around pigs a lot, you can read noises. You can read body movements to see how they’re feeling.”

Man kissing pig on snout
Friedman kissing one of the pigs at the sanctuary | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

“Some don’t like to be touched, and you have to respect that,” he added. “So you go in slowly and let them smell you and let them know. If they don’t want to be touched, then don’t force it. When a pig kisses me, he kisses me because he loves me.”

Man kissing noses of little piglets
Friedman with Michael, Sara and Buster, three piglets who were rescued a few years ago | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

It also has to do with love — and Friedman has no shortage of love for Agnes, her four piglets and the rest of the pigs at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

“I love everything about them,” Friedman said. “I love their snouts. I love their sounds. I love their demeanors. And they’re so smart. You look at a pig and it just makes you smile.”

Man touching noses with a pig
Friedman spending time with one of the sanctuary pigs | Woodstock Farm Sanctuary
To see more photos of Friedman and the animals at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, you can follow the sanctuary’s Facebook page. You can also help Woodstock Farm Sanctuary rescue more animals by making a donation