Goodbye, Morgana

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 5:38 am by ACR&S

We lost Morgana AKA Tilly on July 2.

TillyMorgana came to us in spring 2006, as an owner surrender. Part of a pet-store-pregnancy herd, she had been housed with her female relatives, but didn’t get along with them and was starting to injure them in fights.

Around the same time, one of our adopters lost her female Penny, and needed a new friend for her boy, Pudge (yes, the same Pudge who’s now a medical resident of the Sanctuary). Her owner saw Morgana’s picture and fell in love with her. Unfortunately, the same was not true for Morgana and Pudge. Easy-going-Pudgie was completely content with his new buddy, but Morgana would have none of it. Even after two weeks of intensive bonding and intros, Morgana was still aggressive towards Pudge. She wanted to be a single pig, and even climbed a 14″ grid to attack him! Her owner was able and content to keep them adjoining but separated, and for the next year and a half they lived the high life.

In October 2007, Pudge and Morgana were returned, as their owner was moving overseas. Since they were older and a non-bonded pair, the decision was made to bring them up to the Sanctuary in Wisconsin.

Shortly after they arrived, a friend of ours in the vet school let us know of a classmate who was looking to adopt a pig. She preferred to just start with one pig, but of course pigs are social and we almost NEVER place a single. Yet at this point, I was convinced that Morgana, alone among all the pigs I had ever met, would be content as a single. They met, she loved Morgana, and the adoption was finalized in December 2007. Morgana was renamed Tilly.

I had the pleasure of seeing Tilly several times throughout the last six months, as her owner traveled fairly frequently on school breaks and I was available to petsit. The last time was in early June – Tilly came to stay with me for two weeks.

Two weeks after she went home, her owner called and let me know that Tilly was breathing heavily, and was more lethargic than usual. Could she have gotten sick at my place? I doubted it, because none of the recent illnesses at my house are contagious (just things like arthritis and cancer and tooth problems). There were no changes in diet or stool production, so I told her that it might just be the heat (it’s been in the high 80’s up here) and to make sure to offer cool bottles for her to lie against, but to go to the vet if if the abnormal behavior continued.

On July 1, her owner called and told me they’d been to the emergency vet the previous night. Tilly had gone from “heavy breathing” to “labored breathing”, and from lethargic to listless. However, she didn’t have the funds to perform extensive diagnostics, so the vet suggested they could treat the mostly likely cause (an upper respiratory infection) and see whether she improved.

Unfortunately, this kind of treatment plan is almost never successful. Tilly showed no other signs of a URI (eye/nose discharge, “hooting”, sneezing, coughing, etc) so while a URI is a likely cause of labored breathing, it was highly unlikely in this instance. Treating in a situation like this is shooting blindly, not even knowing if there’s a target to hit. I emphasized to the owner the importance of getting diagnostics, and she decided that it would be in Tilly’s best interests to be returned to the Sanctuary, so I could pay for her care.

On July 2 we took Tilly to the Animal Emergency Center in Glendale, WI. Our vet student friend, Jhondra, is interning there, and that gave us access to an exceptional doctor, Dr Gibbons. His initial examination found edema in addition to the labored breathing, and he gave me three possible causes: kidney failure, liver failure, or lung failure. All three were untreatable, and all we could do was try and make her comfortable. But if her lungs were failing, every breath was a painful, drowning gasp, and there’s no way we could truly make her feel better. Dr Gibbons recommended euthanasia, and we put her to sleep around 11am.

I told Dr Gibbons that I still needed to know what was wrong with Tilly. Diagnostics prior to treatment are crucial for improving your chances at a cure, but even after death they can confirm and validate your hypotheses. The necropsy revealed that Dr Gibbons’ guess had been right on the mark: her lungs, liver, and kidneys were all showing signs of acute failure. We’re still waiting on the final pathologies to confirm the cause of multi-system organ failure, but the top guess is metastatic cancer. If we’d stuck to the URI hypothesis, Tilly would still have died, but much more slowly and painfully. Euthanasia had been the right answer.

Tilly touched many lives in her journeys with us, and is missed by all of us: by her owner, who did everything in her power, and made an uncommonly selfless sacrifice when she knew she could do no more; by her former owner and foster mom down in NC, who miss her bossy, bright personality; and by us at the Sanctuary, who nursed her through the final hours.

Goodbye, Tilly. I’m sorry we couldn’t fix this, but at least now you’re free from the pain.

1 Comment

  1. Jenn said,

    July 8, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Morgana/Tilly surely was an interesting pig. She stayed with me only briefly before her sojourn to WI, but she was always a funny, sassy little thing. I couldn’t help but pity poor Pudge, having such a beauty living with him who really and truly wanted to murder him.

    She was certainly a one of a kind pig!