Portola Valley local Pickles the Pig, who is highly popular on Instagram, almost died after mistakenly eating rat poison on a 2017 visit to New York City.
His owner Maddie Johnson noticed something was terribly wrong after Pickles appeared to be unwell.
“Pickles has vomited nine times and he is not looking good,” Johnson said on Instagram. “His vet recommended we take him to a pig specialist so we are on our way to University of California, Davis Emergency Care.”
Veterinarians performed several tests on the animal including X-rays, and confirmed he was in an “extremely critical condition.”
“They found a huge amount of blood in his lungs and [he] only has 3 percent of his red blood cell count when most pigs have 30 percent,” Johnson said.
A full team initially considered whether Pickles needed surgery until they discovered he had most likely eaten rat poison and predicted he only had six hours to live.
Johnson did not accept defeat and asked veterinarians to let her find another pig that could donate blood for a lifesaving transfusion.
“He desperately needs blood so we are scrambling to find a pig near UC Davis to put under just to take blood from,” she said on Instagram. “We are praying we can pull this off.”
According to The Dodo, she searched through items for sale on Craigslist.com and found a farmer who was selling his 450-pound slaughter pig and willing to loan the animal for the transfusion, provided Johnson arranged the transport.
After searching Craigslist again, she found someone who was willing to pick up the slaughter pig and transport it to UC Davis, 72 miles northeast of downtown San Francisco.
By the time the donor pig arrived, more than six hours had already passed. Vets urgently performed the blood transfusion and saved Pickle’s life.
“Pickles after his blood transfusion,” Johnson said on Instagram. “Still not well enough to eat a proper piggy pie for #piday but at least he’s eating blueberries, his favorite.”
Since the operation was a success, Johnson bought the donor pig from the farmer and named her Tickles. They began a nationwide search for a new home for the animal that was much too big to stay with them.
“We are looking for a forever home for our hero pig, we’re willing to pay the transport costs to ship her anywhere in the country but keeping her in California would be a big bonus,” Johnson said on Instagram. “Pickles will want to visit her! Oh, and we promise not to deliver her in a U-Haul this time.”
The search eventually ended with LA Animal Rescue whose staff had already heard of Pickles and Tickles.
“Cowabunga party people, thanks to my pig pals @piggypoo_and_crew and @kunekunebabes I’m about to have a new home at @laanimalrescue,” Johnson said on behalf of Tickles on Instagram. “Yee-haw let’s keep this party goin!”
Johnson has since posted an update that she and Pickles visited Tickles at LA Animal Rescue after the New Year with a couple of “big bags of feed and tons of goodies.”
“While we mostly fed her healthy veggies … as you’ll see in the videos, her grand finale consisted of a blueberry muffin and a couple of cupcakes,” Johnson said on Instagram. “Not the healthiest of options but let’s face it, she totally deserves it.”
Johnson also authored a book about the whole ordeal, entitled “How Tickles Saved Pickles” that can be purchased on Amazon.
“I am excited to announce I officially have my own book,” Johnson said on behalf of Pickles on Facebook. “It’s a true story about my friendship with the 450-pound pig that saved my life, it’s filled with lots of beautiful photos and I think you’ll really like it.”
The video has been viewed 14 million times, liked 41,000 times, and shared 7,100 times.