Sometimes rescuing animals is not only a running thought, but it is an instinct. This is exactly how Jena and Anthony Mazzio felt when they finally opened Ahimsa Acres Sanctuary and it certainly showed when they saved a 10-day-year-old pig who only had a 5 percent chance of living before he was lucky enough to meet them.
Rocky the miracle pig has brought the Mazzios’ a story that will forever remind them why they are doing what they do. Rocky is named after Rocky Balboa for the fight he put up and for the Mazzios’ hopes of never giving up.
After opening their dream sanctuary in March of 2015, Jena and Anthony Mazzio find themselves with a loved handful 11 chickens, 6 ducks, 5 pigs, 3 rabbits, 2 sheep and 2 goats later.
Q: How did you come up with the name ‘Ahimsa’?
A: Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which originates from the Hindu language. Simplified, it basically means compassion and nonviolence for all beings. It is something I learned about through yoga. The word always stuck in my head. It’s really how I want to live my life, not just for animals, but in general. I want to be the nicest person I can be and do the least damage to the Earth, to other people and of course to animals. A lot of people don’t know what it means which I think is positive for us because it gives us a chance to explain what it means and engage in that conversation. It’s what we embrace at the sanctuary.
Q: Is there a story to why you wanted to open a sanctuary?
A: I’ve always loved animals since I was little. My mom has a picture of me pushing my dog Tasha, who they got as a puppy and who I grew up with, in a stroller. So, I’ve always had a strong connection with animals. As I got older I went vegetarian and in college I learned more about farm animals and the plight of those animals. My husband and I visited some sanctuaries in New York and after one visit at Farm Sanctuary I was like ‘this is what I want to do.’ It was always in the back of my head and I knew I wanted to do this some day.
Q: Can you describe the night you took in Rocky?
A: As soon as I saw him I knew he had to be rushed to the vet [New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania]. He was covered in lice and motionless. He didn’t make any noise or show any movement. The only way I could tell that he was alive was by his blinking. Otherwise, he was just laying in this little crate. The doctors started accessing him right away. They were trying take blood from him, but the problem with pigs is that their skin is so thick and their veins are so deep inside of their bodies, it makes it difficult to get a needle in to pull blood. They tried every spot on his body and they couldn’t. So, they just started treating him based on his physical condition and assumed he had a full body infection. They started him on antibiotics and fluids. That was the beginning of it all. That was the first night that we had to leave him there.
Q: How was the process of treating Rocky?
A: A couple of days went by and there were no real improvements. He wasn’t responding to any of the treatments. The doctors said they thought we might have to euthanize him, but we said we can’t give up without trying everything that we possibly can. We told them try everything they can, even if they think it’s not going to work. They began with a radical procedure and had to put him down for surgery. They cut into his jugular vein into his neck and were able to do a blood test and put an IV line into his neck. They were actually feeding him also through that line because he wasn’t eating. A couple more days went by, then the line in his neck fell out, but they got it back in. A couple of more days went by and then his bladder stopped working. The doctors had to put a needle in his bladder and drain his urine. After his bladder started working, his sodium levels became dangerously high. All this time his heart was still strong and so was his breathing. A couple of more days went by and things started to stabilize. He started baby food through a syringe and he loved it. He had this ravenous appetite. Then he started to drink water on his own (still lying down.) He was eating well, he was going to the bathroom, he was drinking. All signs were looking good, but he still couldn’t stand.
The doctors figured he had meningitis at some point during this. That is a disease that effects the nervous system, so they thought he could possibly be paralyzed. More days went by and on a Thursday we got a phone call with news that Rocky is up and walking! He had been in the same spot for 16 whole days and on the 17th day he was wobbly and stumbling, but he was up and moving. It was a huge and emotional car ride home.
Q: Does he have any health problems now?
A: He might be stunted in growth a little bit. We’re actually going to see if we can get a pig expert to come out or look at his pictures. We don’t know exactly how old he is which makes it a little hard. We think he’s about 4 months. But he’s growing and he’s running around acting like a crazy little pig. The only thing we notice every once in awhile is that he’s a little bit unsteady on his front legs which is where the problem was. We took him to an animal physical therapist and they said he has short tendons in his legs because he was down for so long. We did stretches with his legs, but now he runs outside and stretches them out on his own. Other than the little legs issues that we see, he’s happy and healthy and just wonderful.
Q: Are you getting a lot of support from the public?
A: Everyone loves him and especially his eating videos. He has his own Facebook page. He has a huge following. People from all over the world are following his story. We did a card donation drive. We sent out our address and said if you want to send Rocky a get well card or donations you can. People from all over the world sent things. He got a card and a teddy bear from Australia. The outpouring of love and support through Rocky’s ordeal is another thing that kept us going.
Q: When was the moment you knew you made the right decision by trying everything before considering euthanizing him?
A: I would say when we heard he was walking was the moment. Up to that point the doctors told us there would be a good chance Rocky was paralyzed. Then, we would have to think about the quality of life. You can’t really have a big animal like that not being able to get up and there were so many things to consider. Until we knew that he could walk there was still a little thought in the back of my head that we might have to euthanize him for his sake. We didn’t want to make him live if he would be better off. When we heard he stood up and was walking around we were like ‘thank goodness we didn’t make that decision.’
He has a very strong will to survive. Every time I look at him my heart just gets full. I’m glad he ended up with us. Because if he was with someone else, even another rescue, they may have not had made the same decisions as we did and he might not be here. I’m honored that we get to have him and get to experience his life with him.