Meet Rory and Eric: two pigs who survived rough beginnings and difficult losses in life, and came out on the other side to find the love and friendship they needed in each other.

For years, the two pigs led parallel lives at Farm Sanctuary: They shared similar traits and experiences, but had never actually met. Following the recent passings of their partners, however, we felt that it was time their paths should cross. These days, they are helping each other move through grief and learn to love again, side by side. Seeing them snuggling together in the barn each day, it is clear that they are better together!

Eric and Rory relaxing together in their barn at Farm Sanctuary.

It takes a village to make success stories like theirs happen; both pigs live at Farm Sanctuary because of compassionate people who took action to help animals in need.

We first met Rory in 2008 after she, her siblings, and their mother Nikki survived catastrophic flooding in Iowa — the second-largest pork-producing state in the nation. Nikki had been used as a breeding sow, confined to a factory farm and forced to breed piglets for slaughter. When the floods hit, Nikki was one of the few pigs to survive, swimming to dry ground, giving birth on a levee, and keeping Rory and siblings safe until help arrived. Thanks to a compassionate community of volunteers, friends, and supporters, this family was able to come to our New York Shelter to embark on the happy new lives they deserved.

Safe at sanctuary, from left to right: Rose, Freston, and Rory, all survivors of the Iowa floods. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

It took some time, however, for Rory to find her place. As the piglets grew, some of the siblings began to pick on tiny Rory — and her brother Chuck ultimately kicked her out of the herd. Thankfully, she found love and companionship in a pig named Rose, who’d become a mother figure to her. A friend of Nikki’s, Rose had also come to us from the Iowa rescue, but she had sadly lost her own babies during the floods. She had severe PTSD and was one of the most frightened pigs we had ever met. But she’d come into her own while helping Nikki raise her babies, and had formed an especially close bond with Rory. Eventually, we decided to house the pair together, and both pigs thrived together until Rose’s passing.

The loss of Rose was devastating for Rory. Pigs are herd animals and bond with their friends and family members for life; we have sadly seen pigs deteriorate rapidly in the absence of their loved ones. Unfortunately, though, pigs are also among the hardest of all farm animal species to integrate into established herds, and because Rory had been so low on the pecking order within her own family, we were concerned for her safety as we considered her next move. We decided to try her with another docile pig named Noah, and fortunately, the two hit it off right away, living happily together until Noah’s passing from cancer a few months ago.

Eric at Farm Sanctuary shortly after his rescue.

Meanwhile, there just so happened to be another pig in need of a friend. Eric, like Rory, had a rocky start in life. As a piglet, he had lived at a petting zoo. But because piglets do not stay cute and small forever, his eventual fate would have been to be killed for meat.

But Eric’s story took a different turn before that could happen. Among the smallest piglets in his litter, he became injured, likely as a result of careless handling by petting-zoo guests. At one point, someone apparently stepped on Eric and mangled his tiny leg. Eric wasn’t able to move or fend for himself, and infection quickly set in. As is unfortunately the case for many farm animals, the injured piglet was denied the veterinary care he needed. Since Eric’s treatment would have cost more than he was considered to be worth by the farmer, he had simply been left to die. Thankfully, a visiting family felt sorry for Eric and asked if they could take him instead. The farmer agreed, and Eric later came to Farm Sanctuary to get the lifesaving care he needed.

Young Eric exploring his new sanctuary home after receiving the veterinary care he needed.

As with Rory, Eric was low on the pecking order when it came to other pigs. Since he was so sweet and mild-mannered, some would pick on him in order to cement their own security in the herd. But there was another pig who found himself in a similar situation: Bob Harper, a frail and gentle boy who had fallen from a transport truck as a piglet. Eric and Bob Harper became fast friends, and formed a herd of two for many years until sweet Bob passed away recently.

During times of grief, love can truly be the best medicine — and while our shelter staff showered them with all the love and attention we could, Rory and Eric each clearly needed the companionship of another pig. Of course, no one could ever replace their former partners, but we hoped that new friendships could help ease their sorrows and bring them the peace and comfort that they needed. We made the decision to try these lonely, sensitive pigs together.

Eric, front, and Rory exploring their snowy pasture together.

At first, Rory was less than pleased with this arrangement. She had spent years functioning as the top pig within her own little underdog herd, and seemed worried that Eric might challenge her seniority. While they were both a bit snippy with each other early on, we soon found them cuddling together in the barn, the way old friends do.

Eric and Rory: So happy together.

These days, Rory and Eric spend much of their time snuggling side by side in the straw, and they love exploring their new pasture space together. These two are an inspiration to us all; they show that it is possible to find love after loss, and their new partnership illustrates the importance of letting that love in. While their late loved ones will always be an important part of Rory and Eric’s lives, these new friends are now embarking on a new chapter and finding the love and happiness they deserve … together.

This Valentine’s Day, we invite you to celebrate love in a new and meaningful way by sponsoring Rory and Eric or another of our featured farm animal valentines! Your one-time donation will help support your sponsored animals’ happy lives at sanctuary and make all of our rescue, education, and advocacy work possible. As a sponsor, you’ll receive a special digital valentine featuring your new animal friends, which can be printed for yourself or given as a Valentine’s Day gift to a compassionate loved one!