By Sally Cranswick

A few days before our visit to the Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary I wrote to Founder, Nicky.

“Can we bring something useful, like a sack of carrots?”

“Oh yes please,” she said. “But make sure you give them to us before you enter, or the pigs might overwhelm you.”

In the event, the pigs were very well-behaved, but we were overwhelmed by another and very unexpected species. Within moments of setting feet on the farm, Eep ran to greet us with his bulbous grey head to one side and his enquiring eyes on us; this was shortly followed by pecking our feet and mighty wing displays. To see a Blue Crane in the wild is always fleeting and precious, but Eep gave us every opportunity to explore his magnificence at close range – closer, in fact, than most would find acceptable in these times of social distancing…

Eep was delivered to the sanctuary as an orphan, and was hand raised by Nicky. He gives the impression of being the self-appointed Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary Mascot and the Most Important Animal on the Farm. Where we went, he went. When the wild cranes called from beyond the dam, he feigned disinterest. Greeting and maintaining contact with guests at all times was Eep’s primary concern. Ruan, our wonderful guide, advised us not to touch him in case he got cheeky, but I couldn’t help feeling that ship had sailed. But let me get back to the pigs…

Ruan took us a field of rambunctious, teenage pot-bellied pigs. There is a lot of running and greeting at GFAS and the Pot Bellies didn’t disappoint. These teens were rescued from sellers at the side of the road and then Nicky didn’t rest until she found the mum, who was already pregnant with her next litter. Cue another rush of greeting from the cutest, most adorable piglets you can imagine, who were swiftly followed by 100kgs of mum and, given the life she’s led, it’s no surprise that she’s protective of her offspring. Ruan distracted mum so my daughter could give the babies tummy tickles and when I turned around a few minutes later, I caught her sneaking a kiss to one little piglet, who was lying blissfully in the sunshine with hands of love all around.

It’s fair to say that there are pigs everywhere you look – even a pig with paralysed back legs and a wheelie transport device. Ruan balanced telling us about the situations these animals had come from with a good dose of positivity. Eighteen pigs had just been surrendered by a backyard breeder GFAS had been working with for years. They finally managed to help him start up a more profitable venture into selling veggies so that he could happily hand his pigs over to the sanctuary. It’s that sort of tireless work of understanding and endurance that helps the plight of farm animals.

By this time, Eep had lost interest in us. There was a new batch of visitors to overwhelm and he wasn’t about to miss that opportunity.

Due to a generous donation, there is a visitor centre under construction; it’s going to be amazing. On reflection, and having seen Eep in action, all it would take is a clipboard and a name badge and I think Ruan could safely take the day off…

Thank you so much to Nicky, Ruan, Eep and all the volunteers and workers at the Sanctuary for such a warm greeting. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Sally Cranswick is a Vegan, a Writer and a Creative Writing Workshop Facilitator with a special interest in memoir and life writing. Her collection of short stories, Women out of Water will be published later this year with Modjaji books. Facebook @tellingstoriesworkshop