Hugo died on Friday 29th July after a short illness, but it was the culmination of a long deterioration due to kidney or bladder stones which may or may not have been present eighteen months ago, but had showed up on xrays this spring. Thanks to treatment by the Cambridge Cavy Trust he seemed to have recovered his old joie de vivre during late June and early July, and was almost managing to put a little weight on, but he developed pneumonia on the Monday of his last week, responding to antibiotics in the middle of the night, but being admitted to hospital at AllCreatures Healthcare on Tuesday, where he was well cared for and kept in an oxygen rich environment. I visited him daily, and gave him a gentle cuddle, and a few herbs and a little cucumber to tempt him. He was trying his best but obviously not a well piggy, and went downhill on Friday morning, having given me a big kiss on Thursday when I put him back in his cage.
Hugo’s exploits are the stuff of legend. Originally nicknamed Huge Hugo, he was a larger than life character who soon made sure everyone was at his beck and call and couldn’t quite understand how the world managed to revolve around the other pigs as well as himself. He was as often seen on two feet as four, since he delighted in taking an interest in everything going on around him and would hang over the side of the cage commenting, in the manner of Waldorf and Stadler from the Muppets.
He managed to take over the kitchen for his daily run, negotiating the steps out into the hallway as well as mid-kitchen, until his tummy problems began to make that jump a little painful, and he found a nice thick folded towel placed below the kitchen step a soft landing much to his liking. He had the routine of the day organised, and was ready to tell me when it was time for his cucumber, standing at the fridge door and staring at it, followed by accompanying me to the slicing area where he would stand on my foot to remind me he was ready and waiting.
Although he lived a quiet bachelor life with Victor, he was desperate to persuade George and then Fred to move in with him, and would try to gnaw through the bars to get to them or to draw their attention, a habit which eventually meant I had to relocate them to the other side of the room for some peace. It didn’t stop him watching them and he would continue doing that when we were on holiday, or during their grass time in the garden. On one occasion his attempts to climb over the fence between their runs resulted in the panel collapsing, and fortunately I was on hand with camera to video the mayhem and get some still shots of pigs in all the wrong places.
As he matured though he took on a new role: mentoring the young upstarts that joined the family last November, Hector and Humphrey. Initially the new pair were in a pen on the kitchen floor so that Hugo (and Victor) could continue their morning routine more or less uninterrupted. But Hugo spent a long time talking to them and guiding Hector in particular, who was definitely a pig willing to follow in Hugo’s foosteps, indeed he followed him everywhere once I decided to let the four have a general floor time together. As Hugo’s weight dropped again though, I decided Hector’s attentions might be too much for Hugo’s strength and started to give them only a few minutes overlap, much to Hector’s frustration.
Hugo was a much loved and very loving pig. He loved to be stroked in his cage, and would come to the side readily so that you could pet him as you passed. Stroking, shoulder rub, head scratch, nose scratch, more please! Victor even decided he ought to have this stroking in the cage so that he didn’t miss out. And despite having coat and skin problems as a youngster, Hugo had a lovely silky coat, chocolate and white with a snazzy Zorro stripe, and a perfectly straight dividing line down the middle of his tummy.
His cheekiness made him the perfect choice for the enigmatic stranger (was he really the villain?) in my stories, and having written him out after the first one, I had to write him back in for a story of his own later on. You couldn’t keep Hugo out of things for long. Into everything, but never found out. The world is a quiet place without him.