Wednesday, March 1, was National Pig Day—and whenever I think of pigs, I cannot help but remember Harley, an amazing pig who touched my heart and the hearts of many lucky enough to know him.
Harley was a beautiful, 800-pound black-and-white pig who lived many happy years at BrightHaven sanctuary in Northern California. Five years ago, on July 11, he passed away—and is still sorely missed by me, so many of my students, and everyone who knew him. He was such an amazing soul that I feel the need to write about his life for those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to meet him in person.
You may remember Harley from his appearance in my first book Animal Reiki. When I first met Harley in 2005, he was still up and walking around, but a bit unstable on his feet. During his last few years, he was a paraplegic. So many students would come to work with him and think, “Oh, that poor pig can’t walk.” But over and over again, after sitting with him for a Reiki treatment, they would come back and say, “This may sound a bit strange, but I feel so happy after sitting with that pig. Something about him; he is just so joyful.” Yes, so many people felt so happy after being with Harley. This was one of his biggest gifts to this world, I think.
I’ll never forget one special day when I brought my daughter Indigo to visit Harley (she was then a little over age 2). We went out into his pasture and, of course, when he saw us, he began his series of welcoming oinks and snorts. He was always so social and happy to have visitors! Indigo was just enthralled! She immediately sat down a few feet away from him and began singing. I had never heard her do this before—she just made up a long song with lovely lyrics such as, “I love you, Harley,” “You are such a nice pig,” and “It’s fun to sit here with you, Harley.” She would sing her lyrics and then take a break—and Harley would oink back to her appreciatively, as if he, too, were singing to her some special pig lyrics. We sat there for over an hour together with him that day; it is such a beautiful memory and I will never forget it. To see his beautiful heart touch a child so much; what an amazing pig!
I had been offering Harley Reiki treatments ever since we met (and he just loved Reiki treatments!), and I have to say that each time I came away wondering who offered whom the healing? Sitting with Harley was like sitting in a joyful space with a good friend who showers you with gratitude, who laughs at all your jokes, who listens to all your concerns and who is never in a hurry.
Another fond memory I have is of watching BrightHaven staff member Fray with Harley. Feeding time was something else! Harley ate a healthier diet than most people, I think—the variety of fruits, veggies and other healthy foods he ate was quite impressive and, I admit, looked delicious even to me! His favorite treat, though, was red apples, and every morning BrightHaven co-founder Gail Pope would go out and feed him one for the day.
During the past few years of his life, Harley slowed down very gradually. In early June of 2012, I sat and offered Reiki to Harley and felt him saying goodbye to me. I felt that he was ready to let go. Although it was another six weeks before he passed, I think he was beginning the journey to transition already back then. But even in that weakened state, his energy was so peaceful, so gentle, so loving. He was ready for whatever challenges the future held.
Countless Reiki students over the years have practiced Reiki with Harley—for some students, it might have been their first Reiki treatment ever, or at least their first ever with a pig. And over and over again I would hear them describe the feeling of joy and happiness that they experienced while connecting with him.
For this pig, whose energy was bigger than life—it’s amazing how far he came from being a simple 4-H project meant for slaughter at age 1, to becoming an 11-year-old Reiki teacher who touched so many lives, an animal friend to so many.
Thank you, Harley, for serving as a model for love and joy in this world. It’s my wish that pigs and humans all over the world can share love, joy and compassion with each other. Let every National Pig Day be a wonderful reminder to celebrate Harley’s enduring legacy of teaching people to let go of pity for a physical disability and instead see the true joy and strength that exists within the heart.
(Lead photo © Kendra Luck)