Flo was in the dark when the waters washed him away. Since then, he had swum for his life, the sun had burned him, and he was exhausted. Then he saw a shape in the distance, so he ran towards it. Maybe this new friend could help him?
On September 4, 2018, an ocean-bound storm built up strength and became a powerful windstorm called Hurricane Florence. Although Florence’s power initially fluctuated on land, by September 9 it was officially a major hurricane. As a result, it caused chaos when it hit American shores.
By the time Florence shook the Carolinas, it registered as a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale. At its peak, the storm’s winds blew at 140 mph, but its power was just one of multiple threats. Florence also brought severe rainstorms followed by intense flooding.
Florence not only inflicted $38 billion in damage, but it also took 48 human lives. Then there were the animal deaths caused when the hurricane’s floods devastated Carolina’s farms. Floodwaters stranded starving livestock or washed away and drowned them en masse.
Florence’s deluge ended the lives of 3.4 million poultry and 5,500 bovines. Some of those pigs were in no position to escape either, because they lived in factory farms. These buildings keep animals destined for the slaughterhouse in terrible conditions.
Factory farm animals are basically raised for meat without any regard for their well-being. The result is that farmers keep the livestock predominantly in dark, confined quarters until killing them. Besides those kept for breeding, many of the animals don’t live far beyond six months old.
With no experience in the outside world, many farm factory animals are unfit and unsuited for extended activity. Consequently, when the floods swept the abandoned creatures away, it’s unlikely many of them survived. However, a few of them did, including a pig called Flo.
We can never truly know what Flo went through, either in the factory farm or the ensuing flood. What is clear, though, is that he was a very lucky and very hardy pig to live through both. Flo’s fortune held out a third time when he met Josh Walls.
On September 17, 2018, Flo stunned North Carolina animal lover Walls by arriving outside the man’s home. Since Florence had struck, Walls had witnessed displaced snakes and alligators. Even so, a pig was a new one on him, and Flo headed directly towards the 20-year-old.
With little previous porcine experience, Walls didn’t know what to expect from the advancing Flo. “I wasn’t sure if it was friendly,” he told The Dodo on September 21, 2018. “But it was just hopping and trotting along, snorting, wagging his little tail.”
After a brief assessment, Walls said that he hadn’t detected any aggression at all in the approaching pig. He said, “He was oinking, and I thought it was more of a jovial type of oinking, which was really cute.” Although Flo wasn’t a threat, his rescuer could tell that he needed help.
To begin with, exposure to the hot weather had afflicted the pig with sunburn. “I love animals …and anything suffering, I’m going to be there for,” Walls stated. “I tried my best to make sure the pig was safe.”
So Walls took Flo into his home, and the little pig had free run of his rescuer’s backyard. During this time, Walls realized just what an affectionate and lovable pig Flo was. He even named him Flo, mistaking the pig for a female.
Walls not only fed and watered Flo, but he also coated the pig in mud to soothe his sunburn. Despite Walls’s love for the amiable pig, though, he couldn’t offer Flo a home. So he did the next best thing and contacted Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary (ZRFS).
The North Carolina animal sanctuary was no stranger to sheltering factory farm animals, and Flo would be a great addition. But until they could get through Florence’s floods, ZRFS found him a temporary foster home. Walls stayed with Flo until they could transport him, treating him to belly rubs.
“I sat with Flo and got the trust from Flo,” Walls described. “They’re really cute animals, and smart. I’ve learned so much [more] about pigs in three or four days than I ever have in my entire existence.” Flo received just as much love from ZRFS too.
Jay Yontz and Kristin Hartness, joint co-founders of ZRFS, proved as much when Flo took a turn for the worse. The pig’s swim had filled his lungs with water, so Flo’s carers rushed him to the veterinarian. “We thought we were going to lose Flo last night, actually,” Hartness described.
Hartness continued, “We stayed at the vet all night long until about 6:00 a.m. We literally thought he was going to have a heart attack — he was breathing so hard and so fast.” Thankfully, Flo pulled through quickly and was back on his trotters the next day.
Walls was overjoyed with Flo’s recovery, and intends to visit his bovine friend at ZRFS soon. “That pig and I have a big connection now,” he revealed; “We’ve been through a lot.” Hartness is just as happy to welcome Flo into their family.
“[Flo’s] the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” Hartness told The Dodo; “he’s like a little butterball. He’s so friendly and cute, and goofy and lovable. Everyone who meets him says, ‘He is so special.’” Now, thanks to Walls and ZRFS, Flo can show the world just how special he is.