Posted on Jan 13, 2015
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
The Gentle Barn is something that I believe in with my entire being and am whole-heartedly committed to. I have been with The Gentle Barn for almost 6 years and, after working as a volunteer for 2 years, I am now lucky enough to call this place my job, family, and home.
When I first started volunteering at The Gentle Barn I was a shy, lost, anti social, angry, agoraphobic young adult. I had graduated from an FX makeup school but was discouraged by not working in the field of my choice and quickly sank into a deep depression. My oldest sister had volunteered for The Gentle Barn during a hoarder rescue and insisted I visit since I always had a love for horses. My first day at The Gentle Barn was magical, I will never forget it! I fed carrots to horses, brushed cows, gave tummy rubs to the pigs, and took a selfie with a small smiling goat named Zoe(a picture I now have framed in my home). I spent the next week living in the bliss of that first visit and decided I needed to sign up to volunteer which, at the time, was entirely out of character for me and, looking back, I still don’t know what possessed me to do something so completely out of my comfort zone. Of course, I’m glad I did!
I am forever thankful for the opportunity of working on Sundays in those first 2 years, after working with the horses I was rotated to the cow area and there I stayed. I immediately bonded with the cows, with their quiet nature, loving eyes, and warm hugs; it was unlike anything I had experienced, pure unconditional love. The cows didn’t judge me or criticize me; they welcomed me warmly into their herd and treated me like family. Working with the cows on Sundays brought me out of my shell more than anything, I spent time at the library during the week learning everything I could about cows to answer all the visitors’ questions and be the best volunteer I could be. After a few months Ellie took me aside and asked me to be the manager of the cow area, I was elated and honored that she trusted me enough to offer me this position!
During this time Ellie, her family, and the other volunteers became my family. They accepted me the way I was and celebrated my differences which was something I had never experienced before.
After the majority of the cows were moved to a larger property down the road I was able to visit them three times a week. This was where most of my healing took place. I will always cherish those morning reading books out loud to the herd with a cow resting his head in my lap or bundled up in the cold months snuggled next to a giant fuzzy heater who was chewing silently and snuggling back. I talked to the cows about my problems and they listened and hugged me when I needed it.
When things started to get rough at home and I was almost forced to quit volunteering Ellie hired and trained me to take over her tours and birthday parties on Saturdays, which eventually blossomed in to a full time position working directly with her.
I have watched animals come in scared, sick, and dying and decide to start over and thrive at their new home. Ellie and Jay have taught me that healing an animal is not all about curing their sickness but sometimes more importantly, giving them a reason to start over and love again, something to live for. My job at The Gentle Barn is my most prized possession and I am forever grateful to Ellie for seeing past the awkward, lonely girl and allowing me to grow and learn. I feel that the work The Gentle Barn is doing is changing to world and I am honored to be a part of it!