Posted on Feb 12, 2016
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Jay and I went back to Tennessee this week to host groups of foster children, to train our staff, and to continue the rehabilitation of our animals. Of course, the first thing we did was hug and spend time with Dudley!
Our activity this month was preparing dinner for all our babies. The kids mixed grain and bran for the cows and horses, filled bowls of fruits and veggies for the pigs, sprinkled Sun Chlorella Algae Super Food in all the bowls, put hay in all the feeders, cleaned the pastures with big rakes and wheelbarrows, and got the satisfaction of bringing the animals in for the night and watching them enjoy the meals the kids had served. This activity allowed the toddlers to practice motor skills, vocal skills, and social skills. It gave the six-ten-year-olds an opportunity to practice sharing, taking turns, and working together. It provided the teens a chance to identify with the animals and feel useful, wanted, and needed.
In the face of extreme neglect, Indie took on the mother role for the other horses, Worthy and Chris. She gave up her babyhood and took care of everyone else. Now that they are at The Gentle Barn, Indie is still operating as the boss and is having a hard time relaxing, letting us in, and allowing us to take care of her. As we told Indie's story, we knew we were telling the children's story too. They had also not had anyone to take care of them. They, too, had to grow up fast and take care of others. They identified with Indie out loud and were honored to take care of her that day. Indie's story inspired the kids to be young again and try harder to let their friends and foster families love and take care of them.
The kids and the animals parted ways at the end of our groups feeling cared for, loved, lighter, and free. Recognizing themselves in each other, they gave themselves permission to be young and vulnerable again, opening their hearts and embracing their second chances.
It's such an honor to do this work! Watching the animals become ambassadors and the children become authentic and find their voices is like watching miracles each time. Jay and I feel so blessed and can't wait to return to TN next month to do it again!
The Gentle Barn