Posted on Dec 08, 2016
There are so many wonderful moments for us at The Gentle Barn. We rescue animals who are pregnant, who have lived terrible lives and have suffered unmentionable acts of cruelty, who give birth to babies who will always be safe and respected with us. We bring animals home who are sick and hopeless and they overcome and recover and we get to celebrate their lives. We help children find themselves in the barnyard and connect with animals. We help our guests open their hearts to animals and nature. Each day is a blessing and a miracle that we feel honored to be a part of.
However, there are hard times too. There are times when our animals get old and leave us. Even though we know they had wonderful lives, they still leave a gaping hole in our hearts when they go. There are times when we rescue animals but they are too sick and too far gone to make it, and we cannot give them the living apology that they deserve. It is devastating! There are times when animals are sick and we are up nights agonizing and worrying about them. This is not just a job we can leave when we are done for the day. We give 100 percent, whether it is late at night or on our days off or on vacation days. They are our babies and we love them and worry about them all the time.
This has been a heck of a week! Dudley has been in the hospital for close to three months. He underwent surgery, bandaging and wound care for his residual limb. He was isolated in his stall and while we visited him each day, he was away from his family and it was hard on all of us. This week Dudley came home and we could not stop crying from happiness. As we were celebrating his homecoming, our horse Princess went lame. At age thirty-two, she had arthritis and a swollen knee that we had been treating with acupuncture, but it flared up and she was struggling. We had the vet come out, but even with the acupuncture and pain meds, she was still having a hard time. We hung our last hope on one last acupuncture treatment and when it did not work, we made the impossible decision to help Princess out of her body. Then, as we were trying to grieve over the loss of our sweet, little Princess, our staff called and said our horse, Lazar, was not feeling well. Jay went to check on him and found him shaking, struggling to breathe, his heart racing, with an extremely high fever. We knew we had little time before Lazar was too weak to stand in the trailer, so Jay loaded him and drove him immediately to the emergency hospital. Lazar spent the next 24 hours the hospital with pneumonia fighting for his life. (He is still in the hospital, but doing much better now; for current updates, please follow us on Facebook.)
We have no time to stay in any one moment for too long. Each moment is felt with our whole hearts, and then we are catapulted into the next moment. We celebrate, then we are thrown into deep despair. We never get to grieve for very long, before we are refocused onto the next situation needing our attention. Life pulls us along, sometimes kicking and screaming, without much time off or time for pause.
It was hard at first to live like this. I wanted to mourn and give each animal that passed his/her due time to say farewell. When an animal was ill, I wanted the world to stop so I could stay focused on them. When there was a new rescue, I wanted to hold them, love them, and make them my whole world until they were healed. But, I have constant demands on me and I don’t have the luxury of crumbling in grief, I have to stay standing. I can’t stay at the hospital with Lazar, I have to work during the day and see him at night. I can’t crawl into bed all day with the newest rescue and hold them until they recover. I must rely on my volunteers and staff to help me.
My life has turned into a balancing act and I have finally figured out how to make it work. I figure that if I only have a short time in each moment, then I need to make that moment count and give it my all, then move on to the next moment and do the same. When Dudley came home, I jumped up and down and cried with joy. I smiled all day long until my cheeks hurt. I shared his homecoming with everyone I met that day and I immersed myself in that jubilation. When Princess passed away, I wept loud and all consuming. I held her head in my arms and stroked her neck. I told her how much she meant to me and how much she was loved. I re-lived memories with her and shared my favorite things about her. There was nothing left unsaid. When the doctor gave her the injection which would free her from her failing body, I closed my eyes and connected to her spirit. I encouraged her to lift easily and effortlessly out of her body. I imagined her floating out like a golden ray of light that brightened the entire sky. I congratulated her on her great job as a horse, promised to remember her always, and whispered farewell. I thought about her and cried and talked about her for hours. Later, when Lazar was brought to the hospital, I worried and prayed and have been visualizing him breathing with ease and coming home, ever since.
I have learned to live in each moment, like it is the only moment that exists. That is what my life has become - a string of moments that have my complete devotion. I have no time to dwell in the past, nor do I have the luxury of thinking about the future, I take what comes and dedicate myself to it, then move easily to the next. Step by step, moment by moment, I move along until strung together they all become my life, my journey, and my story.
Animals live in present time. They give their heart and souls to whatever moment they are in. Each morning our pigs cry for breakfast as if they had not eaten in months, knowing full well that they will be fed and are always fed at the exact same time each day. Mid-morning the goats, sheep, and cows lay down to meditate and with closed eyes and earnest faces, nothing will deter them from their practice. Early afternoons, the horses run and play with manes flowing and tails raised high with so much joy that their sorrow and abusive pasts don’t even exist. These animals have taught me how to live in each instant and I am grateful for the lesson. Animals have always and will always make me a better human.
I’m off to my next moment, but thank you for sharing this life with me, and thank you for supporting us so we can give ourselves to each situation, with our whole hearts, on your behalf!
By Ellie Laks
Founder, The Gentle Barn
Author, My Gentle Barn