Posted on Aug 31, 2018
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
They played for the first time! Bouncing, leaping, wrestling, running, tussling with each other, they didn’t mind us standing there and they had no fears. Their tails were out and wagging. Their mouths were open and smiling. Their eyes were sparkling, and they seemed young, alive, and full of joy. This is the first step towards accepting our love, acknowledging that life can be kind, and recovery. That twenty minutes that my daughter and I watched the dogs play for the very first time, holding hands, smiling with tears running down our faces, with silver moonlight clouds floating by overhead, cicadas, and crickets chirping in the background, afraid to breathe or move lest they stop, lifted all grief from animal passings, eased all muscle tension from our hard work in Nashville, and reminded me why I do this work. People ask me all the time how do I keep going, and my answer is that every time a newly rescued animal finds life again like Sunshine and Wonderful did, it keeps me strong, and keeps me going. It’s what I live for!
Sunshine and Wonderful were found emaciated, malnourished, covered in ticks, infested with internal parasites, and terrified of everything and everyone. They had never been in a house, car, bed, or on a leash, and assumed the worst outcome when around humans. I had to work very hard to gain their trust and help them gain weight. As the days passed they started to trust me, wag their tails more, smile, and relax. But it wasn’t enough that they trusted me, they needed to know that from now on the world and everyone they met was safe. Each day I had volunteers come sit with them, take them for walks, and socialize them, and slowly they began to open up. And now they make progress every day. They were terrified of coming out of their crates because they thought they would be grabbed. For two weeks I crawled into their crate with them, and held them and talked to them for hours. This morning they finally walked right out of their crate on their own! They wouldn’t eat if there was anyone else in the room. Some nights I had to sit in the grass and feed them piece by piece to get them to eat. But Wonderful is now gobbling up food out of her bowl, and Sunshine has already gained ten pounds. They were afraid of coming into the house from the yard and it sometimes took me hours to get Wonderful to come to me so I could put her leash on and bring her in the house. There were many times I had to carry her into the house because she was too scared to walk. But last night both Sunshine and Wonderful ran through the back door when I called them. They were especially distrustful of men, and now they’ll smile and wag her tails even when there are men in the room! Each day is like a rebirth and it’s such an honor to witness it.
There are so many aspects of my work that I love, but breathing the life back into hopeless animals is by far my favorite. I love being the first person to witness their pain and hear their story. I love proving that they’re safe and seeing them finally believe me. I love showing them the life that all animals deserve and watching them embrace it. And I love helping them move from their tortured past to their bright happy futures until the past no longer exists inside them. Not everyone can bring animals home and spend months transforming them, but each and every one of us can be witness to animals who are living suffering lives and do something to help them! When we purchase and eat gently we witness suffering animals, stand up to injustice, and hold a place for a better life. And that is something we can all do, right where we are, right now, and I assure you that knowing you’re changing someone’s life will be the most meaningful and rewarding thing you’ll ever do! It’s like watching animals play for the very first time!