Posted on Dec 13, 2018
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
I get asked often, what is the hardest part of running a sanctuary. There are so many rewarding things and many hard things. It is hard to be at capacity and have to turn down the intake of an animal in need. It is hard to save an animal only to find out that they are too damaged to recover, and we cannot make it right, and they’ll never get to live the wonderful life we have for them. And it is difficult saying goodbye when it’s time for an animal to transition. But for me, the hardest part is dealing with the enormous responsibility of caring for an older animal that is approaching the end of their life. I call this the gray area. When they are mobility challenged or are dealing with an illness, and we are trying to decide how to help them; should we help them cross over, or if they’ll go on their own? Are they still thriving, or are they suffering? When would they like to go, or do they still want to stay for a bit longer? I take these decisions very seriously and it never gets any easier, even after twenty years.
The first two things we look at is appetite and mobility. Typically, if they are not eating and not walking, it could be their time to go. If they were in the wild, they would certainly not survive like that. But what if they are eating, just not able to walk? Then the calculation has to be made about the quality of life. It is our promise to the animals we rescue to give them the best life and never let them suffer but there is no clear measuring tool to assess if someone’s happy or not. And that’s where the connection with the animal comes in. Are they still engaging with people, or are they withdrawing? Are they excited about meals and are they still saying yes to life? Do they still have things that they enjoy and bring meaning to their life, like relationships and activities? And these things need to be reevaluated every single day, like new.
It is relatively easy for us to bring animals home, heal their broken hearts and bodies, and give them the life they deserve with friends, family, and purpose. But it is such a great duty to listen to my instincts, listen to the animal, and represent their wishes at the end of their lives. Especially when an animal seems to be suffering but wants to stay. Or an animal wants to leave but it’s hard to let them go. That’s when it gets even harder. That’s when we rely the most on our veterinarians to counsel us, give us an outside perspective, and be strong for us. But the thing that gets me through those times the most is my commitment to being a steward for the animals. It is never about me, my feelings, or what I want, it is always and forever about them. I am but a small part of their journey, and I am humbled and honored to serve!
Almost ninety percent of our animals at our California location are seniors. And most of them are still thriving beyond their life expectancy. It is such a gift to have them as long as possible. To keep them mobile and comfortable we are treating them with acupuncture and massage therapy, ultrasound, and chiropractic care. And of course, all of them get Sun Chlorella Algae Super Food every day to boost their immune systems. But it takes a lot of effort to care for close to a hundred senior animals. And we cannot do it without your support and help. Please help us continue to give our rescued animals the very best life and care by giving an end of the year, tax-deductible donation of any amount. You are our partners in loving animals, healing children, opening hearts, and saving lives. Thank you!!!!