Posted on Feb 14, 2019
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Many think of love as something that we feel, something that can break our hearts or heal it, and something that just comes over us without our control. That’s all true, but I like to think of love as a verb, something that we make happen, that takes action and planning, and something that we cultivate and nurture every day. I don’t just love my husband, I choose him even when it’s difficult. I don’t just love my kids, I am available when they need me, give them my time and money, and I support who they truly are. I don’t just love animals, I have dedicated my life to saving and healing them, and being their voice. And each and every day I ask myself how can I love more. Not as something I’m feeling, but as an action I can take.
Animals love as much as we do and inspire me every day. Their ability to love unconditionally no matter how they are treated blows me away. Their capacity to nurture their children and put family first has taught me so much about my own family. Their innate tendency towards authenticity and honesty is why I have always trusted them. At The Gentle Barn, we have had many love stories and love affairs. Watching the horses out in the pasture is like watching a high school’s playground. One horse is flirting with the other, the next minute they’re fighting, and before we know it, they’re both off flirting with other horses entirely. In the corners are the couples, the horses who are mated for life off in their own bubble of bliss being alone together. And in the middle of it all, we have the single guys who don’t like to commit, who will occasionally flirt with the females, but who prefer to rough play and do guy things together; like shove, chase, and tumble around together, sometimes disrupting the lovers and making everyone mad. It’s a living comedy that plays out in front of us every day.
Lance and Ruby are one of the couples who are often found hidden under a shade tree reveling in each others company. They were both previously married and widowed. They both grieved in their own ways. Years later have found each other and gotten a second chance to love again. Their flirtation was casual at first, but with time grew into something very deep and exclusive. Ruby and Lance stare into each other's eyes each night after dinner from their adjacent bedrooms, happy and at peace.
Meanwhile, in the upper barnyard, we have a very unusual love affair between our goat, Gus and our turkey, Sun. For whatever reason, they have been drawn to each other and instead of hanging out with their own kind, they spend hours every day in their own unique embrace, entranced in silent conversation. They get annoyed when the other goats and turkeys try to join in. They could literally talk for hours. Their love knows no bounds, obeys no rules, and crosses all boundaries, proving again that though we may look different, we are all the same!
The greatest love we have ever witnessed and the most miraculous thing that has ever happened at The Gentle Barn is the story of Lucy and Ferdinand. Ferdinand was orphaned, alone, and afraid. He needed to bond with someone desperately. Sure he had us, and our volunteers and staff, but he needed to bond with another animal who would be his lifetime friend in the barnyard. When Lucy volunteered to befriend him, protect him, and love him, I didn’t know just how far she would go to keep her promise. After a very short time Lucy wasn’t just laying by his side, grooming him, and playing with him, but she produced milk for him, officially adopting him as her own. Even though she’s older, and he’s larger than her already, she patiently and lovingly nurses him three or four times a day, and probably will for years to come.
What can we do to love more? What can we do to make love more of a verb? Can we stop eating animals? Can we go vegan? Can we adopt a new animal into our home? Can we buy products that are not tested on animals and that are safe for the environment? Can we do a random act of kindness for someone just to make them feel special? Can we look others in the eyes and smile at them when we pass them by? Can we pick up trash even if it’s not ours? Can we give a tree or flower water if it’s thirsty? Can we live each day like it’s our last? Can we give more hugs and kisses? Can we give more appreciation to those around us? Can we forgive, knowing everyone is trying the best that they can? Can we donate to The Gentle Barn for hay at www.gentlebarn.org? The answer is, of course, we can! And I’m going to do it today! How about you?!