Posted on Apr 25, 2019
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Jellie was rescued from the same petting zoo that started The Gentle Barn almost twenty years ago. Once we had moved to Santa Clarita in 2003, Jay drove by the petting zoo to see if conditions were better there, or if they had closed their doors. Sadly, they were still open, and conditions were worse than ever. On the street corner outside the petting zoo stood a young woman with two tiny pot belly pigs in her arms trying to sell them to cars passing by. Jay stopped the car and noticed that the piglets were way too young to be weaned and pleaded with the girl to return them to their mom. The girl insisted on getting rid of them and the mom bred again. After trying all he could think of to reunite the piglets with their mom and have the petting zoo keep them for longer, Jay finally brought the pigs home to The Gentle Barn to be bottle fed, cared for properly, and raised in a safe and loving environment. Both piglets were scared, sunburned to a crisp, and covered in mange.
We named the piggies Jellie and Jasmine and over the next several months Jay and I bottle fed them, healed their sunburn and mange, and held them sleeping in our arms for hours. They soon learned to eat solid food, wag their tails, roll over for tummy rubs, and transfer to the barnyard to run around, make friends, and explore. Jellie and Jasmine lived a great life! They had many other pigs to spend time with, they received much attention and had a great big purpose opening hearts on Sundays and inspiring children in foster care. The two gave out so much hope to kids who had lost parents, felt empty and afraid, and who needed encouragement to bond with their foster families. Jellie and Jasmine were the perfect examples of a hard and painful start that ended with a wonderful loved life.
We had twelve pot belly pigs when we brought Jellie and Jasmine home and they all played a role in their lives as big sisters, older brothers, and friends. They had pool parties together, sunbathed, and even slept in a big piggy pile at night, cuddled together for warmth and comfort. Jasmine got cancer at age thirteen. We tried everything to extend her time with us, but she passed away a couple of years ago. Over the years the others have all passed away of old age. At fifteen, Jellie is our last little piggy. To support her as she grieves, and to make sure she knows how much we love her, I have volunteers helping me keep her company during the day; reading out loud to her, singing to her, massaging her, and giving her energetic healing. Our turkey Alice and our chicken Mario have been keeping her company as well, often sleeping next to her and helping her heal.
Jellie sleeps a lot, going in and out of a dream state where she most likely communicates and still spends time with Truffles, her last friend who passed away two weeks ago. She accepts her massages gratefully, always rolling over for belly rubs, and eats every morsel of food joyfully. Last Sunday when we celebrated the pigs’ birthdays, Jelly was so happy gobbling up chunks of watermelon, licking the vegan frosting, and insisting that she eat her cake laying down, like a princess.
Why does Jelly make mourning look so easy?! Why do animals have an easier time letting go than we do? It is my belief that animals are less attached to the physical than we tend to be. They enjoy the physical pleasures, don’t get me wrong. They love eating and feeling good in their bodies just like we do. But they know they came from somewhere before they incarnated, and they know that after they are done with this life, they’re going somewhere else. And when they lose loved ones, they know that they haven’t really lost them, they have just traded the physical relationship with them for a spiritual one, but they are still connected. When I feel sad about our animals who have passed on, I try to remember this wisdom shared by our animals. And when I’m missing Truffles I go sit with Jellie in the straw, close my eyes, breath deep, and I can feel Truffles’ joyful and elated spirit all around us. My best teachers have always been animals, they have so much to teach us when we are listening and paying attention. Thank you for listening to them with me!