Posted on Aug 29, 2019
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
It feels like a lifetime, and it’s gone by in a blink. I’m so grateful to have served the last 20 years and I am excited to serve many more! What started as my 7-year-old dream became a reality when I was stopped in my tracks by a sickly goat that looked me in the eye, asked me for help, and set me on my life’s path. Those first founding animals that I rescued from an abusive petting zoo taught me everything I know today. Each horse, cow, pig, goat, sheep, chicken, and turkey taught me to listen, to communicate, to trust my instincts, and showed me that though we look different we are all the same. Those same animals became my partners working with me to heal people with the same stories of abuse and neglect, and connect children to the love of nature and animals. In those early years on my little half-acre back yard in Tarzana, I had the barnyard to myself. I got to feed the animals breakfast and dinner, fill their waters, groom the horses, and keep the barnyard clean and pristine. I hosted every single group and gave tours on every open Sunday. I got to rescue new animals and spend hours breathing the life back into them! I got to hold them in my arms as they passed away from old age. All the while dreaming of expanding The Gentle Barn to more locations, saving more animals, healing more kids, and attracting more volunteers and staff. But now looking back, I realize that those first few years were treasured time for me to love, learn, mature, and prepare for growth; and those early memories of bliss in the barnyard will stay with me forever.
A few years later Jay came along, fell in love with the animals, and partnered with me to run The Gentle Barn. Together we took The Gentle Barn from my little half-acre back yard to the 20 acres in Los Angeles, 24 acres in St Louis, and 40 acres in Nashville. We went from a handful of animals to rescuing thousands. We rescued a blind calf named Vegan, gave him the surgery he needed, and partnered with him to inspire people with learning differences. We rescued a severely abused horse named Whisper, helped her recover from her PTSD, and then partnered with her to heal teens overcoming trauma. We saved a turkey from Thanksgiving named Chloe, taught her to trust us, and partnered with her to help a mute girl speak for the first time. We saved a cow named Dudley, gave him a prosthetic foot, and then worked with him to give hope to amputees and war veterans. We saved orphaned animals, gave them a home and family, and then worked with them to heal the hearts of children in foster care. We helped rescued animals express their anger and find peace and then worked together to help angry gang members find a more peaceful life. We gave hope to adults in recovery by partnering them with animals who have struggled. We rescued calves in Texas, horses from Northern California, cows in Missouri, chickens from Arkansas, dogs in Ohio, and hundreds of local animals from a hoarder. We healed puppies from parvo, calves from veal crates, cows from roping, horses from the rodeo, and animals from slaughterhouses. We read out loud, sang to them, and held them in our laps through the night. In our quest to save them, we have used acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, massage therapy, ultrasound, ice therapy, water therapy, energetic healing, Puremedy salve, Sun Chlorella Algae Super Food, CBD, and lots of love. We have stopped at nothing to save an animal or heal a child.
We have worked very hard. We have traveled far. We have not taken many vacations or days off. But each time we have rescued, healed, and cared for an animal, it is always we that have gained the most. The animals we have saved, have saved us from our childhoods and pains. They have taught us about forgiveness, trust, courage, and unconditional love. They have trained us to believe in ourselves, to be brave, and to never give up. They impart to us how to be better humans every day! No matter how hard it’s been, or how many animals we have loved and lost, I would not trade a second of it for anything! It has been an incredible honor to do this work and I pray that we can continue to save and heal animals, to open hearts, and to expand for many, many more years! I’d like to open in other states, so every person can hug cows, cuddle turkeys, give pigs tummy rubs, hold chickens in their arms, look in the animals’ eyes, and see that we are all the same. I believe in the beauty of this planet. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe in the innocence of animals. And I am deeply grateful and honored to live this life, fulfill this dream, and lead the way to a gentler world!