Posted on Jun 17, 2020
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Fathers are strong, protective, and loyal. Fathers provide for their families and nurture their babies. They solve problems, keep us safe, and make sure we have all that we need. Horse fathers protect their families from intruders and will give their lives if they have to. Cow dads help the matriarch discipline the youngsters. Emu and penguin fathers sit on the eggs and raise their babies. Sparrow fathers fly tirelessly all day to bring food for their mates and chicks. Chicken fathers find food and call everyone to eat it as they proudly watch. And human fathers get up in the middle of the night to change diapers and let the mom sleep, even if they have work the next day. Some dads, like Jay, even work seven days a week to provide and care for their family.
Jay is the father and hero of The Gentle Barn. He goes into the darkest places on earth to save lives, bringing them back to The Gentle Barn to find healing. He has helped me save and rehabilitate thousands of animals over the last twenty years. He is currently the proud father of almost two hundred animals. He works diligently to raise funds to pay for our feed, vet care, staff, and utilities. He is here to answer all our questions and solve all our challenges. He has raised three human children with me, changing diapers, teaching them to crawl, walk, ride bikes, and be wonderful human beings. He always puts our needs before his own. He has kept us safe and evacuated through two major wildfires. In the first fire, after we had evacuated, the flames kept returning and reigniting, so with the help of a volunteer, he kept putting out the flames with a garden hose all night long and saved our house. During the last fire, Jay saw the flames threatening to cross the street and entrap us all, so he stood guard at the edge of our property with volunteers and put out each flame with fire extinguishers, shovels, and boots until hours later the fire finally past us, allowing us to get all the animals out to safety. My children look up to him, our animals are alive because of him, and I could not do this work if it were not for him.
Caesar is not the biological father of our equine heard, but with his wife and matriarch passed away, he has stepped up to care for the entire family. He puts everyone’s needs before his own, letting them go to dinner first, drink water ahead of him, and spends hours each day grooming and nurturing them. If anyone would threaten his family, he would fearlessly defend them, laying down his own life. And he makes sure they behave nicely to each other. He leads them to the sun to warm, the shade when hot, and to water each hour so they stay hydrated. He stays up till late at night watching over everyone else as they sleep. And Caesar loves human babies and will groom their cheeks with his mouth making them giggle and smile.
Father animals in the “real” world seldom exist. They are used to breed but don’t often get to stay with their mates or raise their babies. At The Gentle Barn, we have never had a father animal, until Thumper. Thumper was rescued along with many animals from an extreme cruelty case. All the animals were very sick. Thumper was a tiny baby sheep, only a few weeks old, who had a high temperature and a respiratory infection. He was on death's door. As the other animals started to recover it was time to neuter them. Our veterinarian advised us against neutering Thumper just yet as he was way too sick and too young. We asked if we should separate him just in case, but our vet again told us that Thumper was way too ill to be of any threat. Well, our tiny, young, sick Thumper fathered six babies!
Thumper made a full recovery and grew up at The Gentle Barn to be a big, strong, healthy, sheep. Having Thumper and his babies have been an extraordinary experience for all of us. We have been able to watch him nurture, raise, and protect his babies and their moms. It had to take an accident for this to happen as we don’t breed animals at The Gentle Barn, but we are so grateful to be able to watch a father with his family and know for sure that they love their babies the same way we do. Thumper teaches us all that though animals and humans may look different, we are all the same inside!
To every single dad who has stayed up late, worked hard, provided for his family, cared for his wife while pregnant or sitting on eggs, fed the baby in the middle of the night, got up early, traveled far, and kept his family safe, we honor and salute you today! May all dads get to raise and know their children, no matter what species they are, and may all dads feel honored, celebrated, and treasured today and every day. We love you!