Posted on Dec 17, 2020
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
As the year 2020 draws to a close, I look back at all the challenges of this last year, and the blessings as well. Every cloud, no matter how dark, comes with a silver lining, and this year was no different. Fraught with illness, financial worries, and isolation, we have all been affected by COVID-19 in one way or the other, and we hope and pray that the world can go back to “normal” as soon as possible. But in the midst of the chaos, there were many blessings and gifts. Under normal circumstances, we would be traveling and away much of the time. But COVID has afforded us extra time at home with our beloved rescued animals..
We have had many animals pass away over the last year and we were able to have long, extended goodbyes with them, that we will cherish forever. Socks was our faithful, protective, healer. At seventeen she stopped eating and started to decline. Because we were at home, we were able to take Socks to the beach, for long walks around the neighborhood, cuddle for hours at bedtime, and have long conversations remembering our favorite times together. I will treasure the extra time I got with Socks forever. She took such great care of me and my family. She protected us, accompanied us on so many trips, and was always by our sides. Taking care of her in her last months was an honor that I am eternally grateful for!
We said farewell to our potbelly pig, Jellie who has been with us for fifteen years! Jellie was rescued as an orphaned piglet at four weeks old. We bottle-fed her, healed her sunburn and mange, and taught her to eat solid food. Jellie grew up in our barnyard with twelve other piggies who quickly became her surrogate moms, aunties, and sisters. Jellie thrived in our barnyard, wagging her tail, rolling over for tummy rubs, teaching people from all over the world about the intelligence of pigs, and giving her unconditional love to people who were struggling with their traumas. This year Jellie had inoperable cancer that caused nose bleeds and headaches. We worked very hard to manage her discomfort and keep her happy. But the time finally came to help her out of her body and out of the pain. The weeks spent spooning her, singing to her, reading out loud to her, and walking her home at the end will be locked in my mind as a treasured gift!
Over the last twenty-one-year history of The Gentle Barn, we have always rescued domestic and farm animals. But COVID gave us the ability to save someone we would not normally have rescued. Angel came to us in an egg found on a golf course. Under normal circumstances, the egg would have been taken by wildlife experts. But because of the Corona Virus, many rescue places were overwhelmed or shut down completely and impossible to get a hold of. So we set the egg up in an incubator, not sure what kind of goose it would turn out to be. We had the privilege of hearing her peep inside the egg, watch the egg crack and hatch, and help her dry off and warm up. We helped her eat food and drink water for the very first time. And we were with her round the clock to care for her, including up all night to watch over her and keep her clean. Angel slept in the crook of our necks and followed us everywhere. Once she was older it became clear that she was a federally protected Canada Goose and we had to let her go to a wildlife rescue where they later released her along with several of her peers. But every time we see a Canada goose fly overhead and hear their honking, we will wonder if it is Angel. I am so very thankful that for a little while I got to be a mommy goose!
Because of COVID, slaughterhouses were shutting down and farmers were sending their entire herds to slaughter while they still could. In the beef and dairy industries animals are kept eternally pregnant so cows were being sent to slaughter pregnant by the thousands. And because the timing wasn’t perfect, many were giving birth on the slaughterhouse floor. Thankfully we have a relationship with the owner of a Los Angeles slaughterhouse who called us when one would give birth and allowed us to save them. During the last nine months, we have taken in more cows in one stretch than we normally would. We saved Betty and her daughter Joy who is now thriving at our Sun Chlorella Healing Center. We brought in Phoenix whose daughter died at the slaughterhouse, but they still let us save her. Phoenix is loving life at The Gentle Barn now. We rescued Patsy and Light and their babies Victory and David. And the last baby we got from the slaughterhouse was John Lewis Thunderheart who came in as an orphan at a week-old with pneumonia. Because of the heat and his very high fever, we knew if we kept him in the barn, we would lose him. So, in a desperate attempt to save his life, we brought him into our house. The air conditioning, great vet care, a homemade oxygen tent, oxygen tanks donated by a fan, a nebulizer, and twenty-four-hour love and attention saved John Lewis’ life. We have had many newborn or ill animals in the house before: chickens, turkeys, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, pigeons, parrots, peacocks, and pigs, but Lewis is our very first house cow. Watching TV with him, cuddling him on the couch, and waking up in the middle of the night to his face hovering over mine, have been such blessings. I would not trade this special experience for anything.
Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID. We pray for everyone who lost their livelihood. There have been far too many changes and losses for our community. But with no way to control this pandemic and no idea when this will end, all we can do is search and find the silver linings to be grateful for. And this year, as hard as it has been, was also full of blessings that we will hold onto as we forge into twenty-twenty-one.
The greatest blessing of all is that so far, we have survived! So many sanctuaries and businesses have gone under, and we are so very grateful to still be here caring for our almost two hundred rescued animals, employing our staff whose families depend on us as well, and doling out hope, joy, and inspiration to the community. We are here because of you! Thank you for supporting us so we can survive COVID and continue to be here for animals and people alike who just need a little gentleness and sanctuary!