Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Gentle Barn

Buttercup and Susan
Occasionally, aspects of my life become way overdue. Case in point, getting together with my friend, Susan, who I had not seen in 10.5 years, and visiting The Gentle Barn, a sanctuary for abused farm animals and a healing place for at-risk kids. Recently, I knocked both of 'em out in 24 hours. 

The last time Susan and I had seen one another was at the wedding of a mutual friend (whom we both adore) and once we started talking, it became evident that large chunks of life can happen in a decade:  
"Wait, you lived in San Francisco? Really? How long?"

"You lived in Colorado? When?" 

"What do you mean you're a farmer? How does that work?" 

Luckily, Susan is the same beautiful, smart girl I remember and I'm so pleased she came along on my visit to GB, conveniently located just up Interstate 5 from her place in Eagle Rock.

Vegan the bull, relaxing in the sun. 

His horns were removed as a baby in a sloppy, cruel way so they've come back deformed. Luckily, the horns are hollow and flexible, not cutting in to his head. It would cause more problems to remove them now so they remain.

For all the richness of my life, it has big, gaping holes in it and many of them are animal-sized. It actually hurts my heart that I have no animal relationships right now, one of my lifestyle sacrifices, I suppose. 

So, spending an afternoon after so many loving and deserving animals, well, it did me a lot of good. From the Gentle Barn website: 
The over 160 farm animals that reside at The Gentle Barn have all been rescued from severe abuse, neglect, abandonment or worse. They have been rehabilitated with traditional and non-traditional medicine, top quality nutrition, and countless hours in the arms of our staff and volunteers. They have regained their trust in humankind by realizing that they are now loved, and their abuse is over. Because of their ongoing physical and psychological needs, they can't be adopted and are given sanctuary with us for the rest of their lives.
Madonna, with her wee fans
We are home to horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, llamas, dogs, and cats. We believe that everyone deserves a chance at life, regardless if they are blind, crippled, deformed, sick, wounded, or just old. 

Because the animals at The Gentle Barn have experienced abuse and severe neglect, their treatment and rehabilitation is extremely expensive and can take a long time. But it is worth it to see them smile again, to watch their eyes light up, to feel them cuddle in your lap, and to see them play with new life and new hope.

Once rehabilitated, the animals become ambassadors, teaching children about the magic and grace of these precious beings.
The founder, Ellie Laks, gives presentations every hour every Sunday about how the sanctuary got started, how it runs and how guests might make the most of their visit. As a child, she would rescue every needy animal she could find and her heartbreak when her parents would get rid of them, saying, "When you're grown up, you can have as many animals as you want."

There were llamas, goats, sheep, enormous pigs, chickens, roosters, turkeys, horses, cows, bulls and donkeys - the whole barnyard was there.

Then, there was this guy, - a teenage boy with the most tender way about him, it was striking. He sat on the cement, in the barnyard, for what seemed like hours, his entire attention focused on Claire, an abused turkey who had been rescued just three days before Thanksgiving. 

He kept telling her how beautiful she was and she buried her face in his chest, cooing. He did not seem to be a volunteer or a staff member, just a visitor like myself. 

As people strolled around them, checking out the pigs, chickens and other turkeys, they stayed focused on one another. 

Finally, I asked a volunteer about Claire's story and she shook her head. "Really, it's quite amazing - a big day for Claire. She's been here since November but this is the first time I've ever seen her 'accept' affection from anyone. It's a big breakthrough for her." 

I took a zillion photos of them because I couldn't get over how much I could FEEL the unconditional love that can pass between an animal and human, both of whom need so badly to give and receive affection. I get misty-eyed just looking at these and remembering how gentle he was and how pleased she was to be under his gaze.

Okay, I may have some issues but this is the most romantic thing I've ever seen, like what marketers want you to feel on Valentine's Day.

And then, just when I already couldn't believe it, an amazing thing happened..

She let him rub under her wings! Folks, it's official, we have a serious case of BOY-on-TURKEY love! 

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