On several occasions, I have caught my wife watching a video on her phone with tears streaming down her cheeks.
She is easily moved by animals, particularly when their personalities are shared and when they are rescued from bad situations. She quickly forms an emotional bond to the animal and its story, regardless of whether she has ever met the animal.
The Gentle Barn in Knoxville, Tenn., is a rescue farm, one of four locations around the country. They rescue injured, neglected, abused, and escaped animals.
Founder Ellie Laks wrote about its mission:
“We live in a concrete, violent, noisy, high-tech, busy world. We have lost our connection to animals, to nature, and most of all, to ourselves. Animals are living lives of torment from beginning to end, their cries are unheard, their pain is unseen, and they are suffering. The rainforests are being destroyed, we are in a global drought, we are polluting our air, and species go extinct every day. At the Gentle Barn we stand up for the innocent… We open people’s hearts to the connections with nature.”
And while the Gentle Barn warmly rescues animals, it also understands that it is about something bigger than ourselves – it’s about nature, the planet, and the future of all living things. Through the animals and their stories, people realize that what they do on a daily basis affects the world we live in and share with other sentient beings.
We made the trip to this beautiful place for my wife’s birthday this past April. The Gentle Barn opens its doors to the public each Saturday. Lunch was provided and included field roast veggie dogs and sausage — a deliberate attempt to help guests make the connection. It was delicious!
Waiting for the event to begin, sitting among people from around the country, we were greeted by a neighborhood dog who stops over every Saturday as he sees the cars arriving. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in the peaceful presence of such love and kindness, as well as the feeling of spending time with the few fortunate animals that have been saved from the fate awaiting millions of others.
Here are a few of the animals at the Gentle Barn that my wife has gained such a spiritual connection with and that we were so fortunate to spend time with.
Maybelle the dairy cow was thanked by her family for her service when they retired her to the Gentle Barn to live out her days, rather than to send her to slaughter.
After her arrival, the staff quickly answered her constant cries by going back to her dairy farm family to see whether she had left a calf behind — the answer was yes. The family kindly allowed the Gentle Barn to take her nine-month-old baby Miles to be reunited with Maybelle. Also, it turned out that Maybelle was pregnant when the Gentle Barn took her in. She later gave birth to Eclipse, who was born on the day of a rare eclipse of a harvest moon. Eclipse will be the first baby that Maybelle is able to raise from birth. Thanks to the Gentle Barn, this family of three will live together forever.
On Thanksgiving 2015, Adeline was rescued from a slaughter farm. In April 2017, this sweet, beautiful turkey made her trip to the Gentle Barn via cross country car ride from the flagship location in California. So many people got to know Adeline’s almost-human personality as Ellie and others shared moments on Facebook Live throughout the journey. Adeline loves nothing more than to be with people. She is called a “cuddle turkey,” which could not describe her better.
Playing in the mud you will find Henry, Horton, Lillie, and Dream. Each of these pigs is so fortunate to have escaped the slaughterhouse thanks to kind citizens and the Gentle Barn. You can read about each of their stories on the Gentle Barn’s website. Dream was rescued on Martin Luther King Day and her name was chosen by Gentle Barn supporters.
And then there is Dudley, who may be the most well-known animal at the Gentle Barn. If you’ve ever heard the story of the cow with a prosthetic foot, that’s Dudley. What a special animal. This beautiful big bull was rescued from a farmer who was raising him for slaughter. Dudley lost his foot after bailing twine had been wrapped around his ankle for days. A friend of the farmer reached out to the Gentle Barn and they created the Tennessee farm just for him.
After months in the hospital, Dudley finally got to go home. Along the way, he made millions of fans, including my wife. She would watch him, keep up with his life on Facebook, and engage in the emotions of the story. Dudley became such a great ambassador, opening many eyes to the horrors of factory farming. Supporters all over the world got to know him so well as he played with his large ball in the pasture, romping around on his prosthetic foot. Dudley helped change people’s eating habits and provided inspiration to others. Unfortunately, my wife and so many others have been crying for weeks now after learning that the world has lost Dudley to an unfortunate ulcer that ruptured after a routine surgery.
Laks has shared that her goal is to open a Gentle Barn in every state. The “St. Louis Six” are the reason for the newest location that will be open soon in St. Louis, Mo. Admittedly, I want to open an Ohio location as I can think of few things more meaningful than to spend my days caring for animals like these.
My wife has pledged to someday move near a Gentle Barn so that she can volunteer her time.
Rob Swindell is a lifelong Lorain County resident offering his opinions on politics, science, and social issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.