When asked about my dream vacation, my answer is always the same: I want to visit a sanctuary for the animals, a place where those fortunate enough to have been rescued from a life of abuse, neglect and servitude have been granted a reprieve and a chance to heal and live out the rest of their lives on their own terms.
I want to simply sit among them and to feel their presence.
There aren’t any sanctuaries near us, so until we can travel to one, I find contentment reading about these wonderful places. When the publisher reached out to ask me if I would like to review a copy of My Gentle Barn: Creating a Sanctuary where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope, I gratefully accepted.
My Gentle Barn is written by Ellie Laks, the founder of The Gentle Barn, an animal sanctuary in Santa Clarita, California. Ellie begins the story by recounting her turbulent childhood — spotted with abuse and loneliness — which followed her into adulthood. Through it all, there was a constant: animals. They were her escape, her refuge. She had a connection with them that others didn’t understand. About the thanks she receives for rescuing animals, Ellie writes, “To all of those people, I wanted to say, ‘You don’t understand. I’m not saving the animals; they’re saving me.”
Ellie is a tireless and steadfast crusader for the animals. Her connection to and heart for animals led to her saving an “un-adoptable” dog here, a sick goat there and, eventually, before she knew it, The Gentle Barn had taken shape in her own backyard.
Healing the animals, Ellie herself was healed; and she knew that others could be healed as well. She began inviting groups of at-risk youth to the sanctuary to share the animals’ stories and to show them that there was a path out of the darkness and that good things are possible. The Gentle Barn is a safe place where human and non-human animals alike can learn to forgive and trust again.
If these kids could start there, by accepting love from a cow, maybe they could accept love from other human beings, and just maybe one day love themselves.
Though parts of the story are heartbreaking, it is a touching and inspiring story of perseverance, rehabilitation and hope. I couldn’t put My Gentle Barn down, and highly recommend it.
The Gentle Barn is located at 15825 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita, CA. Click here if you’d like to learn more about The Gentle Barn, get involved, meet the animals or schedule a visit.