The Gentle Barn, a love story

I saw her.
She saw me.
I ran excitedly towards her.
I hugged her tightly.
And she greeted me with a ‘moo.’

Her name is Madonna, a cow that weighs 1,500 pounds of pure happiness from having a second chance in life.

“At The Gentle Barn we stand up for the innocent, and we help animals and children alike remember that they matter.”

Ellie Laks (founder)

My friend Heidi had told me about this place, and I was dying to go visit. One Sunday morning, we finally went.

The Gentle Barn is located in Santa Clarita, CA, very close to Los Angeles. In a 7-acre piece of land, there are horses, cows, goats, sheep, hogs, turkeys, hens, dogs, cats, people, and a peacock living together in harmony.

Ellie Laks and her team’s mission is to rescue animals that are suffering from all kinds of abuse. Once in the property, the animals get rehabilitated, both physically and emotionally. They’re also provided with a permanent home where they can live for the rest of their lives in a safe and loving environment.

The rehabilitation process will take as long as it’s needed. Weeks, months, or even years, depending on the type of abuse, level of trauma, and the animal’s response to the treatment.

But there’s no rush, at The Gentle Barn everyone heals at their own pace.

Once the animals are recovered and feel safe to interact with other animals and people, then it’s their turn to pay it back. They help with their love and example to rehabilitate groups of children that have been victims of terrible injustice as well. Also, every Sunday, the doors of this beautiful place are open for the public to visit.

The day I went to The Gentle Barn, I was feeling sad because of a recent breakup, but soon, the magic of this place began to transform me.

The innocence, the spark, and the freedom of spirit of the animals made my heart smile.

The story of Madonna, the cow, touched me profoundly. Before she was rescued, she was horribly abused during her early years. But when I met her, it was truly amazing to witness her openness and trust towards humans. Now she’s a presence of joy and pure love.

Visiting this place was inspirational, and these are the most important lessons I learned:

Compassion is the best therapy

People or animals who’ve been abused, tend to react aggressively, even to those who want to help them. Aggression is a defense mechanism that has little, or nothing, to do with the person they direct it to. They’re actually reacting to their past, to their pain and their fears.

In this kind of situation, if you want to help, the worst thing you can do is judge them. Judgment only increases their fear and consequently, their need to defend themselves.

Compassion is the answer, and people who work at The Gentle Barn know it.

When someone comes to this place with a lousy attitude, instead of scolding or punishing them, they’re treated with compassion, patience, and love. This way, over time, they start feeling safe, they’re able to trust again, and finally, they reopen their hearts to love.

I want to make clear that feeling compassion is very different from feeling pity. When you feel pity towards another being, it means you see it as inferior. On the contrary, compassion is relating to someone, and connecting with their suffering at a level of equality. When we feel compassion, we remember that just as we’ve been able to overcome difficulties in our lives, they also have that strength within themselves. They just need to be reminded of it.

Love language is universal

Cows, horses, people, and all other creatures alike, all share the same love, and its expression has no language barriers. Love is transmitted at an energy level. Love is felt.

Love is our nature, it’s what we are without all the social conditioning, without the fears and barriers that we build around us to “protect” ourselves.

Together we’re stronger

Both animals and children who come to The Gentle Barn for rehabilitation, need a team to guide them and support them throughout the process. No one heals in isolation; we need each other to become stronger.

Humans and animals have an innate desire for connection. This desire is so profound that scientific research has proven that a creature held in isolation have much fewer chances of survival than those who’ve been tortured. That’s because, at the subconscious level, getting negative attention is better than being ignored.

However, it looks like we as a society have forgotten how vital connection and collaboration are. In the last decades, so much emphasis has been put on independence that we often forget how interdependent we are. It’s time to remember it.

What would happen if we cared more about collective wellbeing than our individual interests?

What would happen if, instead of judging, we made a conscious effort to increase our compassion to others?

I think we’d be a lot happier and contribute to the happiness of everyone around us.

Thank you, Ellie Laks, for your contribution and example.

If you want to know more about The Gentle Barn, visit: