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My Gentle Barn: Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope Hardcover – March 25, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; First Edition edition (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385347669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385347662
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The Story Behind the Cover Model, Dakota Rey

Beth Orsoff

Dakota Rey, the Hereford cow featured on the cover of My Gentle Barn, was born on a 3,000-acre beef ranch along with hundreds of other cows. There was a tragic accident, and her mom died shortly after Dakota Rey was born. Orphaned, hungry, weak, and afraid, Dakota Rey tried her best to survive and follow the other cows, but each day she grew more and more frail. When the ranchers found her they were going to take her to slaughter, but we were able to bring her home to the Gentle Barn instead.

She was very scared of us, as her only encounter with humans before she arrived at the Gentle Barn was with the ranchers who chased and roped her. She was also extremely malnourished. We moved slowly around her as we began the process of helping her heal. We started her right away on bottles, so she could feel nurtured and we could boost her immune system with nutritional supplements. Dakota Rey began to look forward to us feeding her and would even call for us when she heard us coming. That was the first step in her trusting us.

We spent our days sitting with her, quietly showing her that we loved her. At first we would sit in the corner and read a book or just talk to her while she kept her distance. In time she began to trust that we didn’t want anything from her and would not approach her if she didn’t want us to. She began to relax, come closer, and even lie down while we were with her. After several months we were able to pet her and sit with her head in our laps.

Once Dakota Rey was big and strong and eating hay with a good appetite, she joined our other cows in our big pasture, where she made many friends. Whenever we visit, she comes running over to us and follows us around, chewing our clothing and trying to eat our hair. Dakota Rey is now two years old, but for cows that’s still a baby. She’ll continue to grow until she’s five. She has plenty of room to kick up her heals and run, head bonk other cows and have quiet, lazy afternoons chewing her cud or meditating. Dakota Rey has come home and will always know she’s a part of our family.

The children we host at the Gentle Barn relate to Dakota Rey, for they know what it’s like to feel scared and alone, unsure if they’re strong enough to make it. Dakota Rey helps them believe they too can find a home and a family. She inspires them to persevere and to embrace their second chances.

Dakota Rey is the perfect embodiment of the Gentle Barn; she was saved from horrendous circumstances and survived. With us, she learned to trust, forgive, and love. And for the rest of her life Dakota Rey will teach those principles to everyone who visits her at The Gentle Barn.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The saga of Laks and her animal sanctuary is enormously compelling. She grew up loving animals in a family that could not understand her empathy for “disposable pets.” Struggling to find her way, she fought drug addiction and then successfully started a dog-rescue operation in her spare bedroom. Determined to change the world, Laks rescued animals from a dilapidated petting zoo and then expanded to accept pigs, horses, and more on a multiacre ranch outside Los Angeles. With brutal honesty, she acknowledges the missteps in her first marriage that became a casualty to her rescue efforts, but then she recounts the happiness she found with a volunteer who became her soul mate. The two found enormous personal and professional success as they reached out to at-risk youth and became leading voices in the movement to extend rescue efforts to farm animals. Laks brings so much raw emotion to her narrative that readers will find themselves moved to tears over the lives of goats and cows. Intimate, powerful, and shocking in its revelations about the food we eat, My Gentle Barn is not easily forgotten. This is a book to talk about and return to; it’s a life changer, plain and simple. --Colleen Mondor

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Customer Reviews

The Gentle Barn is a beautiful story!
I was crying most of the time while reading the book (don't worry, a lot of good tears).
I highly recommend this book for everyone who loves animals.
Chris R.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With boosters like Ellen DeGeneres and Portia di Rossi, this book is obviously not going to be lacking magnificently supportive reviews - and it will deserve them all. Although I am very concerned about animal welfare, and am a "daily clicker" at the Animal Rescue Site as well as a supporter of various wildlife concerns, as it happens I was not acquainted with Ellie's work or the Gentle Barn website and Facebook connections prior to reading this book. Which emphasizes, I guess, that even with all the other publicity, there IS a need for print communications even in this increasingly digital era.

Ellie Laks describes the evolution of her amazing animal rescue operation with extreme coherence and - no other word suffices - great gentility. She is honest about her challenges in overcoming extremely negative experiences, including the perceived rejection of her childhood attempts to heal her own trauma by rescuing injured animals. Yet she is never cruel or vindictive in her descriptions. She emphasizes the "positives" both in her interactions with her parents during childhood and subsequently, and with her first husband. Throughout the narrative, it is clear that she perceives the difficulty of maintaining a balance between one's "call" or "mission" and the needs of family and friends. Her story is full of spiritual and psychological truth, without being in any sense preachy or proselytizing.

The descriptions of the harrowing circumstances with the various animal abuse situations, including the petting zoo where Ellie got her first rescue, the goat Mary, and the subsequent "backyard butcher" are harrowing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
From the deeply personal life of a child and her pain to a global network dedicated to saving and healing animal ,children, and at risk teens is a mighty accomplishment; but to forgive and learn and love not only oneself but all of nature in a most amazing dialogue that comes to touch the lives of so many is a miracle.
Yes, a miracle particularly as so many stories of abuse of the young and timid fill the shelves and airwaves and make for violent entertainment.
The book follows the life a of young girl to adulthood. It does so with consistent compassion and wisdom mixed with beautiful scenes and descriptions of her unique relationship with the natural world.
Her love and communion with nature was the first and most primary form of love this woman knew. And Nature never failed her , from the delightful scene of the butterflies, to the solace from her dog when she confronts her mother with the claims of abuse from the male babysitters; there is always some creature to console or delight her.
But this is not a one sided journey. It is the telling of a beautiful love story and of healing at a soul level for her and the children she would have and the animals of the Gentle Barn who would become her life's mission.
Added to her healing is the healing of the wonderful man she would have as a mate for this journey.

Although there is some retelling of abuse stories the author very wisely limits them to the bare essentials. allowing the primary message of joy and love to be the focus with the dark bits there to balance and inform.

The book is a clear celebration love and the natural world and how the animal kingdom is being healed along with the children and others through their coming together and the sharing of their stories and paths.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: I received a free copy in a Goodreads first reads contest.

I'll admit at first I wasn't sure what to think about this book. I work in mental health and all I can remember thinking at first is 'this gal needs therapy'. As things went on, I realized she was getting therapy. Doing it herself, through her work with and love of animals. I'm a huge advocate of animal therapy, especially for children and teens. I too have had the privilege of seeing a teen who glares at the world open up and hug a dog, stare at a deer with wide, wonder-filled eyes, and pet a horse with a huge grin. Animal therapy works.

The stories in this book at times brought me to tears. Without too many spoilers, I remember that fire. I remember animals having to be evacuated. Strangers pulling up with trailers, taking anything you might have to safety...that brings tears to my eyes. Restores a bit of hope and faith in humanity.

The animals and people in this story are all amazing. Even better was going to the facebook page after reading this book, looking through the website. Seeing pictures of the animals I've read about...being able to contribute something to the wonderful, amazing thing that is the Gentle Barn. I know first hand how hard one has to work to take care of large animals (we do dog rescue, have horses, and used to do horse rescue too).

You know, I've never been a fan of The Secret. Maybe I need to go read it or watch it, though. Just maybe. We all need some therapy in our lives. If I ever get the chance I'll visit the Gentle Barn. Until then I will cherish this book and share it with anyone I can.
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