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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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The Story Behind the Cover Model, Dakota Rey
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.
*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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I believe this is a book everyone should read! It should be on the reading list of every school in our nation!
riveting and emotional story of her life and her promise to help all animals in need and I truly believe everyone should read this book to see what
happens to the animals that are there and why Ellie Laks knew they needed to be saved and protected.
I also relate to the frustrations of trying to gain the respect & understanding of family & friends concerning my unusual love of animals & how my animals have always been there for me, helping me out of depression.
I would love to be a part of the Gentle Barn family one day & can't wait to visit this miraculous place.