But as much as we recoil from an outstretched hand, we need human contact. We need love and affection. We're just scared of it.
The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita rescues such abused, neglected, and abandoned animals, for whom they are a last resort.
It provides them with a forever home...
...where, like Daisy, they can heal their bodies (she had a broken back)...
...and then their hearts.
But the magic of this place is, while the animals are healing, they are helping humans (depressives like me, inner city kids, etc.) heal too.
The first thing you do when you arrive is hug a cow.
Most of them will let you hug and brush them, and some will give you kisses.
Lucy was kept as a pet but eventually sent to slaughter. She's a cuddler.
Many of these cows were once kept for milking, which means they were constantly bred to continue the production of milk, their babies ripped away from them, never to be seen again.
There are over 160 animals living out the rest of their lives (much more happily) at The Gentle Barn, from cows to cats to chickens to donkeys.
Addison is a 17 year old male donkey recovering marvelously from severe abuse...
...including being forced to carry loads too heavy for him.
Andrew is a 27 year old male Arabian, once kept as a stud, and abandoned when he was too old to breed.
These days, he's gentle enough to eat a carrot right out of the palm of your hand.
Despite their traumas...
...they don't seem to hold a grudge against their human visitors.
Caesar worked as a movie horse, but buckled under strict training, and spent three years rehabilitating at The Gentle Barn.
Many of the animals, like Caesar, are now considered fully healed.
Each of the animals have their own personalities...
...which they're learning are safe to express...
...because their lives of suffering and punishment are now over.
They have been rescued, for good.
As a visitor, there's something very healing about being able to get so close to these animals in a way you're rarely able to at, say, a petting zoo. I had never pet a chicken before. It was so soft.
Presiding over the upper barn is Jewel, the formerly homeless peacock found wandering around the neighborhood. When The Gentle Barn opened its doors to him, he walked in and never left.
Sir Francis the turkey is nicknamed Sir Fancy Pants, a fabulous show-off who struts his stuff around.
Many of the goats there were rescued from backyard butchers, where they were starving and would have been illegally butchered.
Now they bask in the sun...
...and almost seem to smile.
There are also llamas and dogs and sheep...
...like Stanley, who was abused as an educational tool for schoolchildren (!) but has learned that not all humans are cruel.
The pigs seem to be the main attraction in the upper barn...
...some of whom were rescued from a pumpkin patch....
...others from the home of a hoarder, and from people who had no idea how to raise pigs as pets...
...and, in Biscuit's case, from slaughter.
He'd been so overfed that he now weighs in at 1000 pounds. And he just loves his belly being rubbed.
Most of the animals at The Gentle Barn have made tremendous progress and are, by the sanctuary's name, gentle, but a few still have a way to go. They get skittish around strangers. They don't like their heads to be touched. They might get nervous and kick you. It's not their fault. We humans – the worst of us – did this to them. But we humans – the well-intentioned of us – can do something to make up for it.
Carefully, gently, and with love.
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