The Gentle Barn: Kindness, Compassion, and Finding Your Place

Hosted by

Steve Boese

Co-Founder of H3 HR Advisors and Program Chair, HR Technology Conference

Trish Steed

CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

About this episode

Guests: Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn

This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. Nearly one-third of U.S. employees say their work schedule still remains unpredictable as a result of the pandemic, a factor they report as having a significant effect on their overall well-being – from causing financial stress, to feeling disconnected from family friends. And, this appears to be affecting younger generations the most.To learn more about these findings, and how you can optimize work scheduling to help better support your employees, visit today.

This week, we met with Ellie Laks, to learn about the importance of teaching kindness and compassion to animals, each other, and our planet.

– What is The Gentle Barn and how was it established?

– Cow Hug Therapy and how it is used to heal people

– How does The Gentle Barn help mental health

– How can you help?


Learn more here

Thank you, Ellie, for joining the show today!  Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript follows:

Steve 0:28
Welcome to At Work in America sponsored by Paychex. We welcome a wide and exceptionally impressive array of guests, business leaders, HR leaders, academics, practitioners, consultants and authors to talk about the most timely, relevant and challenging issues that are influencing the workplace today. At Work in America digs in behind the headlines and trends to the stories of real people making a difference in the world of work. And now here are your hosts, Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane Steed.

Steve 1:01
Welcome to the At Work in America podcast, we have a great show today. But before we get into the show, Trish, I thought of something. And here’s what I just thought of today. We’ve been doing this show for a long time. I don’t want to even say how long. But it occurred to me that probably on every show, and I’ll bet on this show. There are people who are listening to this show and listening to us for the very first time and do not know us. So I want to say my name is Steve Boese, I’m the co-host of the show. I’m really happy to be here. Trish, why don’t you say something as well?

Trish 1:34
Well, that, you know, that’s an interesting concept. I don’t think we’ve taken time to introduce ourselves to you. Right. I will say we’ve been doing this very long time since 2009. So, ya know, just welcome to the show. I’m Trish and I’m really excited to bring really interesting stories about workplaces to you all. So thank you for joining us.

Steve 1:53
All right. And first time listeners if you’re listening, hit us up on Twitter or shoot us an email, on LinkedIn or something because I bet there’s some people listening to this show for the very first time. And that’s pretty cool. Thanks. So Trish, we have a great show. Today we’re going to be talking with Ellie Laks. She’s the founder of the gentle barn, and we’re gonna be talking about teaching kindness and compassion through animals. Ellie is responsible for the daily care of the animals and the programs at the Gentle Barn, and is also the educational outreach director working with hundreds of inner city at risk and special needs children each year, and as directly rescued, cared for and supported 1000s of animals that would otherwise have been killed. She has dedicated her life to being the voice of the voiceless. Ellie began her career working with special needs children, and spaying and neutering and releasing feral cats into the alleys of Los Angeles. That’s like crazy. I can’t imagine that. She started a dog training, walking, boarding and grooming business that she used as a means to rescue animals from being put down at the animal shelters in Los Angeles, only rescued and work with about 500 dogs and cats before finding founding the Gentle Barn in LA. She is also a professional animal trainer and specializes in working with severely abused and mistrusting dogs. Man, welcome to the show. Ellie, it is so great to have you on the show. How are you?

Ellie Laks 3:12
Oh, I’m so good. It’s good to be here.

Steve 3:15
Yeah, it’s great to have you. And I know we’ll talk about this in the course of the show. Trish and I and Karen, our producer, we actually paid a visit to the Gentle Barn location. I don’t remember the name of the town just outside St. Louis somewhere.

Trish 3:27
Yeah, just right outside St. Louis. We had heard the story and and just wanted to go in person since it was so close, right in our backyard.

Steve 3:35
Yeah. And then when we met and we got a chance to tour and we’ll talk about that soon as well. We figured, oh, this is just this will be great for the show. So we’re so happy to have you here, Ellie. Thank you for again for taking some time to join us. Hopefully the animals will be okay for the next like 30 minutes or so. Welcome to the show. Ellie, I’d love for you to, we have a story here that you wanted to share about your first cow. And cows as we’ll get into, cows are a big part of the Gentle Barn experience. So I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about that.

Ellie Laks 4:06
Yeah, so um, the Gentle Barn is a national organization located in like you said St. Louis, and also Nashville, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California. We have three locations. We’re open to the public, we host private tours. And one of the main things that we do is we host cow hug therapy. And that is for anyone that is suffering from really anything and needs a great hug, they can come to the gentle barn and heal through the cow hugs. And that originated in 1999 when I rescued my very first cow and her name is Buddha or was Buddha she’s no longer physically with me. But her name was Buddha and I talk extensively about her and our time together in my book My Gentle Barn, creating a sanctuary where animals heal and children learn to hope. In that book, I talk about that very first cow and how at the end of the day, she would be laying down looking adorable and I would come and just snuggle with her. And she would wrap her neck around me and hold me. And those hugs were so transformative. They washed away any fear or worry or stress or anxiety, they washed away any fatigue, they washed away any sadness, I was going through a divorce with my husband at the time, I had just started a brand new nonprofit organization, there was a lot of challenges that I was going through, and she just made everything better. And in those moments with those hugs, I said to myself, the world needs this cow hug therapy is for everyone. And everyone in the world needs cow hug therapy. And so we started extolling those beautiful transport transformative hugs to everyone that came to the gentle barn, whether they were coming on open to the public Sundays, or private tours, or school field trips, or groups of people with special needs.

Ellie Laks 5:52
The only rule at the Gentle Barn was that everyone had to hug a cow. And it’s incredible, you know, we do extensive work with teenagers either trying to get away from gang affiliation, or on probation, or at drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, and domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters. And a lot of the population that we work with is very defensive and hardened and kind of trying to posture and look cool for their friends. And they don’t want to be vulnerable. And because they’re so cool all the time and tough. It’s traditional therapy is really kind of hard for them, because they don’t want to be vulnerable, and they don’t want to open up and they don’t want to talk about their emotions and what they’ve been through. And so traditional therapy doesn’t really support them a lot of the times, but we can get them to come to the general barn. And just the minute their faces go down on the shoulders and backs of our cows, you can literally watch their faces melt into little children, it is beautiful, and it cracks them right open. And then in that state of vulnerability and openness, they start sharing and identifying with the animals and their stories of resilience. And talking about Yeah, I know how that feels, I went through that too. And all of a sudden, they can they’re start opening up, and then they can start going back to their traditional therapy. And all of a sudden, there’s a starting point, there’s something to talk about, and they’re well on their way on their healing process. All because of a cow hug. It’s amazing.

Trish 7:26
You know, it’s it is amazing. And as Steve mentioned, we had the opportunity to come and actually hug some of your cows at your your St. Louis location. I understand that these these children or or maybe even older, you know, adults who have been through maybe an abusive or traumatic situations come in. Can you talk a little bit about are they resistant to maybe some of not just the cows, it’s a farm situation, right? And so many of us are maybe more comfortable with hugging a dog or a cat.

Steve 7:58
I gotta tell you, I wasn’t super excited myself about the idea.

Trish 8:01
It’s intimidating a little bit. Right. But I had to do this. No, but but I think there’s a moment like you’re saying, Ellie, where you kind of like get over that and you become vulnerable? Did you instinctively know this about you know, working with cows or other farm animals? Or was that something you kind of stumbled into? How did that connection happen for you personally?

Ellie Laks 8:23
Yeah, it happened in the erases from my first cow Buddha. She healed me. She held me she chose me. She listened to me. I mean, there were days where I was sobbing into her shoulder.

Steve 8:38
Can I interrupt? How did you find Buddha like what is like you don’t just go to the Petco and acquire a cow like,

Ellie Laks 8:46
Although one day, I hope that we can. Okay, one day, I hope that we can just go into a pet dog and bring a cow home. And I hope that every single household has their own cow. But until then, yeah, I had just started the gentle barn. And I discovered a abusive petting zoo, which I write about in my book. And I started bringing animals home from that petting zoo, getting them better with the help of a mobile vet. And before I knew it, a few months later, I realized oh my god, I had started my dream. So you know, and then neighbors started finding out and people started finding out about me, and they would call me oh, I’ve got this horse that can’t walk or oh, I’ve got this dog that can’t see. And before I knew it, I had a backyard full of animals and realized I’d started the gentle barn. Well, in that first year, somebody told me that they were looking up on the internet and they found miniature cows. And they asked me if I had ever heard of any such thing. And I said no. And so they gave me the website and just out of sheer curiosity and nosiness. I clicked on this website about miniature cows. And they were describing miniature cows as being really easy to raise and easy to kill and easy for like single family consumption because they’re so small you can and have them as part of your little hobby farm or you can have them in your front yard, and you can raise them. And then they can feed your family for a year, blah, blah, blah. And on the website, they started talking about this beautiful little miniature cow that had been so kind to their family and their grandchildren had raised her. And her job is to have babies to earn her keep, but she couldn’t get pregnant. And so they were listing her for sale to for slaughter. And before I knew it, I found myself calling the guy and before I even realized what I had done. I told the guy, I have to have her I have to save her. And he wasn’t willing to relinquish her for free. And so he said, You know, it’s gonna be I think $2,000. And so what I did was I put my little year old son on my hip, and away we went around the neighborhood. I don’t know how I got this idea. But I started knocking on doors around my neighborhood explaining to them this story and how we had to save this cow. And people started donating and chipping in. And by nightfall, I had raised the $2,000. Wow. And they transported her from Washington State down to California the next day, and I got to save her life. And that was my very first cow. And she was the cutest teddy bear magical money cow I’ve ever met. And she gave the greatest hugs. And she very quickly became the most important animal to her to me, I had to hug her every single day. And she hosted every single group with me, she hosted every single open to the public Sunday, every school field trip, she stood still and exuded her loving energy to every single struggling adult or teenager or kid in crisis. She opened them, she loved them, she helped them become humble. She helped them start healing. And as I’m watching her do this incredible work. She’s also healing me and raising me and teaching me and she gave out 300,000 Hugs in her lifetime.

Trish 12:06
Wow. That’s, it’s just and that’s just one of the animals, right you’ve got if people go and visit your website, which we will absolutely link to in the show notes. And we’ll we’ll put on social media, but they can go in and read these animal stories, not just for the cows, but for all the animals. They can adopt them, right, they can donate to them, they can help them at different times of the year, and they can come and visit these animals. So it’s it really is something I think that draws you in whether you’re in a situation where you need hug therapy with a cow because of some traumatic event or like you’re saying, if it’s just open to the public, and you’re going just to be curious, right? Can you talk a little bit about at least I want to for the listeners in the Midwest, you know, the St. Louis story when you started when here was around cows as well. We had six cows that had escaped a slaughterhouse. Can you maybe pick up a little bit of the story and talk about how you actually then expanded to the Midwest market?

Ellie Laks 13:08
Yeah, and just to throw out a really interesting anecdote. For some reason, it always is a cow that kind of opens a gentle barn. So Buddha helped me open Gentle Barn in California. Dudley is the reason why we’re in Tennessee, and the St. Louis six is the reason why we’re in St. Louis. So yes, we watched national news, along with the rest of the nation, as six cows escaped a slaughterhouse crash through three fences and ran through the streets of St. Louis. And people came out of their houses and they lined the streets. And they started chanting, Chico, Chico to the leader. And it was big national news. And I’m watching this going, Oh, my God, those poor animals like what’s going to become of them. By the end of the day, they were ultimately rounded up and sent back to the slaughterhouse. But by that time, it was such big public knowledge that a group of community members in St. Louis started kind of reaching out to the slaughterhouse owner saying, you know, we’re going to start a GoFundMe, we’re going to raise their freedom money, will you please agreed to relinquish them to a sanctuary and the owner agreed. And so when I watched this on the news, I thought, Oh, we’re good. Like, I’m sure someone’s going to step up in the Midwest or even East Coast. This is going to be I have a happy ending. This is great. And what ended up happening was four days went by and nobody stepped up. And so finally, the guy announced, I’m done waiting. I’m going to kill them in the morning.

Ellie Laks 14:36
And that’s when our phone started ringing. And people Kelly and David Backus, from the St. Louis Blues and other people started saying, like, you have to let them live. Please save them, please save them. And I look at I looked at my husband, Jay Weiner, co-founder of the Gentle Barn with the look I give him and said, Please, can you go and he said, I’m on it. And as the hero that he is he jumped on a red eye flight flew through and then I got there in the morning to stop their slaughter, use the freedom money that the community had raised to get them and brought them to the hospital to be treated and then found a foster home for them, which at this point was then, you know, now we were trying to figure out like, Okay, now what do we do with them. And there were people around the country, not really local or easy, but there were people that were saying, like, oh, I have a back pasture, or oh, if you pay for them, we’ll take them. But I really have this, I had stayed in LA this whole time to hold the fort here while Jay was saving the St. Louis six. And I really felt like at this point, to kind of determine what decisions we make that will affect them for the rest of their lives, I should meet them. And so Jay, and I flew to St. Louis, so I could meet them. And we got to their foster home. And all five cows were lined up about 100-150 feet away from the fence. And they watched me get out of my car and come to the fence, and Chico, he had all the cows stay where they were. But Chico, the leader, walked the 100-150 feet all the way till he was right in front of me.

Ellie Laks 16:06
And the only thing I can say about that, guys, is that his energy was so incredibly powerful that I literally dropped my knees in front of him. And I looked into his eyes, and he stared into mine. And I tears were pouring down my face. As I looked into the eyes of this incredibly majestic, magical, powerful, intelligent animal. And he basically said to me, we have come with a story to share with the world and we need you to help us. And so as soon as I could compose myself, I looked over my shoulder and said, Jay, we need to open a Gentle Barn here. And so we found a property, opened our own GoFundMe, raise the money, and started a gentle barn for the St. Louis six, and brought them home to do their work. And it’s their story is remarkable, because they literally were inside the darkest place on Earth. Yeah. And now, they’re hugging people, they’re holding people, and they’re healing the very species that almost ended them, I just, I can’t stop, I can’t stop thinking about that cycle and that circle and that resilience. It’s beautiful.

Trish 17:21
Thank you for sharing that. What I love the most is that your proof that if you open yourself up to whatever the universe delivers to you, that things can happen beyond our wildest imagination, right? Beyond beyond our intention, sometimes that can be so helpful, not just to that particular animal, it’s not just you saving them, they’re saving you right back, right. I know, Steve’s got a ton of questions, too. I want to just at least follow up and say, Could you maybe talk a little bit since this is a work show? We talk a lot about people at work, right? And we’re going to talk about some of the people who work with you and who volunteer there as well. But can you talk a little bit about you’ve mentioned, you know, these are animals that are working animals, right, not just the cows, but all of the animals there. And it’s just such a wide variety of animals.

Steve 18:11
The pigs were pretty impressive.

Trish 18:12
I thought there were everything

Steve 18:14
Things I’ve never seen in my life.

Trish 18:16
The goats the turkeys. I’ve I mean, I’ve been around horses, which you do have horses to you just gotten one when we were there. But it’s amazing to me, you can put yourself into right into their space, and you were completely safe. You feel completely at ease when you’re there. Maybe not Steve, but you did. You got there. But no, I love just you know, for the listeners to hear your perspective on what it’s like to be a working animal. And some of the considerations, right, because you have to care for both your employees, your volunteers, but also the working animals. So can you maybe talk a little bit about specifically the animal aspect of of them being workers?

Ellie Laks 18:54
Yeah, good question. So the first thing that I want to say is we have the best employees in the world and the best volunteers. So here are the human ones. I mean, they’re incredible. Secondly, I want to say that just kind of like as a disclaimer, because I don’t want people thinking that we’re exploiting animals. When we say that the animals at the gentle barn aren’t quote, unquote, working. What I mean by that is we save at the gentle barn, we save animals that have nowhere else to go because they’re too old, too sick, too lame or too scared to be adoptable. We bring them in and we take them through an extensive rehabilitation program, where of course they get vet care, but they also get acupuncture, massage therapy, ultrasound, ice therapy chiropractics energy healing music therapy, we read out loud to them we hold them they get sun chlorella algae superfood, they get pure remedy salve.

Steve 19:45
Can i come work at the barn?

Trish 19:48
Right, they have the best benefits.

Ellie Laks 19:53
So once they restored to health, then it’s their choice to decide what they want to do. from their and why they’ve come, there’s three reasons why animals come to the Gentle Barn. One is they come to pass away with dignity in our arms instead of in the hands of strangers at the slaughterhouse and shelters. The second reason they come is to be restored, to learn, to forgive, to learn, to love, again, to learn to trust, and then just have the best lives ever. And then the third reason why they come is they come to learn life lessons, they learn to forgive, they learn to let their past go, they learn to evolve with their own souls. And once they’ve evolved with their own lessons, they tend to transition. So within those three choices, the animals get to decide what they want to do while they’re at the gentle barn. They can be blissfully happy and be with their own kind and be left alone. Or they can come and work with humanity. So it’s not every animal at the Gentle Barn that decides to be an ambassador, some animals never want to interact with humans again, and they don’t ever have to. But there are animals that have gone through their own transformation and then want to pay it forward. It’s kind of like, you know, if you in the human world, if you look at the best therapists, they are usually people that have gone through absolute hell when they have been children. And they have had to been abused, been neglected, been lonely, suffered on their own, they have to go through their own healing, where they find themselves and they remember why they’re here. And then they turn into the best therapist, because they have they have that empathy and awareness of what it’s like to suffer. And then they can help others go through their own healing journey. Well, the animals of the gentle barn the exact same way.

Ellie Laks 21:38
Some some of the animals of the Gentle Barn, have gone through absolute hell and back, and they come to the Gentle Barn, they heal, and they learn to forgive, and they learn to trust, and they set their pasts behind them. And then they choose to heal the hearts of humanity. It’s not something we teach them to do. It’s not something we train them to do or ask them to do. It’s something that they come to on their own, are cuddled turkeys, you know, they come scared, they come angry. They go through their own transformation. And then they climb into our laps and want to cuddle, right? Are our cow hug therapists, they go through trauma, they heal, and then they’re the ones approaching us wanting to wrap their necks around us and hug us. So it’s something that animals choose to do. But once they choose it, they are the best ambassadors on Earth. And I am convinced that the same reason the gentleman was my dream since I was seven years old. And I wake up every single morning full of purpose, wanting to do this work and wanting to make the best impact that I possibly can and wanting to heal this planet. I believe that our animal ambassadors who are working at the gentle barn, are also waking up with that same purpose each day, and feel just as dedicated and serious about our mission as we do. Yeah. And so it’s really human and animal, finding themselves together at the gentle barn and working alongside each other, to open the hearts of humanity and shift our world to one of peace.

Steve 23:18
Now, I’m glad you said that that’s a perfect segue into what I want to ask you about next, which is the human side of this, right. That’s some of the people that you have supporting the mission there, some of the employees, some of the volunteers, etc. I want to ask about that in a second. But let’s take a quick break. Trish let’s thank our sponsor. Of course, this episode of At Work in America is sponsored by our friends at Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes, nearly 1/3 of us employees say their work schedule still remains unpredictable as a result of the pandemic factor they report is having a significant effect on their overall well being from causing financial stress to feeling disconnected from family and friends. And this appears to be affecting younger generations, even the most. To learn more about these findings and how you can optimize your work scheduling to help better support your employees. Please visit today, and it’s actually really good research and we spent some time talking about that the other day on a on a podcast, which I’m totally confused about the schedule Trish, I think maybe is already out there by the time this one post, but thanks to our friends at Paychex. And they are super supportive of everything we do so.

Steve 24:28
Paychex is a people company, Ellie, and I’d like to we I was struck a little bit by some of the people we actually met and the animals were great. Okay, I was, I wasn’t like I gotta tell you. I’ve been around horses a lot in my life, but I’ve not been around big cows. So it took me a minute or two to just feel good about about that experience. But the cows were very nice and very gentle to me. And I was I was thankful for that. But we met some really cool people as well. We’re out there on the facility. I’d love for you to maybe talk a little bit about what we talk about on this show and other things we do constantly about no one wants to win Are we can’t find employees or staffing shortages everywhere, you can’t like go out to dinner and half the cities in the United States, because the servers also the bartender is also the bus person, right? I’d love for you to talk a little bit about the kinds of people who have joined you and the team there in that mission. And either maybe just maybe your observations about about that, and how that helps support and helps keep this thing going.

Ellie Laks 25:22
Yeah, absolutely. So just so you know, we’ve been going through that too, since the pandemic hit like people will, you know, they’ll come and interview and we’ll, they’ll have a working interview, and we hire them, and they don’t show up. But you know, it’s interesting, because it’s almost like a natural selection process for us. Because the people who are coming to work at the gentle barn just to have a job and a paycheck, we’re going to experience those types of things, and they’re not really going to last, but the people that are at the general barn for the right reasons, because they love our mission, and they love the animals. And they’re kind of like our kind of people. Those are the people that no matter what’s happening out in the world, they show up, they come through, we can rely on them. And that’s our staff, our staff are here for the right reasons. And they are the nicest, most wonderful people in the world. And I love them.

Trish 26:13
What kind of staff are you hiring at all your locations? Are you hiring people that need to have certain levels of expertise or education? You know, with, for example, animal training or animal therapy? Or is it a sort of a wide variety of skills that you’re looking for at the different locations?

Ellie Laks 26:33
So do you mean like, right, this second or just in general?

Trish 26:36
Um, either if you’re I mean, if you’re obviously still, you know, you’re still hiring, like a lot of people are. So yes, what would be some of the types of roles that people could even consider at one of your locations?

Ellie Laks 26:48
Yeah, so at each location, we have an animal care supervisor, and we’re looking for more of a vet tech kind of person, that’s a vet tech, that also has large animal experience, and management experience. And that person kind of oversees all the animals, all the animal care and all the animal care staff. Then, of course, we have animal care staff that works so hard every single day to make sure the animals have the best lives ever. We have a program specialist at each location. And they’re the ones that run Sundays, run our volunteers, and host all the cow hug therapy sessions, the private tours than school field trips. And there are people who not only need to feel comfortable with large animals and have animal experience, but they’re also people that have to love people and have a background working with children and large crowds. So they can be gentle leaders. And they can kind of like keep everybody safe, and coordinate those groups, but also be very gentle and warm and be a beautiful face for the gentle barn. Then we we are actually currently looking for development people. We’re looking for people that can help keep this place running right help with the fundraising dollars. So we’re looking for development people to come in and, and help create relationships in the community and raise those funds and write those grants that can keep everything running so that we can do this work. Yeah. And then social media people as well. We have a whole beautiful social media team that keep everybody around the world that are too far away to get to the gentle barn, engaged with our animals and their stories and their personalities and just extending our mission beyond the gates of the Gentle Barn so that these animals are having the largest platform and reaching people around the world.

Steve 28:33
Yeah. Thanks, Ellie for sharing some of that I thought we really experienced that connection between some of the staff and the mission. Like we were talking to Christine, who she was really lovely when we met her there. By the way, it was her birthday, when we showed up. We showed up at the wrong time. It was you were actually having a birthday party for her the day we showed up. She stepped out of that birthday party to be really nice to us and show us around. And we got to talking to her. And she was basically saying, Yeah, I did this or that. I don’t remember exactly what she did before she ended up the general barn. But she basically shared with us that once I got here, I felt Yeah, this is where I need to be. This is what I want to do. This is my place. And so that’s not always easy to find Trish and I have been in this HR workplace space for a long time. Right? It’s like, it’s kind of hard to rally around the mission of I don’t know, like a PVC manufacturing pipe company. Like, it’s hard to get really jazzed up by that. But when you have a really mission driven organization like the gentle barn, I totally it totally resonates with me when you’re talking about kind of the right people kind of find us and we find the right people and it sorts itself out over over time. That makes perfect sense.

Ellie Laks 29:47
Yeah, and you know, that feeling like there’s kind of two kinds of experiences one is you meet people and you know, everything sounds good and looks good and you know, their answers are perfect and their resume is perfect. And like logically you think like maybe the is a good fit. And they may come and stay and surprise you. Or they might come and just, you know, after a while just go on to something else, then that’s the nature of having employees, which is totally fine. But then there’s the other feeling where you meet someone and you just know you, you’re fit. Like you just know, it’s going to be amazing when we met Christine actually applied to a development position that we had available. But we were looking for someone a little bit more senior. But the way that she spoke and her personality and the way she was so warm, yet strong at the same time, we were I was just like, she is perfect for the program specialist. And so I talked to her and I talked to her about the job. And she was like, Well, I don’t know, you know, do you mind if I take an evening to think about it. And we’re like, of course. And that whole night, I’m like, Oh, my God, I want to work with her so bad. And the next day, she called me up and she said, she’s in and nice.

Steve 30:55
I hope she listens back to this. Because yeah, she was great. And we appreciated how nice she was to us when we were out at the facility like after hours on her birthday. And you as well, you came out and toured us around as well. So we do appreciate that. And honestly, it was kind of an important experience for us to be able to talk to you about, you know, the mission and the cow therapy and understanding. Otherwise, it just I gotta tell you, I’m cynical. And I’m you know, dopey. Like, Well, I first heard the story, I’m like, I don’t get it. It feels like just like a petting zoo.

Trish 31:30
I told him, I said, we have to go, we have to.

Steve 31:34
And so that’s what it means. You’ve got to experience this. If you’re cynical at all, like me, you’ve got to go experience it and you won’t be cynical anymore, I think.

Ellie Laks 31:42
Oh my god, I turned a cynic. That’s so exciting!

Steve 31:48
I think before we let you go, I think it’s important. So we talked about look, you’re flying across the country, you rescue rogue renegade cows where no one would else would step up and save them. This is like, this is not easy. This is not cheap. This is takes a lot for this to keep going you’re in three locations, I get the feeling from listening to you, you’d be in 10 locations, if you could just snap your fingers and make that happen. So maybe for folks who are listening to this and want to learn more, maybe get involved, maybe just support the cause. What can we tell them to do? Or ask them to do maybe some better way to say,

Ellie Laks 32:22
Yes, oh, thank you so much for asking that question. Because of course we can’t do the wonderful work that we’re doing without support and help. And I actually there’s I meet people all the time that are like, Oh, I wish I could have a sanctuary My dream is to open the sanctuary. Well, if we all open sanctuaries, there’ll be nobody to support it. So you know, we’re looking for people that kind of love animals and want to save them but don’t have the room or the time or the wherewithal to actually do the work in the frontlines. Partner with us. We’ll do the work in the frontlines, and you can help us finance it, and then we’re all doing the work together. And so the best way is to go to gentle and make a donation or sponsor an animal where you can have an intimate, regular relationship with an animal that you’re supporting. Follow us on social media, of course, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and YouTube. And then come out to a Gentle Barn near you where you can hug a cow cuddle a turkey, give a pig a tummy rub, and look in the eyes of these animals and know for certain that we’re all the same.

Steve 33:23
Yeah, I think that’s great advice. And yeah, I would recommend doing it and to generally you’re doing programs with, you know, people who need some help support it, kids, you know, things like that, that’s kind of during the week ish. And then Sunday’s tend to open for public kinda for people just to come in and spend some time with the animals.

Ellie Laks 33:43
Yeah, so during the week, these animals are really being incredible ambassadors just giving themselves to the people that need them that come looking for hope. But on Sundays, we just want everyone to come and meet a cow or a pig or a chicken or a peacock or a llamar and emu. And, you know, in our society, unless we been raised on a farm, most of us don’t get to meet those kinds of animals. And then of course, there’s a lot of stereotypes in our society about those kinds of animals like they’re stupid or unintelligent, or dirty,

Steve 34:14
or run you over and kill you. Yeah.

Ellie Laks 34:18
Which I’m imagining you probably came in with some of those stereotypes and maybe that’s why you were a little bit nervous at first.

Steve 34:23
The cows are big. A lot of big cows there but they were so gentle.

Trish 34:30
I was in awe the fact that we could walk into their pen their area and you know, we had to be mindful of course as they’re moving around because they are very large but no, they were extremely gentle and just very approachable. I felt very comfortable pretty quickly you know, once once you all gave us a little rundown on each of each of the cows who they were their personalities and right and, and some like to be approached different ways. I felt like also So there was some lessons there. There’s a lot you said actually, about the animals that kind of resonates with me on, it’s not a lot different than working with coworkers, right, that have different personalities, and you have to know how to approach them. And you have to know which ones are huggable and which ones aren’t. Right. It’s it’s very similar. So I think you can make some connections there. If you’re someone who might not be as comfortable being open, being around these types of animals might open you up a little bit too.

Steve 35:29
Yeah, absolutely. Ellie can ask one more question real quick. And then we’ll let you go. I promise. I asked you this when we were out of out of the farm, which was during the pandemic, lots of organizations, everybody’s working from home cook, right, everybody’s doing remote. He’s doing these zoom things, and they got so tedious, and they’re still a little bit tedious. Did you work with any companies of like, Hey, we’re gonna take 10 minutes before the meeting starts and visit with the cows like virtually? Or I think you said you did?

Ellie Laks 35:55
Yes, we did. And we actually still do, we just kept it going, because it was so much fun. We call them gentle hacks, I’ll be having their meetings and of course, you know, making decisions and they’re tedious and blah, blah, blah, they’re you know, working and then all of a sudden in the middle of their meeting, we would just jump on the Zoom and did like be looking at a llama or looking at maybe like gentle Hawk here what you know you’re here at the Gentle Barn and we’re going to take a little break so you can have some fun and smile a little bit and we would introduce the animals and their stories and they would see the animals being adorable and it was just like this refreshing break for 10 minutes and then they could go back into work.

Steve 36:34
I’m glad you know he’s still doing it. I’ll tell everybody to go to They can learn more about that as well as the mission the donation everything telling Yeah, get get yourself out to one if you’re in LA Nashville, St. Louis got that covers a lot of the country, you should be able to get out and pay a visit and and tell him the At Work in America podcast sent you. How about that? Would that matter for anything? Probably not.

Ellie Laks 36:56
No, it would that would make me really happy. Please tell us that they heard about it here.

Steve 37:02
All right. This is awesome stuff. All right, Ellie, we know you’re so busy. You’ve got animals all over the country you better take care of and lots and lots to do. And I’m sure like the time you get off this zoom and check your messages is gonna be like for more animals that want people people want you to take care of. But thanks so much for spending some time with us. And thanks for you and the team being so hospitable to us when we came out to visit in St. Louis a couple of months ago or a month ago.

Ellie Laks 37:28
And you’re welcome. I’m I remember your visit fondly. I can’t wait to see you again soon. And thank you so much for having me.

Steve 37:35
We’ll be back so go to gentle We’ll put some other links in the show notes as well. Some of the social media stuff Trish, we have pictures from our visit out there. I don’t know if any of those got posted anywhere but not yet.

Trish 37:46
We have saved those for when this episode goes live. So everyone who’s listening you will get to see Steve hugging a cow I believe it was Chico I think was the one we have a photograph of us.

Steve 37:58
Big and nice. Well, I’ll just leave it at that but Oh, beautiful. I agree. I like that little duck. I don’t remember his name or her name.

Trish 38:07
The white duck?

Ellie Laks 38:09
Jemimah puddle duck.

Steve 38:13
He was cool. Okay, so we want to just, again, encourage everybody to get involved. Check out what the Gentle Barn is doing. It’s so much fun. So, so interesting. So impactful. And please donate pleased to help so many people. It’s a great great story and we’re glad we’re able to share it. Okay, that’s it for the At Work in America show. Cheers. I forgot we’d like changed the name like three years ago. But thanks for listening At Work in America. You can get all the show archives all the shows at thanks so much for listening. Thanks to our friends at Paychex. Please tell friends to subscribe. We really appreciate you and we will see you next time and bye for now.

Transcribed by

1 Comment

  1. BluJay on 18th May 2022 at 7:30 pm

    Yaaay! I’m a huge fan and supporter of The Gentle Barn 💓
    Thanks for this podcast!

Leave a Comment

Subscribe today

Pick your favorite way to listen to the HR Happy Hour Media Network

Talk to us

If you want to know more about any aspect of HR Happy Hour Media Network, or if you want to find out more about a show topic, then get in touch.