Cheryl Wilkinson | Oct 13, 2011

My aunt and uncle have been running a rescue animal farm at 1228 Road 506, Cloyne for the last three years. They opened it with their retirement funds, opting to keep on working instead of retiring early, due to a love of animals. It may sound simple and corny, but that's the honest truth that drives them.

In the rural area where they live, farm animals do not have many options. The area is poor overall, so euthanasia often consists of a bullet once the animal's usefulness is at an end. The rescue farm is full of animals that were faced with only those dire options, like Jake the Shetland pony that at 13 years old had been faithfully carrying children on his back for over a decade, then one day startled, unseating a child. His owners locked Jake up in the backyard, a death sentence to a sociable animal like a horse. Jake started wind-sucking, pacing back in forth in his tiny backyard paddock, dooming himself with behaviors no new owner would be willing to take on, too old to be broken of his bad habits. My uncle Barry didn't hesitate to welcome Jake into the farm.

Barry is familiar with a bad prognosis, and he knows how to ignore them. He instead focuses on the individual fighting to overcome the challenges, like Barry himself when he competitively rode horses despite doctors telling his parents he might never walk due to his spina bifida. Barry walked, then he rode horses in a beautiful way that combines skill with the close bond between animal and rider. Barry, in his modestly, will never tell you he is an expert horseman, but he might tell you a bit about how he got to know horses, cleaning barns and stalls to earn enough money for lessons from a German teacher who didn't fear to teach him first how to fall even if his spine was "frail" – “Pah, dumb-sluck, get back on the horse” - and as Barry tells you about how he almost made it as far as the Olympics, he’ll stretch out his hand to one of his horses and that is when you see the magic.

To the unaware, you might miss those moments of magic, overlooking the simple farmer in his baggy, holey jeans and dusty cap as you feed the lamas, holding your breath while Charlie, the daddy llama, comes close enough to gently take the carrot held between your teeth, marveling at the feel of his thick coat, which Barry will tell you the local knitting group spins and knits into sweaters. You might not know that Llamas are naturally extremely shy creatures, nor that Barry spent the last three years bonding with them and furthermore, teaching visitors like you the magic so Spot, the baby llama, will jog up trustingly to the gate to welcome the next child coming to the farm. You'll be amused as you hear Daisy, the pot-bellied pig, bark like a dog, and then shake a hoof and roll over for a belly rub.

Barry is particularly excited about his ideas for providing disabled children in the area with the opportunity to ride. Jake has welcomed some of the foster children on Barry's farm for rides already, regaining his trust as the children hug and praise Jake while he walks around under Barry's experienced lead. No more windsucking; Jake has been transformed into a beloved child's pony once more.

If only Barry could rescue more animals in need. He gets calls, such as from a college student with a bunny she couldn't keep any longer. Sometimes, the calls are more worrisome, animals that have nowhere else to go, like four goats an owner had been told would be euthanized if they weren't moved by the weekend as his property wasn't zoned for farm animals. Barry answers the call for help, knowing his barn is at capacity but promising he'll find the room somehow if no other appropriate home can be found. The problems are so much demand and finite resources, even if my uncle's love for these animals is infinite. My aunt and uncle need the funds to expand their farm, to make it more accessible for children with special needs, who truly benefit from the pet therapy offered, and to help them finance the day-to-day care of their growing animal family.

The Aviva Community Fund would help them realize their dream of continuing this wonderful rescue farm.

Please vote for Land o Lakes Petting Farm.


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