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The Gentle Barn – Tennessee

The Gentle BarnWho could have imagined that a birthday wish from Ellie Laks to her husband, Jay Weiner, asking him to help her “rescue a cow” named Dudley in Tennessee would lead to the founding of The Gentle Barn here in Knoxville?

It all began when an area woman phoned The Gentle Barn in California asking for their assistance in rescuing Dudley, who was taken away from his mother after one month and sent to a beef ranch to be fattened up for slaughter later. As a result of an unfortunate accident, Dudley lost one of his feet and was left to walk on his remaining three legs for eight months. Dudley not only experienced a loss of mobility, but the loss of one of his feet was putting an immense strain on his entire body, and in time, he might lose his ability to walk altogether.

This is when Ellie and Jay, The Gentle Barn in California co-founders, began their search to locate a veterinarian with experience amputating a cow’s foot and fitting the cow with a prosthesis. Their search led them to Dr. Anderson, one of the leading bovine surgeons in the nation, who was located at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Their search also found Ronnie Graves in Florida, who could create a prosthetic foot for Dudley. With everything in place, Ellie and Jay flew to Nashville, Tennessee, to save Dudley.

After five months in the hospital and several surgeries, Dudley was fitted with a prosthesis followed by months of physical therapy. Dudley was ready to go home, but just where would home be? We considered bringing him to The Gentle Barn in California, but the ongoing drought and sandy soil conditions, which could interfere with his prosthesis, were major obstacles. It was decided to keep Dudley on grass and near the University of Tennessee, where he could receive the necessary care he required. Because it was the dream of Jay and Ellie to launch The Gentle Barn nationally with locations in every state, the opportunity presented itself to initiate their dream with The Gentle Barn–Tennessee.

Dudley’s journey, which led to the founding of The Gentle Barn–Tennessee in Knoxville, could not have had a happier ending, except Dudley’s story is really just the beginning. Jay and Ellie have since rescued Destiny, and it was love at first sight for Dudley and Destiny, where he spends his days grooming her and laying by her side under their giant hickory tree. Other residents include Worthy, Indie, and Chris, three horses from Kentucky rescued by The Gentle Barn two years earlier, who were being boarded temporarily in Lexington. They also rescued “Rick Springfield,” the rooster from Nashville, and his two girlfriends, Jesse’s Girl and Rosy. Lastly, Ellie and Jay brought home two pigs, Horton and Henry, who were heading to slaughter. Afraid of people at first, they are now very playful, happy, friendly, and love to roll over for tummy rubs. Also, there will be many more animals who will join these amazing animals at The Gentle Barn in the future.

The Gentle Barn–Tennessee is open Saturdays from 11-1 for visitors to hug and brush the cows, feed the horses carrots, give the pigs tummy rubs, and hold the chickens and as they fall asleep in their laps. Visitors are also invited to sample delicious Tofurky hot dogs and Beanfield chips to discover just how a delicious, healthy, cruelty-free, plant-based diet can be.

During the week, The Gentle Barn–Tennesse hosts inner city, at-risk, and special needs groups of children who share the animals’ stories of abuse and neglect. The Gentle Barn–Tennessee also works with war veterans, domestic violence shelters, senior citizen centers, children’s hospitals, and anyone else who would benefit from the unconditional love, hope, and inspiration of our residents. Through the interaction with the animals and their stories, people learn kindness, compassion, and confidence and cultivate self-awareness and hope for the future, right here in The Gentle Barn–Tennessee.

For more information about The Gentle Barn, visit and purchase your tickets to meet Dudley and his pals today. It can change your life! To learn more about how The Gentle Barn got started, you are encouraged to read the founder’s book, “My Gentle Barn,” available wherever books are sold.

The Gentle Barn–Tennessee

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