I will never forget the first time I walked through the front gates of Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary. I was immediately struck with a sense of peace. Chickens were scratching in the dirt and several potbelly pigs were sleeping in the sunshine. I was greeted by a lovely tortoiseshell cat named Gypsy whoI learned was the official Happy Trails greeter. Everywhere animals were living in such peace and happiness. I knew right then that Happy Trails was going to become a part of my life.
In the six years that I have been a volunteer with the farm I have been blessed to know some of the most wonderful animals and for every ounce of love that I have been able to give to them they have returned that love tenfold. Their ability to survive, trust, forgive and love after the suffering that they endured never ceases to overwhelm and humble me. To be in their presence is and honor and a gift.
People often say that they could never do such work because it would be too sad for them to know what the animals have suffered but I feel that their lives begin to change from the moment they are rescued. Even if we lose them or have to let them go their last moments are ones surrounded by love. To be able to give that gift outweighs everything for me. Our triumphs far outnumber our tragedies and working for Happy Trails is just pure joy.
(Ilona Urban is a retired school teacher who is currently in charge of Happy Trails educational presentations for schools and special interest groups. Ilona also handles our thank yous and assists with giving special tours and helps take the rescued animals for visits at nursing homes. Ilona is instrumental in the Happy Trails outreach programs.)