Wilmot Animal Sanctuary Offers a Loving Home to Select Animals

Visitors welcomed by appointment; bring a picnic!

By Shelley Geoghegan
Jen and Ben Taylor, founders of Bark & Bray Farm and Animal Sanctuary, pose with their adopted donkeys, Big D and Lil d.

The first thing one feels when stepping out of the car at the Bark & Bray Farm and Animal Sanctuary in Wilmot is the peacefulness. It is palpable. Next, there is the earthy scent of dirt and manure, typical of any farm with animals, mixed with new spring smells. Then, scattered around large fenced in areas, visitors see the reason for the existence of this animal sanctuary – a menagerie of animals, all engrossed in enjoying their meal of grass, hay, or other delights. There were a few nods of interest from a couple of the donkeys, and a glance from a very large cow, but overall they were content to graze.

When Jen and Ben Taylor bought their property, they weren’t thinking of creating an animal sanctuary. But they loved animals, especially dogs, and along the way, they adopted two donkeys, Big D and Lil d, who were not abused, but were in need of a home. 

Their inspiration for the animal sanctuary came when they adopted an older mini horse Queen B from Home at Last Farm Rescue. Queen B lived alone for 30 years and was terrified of people until finding a soft landing at Bark & Bray Sanctuary. From there, they adopted Hagrid, a pot belly “tea cup pig” from MSPCA Nevins Farm. He never saw the outdoors until arriving at Bark & Bray. 

Next came a feral yak, Marge. She came from a family in Newport who could no longer care for her due to their aging health. Marge the yak was also alone and desperately needed companionship in her golden years. The lifespan of a yak is about 18-20 years, and Marge is around 16 years old. She is quiet and keeps to herself, but gets along quite well with her buddy Maxime, who shares the same pen and pasture with her.

Marge, the lonely yak adopted by Bark & Bray Farm and Animal Sanctuary of Wilmot. Photo: Shelley Geoghegan

Maxime, a huge but gentle Holstein, weighs close to 2,000 pounds, the top five percent weight range for her breed. “She’s a sweetheart,” according to Jen. She came from the Live and Let Live Farm’s Rescue located in Chichester, New Hampshire. She was taking up space at the rescue that could have been used to rescue multiple equines in need. She too was alone and in need of companionship. She and Marge were placed together, separated by a fence at first, but then allowed to mingle. 

A video created by Cuddle Buddies shows the progression of a burgeoning friendship, as they studied each other warily, but then started feeding, following, and then staying close together. The change in the yak’s demeanor was dramatic, with the video showing her prancing around, and becoming more energetic. Now they are inseparable.

An upcoming new addition is a mini (but not tiny) Highland cow, named Molly, also from the Live and Let Live Farm Rescue. Visit the organization’s website to learn about sponsoring Molly, and for other opportunities to help out. Ben and Jen Taylor’s home page at barkandbrayfarm.org gives an interesting explanation behind the name of their 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization:
“Well, the founders’ rescue passion started with dogs (bark) and evolved into donkeys (bray). Their two favorite noises are the bark and the donkey’s bray. It was only natural that this became their name.”

Maxime, a huge Holstein cow, and Bark & Bray Farm and Animal Farm Sanctuary co-founder, Jen Taylor, bond over neck scratches. Photo: Shelley Geoghegan

It helped that Ben participated in 4H in school, and was an Environmental Sciences major in college. Both Ben, President/Co-founder, and Jen, Executive Director and Co-founder, work regular jobs outside of their nonprofit work.

Their mission statement, from their website, says that “We are a 501c3 non profit animal sanctuary with the mission of providing forever homes to abused and neglected farm animals. Our goal is to adopt animals from rescue organizations in order to free up space for rescues to continue to rehab and rehome. 

Rescue organizations frequently have animals with a long length of stay due to difficulty finding an appropriate forever home. This could be due to their personality or care needs. This is where B&B (Bark and Bray Sanctuary) can step in to help! 

“We provide the animals with security and safety for the rest of their lives. Due to their traumatic pasts, this allows them to heal and find joy in life again. Through these efforts, we aim to prevent animal abuse and neglect by providing education on animal welfare. We believe that all animals have both physical and emotional needs that must be met to give them an excellent quality of life.”

Starting a nonprofit isn’t always easy, or cut and dry. There is the state and federal paperwork and local zoning and permissions to contend with, and then there is the financing and fundraising. Fortunately, their property already had a barn. They built fenced-in areas and small sheds, and found volunteers to help with the never-ending, but rewarding, task of mucking out the stalls and pens, moving hay bales around, feeding and grooming the animals, and making sure everything is neat and tidy. It’s easy to become attached to these sweet animals, once you are around them for any amount of time.

One volunteer, Dulcee Loehn, from Danbury, is a busy consultant who does business coaching, and is the President of the New London Rotary. She loves to work at the sanctuary because it is peaceful and gives her quality time away from her busy life. Another volunteer, Justin Coleman, from Franklin, wants to be a vet. This experience gives him good exposure to being around animals.

Other volunteers are always needed, not only to help with the animals, but to help with the numerous fundraising events they have planned. Raising funds to support this effort is at the top of their list, and they have done an amazing job of coming up with creative, and fun, events.

Their website lists upcoming events, including a tennis tournament on June 8 and 9 at Colby-Sawyer College. They are still looking for donors to help them meet their goal of $7,000. They are more than halfway there at the time of this writing. Also, on June 22, at the Wilmot Farmers Market, they will have their mini donkeys on site. Their events’ calendar lists items for every month this year, including some with holiday themes!

Visits to the Bark & Bray Farm and Animal Sanctuary need to be scheduled. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic lunch (there are picnic tables), and walk on the public trails that are next to the Sanctuary. For more fun, take a “donkey trek!” This is an opportunity to take a nature walk with two donkeys, Big D and Lil d, who know their way around! 

Their website also has links to their Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok pages, as well as a pagr for an opportunity to donate. As it says “Be a hero! Sponsor.”