This Animal Rescue Farm Is Inspired by a Mom Who Survived a Heartbreaking Marriage

Laurie Zaleski recently launched her book, Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals.

It tells the story of the woman who inspired her to establish an animal rescue farm and to adopt many sorts of animals that would make you laugh with their antics and fascinate you with their peculiar inter-species relationships.

Laurie’s mom, Annie McNulty, was a free-spirited and lovely woman. Her only fault was that she was not good at choosing men. She married Richard Zaleski, who, underneath his charm, was a violent character.

Richard sowed fear and terror in his household, treating his wife like a punching bag. Annie endured her abusive marriage for many years, until finally deciding she had had enough. She took flight, along with her four kids, a few days before Christmas in 1973, after her husband threatened to kill them all with a carving knife.

Annie and her kids escaped to a ramshackle farm in the woodlands of South Jersey. It marked a brand-new beginning for Laurie and her siblings, where animals soon became their everyday company.

Yes, life remained tough for Annie who was now a single mom with no money and only a few skills. But Laurie observed how her mom radiated extraordinary resilience amid new challenges.

Annie was then working for the local animal control, and she would usually take home animals that were rejected by the community. Laurie and her siblings learned to take care of abandoned cats, dogs, and goats, which also became their playmates in the rundown farm.

At last, all grown up, her siblings flew off to lead their own lives. But Laurie remained to continue helping their mom while also managing her graphic design company. She had always dreamed of buying a bigger farm for her mom.

She recalled telling her, “Mom, for the rest of your life, I’m gonna have a nice farm for you.”

But Annie died from cervical cancer in 2000, just weeks before Laurie was able to purchase the 15-acre farmstead that she intended to give her. Laurie was very downtrodden, but she decided to live out her mom’s dream herself.

Now, 22 years later, Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary is a successful animal shelter that takes in various animals with humorous habits and antics. Several of these animals also love befriending others which belong to different species, like a duckling who is a devoted companion to a blind kitten and a llama who became an aging donkey’s best pal.

Now, with her book, Laurie can tell the world about the extraordinary woman who made a difference in her life and in the lives of hundreds of rescue animals.

Written by Doris De Luna

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For more than 20 years now, I’ve been devoting my heart, energy, and time to fulfilling my dream, which – many people may agree – is not among the easiest aspirations in life. Part of my happiness is having been able to lend a hand to many individuals, companies, and even governments as an investigative journalist, creative writer, TV director, and radio broadcaster.
At home, I spend my free time learning how to cook various cuisines. Tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and banoffee pie are my favorite desserts. Playing with our dogs, Mushu and Jerusalem, is also a special part of my day. And, of course, I read a lot – almost anything under the sun. But what really makes me feel alive is meeting people from various walks of life and writing about their stories, which echo with the tears and triumph of an unyielding spirit, humanity, and wisdom.
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