Image for Laurie Zaleski: Her Life at the ‘Funny Farm’ with 600 Rescue Animals

Laurie Zaleski

Life at the ‘Funny Farm’ with 600 Rescue Animals

Zaleski escaped abuse, rose from poverty, and fulfilled her mother’s dream of creating a sanctuary for abandoned or injured animals.

Episode Highlights

Laurie Zaleski is the founder of the Funny Farm Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. And when we spoke with her, there were 11 dogs, 25 cats and two chickens living in her house - along with an 800-pound rescue pig named Wilbur outside.

In fact, more than 600 animals currently reside at Laurie's animal sanctuary in Mays Landing, New Jersey. And in this episode, Laurie will share how the Funny Farm came to be — and what it's like to care for so many creatures.

Laurie, a graphic designer and successful businesswoman, founded the farm to fulfill the dream of her mother, Annie McNulty. And Laurie's story is several Crazy Good Turns rolled into one:

  • It's about second chances. Many of the animals at Laurie's farm are dealing with difficult health issues. A typical animal control center would destroy many if not most. But at the Funny Farm, they not only survive. They thrive — and do so to the delight of thousands of fans on social media.
  • It's about unexpected friendships. At Laurie's farm, animals roam free and often form bonds. Turns out, dogs and cats really can and do get along - and so do geese, chickens, cows, alpacas and even emus.
  • It's about paying it forward. Laurie didn't have much growing up. So today her farm welcomes anyone to visit, free of charge. Tens of thousands of people take her up on the offer. In fact, the Funny Farm is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Jersey
  • But above all, it's about caretakers. The animal lovers working on Laurie's farm are all volunteers. None of them is paid. All of them spend countless hours helping these animals - which in many cases require special care.

And there's also one other element to this story. The Funny Farm is exactly that: fun. It's a place where families and children visit every week and come away delighted.

It's a happy and heartwarming place — one that Laurie built from not-so-happy beginnings.

Tune in to hear how Laurie's love of animals and pursuit of her mother's dream led her to build a haven unlike any other.

  • The trauma Laurie's family endured that led to Funny Farm (3:54)
  • Valuable life lessons visitors to the farm learn (12:11)
  • Why Laurie is dedicated to keeping the farm free to visitors (16:05)
  • The incredibly personal reason Laurie wrote a book about her experiences (20:36)
  • How the animals rescued Laurie and her family (24:26)

LAURIE ZALESKI: Thank you for having me, Frank.

FRANK BLAKE: So Laurie, maybe a good place to start is with your book, because the title of your book is interesting. It's both suggestive of a good turn and a little bit of craziness.

So the book is called Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals.

So first off, really? 600 rescue animals? Tell us a little bit about it.

LAURIE ZALESKI: So the Funny Farm is over 600 rescue animals now, because when I wrote the book, there were only 600.

So I'm trying not to get the numbers too high, but over 600 animals.

I don't know if you know the story, but my mother was going to be a nun and then married the devil, my father. So-

FRANK BLAKE: Well, that's a pretty powerful first sentence.

LAURIE ZALESKI: It really is. So it's an unexpected life, because none of us expected any of this to happen.

The Funny Farm just came about with a series of things that happened in life.

So my mom was the ultimate Stepford Wife. She was not allowed to have a credit card, she was not allowed to have a driver's license.

She stayed at home and took care of the kids. We had a nanny. We were very well-to-do.

We had a house in Wildwood, New Jersey, and we had a house in the Poconos, while my dad ran around and was very heavy-handed.

And when she found out about the other women, she would say something and the beatings got worse. So we left.

The third time that we stayed away, we finally got a house of our own, and it was no electric, no running water.

FRANK BLAKE: So what age are you now, Laurie?

LAURIE ZALESKI: I was 5 years old. I know, people were-


LAURIE ZALESKI: Yes, just 5. But I remember that like it was yesterday.

The stuff from yesterday, I don't remember yesterday, but when you have traumatic things, you remember every detail.

So my mother had no skills. She started working at the shelter, and started bringing home all these animals.

Hence the Funny Farm began, and it's where we rented. It was supposed to be a temporary house, and we stayed there for 28 years.

So I, as a young girl, promised her that I would buy her her own farm one day.

And in my late 20s, I went to buy her this farm because I found out she had cancer and she passed away right before I made settlement on the-


LAURIE ZALESKI: ... property.

So believe me, she's there. She's at the new place where I am now.

So I started out with 35 and now I'm over 600 animals, so her dream became my dream in the-

FRANK BLAKE: So give me a little bit of background on rescue animals, how they happened to come into your mom's life and then your life and then-


So her working there, anybody who was going to be euthanized, any of the animals, we had a horse that had a broken leg.

And normally back then, they just euthanized, especially a horse. They don't try and mend it, they would just kill them.

So my mother was like, "Oh, I'll take care of it."

Now, she had no money. She had no vehicle. Eventually her horse became her vehicle to go to her jobs.

But I used to say, "Mom, why do you call our house the Funny Farm?"

And she said, "Because it's full of animals and fit for lunatics."

Because she would help not only animals, sometimes there would be extra people there. We had a runaway, we had another one of her friends that her husband was abusive, and she came there.

So my mother was one of those, she was like a saint.

FRANK BLAKE: Huge heart.


FRANK BLAKE: Wanted to help.

LAURIE ZALESKI: And never helped herself, but helped everybody else.

FRANK BLAKE: So did she have a veterinary background? Rescue animals, I mean, what would you do with a horse with a broken leg?

LAURIE ZALESKI: She bandaged it up.

What she learned in the nunnery, that's all she had. She was going to be a nun.

They learned first aid and she said, "We're going to give these animals love. We can't afford vets," because we couldn't back then, unless there was an absolute, absolute emergency.

She just did what she knew how to do, and we gave them love and as best vet care that we could, as a family.

And most of them survived and flourished there.

FRANK BLAKE: So now you buy this farm but sadly, your mom is dead. I might have thought, "Well, I've got a nice farm now. I can stop with the rescue animals."

But obviously, you didn't.

LAURIE ZALESKI: Yes. They were our family. So I came with 35.

Now if I had just stopped at those 35 and waited until them, then I would be free and clear now.

People would say, "Hey, Laurie, I heard you had this new farm, and you have some land, you have room for this or that." And it grew and grew and grew.

And then eventually, so I didn't become a nonprofit right away, it took 12 years. I did it on my own, my graphic design and photography business at the FAA.

And I would feed in the morning and then I would feed again at night. And I was not a great mom because I was very busy.

I became a nonprofit once my bills got to be about $4,000 a month for just feed.


LAURIE ZALESKI: I said, "How am I going to pay my mortgage and pay these animals?" So that's why.

I did it for a tax break and then people started saying, "Can I visit? Can I volunteer?"

And I'm thinking, "What's wrong with you people? This is where I live. I don't want strangers here."

FRANK BLAKE: So I think I've read that your farm is one of the top 10 tourist attractions in New Jersey, is that right?


Top 10 out of any place in all of New Jersey, yes, we were, and we received No. 1 family place, beating out Storybook Land and all these great places. So, yeah.

You know why? Because the animals are loose. When you walk through the gates, you're like, "A dog is getting along with a goose and a chicken and a cat and a cow."

They all roam. Not everybody roams. The cows with the big gigantic horns, the bulls are behind a fence.

They used to be loose, but they have all been around each other.

And I think if you just let an animal, as long as they're not hungry, they're not going to eat each other or kill each other.

They learn that they're brothers and sisters, just like we fight with our brothers and sisters. They might have spat, but they're not hurting each other.

FRANK BLAKE: So what kinds of animals are they? Mostly dogs and cats?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Oh, no. God, no. No. I have more farm animals. So it's the Funny Farm.

So we have like 28 pigs, 30-some goats, 12 donkeys, 13 horses, two steer.

FRANK BLAKE: I'm sorry. I'm curious, what's the path that leads a pig to your farm?

Is it somebody just saying, "Okay, too bad, so sad, pig, it's time you're going to be bacon?"

LAURIE ZALESKI: Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs. You know how everybody was thinking they were doing the pig craze, and I'm like, "I got this pig. It's a micro mini-pig,"

By the way, there is no such thing. What they do is they just don't feed them, and it keeps them small.

Just like if you didn't feed your plant or your kid, it would probably keep them a little bit smaller.


LAURIE ZALESKI: And then they realize once they feed them regular, they're growing to 250 or 300 pounds.

So most of the majority of my pigs are the mini-pigs, but they're not so mini.

I do have one hog who is 800 pounds, Wilbur. He fell off of a truck and he was running around in the next town over, and he wound up coming to the farm.

He had the earring thing where they say where it's going for meat. And he's my most gentle pig and he's 800 pounds. He's wonderful.

FRANK BLAKE: So what's the typical path where one of these animals comes to your doorstep?

LAURIE ZALESKI: So somebody has to contact me.

People say, "Where do you get your animals?" I don't go looking for them. They find me. And we're usually the last step before euthanasia.

So we are taking in elderly, injured, abused, unwanted, disabled, I mean, the ones that just really have no chance.

If somebody says, "Oh, I have this pig and I'm moving and I can't take it." I'm like, "Nope, figure it out." I'm not a dumping grounds for somebody who just didn't make a good decision.

Now, not to say that I've never taken in those, but it's usually the ones that were tossed out or were going to be euthanized.

I have two dogs that have to sit up in a high chair. They have megaesophagus, and have to be fed every three hours. And they have to-

FRANK BLAKE: I'm sorry, what does megaesophagus mean?

LAURIE ZALESKI: It means their esophagus is enlarged and if they eat like a normal dog, zero food goes to their stomachs.


LAURIE ZALESKI: So they have to sit up a human and then the food will go down by gravity.

So when we're open at the Funny Farm two days a week, we do this demonstration twice through the day and people watch and we teach kids, we take them to schools and teach kids about kindness.

And you never know if somebody is feeling sad on the inside.

They look like normal dogs when they're running around until they get in their chair. And the kids are like, "Why are they in that box? Are their legs broken? What's wrong?"

And I said, "No, they just eat differently than the regular dogs." So we teach about if all these different species can get along, so can you as humans.

So it teaches through the animals and it wasn't on purpose. It's just happens when you have all of these animals together, they all can get along just like humans should.

FRANK BLAKE: So Laurie, have you become a bit of a vet, a veterinarian-


FRANK BLAKE: ... in this process, so you can see what's happening with your animals?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Yes, yes. I am not a vet, let's make that clear.

But I am allowed to do certain things and give shots, and the vets tell people, "Call Laurie," when they have a megaesophagus dog, because I have been able to do things that the veterinarians have not been able to.

They always say euthanize them, every vet, because they don't know unless you have one at home.

So I just had a woman recently that called me and she said finally after I helped her, I got her a chair for her dog, and everything just worked great.

So he's gaining weight, and they thought he was going to die a couple weeks ago. So, yeah.

FRANK BLAKE: What's the most unusual animal or most unusual situation with an animal that you've dealt with? I bet you have plenty.

LAURIE ZALESKI: Oh, I've dealt with a lot of unusual situations. A lot.

So my most unusual animal I think is an emu. I don't know if you ever seen the LiMu-

FRANK BLAKE: Now because of the ads, I see a lot.

LAURIE ZALESKI: Right. The ad.

I mean, they have prehistoric feet and they have the three claws. They look like something out of Jurassic Park and they walk around.

The one that I have grew up in my house, so his name is Connor. And he will walk right up to you and people are like, "What is that?"

It looks like he's going to peck you, but he just wants to see people. And most emus are fence-walkers. They'll just walk up and down the fence.

But my animals are super friendly because like I said, I just let them be, let them feel like they're human or a dog or a cat.

So in my house right now, I have 11 dogs, seven baby Guinea hens, 25 cats, a cockatoo and two chickens. That is at the moment.

And half the time, my bathroom turns into a trauma unit, my bathtub. So it really is the Funny Farm. You can't even make this stuff up.

FRANK BLAKE: So it sounds like sheer chaos.

LAURIE ZALESKI: Yes, controlled chaos, I like to say.

There's a reason we're doing the Zoom here at my job and not at my house.

FRANK BLAKE: Okay. All right. What's the animal or the situation with an animal that you think you've learned the most from?

That you go, "Wow, I didn't expect that. That's really an interesting insight," either into animals, into all of living beings?

LAURIE ZALESKI: I think that there's so many animals that...

I was on CBS Sunday Morning and I remember they asked me the question, they said, "Now, Laurie, do you really think that animals have human characteristics? Are you giving that to them? Do they really feel grief?"

And I said, "I am not giving them anything. They feel grief."

When I had lost one of my dogs, my other dogs took his bed and put it on top of the grave and came and brought all these toys, and the animals just acted sad. They were just different. They knew that.

You're supposed to show them when somebody dies, so the other animals don't keep looking for them. And they feel grief and they miss you. You know how these dogs get anxious when their parents go off to work? They feel real feelings.

So when a turkey acts like a dog and will come up and cuddle you, it's a very strange feeling thinking that, "Wow, I've never been around a turkey, and I've never hugged or kissed a turkey," until they came to the Funny Farm.

They have a whole new perspective on animals. And that's just all of them.

I had a skunk, same thing.

People would hold Skunk and be like, "I never knew that they could be like a kitty cat, that they're cuddly and that they'll nuzzle up in your hair," because you don't have that opportunity often.

So it's amazing what animals-

FRANK BLAKE: And truly, they don't attack you, you don't have horrible mishaps with them?

LAURIE ZALESKI: No, knock wood, knock wood, Frank. So we make everybody sign a waiver before they come.

It is free to get in because my mother had no money for us kids to go anywhere, so I keep it free.

FRANK BLAKE: This is for anybody shows up two days a week?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Anybody shows up, two days a week, Tuesdays and Sundays. It's free, and my volunteers yell at me and say, "Laurie, we had 2,500 people today. If you charged $1, that would've been 2,500!"

And I say, "You know what? It will come back to us. Don't you worry about it."

And I had a woman once, I was on a hay ride and I was telling the story about how I keep it free. And this woman started crying and I'm like, "What happened?"

And she said, "I was in the same situation as your mom." She was getting no child support, no alimony, she couldn't bring her kids anywhere but the Funny Farm.

And she finally got back on her feet and she handed me a $20 bill, which might've been like $500 to her.


LAURIE ZALESKI: And was crying and made me cry, because I could feel how important it was to her.

So that's one person that told me that it was some place where their kids want to go. If you say, "Do you want to go to the zoo, Disney World, or the Funny Farm?" A lot of the kids say the Funny Farm.

And I think it's just that sheer hands-on animal excitement.

And I'm not saying that it's perfect, Frank.

We've had nips of horses, they're animals. We have geese that are trying to give you a kiss with their hard beak on your legs sometimes.

So things happen, cat scratches. Knock wood, we've never been sued. And like I said, hopefully that waiver will help.

And I'm just doing what I learned from my mother that they all got along and are together, and are happy. So like I said, we should learn everything like that as a human.

FRANK BLAKE: So now, you have over 600 animals. I mean, does it just keep building and building and building or do you have a certain number?

Do you think, "Well, this farm can maintain maybe another 25," or "We're pretty much at max capacity," or "We're going to keep growing"?

LAURIE ZALESKI: In some of the departments, when I say the cat department, we have over 200 cats.

I have volunteers that are just the cat women that come every day to feed those animals.

I go to work, I feed certain animals and then I have my volunteers. We're all volunteer run. We have no paid people, so-

FRANK BLAKE: That's extraordinary.

LAURIE ZALESKI: ... I have to be careful of that. It is extraordinary. And these people show up.

People are like, "How do you get these people to help?" These are people that love animals and it feels good to give to something.

And the animals look at you like, "Thank you so much."

You can feel their love, and that you're helping an innocent animal that can't feed and water itself.

To answer your question about do we have a max, we don't because we just added on acreage. I just bought 10 more acres. So we're at a total of 25.

I do have some other property in the area where I have an overflow. So I took in two horses that were going to be euthanized, and I didn't feel that they should've been. There was nothing really wrong.

So I have a renter that rents that and I said, "Part of your rent is that you have to take care of these two horses. I'll pay for everything, but you have to help me care for them."

So it's been working out great. So we have some other ideas, that if somebody really needs a home, we're going to find them a home. And if we can't take it, then we try and help place them somewhere.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow. So what prompted you to write the book and tell your story, and tell the story of the Funny Farm?

And what did you learn from writing the book?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Oh my goodness. Well, first of all, how hard it is to write a book.

FRANK BLAKE: Yeah, exactly.

LAURIE ZALESKI: I didn't really know the process.

Even though I'm a graphic designer and I do layout and I talk to the printers and do all that, when it comes to writing a book, I learned about getting a literary agent and what the process is because a lot of people are self-published.

We're self-published for three children's books, that means artsy graphics. We laid it out. I did the design, I put my photos in.

I had my social media guy write it, super easy. Not so much in this. Now, my literary agent asked three publishers and all three said yes at once.

The reason I wrote it was I had met a few people that were interviewing me about the farm and the one woman became friends with me. She wrote for a couple different places and she started to learn more and more and more about my past.

It's not something I would brag about if you know the book, there are things my best friends are like, "Why didn't you tell me?"

And it's not something you brag about to your friends when you went to school the next day.

So I was telling her a little bit, and she said, "Laurie, you have to write a book." And I thought, "I can't write a book." She said, "No, I can get you people, you can figure it out."

So I did it because I wanted people to know about my mother. It's really not a story of my life. It's a love letter to my mom. She was my superhero.

People say to me, "You had such a crazy upbringing, I can't believe you didn't turn to drugs and alcohol." A
nd I said, "If I had a different parent, I may have." But she was that person.

She was the most positive person that I have ever met. And she really was an angel on Earth before she became an actual angel. And everybody loved her. It wasn't just me.

My friends would be like, "I need to talk to your mom today. I'm feeling down."

She was very level-headed, she was not judgmental, whatever it was, she would be like, "It's okay, we'll figure out a way. Don't you worry about it."

So people say, "Don't you worry about being poor?" And I'm like, "Oh, poor, goodness."

We were poor. It made me who I am, and I wouldn't change anything except for maybe making my mother's life easier.

The fact that we all struggled makes the rest of life like, "Oh, this is all you got?" I feel like easy street now compared to when we were growing up.

So I wrote the book as a tribute to her, because I want people to know her, because she died at 52, Frank. So-


LAURIE ZALESKI: ... it was way too young. Yeah, way too young.

And I just feel like not enough people knew who she was. And now you can read the book and go...

People say, "I feel like I knew your mother and I love her," and that's what I want.

FRANK BLAKE: And when you were writing it, did you get a feeling that it was way tougher than you understood at the time, or I mean, as you reflected on it, what was the direction of your reflection?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Well, first of all, it was therapy that I didn't know I needed until I wrote the book.

So I was doing tape recordings of what was happening and telling stories. And in the middle of me talking into my phone or the tape recorder, I would just lose it and I had to stop.

So that's why if you read the book, there's the story of my mother's life, our life growing up and my dad tortured us.

It could be a pretty heavy read, but it's an easy read, it sounds like the way I speak. So it's not written on a super high level, but it's a hard read.

And in between our stories of the animals that are there at the farm now, and when you get to that animal story you're like, whew, I needed that animal story because I was never going to mix them in.

But I felt like I needed a break from my regular life, because it could be heavy.

Everyone has crap in their life, everyone. So we just have some different.

Like I'm sure you do, everybody does.

Even when you look at those perfect people, you think, "Oh, they never had crap." Everybody has stuff.

So a lot of people have really said, "Oh my gosh, I related so much to your story."

Whether it was the abuse or being poor, or being embarrassed from being poor, or whatever the case may be or animals, or whatever it is.

I've had so many people say, "I related to your book on so many levels and it helped me with my own life now, and being able to talk about things."

So like I said, I didn't know I needed therapy until after and I was like, "Holy moly, was I holding in a lot." Because I would be crying.

Even after I wrote it, I would go back to reread it, I would start bawling again and I'm like, "Okay, I need to take a break from this."

So I tell everybody, if you have something on your brain, write it down, get it out. You might need to.

FRANK BLAKE: And as you were writing it, did you think this extraordinary caring for animals in need was some way of handling the trauma that was happening elsewhere in your life?

How does that fit?

LAURIE ZALESKI: That's a great point that you just brought up.

So people would say to me when we were growing up, after they found out, they're like, "Oh, you rescued those animals!"

And I said, "You know what? Those animals rescued us."

I think that they came into our lives, so my mother wouldn't let us feel sorry for ourselves.

Like, "Look at these babies. As bad as we have it, somebody always has it worse. And look at these animals."

FRANK BLAKE: That's so brilliant.

LAURIE ZALESKI: So she was amazing, and she was the kind of person, here we came from a four-bedroom, all of us had our own bedrooms and we were spoiled and all of a sudden, we moved into a one-bedroom house.

My mom lived in our living room on a couch.

My brother grew up in a larger closet, and my sister and I shared the one bedroom and we would cry like, "We want to have our own place."

And we would start crying and she would say, "That's okay kids, keep crying. The more you cry, the less you pay."

And that's what happened. And she just would not let us feel sorry for ourselves, so.

FRANK BLAKE: So how do your siblings react to Funny Farm?

Is this a way for them to reconnect with your mom or do they go, "Oh my gosh, we're glad we're not here?"

LAURIE ZALESKI: So my brothers and sisters, eventually they would be like, "You know what? This is not really what we signed up for. So you're good, right?"

They both helped me in the very beginning, but now everybody has their lives.

So now I have volunteers helping me, thank goodness. But if I ever have a really big problem, I can call them and they'll be there.

But in the beginning, they all helped me because the place was a little rough to begin with, but nothing like where we started.

So I actually bought the house before I even saw the house. I saw the barn, I said, "The barn's nicer than our house right now. So yes, let's get it."

FRANK BLAKE: So as you built the farm, or as you built your business or through whatever point in your life, we always ask this to folks who are on the podcast, who is someone, and in this case, someone other than your mother who's done a crazy good turn for you, that you'd like to say, "Boy, this person is just...

What an extraordinary gift of kindness this person gave to me?"

LAURIE ZALESKI: So I almost can't pick just one.

Can I say my volunteers as a whole? I have a team of volunteers. It has to be one person?

FRANK BLAKE: Well, you can pick your volunteers as a whole, but give one description, one "here's an example."

LAURIE ZALESKI: Okay, so I have an example of... a couple. I mean, it can fit a lot of my core volunteers where every single day, they show up at this farm and are there to help.

No matter what the weather, no matter what the holiday. And if that's not-

FRANK BLAKE: That's extraordinary.



LAURIE ZALESKI: ... "I can't get people to show up to their paid job. How are you getting these people to show up to be a volunteer? I don't get it."

And it's the love of these babies, and all of these animals have become everybody's animals. They're not just my animals, I share them with everybody.

Everyone feels like they're my horses and my goats and my pigs and skunk or whatever it is.

Because it takes a village to take care of these babies. Before, it was just me.

I had a lot less, I had under 200.

Now that we're over six, it's too much for one person.

But these people are incredible, and my friend, Marjorie, is my editor and the person who talked me into doing this book, I want to do a shout-out to her, because without her, I would not have been able to do this.

And I never would've come up with it on my own until she gave me the little push that I needed.

FRANK BLAKE: Probably an unfair question, it's like asking a parent who's their favorite child, but do you have one of your animals that you go, "Boy, this one just speaks to me in a particularly unique way?"

LAURIE ZALESKI: So of course, my dogs that have megaesophagus, when I had lost my mom, that was the toughest thing.

When I had lost my dog, Chucky, he was the second biggest death, hardest death that I had to deal with was this dog, because he's the one who had to eat... So he would eat almost every hour.

I would try and feed him, because he was so skinny. He had the worst case of megaesophagus. So after he passed, I then took in another dog named Tucker and he has megaesophagus.

So he is like my big black shadow, big, huge German Shepherd.

And if I go somewhere, if I'm on the farm anywhere, they all know if I'm in a certain building because the dog's sitting outside waiting for me.

So I have 11, and I love them all, but he and I have a special, special bond, I have to say.

FRANK BLAKE: Very cool.

LAURIE ZALESKI: So that's my dog.

FRANK BLAKE: So just talking with you and I hope our listeners get a sense of it, you have such high energy, what do you do that recharges your batteries?

Because it's got to be exhausting.

You've got your own business and then you go home and there's zero relaxation in your home. There's some emu putting a face in you, and-

LAURIE ZALESKI: I have two things.

FRANK BLAKE: What recharges your batteries?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Recharges my battery, I have a motorcycle.

I will drive to my airport and then I'm a private pilot, so I enjoy flying and it's a little two-seater airplane.

I go up and I forget about everything because when you're flying, you can't think about much else. But people are like, "Oh, can I go?"

I want to just go by myself, because I don't get very much down or quiet time.

I really enjoy coming to work, because it's not super loud, although I love my animals, it makes me love my animals more when I go home.

But I would say flying is just visiting my mother, closer to Heaven. I just love going up in the airplane.

FRANK BLAKE: I mean, what do you think your mother would say if she saw Funny Farm?

LAURIE ZALESKI: Oh, she is smiling down, and don't you for a second think that she is not bugging me.

There are times where I have these lights, they flash and she's trying to tell me something. I'm like, "I got it, Mom, I'm good. Just go, we're good."

Because in the beginning, I was crying for three months and I know she thought, "Oh, this flaky artist, she's going to not be able to do this."

And I was having all these issues with my lights, so she is smiling down.

If she were here, I'm afraid we'd have double the amount of animals though, because she and I together were really bad.

I'd be bringing them home, she'd be bringing them home.

So, she would be tickled pink. I know that. And I think that she is there every day.

FRANK BLAKE: That's amazing, and the final question is I mean, you've got an enormous number of followers, you've got all these people who are coming to the farm.

I mean, where do you think things will be five years from now?

LAURIE ZALESKI: I think it's going to be like Disneyland, except for it'll be the Funny Farm.

I said, "Disney started somewhere." So it's starting to be a destination.

We were in People Magazine, we were on CBS Sunday Morning.

So people are seeing these animals walk around loose, or seeing pictures with all these animals together. They want to see it for themselves.

And we do a live video, a Facebook live from 10:00 to 11:00 on Sundays.

So people that can't get there, that are in the UK watch that, and they start seeing it and then they're like, "I want to go there."

And then when they get there, I have actually had people cry when they see certain animals.

They're famous, and they actually cry, and "Is this really Tucker?" It's amazing.

So I have to ask, "Where y'all from?" We want to see the furthest away, and they come from all parts of the world, not just the United States now.

It's start starting to become a destination, this little, tiny farm that my mom once started in Turnersville, and now is in Mays Landing and it's getting bigger, and who knows what's going to...

People say, "I never thought I was going to be here." So how can I say? But I do see it growing exponentially over the last year, for sure.

FRANK BLAKE: What just an extraordinary story and a great testament to your kindness and energy. For people who are interested, what is the best way to see what...

I mean, we've got your book and we'll give your book out free to some listeners because it is such a compelling story.

But where else should they learn about Funny Farm and Laurie Zaleski?

LAURIE ZALESKI: So they can go to the website,, O-R-G, because we are a nonprofit. It's not .com, so

We are also on Facebook and Instagram, and we are the type of place that's very happy.

So you're not going to get there and feel like you want to shoot yourself. You get there and it rejuvenates you, it makes you happy.

So those are the places.

If you want to donate, we have an Amazon and a Chewy list, wishlist, or you can just donate through our website as well.

But if you want, just come visit. Again, it is free to get in. So if you're between jobs or you just don't have a lot of money, come on, just come on and visit, and you will definitely feel better once you meet the critters.

FRANK BLAKE: Well, Laurie, congratulations and thank you so much for spending some time with us. This has been just an enormous treat.

What an extraordinary accomplishment. Thank you.

LAURIE ZALESKI: Thank you so much, Frank, for having me. I really appreciate your time as well.

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Win a Free Copy of ‘Funny Farm’

To celebrate Laurie's appearance on the show, we're giving away 50 copies of Laurie's book Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals. It's a delightful read - often humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, and above all, inspiring.

Click here to enter to win one of 50 free copies of Funny Farm.

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