Today we’d like to introduce you to Cristi Walker.
If you ask co-founders Michael and Cristi Walker how the Happy Heart Haven got here, they’ll tell you it was a lifetime in the making. Cristi was born with a congenital heart defect called Pulmonary Atresia. She was essentially born with only half of her heart. To improve the conditions of her heart function, she had four open-heart surgeries and a pacemaker implanted. At every hospital stay, Cristi was sure to have a cow stuffed animal in her bed with her – they were always her favorite! At one point, she even had over 100 cows in her collection! Fast forward a few years and Michael and Cristi met each other and fell in love! In 2015 they got married with BIG dreams, although none of them included over 30 animals…
Then, in 2017 Cristi found out she would need a Pulmonary Valve Replacement due to onset issues with her heart condition. Going into surgery, there was a 50/50 chance Cristi would get either a pig or cow valve. As luck would have it, life came full circle and Cristi got a cow valve (melody valve!). That year, Cristi turned 30 and her one wish was to meet a cow up close. She found a local dairy that fulfilled that dream and after feeling a deep connection, Cristi knew that she had to have a cow of her own so that she could share that joy with others! Shortly after, Michael and Cristi decided to abandon suburbia, move to the country, and open a place that they could make that possible not just for them, but for all who visit this special place! In 2019, The Happy Heart Haven was born! It grew from a dream to a reality with a purpose to not only warm human hearts but create a place for our rescued animals to fulfill their best lives!
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has definitely been a rough road. One in 100 babies is born with a Congenital Heart Defect and there is no cure. Everything that was done when Cristi was a child was somewhat of an experimental procedure. Cristi is grateful to have been born in the late 80’s because any sooner, the babies simply did not make it. Now, those babies and turning into adults and Doctors are finding more onset issues as these patients grow. This is what led to Cristi needing a new pulmonary valve and in the near future, she will require a Heart and Liver transplant. Growing up in Carlsbad, Cristi had never had anything more than a dog. She always loved animals but caring for over 35 farm animals was something she and her husband Mike never had experience with. Everything was a learning curve. As long as you have love in your heart and the ability to feed everyone, you can rescue animals.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We rescue farm animals needing homes that would otherwise be forgotten or mistreated. Our goal is to connect these rescued animals with people! We have found that often times the people are the ones that have been rescued by our animals. We know that spending time in nature with animals can be the best therapy and we want to share that with others. We do private tours, group tours, cuddle sessions, birthday parties and more! We love teaching visitors about our animals, debunking some common misconceptions (mini pigs do not exist!) and creating happier hearts. We are all about happiness here. When you visit, you document what makes you happy on a heart and tie it on our happy tree! We choose happiness everyday and we hope our visitors take a bit of that lifestyle home with them.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
We love volunteers! We have a staff of volunteers that help us on a weekly basis and we could not be more grateful!
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.thehappyhearthaven.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/thehappyhearthaven
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/thehappyhearthaven
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0bCgjk3UKipqNgNLFeDKAA
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-happy-heart-haven-valley-center?osq=the+happy+heart+haven
Katherine Rose Photography for my main photo of me and the cow.