News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Horsewomen of Sisters donate funds

Darlene Johnston, Patty Swarens and Carol Statton dreamed up a project just over a year ago over margaritas at Bronco Billy's Ranch Grill and Saloon: A calendar featuring horsewomen of the area dressed in 19th-century clothing, with proceeds from sales going toward community animal rescue efforts.

"After the margaritas cleared the next day, it still seemed like a good idea," said Johnston. And last Saturday, January 19, they presented the last of three checks, and several additional people instrumental in the project joined the original trio at Bronco Billy's in celebration.

Sales of the calendar, with some folks generously contributing more than the $12 asking price, generated enough funds that the project presented $1,000 to Furry Friends Foundation, $2,000 to Wild Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and $4,000 to the Deschutes County Livestock Animal Rescue and Shelter.

"Everyone involved in making the calendar was so generous and enthusiastic; we never could have pulled this off without everyone else," said Johnston. "And I got to meet so many amazing women."

Donations made by local businesses in exchange for advertising covered most of the costs of the calendar's top-notch design and printing by XPress Printing. Everyone else volunteered, providing everything from prop and clothing loans to photography. The women featured were each given a calendar for their hours of preparation, travel and posing.

Sales started September 1, and by November 1 the calendars were scarce. The group wished they could have known that the calendars would be so popular so they could have printed more and given away even more money. People keep asking if they'll do it again next year; after all, there are so many amazing horsewomen here to feature.

"Nope," said Johnston. "We'll be out riding our horses!"

For the dogs' and cats' share, a check was delivered at The Nugget in December,to assist with the program which helps families in need with feeding their pets.

Kiki Dolson, who runs the Furry Friends Foundation, said the contribution was "the largest single donation to date. I was so surprised and thankful when the Horsewomen of Sisters donated $1,000 to the Furry Friends."

Half the donation is right now in the process of paying for the spay and neutering of a dozen cats. The balance will purchase pet food to be distributed through the Sisters Kiwanis Food Bank, helping to fulfill this year's goal of supplying food to pets in need year-round.

Dolson noted that "the pending 501(3)(c) status (of Furry Friends) will make it easier for individuals and companies to donate. We are excited about expanding this much-needed service to the Sisters community and especially want to thank the Horsewomen of Sisters for thinking of Furry Friends with their generous donation."

The raptor rescue work of Wild Wings Raptor Rehabilitation (WWRR) is familiar to many residents of Sisters.

With the help of area veterinarians, often Dr. Little Liedblad, they rehabilitate injured, ill and orphaned birds with the goal of releasing them back to their home habitat. Those beyond repair must be euthanized; those with permanent disabilities become foster companions for new birds and ambassadors in education in Oregon and all over the U.S.

But WWRR's Gary and Kellie Landers contribute to the well-being of raptors, other birds and wild animals in a myriad of ways.

The Landers report that 90 percent of raptor injury is human-caused. Some of the most common injuries are incurred through collisions with cars, powerline electrocution, lead poisoning from bullet wounds and ingestion of shotgun pellets in prey, and entrapment in barbed wire.

"We're also putting a lot of energy into eliminating the dangers that we can; it just makes sense to go after the sources of the problems," Gary said.

WWRR partners with the juvenile justice system, which organizes crews to remove barbed wire from public and private land. Gary also shares his decades of raptor experience with electric companies as they make power poles safer for raptors, wind-power companies to site wind turbines to both harness the wind and locate them out of the flight paths of birds, and the public.

People do want help, from the school kids to the power company employees.

"We are extremely flattered that you chose us to receive some of the benefit of the calendar," Gary told the horsewomen.

To learn about how to help an injured bird and what you can do help prevent human-caused raptor injuries, visit No U.S. or state funding is provided for raptor rehabilitation; all monies donated to WWRR go to food and medical care for the birds.

Les Hamilton, site manager of the Deschutes County Livestock Rescue and Shelter said, "My reward for this work is to see the horses recover. I'll see one hauled in nearly dead, and three weeks later, it's doing OK."

Hamilton, with several Deschutes Country Sheriff Deputies, manages the facility that holds and cares for neglected, abused and abandoned animals seized by the Deschutes Country Sheriff's Office.

"We used to have to just leave abused or neglected animals on site and monitor them; that was very difficult," he said.

Several years ago, Hamilton - an animal-control deputy - and current Deschutes County Sheriff Larry Blanton built a small livestock shelter near the Humane Society. The current site, completed in 2009, can hold 36 horses in several pens, corrals and pastures. It is mainly used for horses, but also accommodates cattle, donkeys, pigs, llamas, goats, emus... "you name it, we've had 'em. Oh, the pigs made a mess! And we had to contend with about one-and-a-half million flies along with the pigs. That's near the top of our wish list: hog panels. We're going to build a pig pen way, way out over there."

The shelter is owned by Deschutes County, but maintained mostly by donations received from individuals, and occasionally businesses and foundations. Small donations from individuals are the most frequent: a sack of grain, bag of senior horse food, half a dozen bales of hay, a few T-posts, wire fencing.

Sometimes people who adopt an animal will give a donation, although no adoption fee is required. Several area veterinarians are involved with the animal care, from the preliminary documentation through the animals' stay. All the money donated goes to animal feed, fencing, fencing repairs, and veterinary care. Facility history and animals currently up for adoption can be found at

The stories at Saturday's celebration table fittingly ended with Susan Aylor retelling how her dog, Lexie, saved Susan's life one night. It's impossible to know how Lexie, shut in the house, knew that Susan, alone in the far corner of the property, needed help. She had fallen and split her head open in a pasture. Lexie insisted the house guests let her out, and Susan came back to consciousness with Lexie licking her face.

It's the kind of connection that motivated the Horsewomen of Sisters to help those who help the animals that are so important in the lives of folks in Sisters Country


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