By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
The Central Oregon Veterans Ranch offers veterans like Johnathan Courtney a place to connect with others and heal in a comfortable and therapeutic environment.
“I served for nine years in the US Army, then got out and struggled, I had a deployment to Iraq and struggled with PTSD,” said Courtney, a peer support specialist at the ranch. “Being a veteran we struggle with ups and downs or maybe some life challenges that happen and that’s the importance and that’s why this ranch is important.”
Courtney has been volunteering at the ranch for nearly a year, facilitating suicide prevention training and running peer support groups to address struggles veterans may encounter in their everyday life.
Thursday, four more members were added to the ranch family to help provide veterans with another form of therapy.
Sheep named Latte, Mocha, Cappuccino, and Bob.
The four sheep have been living on the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office ranch, but will now serve as therapy animals to veterans.
Staff members say the animals are generally known to be calm and promote a peaceful atmosphere.
“Personally I don’t know how to work with sheep or even know the first thing about sheep but it gives me an opportunity to come out and learn and it’s not even necessarily about the sheep, it’s about helping and building those relationships with veterans,” Courtney said.
In addition to the sheep, the ranch is also expanding its greenhouse program, giving veterans a space to grow and harvest produce that is then sold to local businesses and donated to local food banks, connecting them with the community.
“Right now and what we’re doing and what we’ve been doing for the last year is growing lettuce and tomatoes and we’ll be expanding that this year,” said Orion Carriger, agricultural manager at the ranch. “Also we’ll be starting a community garden for veterans. It gives a healthy environment for guys and gals to come out with or without their families and connect and get out on the land.”
The programs are all designed to ensure veterans heal together.
“If you need a place to come, to connect with other veterans, the ranch is that place,” Courtney said.