During an economic downturn, people sometimes give up on the animals they once loved and cared for.
When people abandon their pets, Daria Sparling, her fellow co-workers and volunteers get busy doing what they love to do.
Sparling, who owns and operates the Arizona Rescue Ranch near Mammoth, has found dogs and horses, malnourished and emaciated, roaming the desert. She has also answered the call from people who found horses abandoned on ranches.
This isn't anything new for the former Miss Arizona. She has always had a passion for animals.
"I have always rescued since I was a little girl," Sparling said. "Obviously my parents funded it at first. We would bring home any strays," rescuing animals on the side of the road, or animals abused and sickly.
For the past 12 years, Sparling has been living on her 10-acre ranch, training and riding horses competitively while managing a guest ranch. Through contacts and competitions, people started asking her to train their horses. From there, she realized she could fulfill her desire to operate a rescue ranch, supplementing the budget with income from her trail and performance horse classes.
Three years ago, she became the owner and operator of Arizona Rescue Ranch. She uses all of the money from her training to fund most of the ranch's operations, tending to neglected animals and horses that were most likely going to be slaughtered. She, and her helpers, treat and care for the animals, restoring health to a point where they can be adopted to a forever home.
The ranch is currently in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
Sparling doesn't do her operation alone. She has help from people as close as next-door neighbors, to people in SaddleBrooke and down into Tucson.
Ken Vaughn moved to SaddleBrooke in July, and overheard through a friend of a friend about the ranch. He made an appointment and drove up to the ranch to see what they were doing.
"I was so impressed with what they were trying to accomplish that I wanted to be a part of it," Vaughn said.
So far, Vaughn has helped with building structures to protect the horses from the elements, scrubbing down water barrels, financially sponsoring a horse and even assisting with the occasional fund-raiser.
"Everybody helps in every way," Sparling said. "We have such few people that they defiantly multi-task." More volunteers are needed for work parties and other duty.
SaddleBrooke residents, like David and Shirley Niemeier, help out however they can.
About a year ago, David had to put down his 30-year-old horse that he had for 24 years. He didn't want to jump right into getting a new horse, so he began following some mounted horse shooting competitions and the people involved. One of them was Sparling, who trains horses and competes in mounted shooting.
"I honestly don't know how she does what she does," David said. "I was trying to help fund (the ranch) by taking lessons and things like that, but she needs more than one person to do that."
Eight months ago, ChrisAnn Montana, a Tucson resident, wanted to help out. She showed up one day and started fixing things and helping around the ranch.
"I would just go around and see stuff that needed doing," Montana said. "I was out there in 110-degree weather scrubbing and emptying and refilling 35 horse troughs because I could tell they were dirty and needing doing."
Montana, nicknamed The Ranch Pixie, is a little miracle who just showed up one day, Sparling said.
"Whenever I think and say 'this is crazy' and wonder what I am doing, one of these little miracles shows up," Sparling said.
Together, with volunteers and workers, they feed, care for and maintain the animals and their enclosures. They tame horses that have been abused, and medicate others with skin diseases or that are malnourished.
Though the main focus of the ranch is tending to its 15-25 horses, that doesn't stop Sparling from gathering goats, sheep, dogs, parrots and cats. It doesn't take as much money and time to care for those animals as it does for horses, but the ranch still accepts people who donate their time to play with or walk the dogs around the property, or to receive a gift card to a pet store, or even donating an old pet bed or crate.
Arizona Rescue Ranch, Mammoth
To adopt a rescue animal, donate money or purchase lessons or a trained horse, contact Daria Sparling at (520) 289-4954. To volunteer for work parties and fund-raisers, or to donate items, contact ChrisAnn Montana at (520) 664-4498.