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Celebrity Interviews

Eat, Ray, Love: Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.

Rachel Ray with Dog

The next time you’re agonizing over how long it takes to steam your vegetables and bake a chicken, think about this: Every day, daytime television host and best-selling author Rachael Ray cooks an average of 10 meals on TV. And then she goes home and cooks for her husband, John, and her dog, Isaboo.

We’re not sure how, but somehow this fabulous foodie has found ways to make time for all kinds of other fantastic feats, including writing cookbooks, publishing her own magazine, and creating her own line of dog food, Rachael Ray Nutrish™. Ray also launched Rachael’s Rescue at RachaelsRescue.org, her website dedicated to helping at-risk animals through adoption, medical care, and educational programs, along with training and outreach initiatives. She donates her personal proceeds from the sales of Nutrish to support the organizations highlighted at Rachael’s Rescue.

Recently, Ray took a time-out with Tails Founder Janice Brown to talk about her crazy schedule, cooking, her ongoing efforts to support animal welfare, and her love affair with red-nosed Pit Bulls. The following is that interview:

JB: You’re doing something like 15 shows a day?

RR: Doing the traditional 30-minute meals—we usually do four of those in a day. And in this new show, Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day, we show how to make a week’s worth of meals in a day, and I shoot one and a half to two of those shows a day, so that’s literally making dinner 10 times in one day.

Wow. I would think you wouldn’t ever want to make dinner again!

I know. It really does amaze people, but I honestly do this because I do love to cook. And when I come home, it’s a total download. Like I’m totally quiet.

How did you find your first dog?

I read an ad in the Pennysaver. I read this open letter from a couple. The woman just discovered she was pregnant, and they had an older dog, a Rottie, and they had a very young dog they had recently adopted, and [she] was a Pit. And the dog was so high energy—they were just worried they wouldn’t be able to spend the kind of time with the little dog that they should. They didn’t want a penny for her; they just wanted to make sure she went to the right person.

And that was Boo, right?

That was my girl, Boo, and we were just inseparable. Boo became literally my best and closest friend I’ve ever had in my whole life. She was with me through, I don’t know, half a dozen boyfriends, a couple of jobs, and two muggings. I got her in my early 20s, and I had her for 13 years. She passed away so suddenly; she literally jumped out of her body. And I started thinking she had jumped out of her body into another dog. So I obsessively just would look at dogs online. And eventually I found a dog. Her eyes weren’t even open yet, and she had a scrunched-up weird face. And Boo had a very human-looking face—she had this human expression; she always looked really worried—and I’m like, “That’s my dog. That’s Boo. She’s in there.” And that’s how I found Isaboo.

It’s amazing how we connect with animals like that.

I’m committed the rest of my life to having only Pit Bulls. People are so ignorant, and they’ve outlawed them in so many communities and some states, that I just think it’s my mission in life to prove to people that there’s no such thing as an evil animal. There are only evil humans.

Yeah, that’s so true.

And I don’t think that the humans were born evil, but they certainly become it if they’re out there torturing animals. These are the most abused group of dogs on the planet Earth, and these dogs are so completely misunderstood— I’m committed.

That’s amazing. I mean, their biggest fault is they’re being so loyal.

Exactly.

They’re such good fighters because they just want to please you.

Exactly. They will do anything including sacrifice themselves. Those Vick dogs— every one of those dogs was retrained except for one animal who had to get put down, and most of those dogs went to families with children. And [when we had them on the show] the Vick dog who sat in my lap was the bait dog, so they had knocked all the teeth out of his head with a hammer. And all he did was sit in my lap, quiver, and lap me. That’s why Bad Rap is one of our permanent rescues.

That’s so great. Tell me more about Rachael’s Rescue.

Rachael’s Rescue is a fund. It’s 100 percent of the money I’m given for being part of Nutrish. Out of that fund, a portion goes to North Shore Animal LeagueASPCABad Rap, and Vet Pets. And then we use the rest of the money to support mom and pop no-kill initiatives.

You know, animals are so unbelievably lucky to have you on their side. What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

You know how people say, “Everything I needed to know in life I learned in kindergarten?” Everything I needed to learn in life I learned from my dogs: the meaning of loyalty, having a sense of humor, the importance of sleep and hugs and kisses and good food and playing.

That’s so true. It’s just so rewarding to see someone who’s the real deal.

Thank you.

And it’s not just the amount of money you’ve donated, which is amazing. But the food—it’s not so fancy and expensive that people can’t afford it.

No, Nutrish is probably on the high end at Wal-Mart, but it’s in Wal-Mart, you know what I mean? You’re spending a little bit more, but it’s an affordable choice. It’s not ridiculous. I mean, honestly, you can cook for your dog cheaper than anything else in the world. If you’re going to buy dry food, this is the most nutritious, best-quality one that I know of.

What’s your dog’s favorite food now?

You know Isaboo is much different than Boo. They both loved butternut squash. Izzy if she’s really, really hungry—her favorite flavor is lamb. My husband brought home Peter Luger aged steak, chopped up a little, and put it in a bowl. And she walked over, sniffed it, and walked away.

That’s unheard of.

Literally! We had a trainer come when she was very small. Of course it’s very important to socialize your dog, and he would come to work with us and the dog, and he said to us on two different occasions, “You know, your dog trains better with praise than treats. She doesn’t want treats. She wants you to hug her.” And when you come home at night every day, you have to get down on your knees, and she puts her arms around you and literally hugs you like a human. I mean, it’s really adorable. But Izzy is weird, man. She just does not care about food.

It’s amazing how unique every animal is.

It really is. They all have their own distinct little personalities.

Yeah, well we have two cats, two dogs and four kids. So…

My mother has about 15 rescue cats… 11 live outside in little sheds with swinging cat doors. She’s had them all spayed and neutered.

So she’s not quite the crazy cat lady…

She’s pretty close. There are five she’s domesticated and brought inside.

Aw…That’s amazing. That’s great. You know, we have a campaign going right now that we started… a letter-writing campaign. In April, the United States Post Office came out with Adopt-A-Shelter-Pet stamps…

Oh, awesome.

And so we are doing a letter-writing campaign to the White House asking the President to do a presidential proclamation… it’s called Letters for Pets.

Very cool…

April 30th would be Adopt-A-Shelter-Pet day.

Wow, we’d love to get involved in that, we’ll write a letter to the Pres…

That would be great because, you know, if we could get some attention … our goal was 100,000 letters and in 18 days we had 100,000 letters.

Well, we could do an easy shout-out immediately on the Web site… but bigger deal, we could certainly do a shout-out on the show. I’d like to read my letter aloud…

Awesome.

And we’ll get Kathy Griffin and Beth Ostrosky and have them write letters too, and they can either Skype in or come in person and I could read their letters on air, and read my letter. And maybe we can even get the Prezzy to do a Skype-in or video message.

That would be awesome. Thank you so much for your time, I really enjoyed talking to you. And I look forward to working with you again.

I had fun chatting with you, too.

To learn more about Rachael Ray, visit RachaelRay.com.

Introduction by: Amy Abern
Interview by: Janice Brown

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