Pets 101

Local Hero – Trading Her BMW for a Pick-Up Truck

Debi BakerOne St. Louis woman says goodbye to the big city to save animals, and follow her heart

By Kelsey Duckett

“One animal at a time,” is the way Debi Baker, founder of the Rainbow Ranch, looks at her involvement in rescuing, adopting, and saving the lives of animals.

Six years ago, Baker traded in her BMW for a pick-up truck, and her state-of-the-art home for a ranch in the middle of nowhere on a 115-year-old farm. The dream started eight-years-ago, when Baker decided it was time to give back to the animals that gave her so much.

Baker spent 35 years working as an animal talent agent. She trained and successfully placed dogs on food bags, in commercials, and even movies.

“My whole thing was that these animals had given me a living my whole life, and I wanted to pay them back,” she said.

The lifestyle change wasn’t hard for Baker. She said deep down she always wanted to be a farm girl, and for the first time in her life, she can finally sleep at night knowing she is doing the right thing.

“I am happy,” she said. “My motto is to respect. Respect the animals, the people who have had to give them up, and those that have adopted them.”

The Rainbow Ranch is made up of four programs: The Rainbow Ranch Project, Recycling Rover Pet Adoptions, Shelter Alliance, and Paws for Applause.

The Rainbow Ranch Project focuses on the importance of the human animal bond.

“Our mission is to create an atmosphere where humans and animals heal each other through education and compassion,” she said. “The Rainbow Ranch itself acts as a bridge to bring together the ideals and methods of all our programs—helping all who enter our gates.”

Through the Recycling Rover Pet Adoptions they take in a limited number of stray, homeless, and misplaced animals. Baker said they basically recycle the animals through rehabilitation in foster homes, training, behavior, and long-term assistance.

“We are working hard and diligently to reduce the unnecessary disposal of pets in our region,” she said. “We have Recycled Rovers working as service dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, and in prison programs.”

The Shelter Alliance is a small group of volunteers who collect animal supplies, toys, treats, and other goodies. These are then brought to shelters as far north as Minnesota, and as far south as Florida.

Paws for Applause is a community outreach program for volunteers. They work with 4-H programs, scouts, and schools, and whoever wants to dedicate time to enriching the lives of humans and animals.

“I love doing rescue and rehab,” she said. “I don’t want to be a hero really, but I love the feeling of rescuing a dog, bringing them back to health, and putting them into a home of love.”

The Rainbow Ranch has a 92 percent success rate for placing animals in their “forever homes.” They also bring in between $30,000 and $40,000 of in-kind donations every month, which is used to help animals on the ranch and in shelters across the United States.

Baker said the best part of her new lifestyle is the freedom. She loves waking up and heading to the barn, the smell of hay, and the excitement of the animals.

“This is who I am,” she said. “I definitely feel that this is where my heart is, and this is what I want to be doing. I want to make a difference in the lives of not only animals, but also people. To witness the wonderful human-animal bond on a regular basis is the greatest thing in the world.”

For more information or to donate please visit, recyclingrover.com

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