If Rachael Ray had to be summed up in one word, it would be passion. The cooking guru throws herself wholeheartedly into everything she does, and boy does she do a lot—from television to books to an entire line of kitchen products, there seems to be nothing she isn’t capable of excelling at.
Fortunately, Ray channels this energy into helping animals as well. Her organization Rachael’s Rescue donates to animal welfare groups across the country and helps combat the damaging effects of Breed Specific Legislation and bully breed prejudice. She also co-hosts a campaign with the ASPCA that allows shelters to compete for grants ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, and recently traveled the country helping shelters learn better photography techniques for her Shelter Cats are Beautiful campaign.
We talked with Ray to learn more about what drives her to support the animals, and, of course, her own doggie Isaboo.
TAILS: With a wildly successful syndicated talk show, three Food Network shows, a pet food line, products, cookbooks, and a host of other projects, it’s no wonder you’re the expert on cooking meals in thirty minutes or less. how do you find the energy to do it all?
Rachael Ray: I wake up every morning excited for what the day has to offer because I love what I do. I get to talk to rock stars, athletes, and celebrities, and cook food that I love. It’s nice to come home and prepare a meal with my husband John and [our dog] Isaboo—who is never too far from the kitchen— after a long day. But don’t get me wrong—if I ever find some free time, I’m not afraid to take a nap!
Tell us about Isaboo.
My first dog Boo was the taste tester for the 10 cookbooks I launched during our 11 years together. When she passed in 2004, I was devastated. John began the search for any red-nosed Pit Bulls like my Boo, and that’s when we saw Isaboo. She means everything to me. I don’t have any kids, so John and I consider her our child.
Some of Isaboo’s favorite meals include lamb with orzo, barley, chicken stock, carrots, and parsley. She likes to sleep right between John and I under the covers—until she gets hot, and shuffles around until she is on top of the blankets.
How do you fit in being a pet parent with all your other responsibilities?
Isaboo often goes to work with my husband, and sometimes she comes to the show with me. As many parents will tell you—you just make it work!
You’ve stated before that you will only adopt Pit Bulls. What would you tell somebody who is afraid of the breed?
I’ve had Pit Bulls for almost twenty years now. I’m a firm believer that animals are not born mean or mean- spirited anymore than you can have people who are born evil. I think it’s important to constantly educate the public about the sweet and loving nature of the Pit Bull breed—if we constantly typecast them as these “mean” and “aggressive” dogs, it’s all anyone will believe.
Rachael Ray Nutrish has been providing pet parents with access to high-quality dog food for many years now, and along the way has allowed you to donate over $6 million to animal welfare causes. has it gone beyond your expectations?
When we launched our all-natural dog food line Nutrish with Dad’s Pet Care (now Ainsworth Pet Nutrition), back in 2009, I wanted to be sure that 100 percent of my proceeds were going back to support animals in need, [so we created] Rachael’s Rescue. I’m so happy that as of today we’ve been able to donate more than $6.5 million to organizations that are dedicated to helping our furry friends. Groups like the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, and North Shore Animal League America work tirelessly on behalf of animals with no one else to care for them, and it has been a true honor for me to be able to help these organizations and countless others keep up their good work!
You recently expanded Nutrish to include cat food as well, and are celebrating with a national “Shelter Cats are Beautiful” campaign. Can you tell us about it?
Of course! With the launch of Nutrish for Cats we wanted to do something to help our feline friends. Millions of cats enter shelters every year, where they’re often quickly put into cages. They’re scared, confused, and sometimes even dirty. A photo is snapped and then quickly shared [with] people looking to adopt. Unfortunately, these photos don’t always capture the full beauty and personality of the cats. We wanted to help with this problem, which is why Nutrish and I partnered with GreaterGood.org and One Picture Saves a Life to help educate local shelters on the best photography and grooming practices in hopes of increasing adoptions.
Over the summer we visited 16 different cities nationwide with our Shelter Cats are Beautiful tour. We also donated more than 11,000 cases of our wet cat food to shelters along the way.
Do you ever consider getting Isaboo a kitty brother or sister?
My mom has the cats in our family covered—she’s rescued more than 15 cats over the years.
Another one of your major campaigns, the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, took place over the summer. Do you have any information yet on how big of an impact the national shelter competition made?
Nearly 44,000 dogs and cats were adopted in just the first two months of the 2014 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, an increase of 9,198 over the same period last year. The way the challenge works is 50 contestants are working to save more animals during the months of June, July, and August 2014 than they did over the same three- month period in 2013. Last year’s competing shelters saved more than 56,000 cats and dogs during the three-month contest, an increase of 12,050 over the same period in 2012.
What do you still dream of doing?
I always say this, but I would 100 percent drop what I am doing to become a drummer for Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters!