Food drive aims to help starving animals

Sunday, February 8, 2009
ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
Louie, a Rainbow Ranch Project animal star waited among 1,000 pounds of dog food for Marilyn Neville, Bollinger and Cape County Stray Projects Monday in Fruitland.

Former Scott City resident debi Baker earns a living as an animal wrangler, finding and photographing animals for advertising. . She spends her leisure time as a volunteer.

"For 33 years animals have made me a living," she said. "This is the only way I can pay them back."

Baker is the coordinator for the Rainbow Ranch Project, a collective of three groups based at the ranch just south of St. Louis. The project includes Paws for Applause, a visiting pet therapy program that takes animals to sick and elderly for companionship; Recycling Rover, a program that helps with animal adoptions; and the Rainbow Ranch Rehabilitation Center, an on-site rehabilitation center.

Baker's latest effort is spearheading a food drive in February and March through the Rainbow Ranch Project to benefit animals in Southeast Missouri.

Marilyn Neville is the volunteer coordinator for Bollinger County Stray Project and Cape Girardeau County Stray Project , a group of area veterinarians and individuals who foster stray animals until permanent homes can be found. She called Baker on Feb. 1, and told her about reports of starving animals.

ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
debi Baker, administrator for Rainbow Ranch Project, left, and her dog, Louie, delivered about 1,000 pounds of dog food to Marilyn Neville, with Cape Girardeau and Bollinger County Stray Projects on Monday in Fruitland.

"Some pet owners are struggling because they've lost their jobs," Neville said. "Besides finding it hard to feed themselves, their lack of resources soon trickles down to their pets. Other situations include pet owners who are disabled and living on a fixed income finding their pets have reproduced and unable to take on extra mouths to feed."

Baker got to work. She began picking up donations from feed stores in Festus, Mo., Cedar Hills, Mo., and private donors in the St. Louis area. She and a rescue dog named Louie brought 1,062 pounds of dog food to Neville for Bollinger County Stray Project and Cape Girardeau County Stray Project .

Baker's two-month campaign to help animals in need is called "Have a Heart in February, Paw it Forward in March." She is asking for support or donations from schools, businesses, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, 4-H and church groups.

Rebecca Morales of Arab, Mo., said she was glad for the food would help to feed the 18 black Labrador retrievers she owns. It takes 30 pounds of puppy food a day to nourish the 16 2-and-a-half-month-old pups, and 15 pounds a day for the mother dogs.

"It started out we had two female black labs who got out of the pen when they were in heat," Morales said. "They came back pregnant, but we didn't know until they were too far along to do anything."

ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
Marilyn Neville, Bollinger and Cape County Stray Project volunteer coordinator, left, helped load donated dog food from debi Baker, administrator for Rainbow Ranch Project, under the watchful eyes of her dog, Louie, on Monday in Fruitland.

The two dogs had litters of 10 and six.

Morales' said her boyfriend was laid off from his job, so she had to spread her paycheck pretty thin to feed the dogs.

"I'm working a lot as a waitress and a cook," she said. "My mom has been helping me out picking up dog food and stuff because she knew I was the only one working.

Morales' mother contacted Neville because more bills started coming in. The truck Morales drives to work needed repairs and her boyfriend has medical problems and no insurance.

Other recipients of the donated food included four fosters in Bollinger and Cape Girardeau counties.

ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
debi Baker, administrator for Rainbow Ranch Project, and her dog, Louie, waited to deliver about 1,000 pounds of dog food on Monday in Fruitland. Baker is spearheading a pet food drive to help starving animals in Southeast Missouri.

A 1973 graduate of Scott City High School who also attended Southeast Missouri State University, Baker networks with family members, friends and officials who are animal supporters, often receiving calls to help place dogs and locate food. Baker has also sent pet food bowls and litter boxes to area shelters in the past.

"debi doesn't live here anymore but her heart does," Neville said.

Many of the animals Baker adopts are used in advertising on animal food packaging including Science Diet, Purina, Beneful and Wal-Mart's Special Kitty. The cat on Special Kitty bags was adopted from Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary in Jackson.

Alice Wybert, Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary director, said the animal supporters share resources all they can. Wybert picks up torn or damaged cat or dog food and bird seed bags from Wal-Mart in Cape Girardeau three times a week.

"If I get an overabundance of food, I call around for people to come pick them up," she said.

ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
Louie, a Rainbow Ranch Project animal star waited among 1,000 pounds of dog food for Marilyn Neville, Bollinger and Cape County Stray Projects Monday in Fruitland.

Wybert gets calls from people who want to leave their pets at the shelter because they can no longer care for them. If the issue is food or supplies, she finds a way to get what they need.

"I don't have room for the animals, but I give what I can to keep them in homes," she said.

Louie, the rescue dog who rode with Baker on Monday to make the food transfer, is on the box of Purina Moist and Meaty dog burgers. He will be at the food drive kickoff from 1 to 4 p.m. today at Petco, 266 Siemers Drive in Cape Girardeau. Donations will also be accpeted at Schnuck's in Cape Girardeau and Style Studio in Scott City through March.

Baker and her animal stars are willing to visit groups that are willing to help with a food drive. Call Bollinger and Cape County Stray Project at 573-722-3035 or e-mail ace@clas.net. Contact Rainbow Ranch Project at 636-274-3385 or e-mail rainbowranch@earthlink.net. For more information visit www.bollingercountystrayproject.com.

cpagano@semissourian.com

388-3648

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: