How Bob Barker's Wife Sparked His Passion For Animals

Bob Barker hosted the game show The Price is Right for 35 years. He stepped down from his hosting duties in 2007. Now in his late 90s, Barker's primarily known for his five-decade career hosting various game shows. However, he has done and accomplished so much more in his life worth examining and celebrating. He was a fighter pilot during World War II, he was a radio host, a television game show host, and a beloved husband to his wife of 36 years, Dorothy Jo Gideon. Barker has also been an impassioned animal rights advocate for more than three decades. In fact, ever since he retired from hosting The Price is Right, he has fully devoted himself to making the world a kinder and safer place for animals.

Going all the way back to 1979, Barker started concluding each episode of The Price is Right by saying: "This is Bob Barker, reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered." The pet population at that point had been exploding for decades and shelters were overwhelmed. Employees of the shelters did not like killing animals and, in the 1970s, took up a campaign to promote having dogs and cats spayed or neutered. Barker became one of the first widely known advocates to support this effort.

What sparked Bob Barker's passion for animals? Let's take a look.

Bob Barker's career took off when he and his wife moved to Los Angeles

Bob Barker was born in 1923 (per Biography). He spent his early years on South Dakota's Rosebud Indian Reservation with the Sioux Tribe. His mom was a schoolteacher on the reservation. His father died when Barker was young. When his mother remarried, they moved to Springfield, Mo., where he met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert while they were both in high school. He was 14 years old when they began dating. Barker went off to college on a basketball scholarship and joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1943. Barker and Gideon married on one of his leaves from the military in 1945 (via Closer Weekly).

After the war, Barker and his wife were living in Florida, where Barker was working as a newsreader on the radio. Suddenly, he realized he really wanted to have a career in broadcasting. He and Gideon moved to Los Angeles in 1950 where he quickly landed a job hosting a radio show called The Bob Barker Show, which ran for six years. Barker's show caught the attention of game show producer Ralph Edwards and he hired Barker to host Truth or Consequences. Barker ended up hosting that game show for nearly 20 years. It was canceled in 1974, but just one year later, he landed the hosting duties on The Price is Right.

Bob Barker never remarried after Dorothy Jo died

Bob Barker was married to Dorothy Jo Gideon for 36 years. They had a strong connection both personally and professionally as Gideon was also in the entertainment business. She sang jingles for commercials and appeared on a few game shows, as well. Barker and Gideon never had any children. Sadly, Gideon passed away due to lung cancer in 1981, just six months after being diagnosed with the deadly cancer. She was just 56 years old (per AmoMama).

During an appearance on Good Morning America in 2007, Barker acknowledged that he intentionally stayed single after his wife's death, saying, "I never had any inclination to remarry. She was my wife." Over the years, Barker has also referred to his late wife as someone who was "ahead of her time" (per Closer Weekly) due to the fact that she became a vegetarian before it was trendy and stopped wearing fur before that was the fashionable thing to do.

Barker was married to Gideon for more than three-and-a-half decades, so it was only fitting that, on the 36th anniversary of her death, in October 2017, Barker visited her grave with a bouquet of daisies in hand and spent about 20 minutes sitting next to her grave (via the New York Daily News). According to CheatSheet, Barker was seen repeating this act in 2019. But how did their love story influence his passion for animals, exactly?

Dorothy Jo inspired Bob Barker's passion for animal rights so he named a foundation after her

After Dorothy Jo Gideon died, Bob Barker turned to animal rights activism as a way to get through the grief he was feeling (per CheatSheet). Barker has been a vegetarian for more than 40 years. He founded the DJ&T Foundation, named after Dorothy and his mother, Tilly. The foundation provides low-cost spaying and neutering services. Barker also donated millions of dollars to a number of animal rights organizations. Over the years, Barker has given so much money to the Sea Shepherd Organization, in fact, that they named the lead ship in the fleet the S.S. Barker after him (via Sea Shepherd News). The Sea Shepherd Organization uses aggressive tactics to stop Japanese whaling ships.

Barker also donated $2.5 million to PETA, which was used to build the organization's headquarters in Los Angeles (per ABC7). In his honor, the organization named the new edifice the "Bob Barker Building." Barker also spent $700,000 of his own money to move three elephants from a zoo in Toronto to a wildlife preserve in California (via Biography). He has even urged people to boycott Sea World. When he found out that a group of circus lions in Bolivia were starving to death, he donated $2 million to Animal Defenders International to move them to a sanctuary in Colorado.

Despite his advanced age, Barker has no plans of slowing down his work on behalf of animals. If only we could all be a little bit more like Bob Barker.