New owners take leash at RK Pet Ranch

Well-established dog boarding business dates back to 2005

Denise and David Richter have purchased the RK Pet Ranch, which is 7.5 miles south of Steamboat Springs on Colorado Highway 131.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

After her husband David landed a job as an emergency room physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center this fall, Denise Richter had visions of finding a small ranch to live on near Steamboat Springs.

“So my husband is an emergency room doc, and he got a job at the hospital, and we were looking for property,” Denise said. “A couple places we looked at were not super impressive, so I put out a little feeler on Facebook saying that we were not weekenders, and we were active members of the community that needed a place.”

Lonnie Castelli, who purchased the RK Pet Ranch along with his Talitha “TJ” Appenzeller three years ago, responded with an offer.

“He reached out and was like, ‘I have 18 acres off 131, and it comes with a business,'” Denise said. “I was like, ‘OK. What kind of business?’ And when he told me it was dog boarding, I thought, ‘Well, it’s not a deal breaker.'”

The Richters agreed to purchase the property at 30265 Colorado Highway 131, and Denise said former owners Lonnie and TJ have been a tremendous help in the transition.

“This is the exact area we wanted it to be,” Denise said of the location about 7.5 miles south of Steamboat Springs on 131. “The land is super nice and usable. We eventually want to get some horses and goats. My midlife crisis is going to be a farm.”

David started working a few shifts at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center back in June, and he admits that he did not expect to slide into a full-time position until later next spring.

“When they called, it was about three weeks before school started — we had to figure out how to get the family moved here,” David said. “We wanted to get the girls enrolled in school here rather than start them in Golden and then move them halfway through the school year.”

Denise, who is a life coach, has always loved animals and is looking forward to taking on the challenges of a dog boarding business.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Denise said. “I do not have a background in dog boarding or any kind of animal boarding, but it’s kind of one of those odd fits for me and the family.”

She said the business is set up well, and Denise is not planning any changes. She will get more involved with the day-to-day operations moving forward and believes it will be a learning experience for their daughters Aleita, 12, and Cici,10, who are excited to help.

The RK Pet Ranch was started by Peggy Musser in 2005 and was designed to ensure the health, safety and comfort of the dogs and cats it serves. The ranch has large artificial turf fenced play yards, indoor play area, a safe walking trail and is able to house and care for between 35-40 dogs at a time.

The ranch has a large indoor facility with climate controlled in-floor heating, and pets are provided with soft bedding. A staff that includes one full-time manager and six part-time employees looks after the animals’ needs. The ranch offers dog boarding, cat boarding and a day camp with a number of different activities.

Denise said the easiest way for people to board their pets or take advantage of the other services is to book online at She said there is a place for owners to add feeding instructions and to have all their questions answered.

There are scheduled drop-off and pick-up windows each day, and customers can pick up their pets outside of those windows for an extra charge.

“There’s a little bit of pressure with taking over a business with a good reputation like this one,” Denise said. “It’s been super, super nice because we just have to kind of keep it going and maybe make a few tweaks here and there if needed.”

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