A Texas-Sized Heart: Multi-Species Rescue in the Lone Star State

Sarah Sypniewski

Tyler Nasise is a multi-species animal rescuer who lives in Devine, Texas with his 7 dogs and 4 pigs, many of whom have special needs but have overcome great odds to be model citizens. He’s taken on many tough cases throughout the years, plus, he tirelessly and selflessly helps other rescuers across the country with theirs. Here, he talks about what it’s like rescuing and living with such a unique pack, and how he’s desperately trying to keep his family together.

How did you get started in rescue?

I’ve always had a passion for animals. My first rescue was over 24 years ago when I rescued a Mini Schnauzer because he wasn’t show quality and considered a “reject.” I had him for 18 wonderful years.

Who’s in your pack now?

First, there are the dogs. I rescued Chance at 5 weeks old from a dumpster. He was very ill and had mange. He’s now 6 years old! I found Abby at 8 weeks old, chained to a tree, starving, cold, and sick. She’s had multiple issues, but she’s hanging in there at 5 years old. I rescued Smokey at 3 months old with severe acid burns which required a year of treatment and medical rehabilitation. He’s now almost 4 years old, Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certified through the AKC, and in training to become a therapy dog! Dexter was a bait dog when I rescued him 4 years ago. He’s now 12. I rescued Archie at 4 months old, and he’s now almost 3 years old. Although he’s visually impaired and 100% deaf, he passed his CGC Certification too!

Multi-Species Rescuer
Monster Pit Bull Advocacy!

My foster dogs are Benny and Milo. I found Benny wandering the streets of Houston with a broken hip. I got him surgery and adopted him out, but he was returned due to aggression, so he’s currently unadoptable. Milo is a 6-year-old Mastiff/Boxer mix that I rescued in February. He’s 100% blind and has some hearing loss.

Then we have the potbelly pigs. Toby was my first non-dog/cat rescue. He was just a baby and on his way to becoming a laboratory subject because his owner couldn’t find another place for him to go. Seeing him and knowing what could happen to him broke my heart, so I immediately took him. I bottle-fed him every 4 hours when he was new and so little. He’s now not-so-little at 300 pounds! I rescued Tulip at 8 months old. Her owners had starved her so she’d stay small, which resulted in numerous health issues (severe arthritis in all her joints, a blood infection, and deformity in her front hooves/legs). And finally, there’s PennyLily, who I rescued from a ranch as a baby, and Paisley, my foster piglet--she was originally purchased by someone who lives in the city limits where pigs aren’t allowed.

Did you know how to care for the farm animals before you got them or have you learned as you’ve gone along?

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! I researched and learned as I’ve gone along. I’ve also found some great Facebook groups on potbelly pigs where I ask tons of questions. In the past couple of years, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge of pigs. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is how many of these animals are abandoned, left to fend for themselves, or dumped in shelters. Not only does this happen to dogs and cats, but it happens to farm animals too! I can see myself rescuing more farm animals down the road--maybe a donkey or cow.

What’s your typical daily routine like?

My typical day is waking up at 4:00 am (even on weekends). I feed everyone, spend time with all of them, and let them out. I get ready for work at 6:00 while making sure everyone has fresh water and spending more time with them. Then I let Toby and Tulip outside, where they spend the day grazing. I leave the house around 7:45 for work and bring one of the dogs with me. I get home by 5:00 and start the morning routine all over again. I work with each one depending on their needs--right now I am working with Benny a great deal to address his animal aggression. I spend time with each one individually and we have playtime and cuddle time--pigs included. I finally get to bed about 10:00, after everyone is tucked in and has relaxed for about an hour. Then I fall asleep, wake up, and do it all over again...7 days a week.

You not only help your own pack, but you're well known in Facebook rescue circles for helping other rescuers with theirs. How do you find time for it and why do you do that?

I believe in helping others, especially reputable rescues or an individual who needs advice or answers. I do what I can to help. It goes back to my passion and love for animals… if it’s within my power to help, I will. Even though there are never enough hours in the day, time is what you make of it. When I’m emailing or on Facebook, 99% of the time, I am mobile and still doing my routines.

What are the special challenges of managing a multi-species pack?

Keeping track of and managing the different personalities and quirks of each animal. They do not all get along, but there are some pairings. For example, Abby and Chance are very bonded, and so are Dexter and Smokey. Smokey and Archie also have a special relationship.

On the other hand, Abby and Chance are both dog selective, while Chance is also fear reactive. Milo gets along well with other animals, while Benny is dog aggressive, but loves Tulip the potbelly pig--however, he only spends time with her when she is in her crate (he kisses her snout)!

All four potbellies are separated in pairs because Toby and Tulip squabble. Toby and Tulip are also very protective of their home and have bitten people when they have come to visit. I actually adopted Tulip out last year; however, she was returned a week later because she became extremely aggressive and bit the adopter. She has never shown any type of that behavior with me, so it seems they are both “one person” pigs. And with their one person, the pigs are really similar to many dogs--they love attention and affection, and will drop to their side any time for a belly rub!

Luckily, I know how to read their body language and signs, so managing them boils down to constant observation and quick response to pre-empt any disasters. It also helps that I have a great property where everyone has the space they need.

What’s been your proudest accomplishment related to your pack/rescue work?

Rehabilitating the animals who’ve been so horribly abused and watching love and trust emerge from them. Smokey and Archie’s CGC certifications were huge (especially considering Archie’s challenges). I hope to get Archie therapy-certified so that Smokey and Archie can work with hospice patients, cancer patients, children’s hospitals, and anti-bully campaigns together.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about multi-species rescue?

Do a lot of research and networking to meet others that have farm animals before you jump in. Toby is 1/2 potbelly & 1/2 a large breed pig that is almost 300 lbs. This is why so many pigs get dumped--they are large animals! In the past 2 years, I have gained so much knowledge from networking with other rescue farms. I learn something new every day.

Have there ever been times when you thought you couldn’t handle it or faced obstacles that you thought you couldn’t overcome?

I wasn’t sure how we would get through some of the medical issues, especially with Tulip’s treatments, and prior to that, Abby’s surgeries and stem cell transplant. The transplant was $8,000 and her knee surgeries were nearly $7,000--but we made it through. Right now, I’m facing the biggest obstacle yet: my lease for the wonderful land I live on with my pack has been terminated, and I have until July 1 to find a new place. At first, I tried to put feelers out for new homes for the pigs. I placed an article and received an email from someone who said that they would like to have them for free to BBQ. I cannot even begin to express how that made me feel. I immediately pulled the ad. It was a crushing blow. I have since been pre-approved for a location that would guarantee my animals would never have to worry about being homeless (or eaten) again, but I’m faced with raising $25,000 for the down payment. I’m holding fundraisers, hosting auctions, selling t-shirts, and many of my supporters have chipped in private donations. I’m still a long ways off, but I’m not giving up. I committed to all of my animals a long time ago. I’m not going to abandon them now.

Looking back on your journey so far, are there any regrets?

I make mistakes along the way, and hope to learn and grow from them, but I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve been blessed by the animals who’ve been put in my path that I’ve been able to provide for--oftentimes, with the help of our extended rescue community!

To help Tyler keep his rescue pack together, you can share this story and click here to make a donation or get more involved with his efforts.

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