There’s an old saying that owners start to look like their pets as they grow older and for Granbury resident Tracy Miller, that phrase fits the bill – or bull – perfectly.
Sporting a two-foot-long handlebar mustache, Miller jokes that he looks like his longhorn bull, Willie No-Son.
"The only difference is, he is one (a bull) and I'm full of it,” he said, chuckling.
Miller, along with his wife, Vicki, are owners of T.E.X.A.S Rescue Inc., a nonprofit organization established to rescue, rehab and rehome donkeys, horses and mules.
The acronym in T.E.X.A.S stands for Texas Equine Xperience and Sanctuary.
Tracy’s other four Longhorns, punnily named Duh-White Yoakam, Loretta Lynn Longhorn, Jethro Bovine and the baby, Mooorle Haggard, are not rescues, but Tracy felt it was fitting due to their recent move to Texas.
“If we were going to be in Texas, and we're going to have animals, there's no way we weren't having Longhorns; that's just part of being in Texas,” he said.
Tracy’s handlebar mustache makes him easily recognizable in Hood County and is always a great conversation starter that eventually leads to discussions about the rescue.
“People ask ‘Why?’ and my easiest response to that is, ‘Because I can,’” he said. “Not everybody can grow something like this, and I've had everything from little tight handlebar mustaches that were waxed to little bit longer handlebar mustaches that were waxed. This is not the biggest one I've ever had — that one was three feet, wingtip to wingtip, and it would roll up in the window in my truck or the horses would grab it and pull. This one I've kind of gotten attached to, so yeah, I think I'm gonna hang on to this one.”
A TRUE CALLING
With a heart as big as his mustache, Tracy made the decision to start the equine rescue about a year ago, as he felt rescuing animals was his true calling.
“It was maybe two years ago that people really started asking us, ‘Why aren't you a rescue?’ and we never really considered being a full-time rescue, but then it started to make more sense,” he said. “Vicki said that if we did it as an official nonprofit, that donor base coming in, that helps. Then you can rescue others, spend the time with them and get them back into an adoptive home quicker — that's the big goal. We don't want to see animals go back to the situation they came from.”
Even Vicki said every animal she ever had growing up was a rescue.
“My first job was at a pet store, and I worked there for four years,” she said. “I brought a lot of animals home.”
“It wasn't just dogs and cats; she was bringing monkeys home,” Tracy chimed in, with a chuckle.
“We lived in a residential neighborhood, so it was actually my dad that brought goats but we had chickens, ducks and a goose. We've just always been animal people,” Vicki said. “It's just in our blood.”
On May 15, T.E.X.A.S Rescue Inc. officially became a 501(c)(3) organization, with 12 people serving on the board of directors.
“A lot of people, they want to help us, they want to support us and they love to see the animals,” Vicki said. “They might not be able to have horses or donkeys, so I think that was a lot of it too just, you know, thinking, ‘Okay, people want to help, and if people help, we can save more animals,’ because we can't do it alone.”
“It's not a cheap enterprise, especially hay, but it's worthwhile,” Tracy said. “We can't save them all, but the ones that we've saved, we've made a difference for them.”
At the time of the interview, T.E.X.A.S Rescue Inc. had a total of 26 animals in the rescue consisting of standard size donkeys, Belgian draft horses and miniature donkeys and horses. The nonprofit also recently acquired a new rescue on Aug. 24, Chance, a 17-year-old horse that currently has a respiratory infection.
Most of the animals that the Millers rescue suffer from neglect, malnutrition or abuse.
“A little one out here, she's blind in her right eye, and she reacted more towards Vicki than she did me, so it was probably a woman that was abusive towards her,” Tracy said. “I went out there with a lead rope catcher, and as soon as she saw lead ropes, she went to the corner and shook, so somebody probably swung a lead rope, and that's what hit her in the eye and put her eye out. It's all speculation, but it starts making sense when you see how they react to things. It's taken us three years to the point that she's now coming up, she'll take treats from you, and you can pet her and put a blanket on her. She'll probably never be ridden, but she gets to live out her days here and that's the big goal for us.”
Tracy said some animals, like the three Belgian draft horses that are currently staying at a separate location, will never be rehomed due to their medical issues.
"They're all overweight and I'm not going to put that on somebody else" he said. “We know where it's going to lead, which will be ultimately some kind of organ failure, and we'll probably have to put them down at a younger age. That's not our goal to put them back on somebody else. We will always retain ownership of whatever animal leaves here, so if we adopt out an animal to you, and you say, ‘Look, my life has changed. I've got to move to Canada, and I can't take them with me,’ we will always take them back.”
One of the most famous rescues also has his own Facebook page — Valor, one of the four Belgian draft horses.
“Valor is kind of a little bit of a star here in Granbury, because prior to COVID, Valor was doing carriage rides out on the square, so a lot of people got to know him. His Facebook page is Valor the Belgian Draft Horse, and everything that was written on that page was written by him. He always has a hard time on the keyboard with big feet, but he did a fairly decent job,” Tracy joked. “He got to be well known and we've pretty much lost our identities. If we went to any kind of a meeting in town, or we were on the square, it was always, ‘Hey, it's Valor's mom and dad,’ so we had no names, and he's got his own entity of following, so people always ask how he's doing.”
Recently, Valor developed a summer sore on his belly, which was caused by flies, and many of Valor’s followers were concerned about the 18-hands, 2,200-pound horse.
The road to recovery is a long and slow process, but luckily, Valor’s condition is improving. Tracy said his next goal is to get Valor to ride in the Sheriff’s Posse.
Tracy and Vicki are currently looking for volunteers to help with the rescues.
Adults, veterans and children are welcome to volunteer following a tentative schedule of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. two days during the week and on Saturday.
Volunteers will be asked to help clean stalls, clean water troughs, give baths and brush the animals.
“It's basically two of us that do the majority of it, and it's 16-hour days,” Tracy said. “We can only get so much done at a time.”
This Christmas, Tracy and Vicki plan to take some animals around to children at the Lake Granbury Medical Center.
As for T.E.X.A.S Rescue Inc., Tracy hopes to acquire more land in the future to expand the equine operation and use the current location as a quarantine area for new rescues.
Monetary donations as well as supplies will be accepted at T.E.X.A.S Rescue Inc. Donations can help with hay, shovels, rakes, trash cans with lids, water buckets, feed troughs and medical supplies for future wounds or illnesses.
Individuals can donate at texasrescue.org or call Tracy at 661-972-5492.