This image released by CBS All Access shows Dan Illescas, left, and Tracey Stabile of the Central Texas Pig Rescue in a scene from the CBS All Access docuseries "That Animal Rescue Show." (Danny Matson/CBS All Access via AP)

Animals, people rescue each other in heartfelt docuseries

Animals, people rescue each other in heartfelt docuseries

LOS ANGELES — In a new docuseries, a child who uses a walker meets a dog with its own version of wheels. Inmates find solace in training canines for adoption, and pigs strut their stuff in a “body positivity” celebration.

That and more is part of “That Animal Rescue Show,” an endearing project that reflects its unexpected creators as well as its stars, human and otherwise. All 10 episodes are out Oct. 29 on the CBS All Access streaming service.

“What the series is about is people rescuing animals, and animals rescuing people,” said Oscar-winning documentarian Bill Guttentag (“Twin Towers,” “You Don’t Have to Die”), one of the big names behind this small gift of touching and quirky stories.

The other: Oscar-nominated filmmaker Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”), who acknowledges that a documentary is a rare venture for him. But he sees a connection to his films, which include “School of Rock” and the bookend romances “Before Sunrise” and “Before Midnight.”

“I’ve often done films about people who are kind of obsessed or passionate people. That’s what you’re looking for in a story,” he said.

He and his collaborators, including Nayeema Raza, Guttentag’s writing-producing partner, committed to holding themselves and the series to a high standard.

“Rick said something to us which I thought was just great,” Guttentag recalled. “’What I’d really like to do is come up with 10 little documentaries that could all make it into Sundance (film festival) on their own.’”

An episode of “That Animal Rescue Show,” which had largely completed taping before the pandemic hit, cleared that bar with an episode that was accepted by the Telluride festival before it and others were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Even the title sequence is notable, a nod to the early photographic sequence that captured a galloping horse with all hooves off the ground. Cats, chickens and pigs are among those who get the cinematic treatment here.

The project found a myriad of subjects in and around Austin, Texas, where longtime resident Linklater has a farm and where the idea for the series was born.

Networking credit goes to Dood, the Linklater family pig that drew the filmmaker into the company of the Central Texas Pig Rescue and managing member Dan Illescas, described by Linklater as “kind of a pig behaviourist.”

Besides being schooled by Illescas on pigs — “You want to treat them like dogs, but they’re not dogs. They’re pigs,” — Linklater said he was introduced to the volunteer operation caring for some 200 homeless pigs. (Many are given up by owners who find their so-called “mini-pig” is an underfed animal destined to grow, Illescas says in the series.)

“I met another guy who had a pig rescue and I was like, ’Wow, this is a whole subculture,” said Linklater. Impressed by the commitment of the animal rescuers, “it just felt like something worth sharing.”

Among the gems that are showcased: Safe in Austin, created by a mom who saw a service dog help her son with autism to blossom. It’s a haven for a menagerie of abused and neglected animals, visited by children with challenges who “pet, and love and heal alongside the animals,” as owner Jamie Wallace Griner says in the series.

The Guttentag-directed episode that was bound for Telluride highlights the Paws in Prison program at a correctional facility. Dogs in need of adoption are paired with inmates who are given the skills to train them and a shot at new confidence.

And there is, really, a pageant to celebrate porcine heft featured in episode three.

The series’ approach is far removed from rote reality TV, Guttentag said, “where they cast you and you play that role, whether or not that’s who you are. In our show, the folks you see, that’s who they are.”

The soundtrack features local Austin bands playing cover versions of tunes by artists including Paul McCartney, Carole King and Willie Nelson — all of whom made their work available at a “very reduced” fee, Guttentag said.

“Once you start moving down this track of trying to show compassion, I think people want to be a part of it,” he said.

Raza offers an expansive and hopeful take on the series’ appeal.

“So much of the world right now and the content we’re consuming is about differences, and I think this is really a show about the universal elements of humanity,” Raza said. “There’s something equalizing when you know a story is real, and for us there’s something equalizing when you see a human and animal rescue each other.”


Lynn Elber can be reached at and is on Twitter at


This story was first published on Oct. 21, 2020. It was updated on Oct. 22, 2020, to correct the name of a Richard Linklater film. The correct title is “Boyhood,” not “About a Boy.”

Lynn Elber, The Associated Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. North American trade is facing a “critical moment” in the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Canadian business leaders as they embark on a concerted campaign to fortify ties with the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canada-U.S. trade faces ‘critical moment’ that demands urgent action, businesses warn

Will fall to Canada to ensure its best interests are represented

Two RCMP officers observe a moment of silence to honour slain Const. Heidi Stevenson and the other 21 victims of the mass killings at a checkpoint on Portapique Road in Portapique, N.S. on Friday, April 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
RCMP under scrutiny one year after mass killing that left 22 dead in Nova Scotia

Questions raised about why it took police 13 hours to stop mass killing

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Children at the Port Angeles Boys & Girls Club practice social distancing throughout the day to minimize the spreading of germs and potentially the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula
Opinion: Teach young people these five principles

At all ages, young people may be the subject of mean behaviours… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs need to think about all Albertans

I was surprised to find more than a dozen UCP MLAs were… Continue reading

Sweden skip Niklas Edin makes a shot against Scotland in the Men's World Curling Championship gold medal final in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Curling's Humpty's Champions Cup in Calgary has been pushed back a day due to the delayed finish of the men's world championship. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Start of Humpty’s Champions Cup pushed back a day in Calgary

Start of Humpty’s Champions Cup pushed back a day in Calgary

Men’s world curling championship in Calgary concludes amid COVID scare

Men’s world curling championship in Calgary concludes amid COVID scare

Most Read