TEXARKANA, TX (KSLA) - A Texarkana family is combating rodent stereotypes by sharing the joys of sharing a home with Chico, the capybara.
"We see it as an opportunity to educate people and show them things that they normally do not see," says Jackie Coleman Wren.
The capybara is the world's largest living rodent, according to National Geographic. Native to South America, their closest relatives include guinea pigs.
They were first imported to the United States in the early 1900s and even farmed for their fur in Louisiana. But Chico is not just some pelt or pest to Jenn Wren.
"Chico's one of my favorite people," she says.
Now 3 years old, Chico weighs over 120 pounds and enjoys eating ice cream, among other things.
"Chico also loves to dress up. He had a pink little mohawk. He wears all kinds of little outfits."
Chico might be the biggest 'celebrity' in the household, but Jackie and her daughter say they have taken all kinds of animals into their homes that many people pay hefty prices to get rid of.
"We've have a couple possums, but they're just like cats. They'll run up on your leg."
Along with Chico, the cats and the possums, the family also includes piglets, a Chihuahua and a German Shepherd.
"None of them are caged. They all run around together, they eat together they sleep together. It's never been a problem."
In fact, many posts on Chico's Facebook page feature him frolicking with his housemates, including "his" 5-pound pet pig, Darla.
Chico was not a rescue, but many of the animals the family cares for are. For years, they have taken in animals in critical condition.
"We started doing this when I was a teen, we would just go around picking up animals."
But it comes at a price.
"It's very expensive," says Coleman. Just the care costs for the first day is like 150 to 200 dollars."
And for this family, there's another expense that's harder to bear: the toll it takes when a rescue can't be saved.
"The most expensive thing," says Jackie. "It takes a toll on your heart."
Sadly, that toll could be taken again all too soon. On Friday, an update was posted on Chic's Facebook page pleading for prayers. They say Chico is in renal failure and needs a miracle.
"We are absolutely heartbroken," the post says.
Coleman says she isn't sure what caused it, but notes that he was recently neutered and wonders if something happened during surgery or if he a bad reaction. She says he hasn't wanted to eat since then. She says Chico's local vet and Texas A&M veterinarian specialists are consulting on what to do for him, and a local wildlife veterinarian and ordained minister has come to perform a blessing on him.
In spite of the costs and heartaches like these, the family plans to continue helping all kinds of animals and raising awareness.
"We're going to continue to help out whenever we can, I mean that's just who we are."
The family hopes stories like there's will help others realize that just like dogs and cats, all animals started in nature before being brought into the home. They hope this changes people's view of animals they would typically avoid.