Niccalina Santilli is completely dedicated to dogs. As the founder of Tiny N Tall Rescue, a non-profit organization based in St. Charles, Illinois, she devotes all of her time to finding forever homes for nearly 3,000 pups that have been under her care since the organization’s establishment in 2017.
Niccalina manages everything related to the rescue: intake, transportation, medical care, fostering, and fundraising. She has sacrificed her personal life to ensure the well-being of the canines, which has significantly impacted her social circle. Only volunteers, employees, and fosters who are involved in the rescue operations remain part of her life. Even her family members understand that if they want to spend time with her, they need to attend the events she organizes to raise donations for the canines.
Despite the demanding nature of her 24/7 job, which involves overseeing 150 active foster families and the animals they care for, Niccalina believes the sacrifice is worthwhile. She acknowledges that she may have missed out on personal opportunities, but she wouldn’t trade her work with Tiny N Tall Rescue for anything.
Why Niccalina Santilli founded Tiny N Tall Rescue
Niccalina’s journey in the world of dog rescue began from her own experience with dogs. As a child, she grew up with small dogs as her companions. However, as an adult, she became the proud parent of Luigi, a massive 160-pound Great Dane. Luigi became her inspiration to make a difference in the lives of homeless dogs.
Deeply concerned about the well-being of the over 3 million dogs that end up in shelters each year, Niccalina took action. In 2016, she started volunteering at a regional dog rescue. Witnessing countless abused and abandoned animals, she made a life-changing decision to dedicate herself to rescuing homeless animals in her hometown.
Niccalina’s motivation came from looking into Luigi’s eyes and realizing how privileged he was, enjoying handcrafted treats, fresh raw food, and a custom giant dog bed. She understood that not all dogs were as fortunate and faced neglect and harm from their owners.
Driven by her love for both small and large breed dogs, Niccalina realized that giant breed dogs posed a unique challenge for dog rescues. This realization led her to establish her own rescue organization to cater to their specific needs.
In 2017, Niccalina founded Tiny N Tall Rescue (TNT) with the mission of finding forever homes for both the small Chihuahuas and Terriers of the Western Suburbs of Chicago, as well as the giant Great Danes and Mastiffs in the area. TNT aimed to create a safe haven for all dogs, regardless of their size, breed, or background.
Niccalina’s dedication and compassion allowed her to make a significant impact on the lives of countless dogs and their new families. Through TNT, she tirelessly worked towards reducing the number of dogs in shelters and providing them with love, care, and a second chance at life.
Tiny N Tall Rescue
Niccalina’s non-profit is a foster-based rescue organization, entirely dependent on generous foster families for housing the dogs. With up to 125 dogs under their care at any given time, Tiny N Tall Rescue (TNT) lacks a physical shelter but compensates through the dedication of their 150 active foster families.
To ensure the well-being of the dogs, TNT provides their foster homes with everything necessary, including food, treats, toys, supplies, and comprehensive support. A committed medical team handles outstanding health issues, implants chips registered to the organization, and carries out spaying/neutering procedures prior to the dogs’ adoption. This ensures that the dogs are in good health before being placed in their forever homes.
Medical expenses alone amount to an average of $600 to $800 per dog, with extreme cases of neglect, abuse, or health defects costing up to $10,000 per pet. TNT remains committed to providing the necessary care, regardless of the financial burden. Niccalina has always been driven by her desire to help as many dogs as possible, which is why she launched the rescue in the first place.
As a foster-based organization, TNT relies entirely on donations to operate. They continuously seek funding through partnerships with brands like “I’d Rather Be With My Dog,” an apparel company that generously donates 10% of their sales to the rescue. Additionally, they host various events and fundraisers, such as the popular Bark In The Park at the Schaumburg Boomer’s baseball stadium.
The Tiny N Tall Rescue volunteers
Niccalina is supported by a team of dedicated volunteers who oversee all day-to-day operations of the rescue. These hardworking individuals conduct comprehensive background checks and interviews with potential volunteers, foster parents, and adopters to ensure the safety and well-being of the dogs in their care.
As the rescue continues to grow, their intake process has expanded to include dogs at risk of euthanasia in high-kill shelters. The courageous transport team, often led by Niccalina herself, travels to neighboring states to rescue these dogs who would otherwise face a tragic fate.
The intake process takes place in Niccalina’s front yard, where up to thirty volunteers diligently prepare go-bags for foster homes, stocked with essentials like food, treats, leashes, and beds. Foster parents eagerly await the arrival of the Tiny N Tall van as they line up in their cars.
Once Niccalina and a member of the transport team arrive, the dogs are carefully removed from the vehicle one-by-one. They are then thoroughly assessed by the medical team, who promptly microchip and vaccinate each dog.
The social media team photographs the dogs for their profiles on the rescue’s adoption page. The team also ensures that their arrival is announced through channels like Facebook and Instagram, reaching potential adopters far and wide.
With the efficiency of a fast-food drive-through, volunteers hand over the dogs and their go-bags to their new foster families. These families pull through Niccalina’s “U” shaped driveway, ready to provide a loving and temporary home for these precious lives.
Niccalina Santilli is an Everyday Hero
As of now, TNT has rescued 2,988 dogs, steadily approaching the 3,000 milestone. When asked about this achievement, Niccalina expressed her excitement, describing it as “awesome.”
She admitted that compared to the staggering number of approximately 670,000 dogs euthanized each year due to overpopulation, TNT’s impact might seem like a “little dent.” However, she emphasized that every dog saved by TNT makes a difference.
Niccalina highlighted that TNT’s impact extends beyond the rescued dogs themselves. She noted that the lives of 3,000 families have been touched by these dogs and emphasized the significance of this impact.
Despite not having a formal celebration planned for their 3,000th dog rescue, Niccalina expressed her goals to expand the rescue efforts. Her vision includes establishing a facility that would allow them to accommodate more dogs and provide better care.
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Rather than opening a shelter, she aims to centrally locate Tiny N Tall’s operations at a facility that can serve as a hub for transports and adoption events. Currently, transport dog transfers are staged at Niccalina’s home, while supplies and merchandise are stored off-site. Services such as grooming, medical treatment, and behavioral classes are also held in separate locations.
By opening a dedicated facility, Niccalina envisions all these services being available in-house. She plans to hire an in-house trainer to work with the dogs during their time with foster families and conduct training classes for adopters and their forever pups.
Establishing a Tiny N Tall facility would address various logistical challenges. For instance, they would be able to board dogs in case of emergency situations or if transports arrive before foster families are arranged.
Niccalina believes that housing the new dogs in their facility would provide better socialization opportunities compared to boarding them at volunteer veterinarian offices, which is their current practice.
TNT remains deeply committed to the well-being of terrified and abused dogs, prioritizing their care amidst expanding rescue efforts.
Niccalina Santilli’s life has gone to the dogs, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tiny N Tall Rescue Resources
DONATE a monetary gift to provide food, shelter, and medical care for the dogs in TNT’s care.
Start a FUNDRAISER on Facebook to help raise funds for TNT through your social network.
PURCHASE desperately needed items for TNT’s foster dogs through their Amazon Wish List.
Buy Tiny N Tall MERCH to help support the rescue with your purchase.