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Meet Theresa Strader of National Mill Dog Rescue

Today we’d like to introduce you to Theresa Strader.

National Mill Dog Rescue was established in February 2007, in honor of a forgiving little Italian Greyhound named Lily. Theresa Strader, NMDR’s Founder and Executive Director, rescued Lily from a dog auction in Missouri. Before that day, Lily had spent the first seven years of her life as a commercial breeding dog. Determined that her years of living in misery would not be in vain, Strader started National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR), giving a voice to mill dogs across the country.

During her years as a breeding dog, Lily spent her days confined to a small, cold wire cage in a dark, foul-smelling barn. She received no exercise, socialization, or veterinary care, and was forced to produce one litter after another. Like all commercial breeding dogs, she was a breeding machine whose worth was measured only by her ability to produce puppies.

By age seven, Lily was worn out. Due to years of no dental care, poor quality food, rabbit bottle watering, and no appropriate chew toys, the roof of Lily’s mouth and lower jaw had rotted away. Her chest was riddled with mammary tumors and she was absolutely terrified of people.

Strader brought Lily and twelve others home from the auction; and National Mill Dog Rescue was promptly underway. National Mill Dog Rescue’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome discarded breeding dogs while educating the public about the realities of the commercial breeding industry. Since 2007, NMDR has been supported by hundreds of volunteers and donors, and has rescued over 15,000 dogs!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting, growing, and maintaining a nonprofit organization comes with all kinds of challenges every day. When you’re a young nonprofit, you don’t have anywhere to go but up, and everything is new. We moved into our kennel with 78 dogs, one squeegee, one hose, and one very important mission. We had to learn everything; from how to raise funds, to audits, to managing volunteers…A small handful of key individuals helped us get off the ground and keep our doors open in those early days, and we are forever grateful.

Now, our nonprofit is 13 years old and run by a small staff and a large group of dedicated volunteers. We depend on donors to help keep our doors open and to continue our mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome more dogs. Each year comes with new opportunities and new areas for us to create a positive impact.

The biggest obstacle, obviously in 2020 has been COVID-19. We were forced to halt rescue for a couple of months and couldn’t have visitors to the kennel, which makes it more difficult to do nearly everything. We have been adjusting based on current guidance from the State, and have taken safety precautions like temperature checks and mask requirements to help keep everyone safe and healthy during this time. We also pivoted our two largest events of the year, our Dog Jog and Gala, to virtual events for everyone’s safety. This year is definitely different than most, and we have been touched by the outpouring of support for our organization and interest in our dogs for adoption and foster!

National Mill Dog Rescue – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
National Mill Dog Rescue’s biggest reason to exist is to rescue dogs from commercial breeding facilities (puppy mills). Our mission is unique in that we rescue commercial breeding dogs, and are not a shelter for other types of animals or for owner surrender. We wanted to be specific and make a greater impact by devoting ourselves solely to this population of dogs.

We maintain great relationships with other rescue groups and shelters, which helps to maximize our combined efforts.

I am most proud of us being a stable nonprofit; because this means we are able to provide the highest level of care to these sweet dogs, giving them the absolute best chance at the healthiest life that they so deserve. Every single dog that we’ve rescued, from Day One, has always received the highest level of care. I see it as, they’ve already lived a hard life, we are going to rescue them and give them the best possible chance at their new life. We’re going to give it our all, 100% of the time, to make sure this organization stays around and is able to thrive and save as many dogs as we possibly can.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Being the Founder, I have a unique perspective, because it has grown from this idea in my head and in my heart to what NMDR is today. I didn’t do this alone, so finding people who were like-minded and just as passionate about this group of dogs is amazing. We have saved over 15,000 mill dogs to date, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished and where we are going.

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National Mill Dog Rescue

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