National Mill Dog Rescue rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes retired commercial breeding dogs from puppy mills, giving these dogs a new beginning and a final chance to find happiness and comfort in a loving home.
We are often asked how we get the dogs we rescue and why breeders would surrender them to us. Please bear with me, as this is no short story.
Since day one, the National Mill Dog Rescue journey has been a life changing experience for me in so many ways. It has been gut wrenching, eye opening, disgraceful and at times, surprising; a genuine roller coaster of emotions and experiences. I have seen more horror than any dog-loving person would ever care to see and as a result, I have felt contempt towards my “fellow man” that has cost me many hours of sleep and had me thinking things that would never enter into the mind of an otherwise compassionate and reasonable human being. However, I would be remiss in not making the distinction that, like all other things in life, it isn’t all the same.
For those who don’t, in the smallest of nutshells, in February 2007, I received an email plea for help for “50 Italian Greyhounds in need”, and subsequently wound up at a dog auction in Missouri. Although I had been active in animal rescue most of my life, at that time, I had never even heard of a dog auction. A longtime, very large-scale breeder, a puppy mill, was going out of business, auctioning off her entire kennel; 561 dogs, 49 were Italian Greyhounds. At this auction, I met Lily, my true inspiration, and brought her and 12 other pathetic little souls back to my home and so, the NMDR journey began.
The early days were extremely tough as we cared for those 13 profoundly damaged dogs, worked to find them loving, forever homes and pondered how to create a mission around this growing passion. All this at a time when 90% (or more) of the American public had never even heard the term “puppy mill”. The burning desire to give the mill dogs a voice was ever present in me but I really had no idea how to go about it, no expendable money to speak of and other than my immediate family, no help in making it happen. The story gets very long, interesting and crazy at this point but that’s a story for another time, perhaps a book one day.
Suffice it to say, we surely didn’t have the money to run out to Missouri auctions to buy dogs, which in the rescue community, is understandably a controversial subject unto itself. In the end, the steps forward all came down to one person; a lady I had met at the auction – a breeder herself but also a rescuer and a downright interesting character, to put it mildly. We had a brief conversation at the auction that day; I gave her my phone number, looked her in the eye and told her they had not seen the last of me.
To give credit where credit is due, this lady, to the best of my knowledge, was the pioneer in getting breeders to turn their dogs over rather than killing them when they were no longer productive. She was a maverick in the truest sense of the word… and she was the perfect person to do it because, in reality, she was one of them but in some strange ways, she was also one of us.
A couple of months passed; we were busily rehabilitating the dogs along with a handful of wonderful people who had learned of our story and stepped up to help us. I spent every spare minute studying, making phone calls and trying my hardest to learn how to move forward with the mission that was churning inside of me.
One day, the phone call came – the lady from the auction. Her words were abrupt, no “Hi, how are ya?” She simply said, “I’ve got a situation and I need you out here this weekend.” She then related a horrifying story of 34 mill dogs living in a virtual hell and how they were all going to be killed, execution style that weekend. Long story short, this became my second rescue and the path to being able to rescue the mill dogs started to become clear.
For the next two years, about once a month, I ran around the countryside of Missouri and a few neighboring states gathering discarded mill dogs with this renegade woman.
She got me in the door, showed me how to communicate with these people and they learned to trust me because they trusted her. This opened the door to rescuing the dogs but believe me, there was nothing simple about building and maintaining these unusual relationships. Some of the things I saw back then will haunt me all the way to my grave but I forged past my own outrage in order to save the dogs. Those are the days that set the mission in motion and I never looked back.
Jumping forward to the present: I have seen so much over these past ten years over the course of being on more than 100 rescues. If I had to guess, I would say I have been on the inside of more than 500 commercial breeding facilities. I have been on properties that housed well over 1,000 dogs and I have been on properties that house 20 dogs and just about every number in between. This is where the distinction needs to be drawn.
Is there a specific number of dogs that makes a place a puppy mill? Is it about the standard of care? Is any person who breeds dogs for profit a puppy mill, or is it some combination of all of these questions and more? I honestly can’t say I have the conclusive answer to that but what I can say is that through my experience, there is a wide variation on how individual breeders care for their dogs, or not…
We work with about 170 commercial breeders now. About 10% of them stand far and above the rest in the care they provide for their dogs. From there, the care varies widely, but it’s the 10% that I am speaking about when I say some large-scale breeders do take excellent care of their dogs. Yes, that’s a very low number, but for years these folks have continued to turn dogs over to us in great condition both physically and mentally and for years they have been lumped into the heap of all the rest when clearly, that is an unfair perception.
These particular breeders have anywhere from 20-70 dogs. These are properties I have been on many times. These are dogs who are not caged 24/7, are let out on the ground in “turn out yards” to play and socialize, are retired by 5 or 6 years of age and are not bred on every heat cycle. Some are leash trained, some are even housebroken as they alternate them through their homes each week. These are dogs that are regularly groomed, receive proper veterinary care and are handled on a regular basis. And believe me, the care they have received is entirely obvious once they are in our hands. These breeders follow every dog they turn over to us until they are adopted and they truly appreciate our efforts in finding great homes for their dogs. Looking at the numbers alone, these would be considered larger-scale operations.
The care from here falls on a spectrum, anywhere from average on down to the worst thing you can possibly imagine and everywhere in between. I believe care of the dogs falls fairly evenly across this spectrum for the rest of the breeders we work with. Cinder, a dog we rescued on our Operation: Hundred Hearts in February of 2015, is a really good example of the very worst. According to our vet, she probably had less than a week to live…literally being eaten alive by a variety of parasites. The effect a dog like Cinder has on those of us caring for her reminds us why we do what we do. None of us have become immune to the sadness and anger; it just fuels our passion.
Bear in mind, my experience is with about 3% of all the breeders in this country. I cannot really say what that means in the overall scheme of things. Is my experience about average or above or below average? I honestly don’t know. I just know what we do, who we deal with and how it works in our small corner of animal welfare.
None of these words question whether we agree with any level of breeding or not. I’m certain that within our own network of volunteers, supporters and fans, there are many different opinions. However, this is a legal business in a free country, the dogs are out there and they need us. We are not in charge of what people do for a living and we have no legal authority over anyone, so we walk the proverbial tightrope doing what we are able to do, for the dogs. We rescue, we educate and we support change.
Some people ask, “When you take dogs from the breeders aren’t you just encouraging them to fill the empty spaces with more dogs?” The fact is, in many cases, the dogs have a deadline date for pick up, meaning if we don’t get them by that day, they will be disposed of. Believe me, if a breeder needs space for more dogs, they will make the space whether the dogs are turned over to us or they are destroyed. As for those who would never destroy their dogs, they wait for us. Whatever the case, at the end of the day, for us it is about giving a chance to every dog on our lists; from decent places or from hellholes, the old, the young, the sick – all of them, no exceptions.
On a personal note, of course, I wish that all dogs were family members lying on a couch or a soft dog bed, receiving the most wonderful, loving care every day of their lives. I don’t want to see any dog caged or penned or chained or dumped, ever. Sadly, that dream is a long way from realization so in the meantime, we will continue to save as many lives as we can and educate at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, society is to blame for many of the sufferings of animals; the lack of lifelong commitment, the demand for puppies from unknown sources, irresponsible ownership that feeds the gross overpopulation of domestic pets leading to senseless extermination. There are many problems separate and apart from one another in animal welfare. We are doing our part for one of them.
“Don’t breed or buy while homeless pets die.” I wanted to comment on this statement as we see it quite often in response to some of our posts. Ideologically, I stand behind this principle 110%. But in reality, it’s a stretch to think that we can turn every person looking for a lap dog, a puppy for their children to grow up with or a purebred dog into someone who will go to their local shelter or rescue to find a companion. Believe me, I have
worked all my life to push shelter and rescue adoption as the best choice and I will until the day I die. While we all know with a little time and patience these kinds of companions can be found in shelters and rescues, the nature of many people is impulsive and impatient, and so it goes.
In closing, please know that my words are simply a reflection of the things I have seen and learned over the past ten years. The journey has been backbreaking, often distressing, yet the most deeply rewarding experience of a lifetime. None of our successes has come easily, but we are on our feet with much work yet to be done.
We have currently rescued more than 11,600 dogs, and I must say that in a million years, never could I have imagined where National Mill Dog Rescue would be today. Rest assured, with your continued encouragement and support, we will be here loving and caring for this population of dogs until the very last day that we are needed. If only that day comes in my lifetime….
Theresa and Rose, the 10,000th dog rescued by NMDR, on May 31, 2015.
“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, a kennel run was dedicated in memory of a very special Shih Tzu here at Lily’s Haven, our facility at National Mill Dog Rescue. Gremmy was one of the worst cases of abuse that NMDR has had to date and the kennel run where he spent three months while being rehabilitated was dedicated in his memory. A bronze plaque that reads “In Memory of Gremmy. Your suffering will not be in vain. You are forever in our hearts.” will hang on this kennel just a little over seven years thanks to the fundraising efforts of his adoptive family and adoring fans through his Facebook page.
“Although this ceremony had to be rescheduled once due to snow, the 20th was a beautiful day to remember our beloved Gremmy. Those in attendance included: his adoptive family who traveled from Denver; a few volunteers; members of his Rehabilitation Team; and Theresa Strader. Several heartfelt emails were read including those from Gremmy’s Vet Team and Meds Team who were not able to attend. A few emotional tributes were also given including one from Theresa Strader, his Lead Rehabilitator, his Mom, his Dad, and their two boys who are thirteen and seven.
“Gremmy spent three months with NMDR in intense rehabilitation before he went into foster. Two months later his family knew they couldn’t live without him and they formally adopted him. Gremmy knew 16 months of love, kindness and being spoiled – things he never had before coming to us. On February 4, 2016, after fighting a losing battle with hydrocephalus, Gremmy peacefully made his way across the Rainbow Bridge in his Dad’s arms, surrounded by his family. Through Gremmy’s Facebook page, his family will continue to bring awareness to the plight of the mistreatment of animals and puppy mill dogs in honor of this amazing little dog with an unbreakable spirit.” ~Jamye Harris (Gremmy’s mom)
Gremmy was one of the worst cases of abuse that National Mill Dog Rescue has seen and the second worst case the animal hospital had ever seen. When Gremmy first arrived at our facility in May 2014, the volunteers were under strict orders not to touch him. Only authorized personnel and members of the rehabilitation team were allowed to handle him as they did not want him to regress in his rehabilitation. He arrived with a broken and wired jaw, which had to be monitored, and he was placed in a kennel run, by himself, right up front. Gremmy’s parents fell in love with him and were approved to foster him in September 2014, after extensive work by our Rehabilitation Team. On November 1, 2014, his parents officially became “foster failures” and Gremmy became a permanent member of their family.
For the last several months, Gremmy’s health deteriorated and despite numerous tests and excellent veterinary care, the years of abuse could not be overcome. Gremmy crossed the bridge on Thursday, February 4, 2016, surrounded by the family he had come to love and trust.
His family would like to raise enough funds to dedicate the kennel that he spent so much time in at National Mill Dog Rescue. The cost for two years is $730 and any remaining funds will be donated to NMDR directly. A bronze memorial plaque will hang on that kennel in his memory. Please consider making a donation at this link.
The following is Gremmy’s story as told my his mom:
Part One: “See this face? This is Gremlin, aka Gremmy. You may not be able to tell just by looking, but he is a survivor … a survivor of horrible abuse and neglect that he endured for years. My husband and I are long-term volunteers for National Mill Dog Rescue and because of that, Theresa Strader, the organization’s founder, agreed to let us foster Gremmy … that was in September of 2014 … but his rescue story began in May 2014 when Gremmy arrived at the NMDR facility, Lily’s Haven.”
“Gremmy is one of the worst cases of abuse that NMDR has seen and the second worst case the animal hospital had ever seen. When Gremmy first arrived the volunteers were under strict orders to not touch him. We were advised that only authorized personnel and members of the rehabilitation team were allowed to handle him – for his safety as well as ours – as they did not want him to regress in his rehabilitation. He arrived with a broken and wired jaw, which had to be monitored, and he was placed in a kennel run, by himself, right up front.”
“Gremmy quickly became a kennel favorite. Many of the volunteers fell in love with him right away – it was hard not to. How could you not fall in love with ten pounds of scared, traumatized Shih Tzu, with sad, but hopeful eyes? Videos and pictures of his progress would be posted in National Mill Dog Rescue’s Volunteer Group. One in particular of a Rehab Team Member rubbing his belly and him crying/talking, really pulled on my heartstrings! This one had my husband and I both in tears. Who could hurt such a darling little guy?”
A NOTE from Mama: In this video Gremmy is working with his lead rehabilitator. He is voluntarily on his back and he is not in any pain. Gremmy is just vocalizing. If you listen closely you can hear her calmly reassuring him and saying “good boy.” The Rehab Team Member states: “It was all new to him to have kindness and gentle hands. It’s just how he communicated with me.”
Gremmy - YouTube
Part Three: “When my husband and I would make a trip to National Mill Dog Rescue we always made a point to visit Gremmy, and each time you could see the progress he was making. The first time we met him, he stayed in his bed, not making eye contact, but he would watch out of the corner of his eye. The next time, his lead rehabilitator was working with him and you could see how frightened he was. He kept her hands in sight and when they would get anywhere near his face he would fight, bite and attack. I had to walk away, tears flowing – I couldn’t watch. On another visit, a Meds Team Member was so excited to show us that when you approached his kennel with a special treat, you were his new best friend. She walked up to his kennel, calling his name, hand out stretched. Gremmy came walking right up to the front of his kennel, tail wagging, even did a dance for her and took the treat from her hand! I will never forget the smile on her face when she turned to look at me. Amazing baby steps!”
“In September of 2014 there was talk of Gremmy being ready for a foster home. They had done all they could for him at the kennel. You can bet we were all over that and we put in the request with the Foster Care Coordinator. If NMDR felt that our home (which had kids and dogs) was right for Gremmy, we would love to have him, but we really wanted to make sure that Theresa and the Rehab Team were okay with us fostering him. They know we have kids and other dogs, they know my husband’s background with prior rescuing, rehabbing and training Rottweilers in the past and if they were okay with it, we’d be thrilled. The Foster Care Coordinator called one day and said they had all discussed it at length and yes, they felt that Gremmy would now, hopefully, flourish in a home environment and that they’d love for us to foster him. Yes!”
“He had an upcoming Vet appointment for his broken jaw, so we were not able to bring him home right away, but we went down to NMDR and introduced our dogs to Gremmy. I was so excited, yet nervous. I hoped everybody got along and wanted to exude confidence for Gremmy’s sake. He liked his space, but nothing too bad. When Bugsy, our Pomeranian, got too close, he would turn and snap. Also, it was explained that he did not like to be touched above his shoulders and we were shown how to handle him. They were using a little blanket to pick him up, no bare hands, and he knew the command ‘pick up’ so he’ll prepare himself before you do. We were told that he was a very finicky eater and that he liked his chicken ‘fluffed.’ At the house our kids were told that Gremmy was a rehab dog and was strictly off limits. We set up his own area in our master bedroom, where we spend the majority of our time, with an x-pen so he has his own space, soft bedding and we bought a LOT of the special treats that he liked. We were as prepared as we could be, the only thing remaining was bringing little Gremmy home.”
Part Five: “On September 19, 2014, just four months after intense rehab at NMDR, my husband met the Director of Operations halfway between Colorado Springs and Denver to pick up Gremmy. After we got him home, our first order of business was getting a collar with ID tags and a bell on him. Not such an easy task on a little guy who does not like to be handled and touched above his shoulders. It took a little figuring out, with a lot of protest from Gremmy. We succeeded after we swaddled him like a baby and sang to him. He was also sent with medication, in pill form, to take on a daily basis. That was a different story entirely. It was hard for him to get it regularly at the kennel since he was not the best patient for obvious reasons. They were hoping now that would change and that the medication might really help him.
“The first few days were really difficult. He was super picky about his food, he wouldn’t even eat the soft food they were giving him at the kennel, so we couldn’t hide it in anything, and believe me – we tried just about everything. His jaw was still healing and wired, so we had to be careful about how it was touched. My husband had to wear gloves and we had to ‘pill him’ as they say. He would fight, scream, cry, bite and draw blood. He’d be crying, I’d be crying, the dogs and kids would come running to investigate. Finally, after a couple days of this, we asked different people for suggestions and we went to our vet for some syringes, crushed the pill, mixed it in with yogurt, PRAYED he liked it and success! He DID! Praise the Lord! I think we all cried with relief!”
“During Gremmy’s first week at home, he reached major milestones: he walked on a leash, during potty time he decided to stay with the pack and not growl at anyone, he let us get a Thunder Shirt on him since he shook all the time, he went for his first official pack walk and did really well – he didn’t freak out about the passing cars and even seemed to heel at times, and he let us reach out and stroke him a few times before moving away. Gremmy even came to check on me in the mornings while I was getting ready for work, he would peek around the corner or pace outside the bathroom. I finally moved a bed right outside the door and that is where he laid in the mornings while I was getting ready … and to this day, he still does.”
Gremmy - YouTube
Part Seven: “Two weeks home and Gremmy was somewhat enjoying sleeping on my husband’s chest or the bed, we were getting big tail wags – it wasn’t tucked under his butt all day, and he started coming to us wanting butt scratches! He even started to rub up against my legs like a cat when he wanted to be close to me – in thanks, or just to be near me. Again, amazing baby steps which we celebrated with the National Mill Dog Rescue’s rehab team through texts. In those first few weeks we saw a precious boy who just wanted to be loved emerge … yet the nagging question of who would hurt him was always in the back of our minds.
“After three weeks at our home, we scheduled a vet visit. He had stopped eating his kibble, as well as his favorite special treats which he loves, he started rubbing his face in the grass and we were afraid he was in pain, so we scheduled a check-up just to be sure he was okay. Gremmy’s lead rehabilitator from NMDR met my husband and I at the appointment and we were glad she was there with us for moral support. We were both nervous and anxious. It was at this vet visit that we finally learned the horrors that Gremmy had to endure for his approximately 4 years…”
Part Eight: “During Gremmy’s vet appointment we saw, for the first time, his before and after photos. His condition was so bad that his case was documented. I was speechless. Dirty, huge matted knots on his face and he looked like he had never been groomed before. (But we saw our boy peeking out from underneath it all.) I then received the official Neglect Summary and that’s when the anger crept up from my toes. As I read, the words seemed to jump off of the page:
‘…presented in such poor care, that it prompted an investigation for neglect … extremely scared, fractious to human contact, slightly thin (body condition score 4/9), and severely matted throughout 80-90 percent of the body … fecal mats were noted around the rectal area, as well as on the facial area … toenails were found to be overgrown and his feet had evidence of yeast infection, secondary to chronic unsanitary conditions. On cursory examination, this dog has significant evidence of an extreme lack of basic hygiene care for a long period of time, months and possibly years. This dog was extremely reactive to human contact and was difficult to be safely handled. Comprehensive examination required general anesthesia. Once anesthetized, this dog was found to be suffering from a chronic ear infection, chronic pain secondary to the matting on the body, and a chronically fractured jaw of unknown cause. While sedated, we were able to shave this dog head to toe to relieve the pain from chronic mats, clean and apply a single treatment to his ears, and extract the few diseased teeth caused from his chronically fractured jaw. At this time, we are uncertain if the fractured jaw will ever be repairable. We are contacting specialists about recommendations for possible surgical repair of this chronic fracture. This dog’s behavior is severely anti-social and reactive towards humans. This type of reaction is rarely seen in dogs raised in human environments. The antisocial behavior in this dog resembles that of puppy mills dogs that have lived in a cage devoid of all positive human contact. Sadly, due to the living conditions this dog has endured, he is highly reactive to any human contact and at this time, it is uncertain if this dog is able to be rehabilitated to become a household pet. We will be recommending that this dog undergo long term rehabilitation with the highly experienced non-profit group National Mill Dog Rescue based out of Colorado.’
“As I read I could feel the anger start at my toes and burn behind my eyes. I wanted to throw up. Gremmy is a living, BREATHING animal, with feelings and a soul. WHO hurts defenseless animals? Is it any wonder he acts like he does?! Our boy. Who hurt our boy?!”
Part Nine: “The rest of the Gremmy’s vet appointment seemed like a blur. His doctor decided we would make another appointment at the bigger office with their best x-ray machine to x-ray his jaw to see if it was healing correctly (if at all), x-ray his back since he kind of walks like a gorilla indicating he might have some back pain. All this they would do while he was under general sedation as to not stress him out – as he displays time and time again, he does NOT like being handled or touched above his shoulders. He did prescribe Gremmy some antibiotics for his chin where the wires from his broken jaw protruded, as that was a little red, and we also decided to try some pain medication for his possible back pain and we would see how he does.
“Gremmy’s surgery was right before Halloween 2014. I took the day off and we all headed down to Colorado Springs where the surgery would be performed. Gremmy spent all day there and the wires in his jaw were removed and his spine was x-rayed. It was determined that his jaw was as healed as it was going to get without having to have major surgery which would include bone grafts. He can eat just fine and he has good scar tissue bond so we decided to leave it be. His back has major calcified discs from his T – L area and most likely from trauma. The vet said some discs could possibly slip in the future, making him unable to walk, but is not really concerned about them right now. We just have to be careful about him jumping off the bed, with stairs, etc. so we do not cause further injury.
“Before this surgery, when we added the pain medication, we could already see a difference. He was back to eating his kibble and amazing things started to happen – he walked up to the SIX year old for butt scratches (we were shocked!), one day as I was getting one of his ever present special treats he heard the bag and BARKED at me, tail wagging and even did a dance! First time we had seen him do that since that day months ago at the kennel. A few weeks later, as I was playing with the dogs he put his head IN my hand and nibbled on my fingers in AFFECTION – not to draw blood. But after the wires were removed, his demeanor was different. He was a lot more comfortable, he was nicer – not as grumpy and he didn’t mind and didn’t snap at you if you didn’t think about it and happen to brush and scratch his head. The combination of adding pain medication and getting the wires out of his jaw helped tremendously! He is a precious boy!”
Part Ten: “Now that we knew Gremmy’s medical future, that he got along with the kids, the dogs, and had our hearts, a week later my husband and I had ‘the talk’ about making this little guy a permanent member of our family. It was an easy decision. I sent the official text to the Foster Care Coordinator asking her if it was okay we earned the title ‘Foster Failures’ and adopted this little guy. Almost immediately I got a ‘heck yes!’ text right back, and once I announced it in the foster/adoptions text group, Theresa (even though she was out on a rescue) took the time to send a message back letting us know how thrilled she was for Gremmy, that he finally had a home and thanking us for taking such great care of him.
“He went from ‘It is uncertain if this patient is able to be rehabilitated to become a household pet …’ and having to be only handled with a blanket, biting and snapping at anybody who came near him, to our ‘Bubba,’ who LOVES chips, tater tots, car rides, butt scratches (from even the kids) and rubbing up against my legs like a cat. Although he still has to be handled with care (we often tote him around town in a pet stroller for the safety of others since they immediately want to stroke his head or pick him up without asking), still takes his daily medication with yogurt and pain medication on bad days, and has to be sedated and put under general anesthesia for his grooming, he has come SO far and he is very happy!! We celebrate every little milestone … recently it was learning to go up the stairs, unassisted.
“As we approach the one year anniversary of his ‘Gotcha Day’ (November 1st), I try not think about his former owner too much or what he may have gone through. His physical injuries and psychological scars are enough for us to know that it was way too much for any living creature to have to endure. We have been in touch with the veterinarian who did his neglect summary; we like to keep her up to date and let her know how he is doing. We did learn that his former owner only received a slap on the wrist and was ordered to pay his approximate $800 vet bill over a period of approximately 6 YEARS. That was it. No jail time, no fines. When I read that email there was that familiar feeling creeping up from my toes. When I went to bed that night I cried huge, weeping, ugly sobs for Gremmy. That’s all I will let her get from me. She is not worth my tears. Instead, I use it as motivation for the voiceless, the abused, the suffering. I will use my voice to speak even louder for them – I will not let Gremmy’s suffering be in vain. After all, that is the least I can do for Gremmy and those animals like him. WE are their voice. If you see abuse or neglect – report it, say something. If we don’t speak up for them, if we aren’t being that somebody, who will?”
Gremmy went to the Rainbow Bridge on February 4, 2016 and his mom wrote the following post on his Facebook page:
“It is with a broken heart that I write to tell you that Gremmy, our Bubba, made his way across the Bridge this morning. For the last few months he had been fighting a mysterious disease that was first diagnosed as Cushing’s Disease, and his tiny, battered little body could no longer fight. We told him that as much as we love him and love having him here, it was okay to leave us. But oh, how hard it is to say goodbye to such a precious spirit as Gremmy. We are shattered beyond description.”
“It was never my intention to start a Facebook page for Gremmy, have almost 4,000 fans fall in love with him, and then break all of your hearts as well. This is the third time NMDR has run his story in a year and a half, and each time it ran we would be asked about a page. I was reluctant for different reasons, but decided that it was our job to speak for him (and his brothers as well), tell his story, and bring awareness to the mistreatment of animals. When I started this page Gremmy had just been diagnosed and we were optimistic that he would respond to his medication regimen and this post would not be necessary anytime soon.”
“If you know our family, you know Gremmy has been in and out of the hospital a few times, has seen numerous specialists, had numerous blood draws both to diagnose him and to monitor him, and you also know that he presented unique symptoms that sent numerous doctors to consult with other experts in their field, and also sent them back to the books to conduct research. Since we started his treatment for Cushing’s a short time ago, Gremmy had not responded like we had hoped. We took him back to the vet yesterday where we were given our options. He was not responding like we needed him to; if there were tumors that required surgery he wasn’t even stable enough for surgery, nor was she even comfortable putting him under anesthesia at that point.”
“So, there you have it. We took him back home to say goodbye.”
“Gremmy slept in our bed most of the night last night, snuggled between us. At one point he made his way back to my husband’s chest. This morning when we got up, it was obvious that he had had enough and he told us he was done. He made his way across the Bridge comfortably at the vet’s office in my husband’s arms, with both of us there. He had done enough fighting in his short 6 years, and his fighting is..
At the end of December, we were closing in on 10,000 dogs rescued since our beginning in 2007. Hard to believe! It has been a backbreaking, often distressing journey, yet the most deeply rewarding experience of a lifetime. None of our successes have come easy; but we are on our feet, going strong, with much work yet to be done.
Over the previous seven years, we accomplished so much; but we grew so fast—from caring for a few dogs in my backyard to housing a hundred at a time in our Peyton kennel and a hundred more in foster homes—that most of the time we scrambled to keep our heads above water. There were just so many dogs that needed us!
Last year, we were finally able to take a deep breath and a hard look at all of the processes involved in moving our precious survivors from their cages at the mills and into loving homes. We asked ourselves: How could we work smarter to help the dogs and advance our mission?
So, 2014 was the year of making things better, not bigger. We improved our long-term rehabilitation program for fearful dogs, streamlined our adoption program, grew our outreach through social media and made some necessary upgrades to our kennel facility. You’ll see several other examples in this report.
Thankfully, our incredible volunteers kept everything humming along, as they continue to do each and every day. I am deeply humbled and extremely proud to have such a committed and passionate group of people working right alongside me. There is simply no way we would be here without their undying dedication. Because of them, thousands of dogs that once had hopeless futures are instead living as cherished family members across the entire nation.
Along with our volunteers, our supporters are vital to our ongoing success. With your continued encouragement and friendship, we will be right here loving and caring for our puppy mill survivors until the very last day that we are needed.
With immeasurable gratitude,
See this face? This is Gremlin, aka Gremmy. You may not be able to tell just by looking, but he is a survivor … a survivor of horrible abuse and neglect that he endured for years. My husband and I are long-term volunteers for NMDR and because of that, Theresa Strader, the organization’s founder, agreed to let us foster Gremmy … that was in September of 2014 … but his rescue story began in May 2014 when Gremmy arrived at the NMDR facility, Lily’s Haven.
Gremmy is one of the worst cases of abuse that NMDR has seen and the second worst case the animal hospital had ever seen. When Gremmy first arrived the volunteers were under strict orders to not touch him. We were advised that only authorized personnel and members of the rehabilitation team were allowed to handle him – for his safety as well as ours – as they did not want him to regress in his rehabilitation. He arrived with a broken and wired jaw, which had to be monitored, and he was placed in a kennel run, by himself, right up front.
Gremmy quickly became a kennel favorite. Many of the volunteers fell in love with him right away – it was hard not to. How could you not fall in love with six pounds of scared, traumatized Shih Tzu, with sad, but hopeful eyes? Videos and pictures of his progress would be posted on National Mill Dog Rescue’s Volunteer Group. One in particular of a Rehab Team Member rubbing his belly and him crying/talking, really pulled on my heartstrings! This one had my husband and I both in tears. Who could hurt such a darling little guy?
I wanted to take a few moments during this Volunteer Appreciation Week to share some thoughts and thanks with you.
I know you’ve heard this from me many times before and I will say it again and again because it is the truth behind the many achievements of National Mill Dog Rescue. You, our volunteers, are the sole reason for our success. I receive far more than my share of accolades for the organization that NMDR is today. The truth is, without you, there would be no National Mill Dog Rescue, no 10,000 dogs saved, no sparkling clean kennel facility, no immaculate care of our precious guests. And I want all of you to know that I share this truth very regularly with people who admire our successes and wonder how we’ve accomplished all that we have in such a short period of time.
In every way, the thanks belongs to each of you who have given of yourselves in so many ways; your time so willingly, your backs so readily, your homes so openly, your funds so generously and, above all, your love so unconditionally. Time and time again, you look past the imperfections in many of our dogs and delight in the very smallest traces of progress. You have cried alongside me at the condition of so many of our babies and have bitten your own tongues so that we could keep our mission alive. You courageously extend your hands to our most fearful dogs, knowing this is what it takes for them to one day trust the touch of the hands they were once so afraid of. You work tirelessly with a devotion that is, in every way, second to none. It is your hearts and your dedication that is the formula for our success. I implore you this week to take extra pride in yourselves and all that we have accomplished together. You are truly a force to be reckoned with!
None of this escapes me and the truth is, it’s me who is in awe of you, as well I should be, because for me there would be no fulfilling of my dream without you. Thank you all so much!
This, our very first, annual report has been a long time coming. Getting any of us to slow down long enough to put it together has been a challenge. I hope you find it informative and trust it will increase your understanding of our mission, our priorities and our progress.
The journey that brings us to this point has been physically demanding, emotionally draining, and has consumed every spare second of my and many other people’s lives. And I don’t know a single one of us who would trade the experience.
Speaking for myself, I can say that I have never reaped such deep personal rewards. Right behind the dogs we rescue, I am the most blessed one of all. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to give them a voice.
Our rescued dogs are heroes, each and every one. They give a whole new meaning to strength, courage and ability, the strength to overcome serious illnesses and injuries, the courage to trust hands that formerly were so unkind, and the ability to enrich our lives beyond measure.
The lessons in forgiveness and resilience that they teach us will stay with us forever. They give us the energy and yearning to go back for more. What an incredibly fulfilling and special experience it is to be on this journey.
To our volunteers and supporters, you are the lifeblood of this organization. National Mill Dog Rescue would not exist without you; and thousands of dogs would continue to languish or be destroyed, never having the chance to enjoy life as a member of a loving family.
To all of you who have stepped forward to support our efforts in so many ways, my gratitude is truly immeasurable.
My most sincere thanks,