Ever wish you could confront the people that were responsible for causing the love of your life, your dog’s, misery? Thersea Strader created the National Mill Dog Rescue in 2007 in remembrance of her Italian Greyhound Lily – who was a poster child for the abuse and mistreatment puppy mill dogs face.
Lily had spent the first seven years of her life as a breeding dog.
Here is her story, according the website:
“Lily spent all of her days confined to a cramped, frigid wire cage in a dark, foul-smelling barn. Never was she taken from her confinement for exercise or socialization. In her gloomy surroundings, Lily was compelled to produce one litter after another with little break. Like other commercial breeding dogs, she was a veritable breeding machine whose worth was judged in only one way — her ability to produce babies.
Lily had undergone a lot of abuse in the interest of profit before being rescued.
By seven years of age, Lily was worn out. Commonplace in the profession, she had received little to no veterinary treatment throughout her life, the outcome of which, for her, was profoundly distressing. Due to years of inadequate dental treatment, 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 filled with mammary lumps and she was very scared of people.”
The Strader family supplied Lily with the love, compassion, and veterinary attention she so sorely needed.
In May 2008, Lily passed away at home, in the arms of her loving adoptive father and family. Exactly fifteen months after her rescue.
While struggling to deal with Lily’s passing, Thersea composed the following potent letter. And while it’s targeted to Lily’s breeder, we hope it will strike a note with everyone involved in the breeding or selling of dogs in mills.
Read the letter here, published with permission for National Mill Dog Rescue:
It’s been fifteen months since you and I first met. More than likely, you remember very nothing about me. After all, we met in your world, on your property in fact. Since that day, pieces of your world have become a very important part of mine. For that, myself and many like-minded people are very thankful to you.
In February 2007, I received an email – “50 Italian Greyhounds in need” and with that, a phone number. Having had a lifetime fondness for the breed, I called the number to find out what the story was and how I might be able to help. I’m positive you know where this letter is going now.
Yeah, February 17, 2007, after 40+ years, your kennel would be going out of business. Time to retire and rest after four decades of mistreating dogs. Five hundred and sixty one dogs would proceed to the auction blocks that day, 49 were Italian Greyhounds. It was without question that I would help, though I must admit, I had no idea what I would come to learn via the process. Due to transportation constraints, I understood that if I were to be of any service to these dogs, I would have to drive out to Lamar personally. So, on the 16th of February, my daughter and I headed to Missouri.
Understand, I’ve been involved in dog rescue virtually my entire life — fostering and placing homeless dogs, caring for sick or injured dogs, assisting overpopulated shelters, etc. I have always known about puppy mills and pet store puppies but have never shared my home with anything other than rescued animals. For the record, I AM NOT AN ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST. What I am is a person who believes in the right to decent treatment for all living beings.
Martha, what I witnessed on your property was far from humane. Hundreds of terrified ailing faces, imprisoned in their wire confines, some peering at me, but most too fearful to look into my eyes, too unaware of how to perceive human interaction. That encounter has caused me numerous sleepless nights and to this very day, the anguish and the dread in their eyes haunts my whole essence.
I am well aware that you were acting well within USDA standards – what a horrible concept that is. I am also aware that in your circles, commercial breeding dogs are considered livestock. Dogs are not cattle, Martha. Thousands of years ago, man domesticated dogs to be our protectors, hunters, herders, guards, but most of all, our companions.
I came home with thirteen of your dogs – nine Italian Greyhounds, two Dachshunds and two Papillons. Not a single dog that I had treated for in over 25 years of rescue work came anywhere close to the physical and mental trauma that your dogs had undergone. As it related to saving dogs, the next several months would become the education of a lifetime for me.
The entire aim of this letter though, is about only one of those dogs, the one that would find her everlasting home here with my family….. #251 – AKC registered “Reedgate’s Rapid Motion”. Well, the irony of her name — Quick Motion – an Italian Greyhound who was never able to run. Caging her for her entire life bereft her of ever having enough strength in her legs to feel the joy of running. A terrible reality for a breed meant to run.
In our home, we cut the chain from her neck, replaced it with a nice collar and christened her Lily. At the age of seven years and one month Lily had been set free.
Lily was one of several of your dogs that was missing her lower jaw. I wonder how you might explain why so many of your dogs were suffering from this illness. I wonder whether you were ever concerned about their agony or possibly about how they were able to eat enough to keep alive. I wonder how many died in your care from the repercussions of this condition. I wonder whether you even noticed. I’m fairly convinced you did notice one thing beyond the rotting faces though — their ability to generate puppies. That’s what your business is all about — generating puppies, at whatever expense.
Lily became an incredible treasure in our home. Despite her various health concerns and her tremendous anxiety, in time, with tons of love and care, she found her bravery and when she did, no one was immune to her love. Men, women and children brought to tears to hear her story and to have the untold joy of meeting her. Lily’s life was no longer about what she could do for you but instead, how we might make it up to her in a comfortable and caring environment.
It was heartbreaking for our family to watch her suffer through four surgeries to remove breast tumors, to attempt to restore her withering face and to spay her — removing the papery black, pus filled organ that was once her uterus. Very selfish of you never to notice her anguish, just the dollars.
Precisely due of your appalling carelessness, every meal Lily ate was a fight. We tried so many meals and so many various ways to make it easier for her to eat. But in the end, she had to do it her way, the way she learned at your place, the way she kept herself alive for you – picking kibbles out of her bowl, a few at a time with her feet, spreading them around the floor, then rubbing the “good” side of her face along the floor to catch a kibble on her tongue, then extending her neck upwards and swallowing it whole. Think about that, Martha. How would you want to consume just one meal that way?
Do you remember sitting in my car when the auction was over? The boys were gathering up the dogs that I had “won”. You said to me, “I just love my Italian Greyhounds”. Ah, the thoughts that went through my head when those words came out of your mouth. You don’t love any dogs, Martha. What you did was spend more than forty years of your God given life utilizing dogs for your own advantage. No consideration to their physical or emotional well-being, simply cashing in on their ability to reproduce. Think about the thousands of dogs who came through your hands — you robbed every single one of them of the simple delights they richly deserve. A delicious meal, a warm and comfortable place to sleep, medical attention, and most of all, a human partner to make their lives whole.
Lily learned so much in our home — about being a family member, being a dog, being deserving. I will always be worried that she never learned how to run or really how to play. Yet she learnt how to love and be loved and for that, there are no words. She changed our lives forever.
Lilly struggled for seven years of her life at a puppy mill as a breeding dog.
Lily died on May 13, 2008 at the age of eight – roughly half the life expectancy for an Italian Greyhound. Martha, she died as a direct result of the neglect she suffered for seven years in your care. How many others have suffered the same fate?
This industry has been hidden far too long. The word is out, the days are numbered. People like you will soon move forth into fields of honest employment and leave the care of God’s animals to those of us who sincerely love them.