Have you ever wished you could face the individuals who were responsible for your dog’s misery? In remembrance of her Italian Greyhound, Lily, who was a poster child for the m.i.s.t.r.e.a.t.m.ent and n.e.g.l.e.c.t puppy mill dogs, Thersea Strader started the National Mill Dog Rescue in 2007.
Lily had been a breeding dog for the first seven years of her life.
According to the website, here is her story:
“Lily spent her days in a gloomy, foul-smelling barn, locked in a tiny, frigid metal cage. She was never taken out of her cage for movement or socialising. Lily was compelled to make litter after litter in her cramped quarters, with little break. She was a real breeding machine, just like other dogs used to make money. Her value was only based on how many puppies she could make.
Lily was exhausted by the age of seven. She had had little to no medical treatment during her life, which had been quite upsetting to her. The roof of Lily’s mouth and lower jaw had rotted away due to years of insufficient dental care, poor quality diet, rabbit bottle watering, and a lack of proper chew toys. Her breasts were covered in mammary lumps, and she was scared of people. ”
Lily received the affection, care, and veterinary services she required from the Strader family.
Lily passed away at home in the arms of her devoted foster father and family in May 2008, only fifteen months after she was rescued.
While dealing with Lily’s loss, Thersea composed the following powerful letter. While it is targeted at Lily’s breeder, we hope it will reach out to anybody engaged in the breeding or sale of dogs in mills.
The following letter has been reproduced with permission from National Mill Dog Rescue:
It had been 15 months since we first met. You probably don’t recall anything about me. We met in your world, on your property, after all. Elements of your universe have become a significant part of mine since that day. That is something that myself and many others appreciate.
In February 2007, I received an email with the subject “50 Italian Greyhounds in Need” and a phone number. Having always had a soft spot for the breed, I dialed the number to discover what the situation was and how I could assist. I’m sure you can guess where this letter is headed.
Yes, on February 17, 2007, your kennel will close its doors after more than 40 years of operation. After four decades of m.i.s.t.r.eating pets, it’s time to retire and unwind. On that day, 561 canines will be auctioned off, 49 of which are Italian Greyhounds. It seemed obvious that I would assist, though I must admit that I had no clue what I would learn during the process. Due to transportation constraints, I realized that if I was to save these dogs, I would have to travel myself to Lamar. So, on February 16th, my daughter and I left for Missouri.
Understand, I’ve spent my whole life working in dog rescue, adopting and housing homeless dogs, caring for sick or wounded dogs, supporting overcrowded shelters, and so on. I’ve always been aware of puppy mills and pet store puppies, but I’ve only ever had rescued animals in my home. I, for one, am not an animal rights activist. What I am is a person who thinks that all living creatures have the right to be treated humanely.
What I observed on your farm, Martha, was far from humanitarian. Hundreds of scared, ailing faces were locked in their wire cages, some peering at me, but most were too afraid to look into my eyes, unsure how to understand human interaction. That encounter has given me several sleepless nights, and the despair and dread in their eyes haunts me to this day.
I am well aware that you were acting within USDA guidelines–what a heinous concept. I’m also aware that industrial breeding canines are seen as livestock in your circles. Martha, dogs are not cattle. Man tamed dogs thousands of years ago to be our defenders, hu.n.ters, herders, guardians, and, most importantly, friends.
I brought nine Italian Greyhounds, two Dachshunds, and two Papillons home with me. In over 25 years of rescue work, not a single dog I had cared for had undergone the physical and mental t.r.auma that your pets had. The following several months would be the education of a lifetime for me in terms of dog rescue.
But the whole point of my letter is about one of those dogs, the one that would find her everlasting home here with my family….. “Reedgate’s Swift Motion” was registered with the AKC. The irony of her moniker, Swift Motion, is that she was an Italian Greyhound who could never run. Caging her for her whole life prevented her from ever having enough leg strength to enjoy the thrill of running. A terrible reality for a breed that was designed to run.
We removed the chain from her neck, replaced it with a nice collar, and gave her the name Lily. Lily was set free at the age of seven years and one month.
Lily included many of your canines who lacked a lower jaw. I’m curious how you might justify why so many of your pets have this issue. I’m curious whether you ever worried about their agony or how they managed to eat enough to stay alive. I’m curious about how many animals passed away in your care as a result of this disease. I’m curious whether you even noticed. Beyond the decaying faces, I’m sure you noticed something else: their capacity to generate pups. That’s what your company is all about: creating puppies at whatever cost.
Lily quickly became a family member in our home. Despite her numerous health concerns and severe dread, she eventually found her bravery, and when she did, no one was resistant to her love. Men, women, and children were moved to tears by her narrative and the immeasurable delight of meeting her. Lily’s existence was no longer about what she could do for you, but rather about how we could repay her in a comfortable and caring environment.
Our family suffered through four surgeries to remove breast tumors, attempt to mend her deteriorating face, and spay her – removing the papery black, pus-filled organ that was previously her uterus. How selfish of you to never notice her grief, only the money.
Every meal Lily ate was a challenge due to your carelessness. We tried so many different meals and methods to make it simpler for her to eat. But she had to do it her way, the way she learned at your house, the way she kept herself surviving for you—picking kibbles out of her bowl with her feet, spreading them around the floor, then rubbing the “good” side of her face all along the floor to capture a kibble on her tongue, then extending her neck upward, ingesting it whole. Consider that, Martha. How about eating just one meal that way?
Do you recall sitting in my car after the auction ended? The men were rounding up the dogs. I had “won.” “I just love my Italian Greyhounds,” you told me. Oh, the ideas that raced through my head when you said those words. Martha, you don’t like dogs. What you did was waste more than forty years of your God-given life by t.o.r.turing pets. Without concern for their physical or emotional well-being, they are exploiting their potential to reproduce. Consider the hundreds of dogs who passed through your hands: you deprived each of them of the simple pleasures they so richly deserve.A satisfying meal, a warm and pleasant place to sleep, medical treatment, and, most importantly, a human partner to round out their existence.
In our house, Lily learned so much about being a family member, being a dog, and being deserving. I’ll always be concerned by the fact that she never learned to run or play. But she learnt to love and be loved, and there are no words to describe how grateful she is. She forever altered our lives.
Lily passed away on May 13, 2008, at the age of 8, less than half the average lifespan for an Italian Greyhound. Martha, she passed away as a result of the n.e.g.l.e.ct she endured in your care for seven years. How many others have perished in the same way?
This industry has been kept secret for far too long. The word is out, and the days are counting down. People like you will soon leave the care of God’s animals to those of us who sincerely love them and go into fields of honest employment.