Volume No. 15 Issue No. 4 April 2018  

  Faces of Black Forest
  A heart for dogs and kids

     Theresa Strader has two great passions: kids and canines.
   "I live by my heart, I live by things that are important to me, and the well-being of children and animals has always been extremely important to me," Strader said.
   That passion for children is reflected in her profession as a pediatric nurse and the adoptive mother of three "deeply abused" children. Her love of dogs is clear from her role as founder and executive director of National Mill Dog Rescue, which rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes discarded breeding dogs; while shining a spotlight on the grim realities of the commercial dog breeding industry, commonly known as puppy milling.
   Her passion began 11 years ago when Strader bought Lily, an Italian greyhound, and a dozen other dogs at an auction in Missouri; the dogs came from a puppy mill that was going out of business. Years as a breeding dog and a lack of care had taken a horrific toll on Lily; her jaw had rotted off and she was missing half her face, Strader said.
   "She truly was our inspiration," she said. Lily died just 15 months later, "but not before she became an extraordinary, courageous, loving dog. She was the best example of forgiveness I have ever known."
   Strader's home in Black Forest became the base for National Mill Dog Rescue, with chicken coops converted into kennels for the dogs. "We called them the canine cottages," she said. There were times when she would have to shovel through the snow to reach the dogs, times she slept on a concrete floor with the dogs as mice ran across her back in the middle of the night. "Every other thing in life is on hold so you can create this mission and keep it alive," Strader said.
   The group is now based in Peyton, where the Timothy Center, a veterinary hospital and rehabilitation clinic for the rescued dogs, opened in February next to the Lily's Haven kennel. The Timothy Center was made possible through a donation by another Black Forest resident, David Wismer.
   "I wonder when the day will come that I walk through there and I'm not filled with tears," Strader said. "To see it in action, it's indescribable."
   Strader grew up in New York City and lived for a time on the opposite coast, in Burbank, Calif., before falling in love with Colorado. She moved to Black Forest in 1994. She was living there when she met her husband-to-be, Rich. They, of course, met over a dog; Rich adopted a "very, very intense" German shepherd that Strader had fostered.
   "I got the crazy dog back and a great husband," Strader said. In addition to the three adopted children, who are all grown, the couple has a biological daughter who will be heading off to college in the fall.
   Strader still works as a pediatric private-duty nurse one or two days a week -- "not because I have any time, but at the core of me is a kid nurse. That's what I do, that's what I am, that's what I love."
   Strader's home was destroyed in the 2013 Black Forest fire, just hours after the blaze began. Along with the children and about two-dozen animals -- dogs, cats, chickens -she and Rich fled to the kennel in Peyton. Within a couple of days, "volunteers showed up with 30-foot-long, beautiful RVs for our family and others," Strader said.
   They rebuilt, moving into their new home 15 months later, around Thanksgiving.
   "An occurrence like that, you either run away from it or grow with it," Strader said. "For us, we were coming home. Lily is buried on this property."
Eleven years ago, Theresa Straderís passion for dog rescue began when she bought Lily, an Italian greyhound, and a dozen other dogs at an auction in Missouri. Lily had been a breeding dog at the puppy mill where the dogs came from and was neglected so much that her jaw had rotted off and she was missing half her face (look closely): Strader is holding Lily.
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