We are very proud to announce that Theresa Strader, the founder of National Mill Dog Rescue, was selected by People Magazine as a “Hero Among Us” in their November 19, 2012 issue. The following letter was written by Theresa.
Dear friends and supporters of National Mill Dog Rescue,
In light of my recently being selected as a People Magazine Hero, I thought I would share my thoughts on what heroes mean to me.
When I ponder the word hero, endless images come to mind; military heroes, police officers, firemen, surgeons, civil rights leaders, artists, the list goes on. I cannot on any level, equate myself to the people that I have always looked up to as heroes. I am of course, grateful for the recognition and appreciation for the work I do which is so important to me. Never could I have imagined that so many people would feel just as passionate as I do about this work; so much so that they give their time, their money and their backs to help care for our dogs each day and educate everyone willing to listen. What an astounding and humbling experience it has been for me to plant the seed and watch the organization grow and thrive, saving almost 7,000 dogs in just five years.
Across our lives, we’ve all heard amazing stories of animal heroes too – war dogs, messenger birds, service animals, the list goes on. These stories are always so touching, knowing that animals do not possess the mighty human intellect, yet learning of their highly intelligent, selfless and courageous acts makes a person wonder who indeed the “higher” beings really are…
By definition: he·ro [heer-oh] a being admired for his unusual strength, courage or ability. When I contemplate this definition, a whole new world of heroes unfolds before me. Not the mighty warriors, not the uniformed protectors, not the fit and sturdy beasts. Indeed, a far less likely hero.
This hero has received no training, no conditioning. On the contrary, this hero often comes in a small, frightened package. This hero is a puppy mill dog. The attributes of this little hero possess a whole different meaning of strength, courage and ability. The strength to overcome serious illnesses and injuries, the courage to trust the very hands that were at one time calloused or unkind, and the ability to enrich our lives beyond measure. I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to give these animals a voice.
I have said many times in the past, right behind the dogs we rescue, I am the most blessed one of all. 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.
The journey that brings us to where we are today has been back breaking, emotionally draining and consuming of every spare second of our lives. I don’t know a single one of us who would trade the experience. For me, I can say that I have never reaped such deep, personal rewards and to all the people who have stepped forward to support our efforts in so many ways, my gratitude is truly immeasurable.
The lessons of forgiveness and resilience that these dogs have taught us will stay with each of us forever. The updates from our adopters are the highlight of many of our days and give us the strength and yearning to go back for more. What an incredibly fulfilling and special experience it is to be on this journey with all of you.
My most sincere thanks,