photo - Theresa Strader talks to a large group at the National Mill Dog Rescue that opened their newest addition to the venue 'The Timothy Center' on Saturday February 17, 2018 in Peyton. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).
Theresa Strader talks to a large group at the National Mill Dog Rescue that opened their newest addition to the venue 'The Timothy Center' on Saturday February 17, 2018 in Peyton. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).  

What is your biggest dream?

That's what David Wismer asked Theresa Strader, founder and executive director of National Mill Dog Rescue, during a fateful lunch about three years ago.

Wismer, a longtime supporter, and Strader had been discussing the organization's direction and future when he asked the question.

"Honestly, I dream kind of big, so I didn't really answer that," Strader recalled. Wismer sensed her hesitation, she said, put his hand on her shoulder and asked again: What was her biggest dream for the group?

So she told him of her dream for "a full-blown veterinary clinic and a rehabilitation facility" - a place where the dogs that come to National Mill Dog Rescue would get the best medical care and where especially fearful dogs could get extra attention in a low-stress environment.

That dream became reality with the opening last month of the Timothy Center, named after Wismer's dog Timothy, a shih tzu-poodle mix who died a little more than a year ago. Wismer paid for the $1.3 million center, including the building and X-ray equipment. Others have sponsored pieces of medical equipment, and more sponsors are needed.

The Timothy Center is a boon to veterinarians and their canine patients at National Mill Dog Rescue.

"We take care of some very complicated medical issues that our dogs have," Strader said. Previously, that care was provided in two small rooms at the group's facility in Peyton, east of Colorado Springs, and dogs had to be taken to the Springs for X-rays and some other services. Now, the vets have everything they need at the Timothy Center.

The back of the building is a rehabilitation facility for "red collar dogs" - those in extra need of socialization. That area is named Missy's Place after another of David and Mary Anne Wismer's dogs, a shih tzu adopted from National Mill Dog Rescue. "It's a place of healing," Strader said.

At the Timothy Center's grand opening, Strader looked around in wonderment. "How do you thank somebody for this?" she asked. "How could you ever say enough?"

The opening date, Feb. 17, was already a significant one for Strader. It was on Feb. 17, 2007, that she rescued an Italian greyhound named Lily from a dog auction in Missouri and started National Mill Dog Rescue. The group's mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome discarded breeding dogs and educate people about the grim realities of the commercial dog breeding industry, commonly known as puppy milling.

Just as the Lily's Haven kennel honors Lily, the adjacent Timothy Center honors Timothy and the bond he and David Wismer shared.

"The last four years of his life, Timothy was blind and deaf. David was his eyes and ears," Strader said. In seeing the two together, "you would have witnessed the greatest love that a man can have for a dog, period."

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