From April 27 - April 30 of this year, I was lucky enough to travel the 2,000+ miles to Colorado Springs to embark on my very first - and far from last - volunteer experience at National Mill Dog Rescue.
Preparing for the trip was 90% mental…
I followed the steps to become a volunteer and signed up on VolunteerMatters/NMDR.com. I reviewed the Volunteer Handbook, signed the waiver, and watched “I Breathe” featured at the bottom of this blog.
I initially worried that it would be too difficult for me to be surrounded by so many homeless dogs, especially knowing what their pitiful lives were like prior to rescue. They were either purchased at auction or born in the puppy mills (aka commercial breeders, some of which are USDA “approved”) where they were subjected to neglect and forced to spend every minute of every day in small wire cages in their own filth all while being bred on-demand for years. Their health was of no concern to the breeders since they were merely puppy-makers for profit. What most people still don’t understand is that they could be supporting this disgraceful practice by buying pets online or from pet stores which is why we preach ADOPT, don’t shop!
After I packed my suitcase with tissues and an uplifting book, I pushed my selfish fears aside and focused on what NMDR does on a daily basis to provide these dogs with the best chance of a new, happy life. I had to remember what this trip was all about – showing the dogs love and compassion in the safe and well-maintained environment that is NMDR’s Lilly’s Haven.
Once I landed in Colorado…
I met up with Laurie, the remarkable woman who inspired me to become part of this organization and join her on this, her third journey. Laurie is a long-time friend of my dad’s and she too lives in MA. She is also a great advocate for the pit bull breed and supports the organization born out of Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, Handsome Dan’s Rescue based in Rhode Island. THANK YOU, Laurie!
Day 1: Pet Expo
We were fortunate to experience a bit of Colorado on our drive from Denver to Colorado Springs but truthfully we just couldn’t wait to see the pups. Sunday at the kennel was going to be quiet since several volunteers were busy representing NMDR at a local Pet Expo so we were urged to check that out instead. There were tons of people and their dogs amidst countless rescue organizations, humane societies, and pet specialty stores and vendors. NMDR had adoptable dogs on-hand for meet & greets, branded clothing for sale, and a slew of literature further explaining their mission; it was great to experience it all in a cheerful and rather busy setting.
Day 2: Offload, Clean, Feed & Socialize
In advance of the trip, we got wind of the impending rescue mission in the Midwest which was set to bring nearly 60 dogs to the NMDR facility to begin their rehabilitation and road to be re-homed. It was with great anticipation that we cleaned, fed, laundered, and socialized the pups until mid-afternoon when the rescue vehicles arrived. I was living in the moment, surrounded by the energized crowd of volunteers and coordinators, when I realized that all of their suffering had truly ended. These dogs were going to feel love – and the ground! – for the first time in their lives. One by one the volunteers filtered up to the van to be given a crate with one or more matted, scared, smelly dogs. Regardless of their former circumstances, not a single dog displayed aggression. It was simply miraculous.
Read the full press release about “Harley to the Rescue”.
Day 3: Clean, Feed, Intake & Socialize
By Tuesday morning I already felt so connected to my new fur-friends… all 80+ of them :)! We joined the early morning cleaning crew; mopped all the overnight accidents, scooped the poop, wiped down the Kuranda bed, switched out the blankets and folded laundry. Next came time to refresh the water and fill the food bowls. Some pups need canned food while others have special diets like grain-free and, of course, the young ones eat puppy food. Full tummies = minimal barking + another round of cleanup.
The newbies from Monday’s rescue were starting to get settled in their new temporary homes, but how would they ever find their forever families? What we did next is what NMDR refers to as “intake”. Prior to transport, each pup was named, weighed, microchipped and evaluated for major health concerns. This made the intake coordinator’s job much easier and smoother. As volunteers, it was our job to take each dog one-by-one through the intake process: verify the name on their collar matched the paperwork, provide any personality traits observed during the time spent in their kennel (shy, friendly, cuddly, scared, outgoing, anxious), and have their pictures taken for the adoption page and as the starting point for their before and after transformations.
Read more about my 5 intake dogs on their adoption profiles:
Day 4: Clean, Feed, Socialize & Goodbyes
Wednesday was not going to be another 9-hour day for us since the car rental return and my flight back East were dictating our schedules. Laurie and sped through cleaning and feeding so we could spend the last few hours cuddling and loving on our buddies. I thoroughly debated cradling a few of the little ones in my brand new National Mill Dog Rescue zip up hoodie for the plane ride! I thought, “how would anyone know?” I loved them so much already. This was by far the most difficult day. A few of my toughest goodbyes were to: Joey, Balto, Ojoe & Lucy, Nino, Glory, Soda, Poppi, Betsy, Walter, Killian, Rooster & Ellie, Brutus, Festus, Cashel, Powder, Dixie, Kiwi, Lulu, Cinnamon & Eggnog, Ferrari, Snickers, Clarence, Happy, George & Ringo, Elmo, Indiana Jones, Rocky, Ruby, Cher and Shelly. Okay, maybe it was more than a few but that wasn’t all of them. So many deserving dogs need homes and I really hope this journal of sorts inspires you all to ADOPT, VOLUNTEER, ADVOCATE, and DONATE!
To learn more about National Mill Dog Rescue and the dogs they save,
>Review NMDR’s Mission Statement:
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Peyton, CO, NMDR’s mission is “to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home discarded breeding dogs and to educate the general public about the cruel realities of the commercial dog breeding industry.
>Watch "I Breathe: Lily's Legacy"
>And continue on to the NMDR website for even more valuable information.
Together we WILL make a difference!