Theresa Strader has a clean house. It takes work, as any mother of four would tell you, but for Strader and her husband, cleaning is an everyday chore. Not that her kids are particularly messy—only one of them lives at home. It’s the dogs, Strader says. Strader, who founded the nonprofit National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR), has 11 dogs to care for at home.

“We vacuum and mop every single day,” Strader says. “I wouldn’t recommend it for most people. What people do once a month to keep their house clean we sometimes do multiple times a day.”

After Strader’s home burned down in the Black Forest fire in 2013, she and her husband rebuilt it to accommodate more animals. The nature of Strader’s work makes her appreciate how valuable a good home is for any dog. She’s unquestionably a dog-person. If you ask Strader what her favorite breed is, she’ll say, “German Shepherd.” If you ask anyone else what her favorite breed is, they’ll tell you, “All of them.”

Nearly every month since Strader started NMDR 10 years ago, she’s packed her van and traveled to puppy mills around the nation. On these “missions,” as she calls them, Strader rescues dogs who would otherwise be discarded—usually because they’ve grown older and can no longer breed. To date, Strader says, she has completed 109 missions and rescued more than 11,800 dogs.

Puppy mills, Strader says, are large-scale commercial dog-breeding farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires breeders to provide a breeding dog six inches of space above its head and outside of its body if it’s standing on its feet. It never has to go outside or have any socialization.

“What [the breeders] are doing is not illegal,” Strader says. “Do I agree with it? Of course not. But I’m not the boss of what people do for a living. We don’t exchange money. All I can do is what I do for the dogs.”

Theresa Strader
Theresa Strader. Photograph courtesy of National Mill Dog Rescue

This Saturday, NMDR will host its annual Dog Jog in Colorado Springs. The 5K will feature a costume contest (owners who dressed up their dogs as the characters from The Wizard of Oz came to Strader’s mind), a dog-look-alike contest, a dog-singing contest, as well as plenty of food for both humans and pups.

Most of the money from the Dog Jog goes toward veterinary and dental work for the dogs. Strader says that for many dogs, who tend to be five or six years old, the dental work NMDR provides is the first they have ever received. Routine operations like spaying an animal, which usually don’t last more than 30 minutes, take an hour or two for NMDR’s rescues due to the dogs’ physical conditions upon arrival. As Strader puts it, they “serve a difficult population.”

“It’s quite an undertaking to provide their care,” Strader says. “But we don’t half-ass any of it. They get the best care we can provide.”

If you go: The Dog Jog will take place in Colorado Springs’ Cottonwood Creek Park. Check-in is at 7:30 a.m., and the 5K will begin at 8:30 a.m. Click this link to register for the 5K, which costs $35 for anyone over the age of 18 and $20 for those who are younger.