have been thinking of becoming more involved with dogs, lately. In fact, I've even been thinking of a career change to a dog-related areas. Rather than jumping into anything, though, I feel I need more experience. My dog experiences are really limited to pet ownership and a handful of obedience classes.
I have thought about volunteering at the local animal shelter. I have also considered volunteering for Lucky Star Cavalier Rescue. Before committing myself to these organizations, I was wondering if anyone has any advice or experience they might share. I guess I'm tentative to jump in the deep end because I feel I'm rather inexperienced in general and I dont want to seem, well, stupid. Any info or advice is welcome!
Either place would be a good place to start and see what you think. Of the two the low key option would be Lucky Star as most likely this would involve very occasional fostering and/or transport -- I know they have asked in the past for driving volunteers to help collect and move dogs.
Shelter work can involve a wide range of activity, from office work to feeding/kennel work to walking dogs and spending time with them and the cats. Most shelters always need volunteers. Most breed and independent rescues always need help/fosters etc too.
My caution about breed/independent rescue (though this doesn't pertain so much to cavaliers as they only rarely go into rescue) is that you need to be very firm on your level of involvement as you can run into some forceful personalities who will push and push for you to take on more... all well intentioned but I have seen many people get overwhelmed and then give up. With fostering you want to know exactly who is responsible for what -- vet care costs, food, what to do in an emergency, what backup and support is there, from who, etc. Note that I speak as someone who has both worked with independent groups and who does a small amount of cavalier rescue and I have been on both sides of the fence. I know what it is like to really be desperate to find a space for an animal and also what it is like to find yourself stuck with a situation you aren;t sure you want to be in.
Working at a shelter/SPCA tends to be FAR more structured and the animals stay at the shelter so that type of pressure is not there. Lucky Star also is very structured from what I have seen. But fostering is not for everyone -- a lot of people expect their foster to be another dog just like theirs, but most rescue dogs are at best, going to be at least somewhat anxious as they are in a new environment but in the case of Lucky Star, they can be quite traumatised. Puppy mill dogs typically are adults and not houstrained and can be a real challenge to housetrain as they';ve known nothing but filthy conditions in a cage; also they are fairly unsocialised. The cav personality tends to shine through but most rescues from mills or abusive or neglectful situations need huge amounts of patience and quiet love to be gradually brought out of their shell. Many are terrified of being in open space even just a back garden as they have just known a small cage. Some have been abused as well. So there are challenges -- but huge rewards too!! I think it is important to understand what is really involved with any type of foster, as everyone I know who has done foster initially seems to have totally different expectations, imagining a sweet dog who will fit right in, when often you get a very anxious dog who may be barky, scared, unhousetrained. Really the only way to see what you think is by diving in!! :)