Many of us have heard of or attended support groups or educational seminars for our own maladies or interests – Alcoholics Anonymous, bereavement groups, even quilting groups. It seems there is a group for almost every thing that could happen in our lives, be it a hobby, a sickness, an addiction or even just because we’re single and looking for a partner. In most cases, these groups provide social interaction, interesting notes and quirks on the group’s interest, and a reassuring knowledge that we share our pain or passion with others. Working with a rescue group has not only been personally rewarding, it has helped me more than any other resource to put the pieces of dog ownership together, and has been an invaluable contribution to my years as a Canine Life Coach and Trainer. Many of the members have been long time dog lovers, and in their days have discovered fabulous ideas for every aspect of being a dog owner, from the best home cooked dog food recipes to the cuddliest doggy blankets. We even share some of our favorite walking trails, natural remedies, and simple training tips. There is a rescue group for almost every breed of dog, and in all of my years educating my self about dogs, my rescue group has provided a greater spectrum of tried and true tips, advice and support than any other resource. Rescue agencies and groups come in all shapes and sizes, but each has the same primary goal – “to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves” as the SPCA puts it. Many of the dogs in foster with rescue groups are actually surrendered by their owners, and the typical life of a surrendered dog goes something like this (in fact this is the story of 45% of surrendered dogs): Fido is purchased from the local pet store by a newly married couple who just can’t resist how cute he is. He is loved and spoiled throughout puppyhood and his adolescence, and shares the excitement of his owners when they decide to have a baby of their own. Many new parents are oblivious to how these family changes will impact their dog’s life and subsequent behaviour, and often overlooked is the importance of preparing the dog for the baby as much as they prepare themselves for the arrival. Once the baby is born, the busy parents eventually become unable to manage the additional responsibility of a dog on top of the plethora of duties already required of them, and choose to find Fido a new home. They do some research and decide to contact the applicable Breed Rescue Group. Someone from the rescue group discusses with them the personality, behavior and any medical conditions of the dog. The rescue representative then needs to find a foster home within the group and will also arrange for transport of the dog from his previous home to his foster’s home. The foster home, with financial assistance from the group, will arrange for and provide after care to Fido for medical conditions. They will feed, walk, train, and rehabilitate this dog so that a new family can fall in love with him. Fido will be ‘networked’, and a potential adopter will contact the rescue group, whereupon a home visit, phone interview etc. will be conducted by a rescue volunteer to ensure a suitable home. Fingers crossed, eventually Fido will find a forever home, with a family that is prepared for the responsibilities of owning a pet and can understand and meet his unique needs. This same process is repeated by rescue groups across North America hundreds of thousands of times per year, with a different story for every dog. The spokes of the wheel of this rescue process are entirely made up of dedicated volunteers, and wouldn’t function without their contributions of time and energy. Volunteering with a rescue group does not always mean going to your local SPCA or animal shelter and cleaning dog runs for a few hours each week, and it doesn’t require you to take on a strange pet for an undetermined amount of time for fostering. Volunteering can be as simple as joining a group and helping with a photo session for the fundraising calendar, driving a dog from his old home to his new home, contributing to the group’s newsletter, or even just lending an ear to a foster parent who has reached his/her limit. Even the smallest task can contribute to this vast network of animal lovers and processes we endure to give animals a better life. My own experience volunteering with rescue groups has certainly provided a few animals with better lives. But more so, it has provided me with an education about animals, life and above all, love and dedication. I often wonder what the animals would do without these groups, and more often wonder what I would have done without them. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find links to your favourite rescue at your Breed club’s website, or visit your local SPCA.