I would like to introduce to you a nonprofit organization that helps dogs who, in turn, help endangered species. The organization is called Conservation Canines and it is based out of the University of Washington, located in Seattle.
Their mission is to distinguish between multiple pressures facing wildlife over a large geographic range.
The Conservation Canines program addresses this need by combining the precision and efficiency of detection dogs to readily locate wildlife scat (feces) samples, which are then analyzed to extract a wide variety of genetic and physiological indicators used in helping the populations that are being studied.
The ideal scat detection dog is intensely focused and has an insatiable urge to play. Their obsessive, high-energy personalities make them difficult to maintain as a family pet, so they often end up at a shelter. The single-minded drive of these dogs makes them perfect Conservation Canines. They are happy to work all day, through all sorts of terrain and weather, with the expectation of reward - playing with their ball, after successfully locating wildlife scat. These dogs are rescued and given another chance at life, traveling the world to help save numerous other species.
This program prides itself on using dogs from various rescues and shelters in Oregon and Washington state. They are interested in dogs that "air scent", literally sticking their nose in the air to catch a scent. These are generally the working breeds including Labradors, German shepherds, Border Collies, Australian Cattle dogs, to name a few. Bloodhounds and other scent tracking dogs generally are poorly suited for this type of work. They accept dogs between one-and-a-half to three years old.
The rescue groups that they work with are very understanding and when a dog does not make the cut for the program, they will be returned to the shelter. However, Conservation Canines makes sure that the dog gets the most for their time spent at their facility. They get work in basic obedience and manners. In some cases, they are lucky enough to find a potential adopter before returning the dog and then are able to work closely with the rescue/shelter to complete a successful adoption.
This organization takes care of it's retirees. Most of the handlers will bond with the dogs and request to adopt them when they are ready to retire. The handler must be approved to be able to appropriately care for the dog. Another option for retirees is to be able to participate in an indoor program that they run. This indoor program allows dogs to match samples to specific individuals, They have found that a number of the older dogs do quite well because it does not require the constant stamina of fieldwork. So for those older dogs that still have the heart but not the legs, it is a great option. A third option for retiring dogs is to place them in a forever home. After a few seasons in the field all of the dogs begin to mellow. A retiring dog will have worked 5-8 years in the field and at the end of this time they are more suitable for a family atmosphere.
A final option is that they remain at the facility. They are looking into starting an Outreach Program attached to the canine program that would be perfect for elderly dogs.
I invite you to check out this worthy non-profit that benefits rescue dogs as well as multiple species, especially if you are interested in helping out.