Volunteer Interview: Cari Leach

Volunteer Interview: Leonard Cohen
April 2, 2023

Cari Leach, interviewed by Sarah O’Leary on 2/9/23

Today’s interview is with Cari Leach, who has been an active volunteer with Dog Star for a few years and recently became Foster Director on the Board. Thanks again to Cari for agreeing to be interviewed! This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sarah: Hi Cari! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Cari: I am a mother, wife, a grandmother of six grandchildren, and an owner of two Dog Stars. I work for a major health insurance company and I am hoping to retire in the near future.

Sarah: Gotcha! What roles do you have at Dog Star?

Cari: I am most recently appointed to be the Foster Director on the Board of Directors.

Sarah: Congratulations!

Cari: Thank you! Before that and I guess still, I am the Foster Onboarding Coordinator.So, I’m the person that interviews and approves new fosters, as well as sets them up and assigns them a foster coordinator. I am also a kennel volunteer and I sometimes help with adoption events.

Sarah: Great! You’re quite involved, aren’t you? What made you want to work with Dog Star as a volunteer?

Cari: So I’ve always loved dogs my whole life and somebody at work once told me about dog fostering years ago. And then when the pandemic started I saw a commercial on TV that fosters were needed but it wasn’t affiliated with any organization. I was kind of forced to work from home so I thought I would take a foster home until I returned back to work. Then, I looked up nearby organizations and at the time, Dog Star was one of the only rescues that were operating. In March of 2020, I submitted an application with Dog Star to foster and that’s how it all started.

Sarah: Wow and then you just took off from that point! What would you say your favorite thing about Dog Star is?

Cari: Probably just working with all the other dog-loving, like-minded volunteers. Like, it’s a great place! And I’ve met so many different people from different backgrounds, people that I never would have met and interacted with before. All kinds of different belief systems, ages, and more. And it’s just nice working with a group of people that all have this common goal of doing right by dogs. If you want to meet nice people, go volunteer somewhere. You meet a lot of selfless people that way.

Sarah: I agree! I definitely value the people that I’ve met through Dog Star the most and the lessons that I’ve learned on how to be a better person, especially in the eyes of the dogs. Do you have any advice for current volunteers or people who are looking into volunteering at Dog Star?

Cari: Yes! I’ve learned a lot through working with Dog Star, specifically through some resources that one of the behaviorists that Dog Star uses. This may not be your typical advice but one of the things I’ve learned that really puts it in perspective is that these dogs have suffered a profound loss of control over their circumstances and environment. There are two good guiding principles that I have learned. First, whenever making any kind of a decision or taking action, anything you can do to make things predictable for the dogs can really help them with the fear and anxiety that they feel, due to their circumstances. Secondly, it is important to find ways to allow the dog to have a choice or to have more control over its environment. Ask yourself: how can I make things predictable? How can I establish a routine and how can I give that dog more choice and control over its destiny?

Sarah: That’s great advice. It’s certainly a mature perspective on how to treat dogs. Many people come into the rescue being dog lovers who just want to show the dogs love. But sometimes, it’s overbearing and to your point, you aren’t giving the dogs a choice to accept your love.

Cari: Exactly. And one piece of advice since I’m the Foster Director is to try fostering!

Sarah: How has working for Dog Star influenced your life?

Cari: Well, I now have two dogs in my life. That’s a major way Dog Star has changed my life. My life now revolves around dogs. It’s definitely been a huge positive, especially through COVID and lockdown and providing you the opportunity to interact with people and help the community. Dog Star has kept me sane through all of that. It’s given me purpose. Socialization. And how can you not be happy when you have dogs that just adore you!

Sarah: I can tell through your commitment to Dog Star for the past couple of years, you’ve had a very positive, influential impact. One of your Dog Star dogs, Stanley, was a particularly loved dog whose life was completely changed for the better, thanks to you. So, I wanted to ask how Stanley and Buddy are doing?

Cari: They are both doing great! Stanley in particular has just made a complete transformation. It’s amazing to see how much he and my husband just love each other so much. He is a completely different dog.

Sarah: I think the special connection that you and your husband have with Stanley proves how it takes that one right person to change a dog’s life. I love hearing about how well he is doing and I am happy that you were willing to take that leap of faith with him.

Cari: You know, people are always looking for the dog super friendly day, we see it at adoption events all the time. Dogs like Stanley, who are scared, can be so overlooked and I think people make mistakes thinking that they would not have a good relationship with the dog if it is not immediately responsive. Stanley’s relationship with my husband proves that it is not true. You just need to give the dog time to truly feel safe. Maybe that’s my next piece of advice: don’t overlook the shy dog!

Sarah: That’s great advice! I’ve had a similar experience with my dog Bandit (DS Otis) who we adopted in 2014. We did not overlook Bandit and he is still with us, happy and healthy. I totally understand what you’re saying about Stanley. Cari, I appreciate you setting aside time for this interview and sharing some information about yourself and great wisdom with us!