I recently discovered an interesting shortcut to starting a base mesh that I thought others here might be interested in. I started out by using one of the base meshes that comes with the free rigify add-on. After adding it into my scene, I used the free skinify add-on to turn the bones in the rig into skinned mesh curves. From there, I was able to resize the curves to turn them into a simple base mesh that I then sculpted on top of.
Unfortunately, there are only a few rigify rigs, but you should be able to make other rigs and do the same thing to make a base mesh, or modify the free rigify rigs (I turned a wolf and a bird into a strange wolf-dragon hybrid that ended up becoming a winged hell-hound).