Home / Author Archives: Darcey Dyson (page 10)

Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

Three Saturday Adoptions

It has been a couple of days since our last blog, mainly because there have been no adoptions. However that has changed today, so here we are!

Today was the annual Forum of Associations here in Carcassonne. This event was due to take place in September, but was postponed due to inclement weather. Today, despite a chilly start, the weather was perfect, and the SPA was there in force, showing off some of our residents. And one of them, Phoebe, found a home! We are delighted for her. She is a lovely little girl who arrived unidentified and looking very thin. The SPA was contacted by someone who knew her former owner, and also Phoebe’s original name, Nala. But looking at the state of this girl we were not too upset when she was not reclaimed.

At just over a year old, this lovely dog has a new home with a friend of SPA employee Vincent, so we will have lots of news!

black dog with long-ish ears

Phoebe/ Nala – ADOPTED

Of course we hope that the Forum of Associations will bring us lots of new volunteers, but having an adoption is a great result already.

And there was more good news at the SPA.

Thanks to Ingrid’s video, a family came to the SPA yesterday to meet lovely Anatolian shepherd, Pacha. This dog, not yet two years old, has had a very disrupted life. He arrived at the SPA on October 2nd, his story before then is complicated. Without going into details, suffice it to say that Pacha really needed a new start. A visit today to introduce Pacha to the family’s female went well today, and Pacha’s new life has begun.

anatolian shepherd


We then said goodbye to Bran. He is the last border collie from the group that was found living in the back of the vehicle and he has been with us almost three months. His life at the SPA has probably felt like heaven to him after his earlier confinement, but things got even better today. Bran is just over two years old, but his scarred face tells its own tale. He will love his new life with a family that includes two children and an elderly cat.

border collie


So after a slow couple of days things picked up today. Let’s hope it continues next week.

Six Months On – Caillou

Hi everyone, Darcey here! Today is six months to the day since I adopted Caillou so I thought I would write a bit about my experience for the section “Life After the Refuge”, as half a year seems to be a noteworthy landmark.

Very few dogs arrive at the SPA after spending their lives in loving homes, but some have had worse experiences than others. Caillou arrived at the SPA in July last year at the age of 7 months, having known nothing but mistreatment. Apparently he was tied up and beaten with a shovel, plus he also has what the vet thinks is a burn scar on his flank.. Hardly surprising that he should have issues.

Initially he could not be approached, and at his first visit to the vet he showed so much aggression (due to fear) that the vet was sure that Caillou’s fate was to be euthanised. She didn’t realise that this is not what the SPA is about.

Instead it was a slow and steady introduction to the world. I think I was the first person to take him for a walk outside the refuge, but the wonderful staff had already started socialising Caillou on the SPA grounds. I remember taking the lead out of Marion’s hands and offering to take him out.  Yes, I was a bit nervous, because thus far Caillou had always growled at me from the back of his kennel. But this first  walk with him went fine, and I started to fall under his charm.

Dog trainer Shirley came to the SPA a few days later, and I introduced her to Caillou. She reassured me that he was a normal dog, just a terrified one.

The next step was dog school, specifically the Club Canin Carcassonne, where I took Caillou once a week for 7 months. This meant taking him out for a precious hour of freedom then putting him back in his kennel. Off the lead he was playful and not at all aggressive with other dogs, albeit a bit over-enthusiastic. On the lead he was quick to learn commands, but was not as quick to learn as other dogs who of course lived with loving families.

After several weeks of this, Caillou was finally able to share his kennel at the SPA. Gradually he was given more and more privileges, such as being let to run free with other dogs in the mornings when the SPA was shut to visitors. This is great for socialisation and helps dogs to gain confidence.

Of course there were setbacks. Once at dog school I tied Caillou up while I went to help someone with their car. When I got back he was in a total panic, snapping and snarling at everyone, like a cornered beast. When he heard me call his name he calmed down instantly and jumped into my arms. But I realised then just how damaged he was, and that despite his progress, there was a lot of work still to do. I also realised how attached he was to me.

Lots of volunteers had started walking him , but in his box he remained a barking, seemingly aggressive dog. No one who didn’t know him would offer him a home. But I did know him, and I loved him. And he loved me. So after he had been at the SPA for ten months, on May 16th I adopted him.

So six months on, what have I learned, or rather had confirmed.
Firstly you get to where you want to go  far quicker with love than anger.
Also there is nothing in the world more rewarding than having your “difficult dog” praised for his behaviour.
Also the best place for a Sunday nap is lying on the sofa with a dog curled up alongside you, as if he had never ever known any cruelty or hardship his entire life.

As I say, it hasn’t always been easy. Probably just about every adopter in the world goes through a period of thinking “Oh my God, what have I done”. So there was a bit of that. Then at about the five month point there was a crisis. Things between Caillou and my husband were degenerating,  and he asked me why, with all the perfectly well-behaved and gentle dogs at the SPA, I chose to bring home a “psycho”. Oops, time to ask for help!

Thankfully  dog trainer Roger agreed to pay an emergency visit. I knew the answer to the problem, but of course it had to come from an outsider (and a male outsider) to be acceptable. Roger’s visit lasted an hour, but what he had to say was delivered in the first 5 minutes. A week later and with very little effort, the issue was resolved.

So a very important lesson is to never be too proud to ask for help.

Caillou can now be left tied up outside the village shop while I pop in for bread. We have only been doing this for a month or so; at first he barked but he soon realised that I am coming back. It is all about small steps and not overwhelming him with too much too soon. And in the evening we walk off lead with about 15 dogs and 10 owners, and Caillou plays with all the dogs happily and has just started letting the humans pat him.

So he is still a work in progress. However compared to the semi-wild but loveable dog of six months ago, he is unrecognisable. Having three other well-socialised dogs has doubtless helped him settle in, but all of them were rescues too.  And this is the source of much pride for me and my ever-tolerant husband, who didn’t even want one dog, but is now the devoted dad of four of them!

Not all SPA dogs have problems like this, I must add. In this section “Life after the Refuge”  you can find many tales of dogs who have adapted almost seamlessly to their post-refuge lives. And as I said, I knew what I was getting into. In many ways it has been far easier than expected. This is not only because there are lots of people to help and advise, but also because Caillou loves other dogs and people, and as soon as he knows they mean him no harm, he is absolutely adorable. Time, love and patience are really all that were needed.

There are other dogs who can be put into the “difficult” category at the SPA, being helped by staff and volunteers. Hopefully each and every one of them will find the home he or she deserves. If you have the time, love and dedication to take on a complicated dog, it can be extremely rewarding,  and I wouldn’t change Caillou for the world.

Caillou when he first arrrived at the SPA and today

Two Adoptions and Balou Finds a Foster!

Today was a good day at the SPA, and amongst all the dogs and cats arriving, we need days like this from time to time.

We had two adoptions, and then just before closing time, what for many will be considered the BIG news of the day, although of course it is all big news!

The first adoption was that of César. This dog had not been with us for long, only 3 weeks or so. But when you hear his story you will realise why his adoption is cause for celebration. César was left tied up alone when his owner passed away. A group of well-meaning locals decided that the best thing would be to visit him each day to feed him, and try to find him a new home. However dogs need so much more than that, and we have to thank DRC supporter Maria for making sure César made it to the safety of the SPA. Yes, there are nicer places for dogs, but here this eight year old lad had a far better time than being tied up all day. Plus of course he could be seen by visitors, such as the gentleman who came to visit the SPA today following the sad death of ex SPA dog Comet.

So after a quick bonding walk it was time for César to start his new life, and we are sure he will be very happy.

jagd terrier


Fresko too has been adopted by someone who has recently lost an ex SPA dog. Jane adopted Guizmo from us about 5 years ago, and he has ben the perfect companion ever since. She made a tearful  visit to us today, following the sad death of Guizmo on Friday. She had seen Fresko on the website and had a feeling that he was “the one”. Her other dog was missing Guizmo, and although no dog can ever replace a beloved pet, four new paws in the house can help to heal the pain. Fresko arrived over two months ago, and although it took him some time to settle down, he is becoming less timid by the day. He will make far quicker progress in Jane’s loving home.

red spaniel

Fresko – ADOPTED

Finally to Balou! Yes, after almost three years at the SPA, this lovely old boy, now eleven and a half years old, finally has a home. Volunteer Sebastien previously fostered Tis (now Alfie, happily homed with another of our many Janes), and loved the fostering experience. This time is a bit different, though, as he has taken Balou in to long term foster!

This is amazing news. Balou has spent a long time at the SPA. He arrived as a stray, although we subsequently found out that he was left to wander following a divorce. I wonder if his former owners ever spare him a thought….. Balou has been a favourite with just about everyone, but no one ever offered him a home, until now. Balou has a great personality, is still on fine form for his age, and we are all overjoyed that he will not be spending yet another winter in a cold refuge. Many thanks to Sebastian.

Big hairy griffon


Adoption of Enya

We were all absolutely amazed when Enya arrived at the SPA ten or so days ago. We are used to writing “labrador cross” under photographs; it is not often that a dog is obviously a pure bred labrador. Enya is a perfect example of her breed, simply stunning. She was identified, but her owners’s details were not up to date and we were unable to track them down. Besides which, why wouldn’t they be looking for their dog? Enya is well behaved and sociable; it is hard to imagine why she would no longer be wanted.

In any case, a family spotted her while she was still in the pound, and reserved her immediately. We try to discourage people from reserving dogs in the pound, as a) their owners might be looking for them and b) they have only just arrived, and sometimes it is nice to home dogs who have been at the SPA for longer. However in Enya’s case even we couldn’t claim to have a similar dog elsewhere at the refuge! Sometimes the timing is just right, and it certainly was for this family; visitors up to that point had all expected her to find her owners.

Today Enya was sterilised and left for her new home, and we are delighted for her.

So don’t listen to anyone who tells you that refuges are full of mutts. Not that there is anything wrong with mutts, but even non-breed-specific refuges can have surprising guests!

Black lab



Other than that two recent arrivals were reclaimed by their owners, and we are hoping for more good news as the week progresses.

A Remembrance Day to Remember!

Today is Armistice Day, but it was decided that as it is a Saturday, traditionally a busy day at the SPA, we would open anyway. And we are so glad that we opened. It was a wonderful day.

June left with her new family, who had reserved her last weekend. They were worried about how June would be without her brother Len, and even before his adoption, the SPA had separated the two dogs. Verdict; they were just fine, and of course Len already has a home and has adjusted to life without his sister just fine. She is a lovely girl and we wish her loads of love and happiness in what promises to be a fabulous home.

black and brown shepherd


Next to leave was Panais. Yes, Panais who has been at the SPA since April 2015, and even that was not his first time at the refuge. This lad, just coming up to his 5th birthday, has spent almost all of his life behind bars. A gentleman came to the SPA today looking for a feisty jack russell, but when his eye fell on Panais, bouncing round his cage as usual, he was smitten. One advantage of dogs who have been at the refuge for a long time is that we know them well. It must have seemed as if we were trying to put the man off adopting Panais, but no, we just believe in being as honest as possible. Panais’ new owner is going to take him to dog school and is by no means a first time owner, so, at last, this active and characterful dog seems to have found the perfect home. He is a great favourite with us all, and we are thrilled for him. We have been promised visits in the future, and am sure I will not be the only person with their heart in their mouth when we see Panais getting out of the car.

Small balck and brown dog

Panais – ADOPTED

On the other end of the confidence spectrum, we have little Hugo, who also left today. He has not been at the SPA as long as Panais, “just” since March 2016. He is one of the dogs from Ste Eulalie, and followers will know that it has been a long time since a dog from this “pack” has been adopted. Progress with these dogs has been very slow, but better that than overwhelming these timid dogs with too much too soon. As with Panais, staff and volunteers were able to pass on lots of information about Hugo, and in light of recent events (Clifford!) the crucial advice to not let him escape. Hugo’s new family seem extremely well prepared to look after a timid dog, and Hugo’s new life has begun!


Finally and without wishing to dwell on what was a very unpleasant incident yesterday, please can everybody note that it is the law of France, not the SPA Carcassonne, that requires animal leaving the SPA to be identified. If your dog or cat arrives at the SPA it is not our fault. It is your fault that he or she was straying. You will be required to pay (to the vet, not to the SPA) the cost of identifying your animal, and if you are unwilling to do so, then your animal will stay at the SPA. Assaulting hard working refuge staff is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

For those of you with an unidentified dog or cat, why not get him identified now, while he is safely by your side? That way if he arrives at the SPA, he will be returned to you without any problem. This is just one part of being a good owner.

Three adoptions, and Clifford is back safe and well.

First item of news tonight, Clifford is back at the SPA safe and sound. People have been contacting us with sightings almost non-stop, and Clifford seemed to be hanging around a supermarket where he was spotted both yesterday and today. No one was able to catch him, however. A further sighting was reported this afternoon and employees Marion and Jeanne hot-footed it down to see if they could help catch him. By the time they got there volunteers Stephanie and Morgane were already on the case. Success! Clifford is now safe and well and back at the SPA, presumably eating like a (small) horse and sleeping a lot after his adventure.

Thanks to everyone who went out looking for him, be they volunteers or just dog-lovers, and to everyone who phoned or contacted us by mail to tell us he had been seen.  It is reassuring to know there are so many people out there willing to help. Oh, and a big thank you to Carole who has been the hub of all the phone calls; let’s hope she gets a good night’s sleep tonight at last.

A live action shot of this afternoon’s successful search party!

Now to the adoptions:

Dana arrived at the SPA about six weeks ago unidentified (quelle surprise), since which time she has been stealing the hearts of just about everyone at the refuge. It is not often we have a dog who is walked off the lead almost immediately and who is this wonderfully socialised. Despite being only three years old, Dana had already had several litters. So as soon as the ten days’ pound time had passed, she was sterilised and then it was just a question of finding her a new home.

Dana really hated being at the SPA and cried each time she was put back in her kennel (which she shared, of course). Being so well behaved, Dana was given special privileges, in that she was free to wander throughout the refuge in the mornings. But Dana just craves company, and the contact she had with humans at the SPA was not enough. In order to help her find a home, volunteers made videos and shared them on social media, and it was thanks to this that she caught the eye of her new family. They are very good friends of Mozart’s family, (Mozart being an ex SPA dog, as is his mother, my own dog, Bella), so we will be able to keep  in touch and visit. Personally I am hoping to visit when Dana is in her family’s second home, which is on a beautiful beach!

man holding big brwon and black dog


It is true that not everyone has enough room for a dog of her size, but Dana is far easier than many of the smaller dogs that we have at the SPA. One exception might just be little Romy, who also left today. A tiny pinscher, she too arrrived unidentified three weeks ago. As her new family live quite far from Carcassonne but close to the home of volunteer Dominique, she kindly offered to do a pre-adoption visit (for which many thanks!). That took place this morning and Romy’s new family wasted no time in coming to adopt her.

small brown dog


The third dog to leave today was another female, and also another fairly recent arrival. We told you last week that Princesse had been adopted and that her sister, Kiara was still waiting. Well sure enough she did not have long to wait! Today a family came to visit her, they took her on a walk and Kiara behaved immaculately. So two weeks exactly after being abandoned, both sisters have new homes. How quickly life changes for some dogs!

brindle dog


We wish every happiness to today’s lucky girls, not forgetting Clifford, who is, of course, a very lucky boy. His story could have ended very differently indeed.

Tomorrow is a national holiday in France, but the SPA will be open. Properly open, with employees as well as volunteers, so a “normal” Saturday. And one adoption is already on the cards. Who will it be?

Adoption of Socks

Today was a very busy one at the SPA, with lots of walking, some arrivals (LOTS of arrivals), but also an adoption, which has helped to raise morale. Especially as it is of one of our not-quite pups, by which we mean dogs who arrive when they are no longer cute puppies, but have none of the calmness of an older dog. Those adolescent years can be the worst, can’t they?

Socks arrived at the SPA at the end of September, and it was no real surprise that he was unidentified. Despite the legal obligation, the number of dogs arriving at the refuge without either a tattoo or microchip is considerable. With no way to trace Socks’s owners, it was up to them to look for him. They never came, and so as with all dogs entering the SPA without being officially abandoned, after ten days in the “Pound” Socks was put up for adoption.

At only a year old, Socks’s prospects were good. And add to this the fact that he is very sociable with other dogs and fine with cats, we were hopeful that his wait wouldn’t be a long one. Many people have walked him and so his life at the refuge has been brightened up somewhat, but what he wanted was a proper home. Today a couple came to walk him, and once they had bonded, they introduced him to their jack russell, first on a walk and then loose in the park. The two dogs were instantly best friends and so Socks was off to his new home.

We are very pleased for him. We often worry that our not quite pups risk being pushed back by the arrival of younger pups at the SPA, but Socks did not have a long wait before finding happiness! Many thanks to his new family, and we look forward to news and photos.

black and white dog


In not so good news, Facebookers may have seen that yesterday’s adopted dog, Clifford, has run away from his new home. As usual a search is underway, and we hope to bring you good news tomorrow.

Adoptions of Clifford and Len

Today brought joy to Clifford, a young Brittany Spaniel who arrived at the refuge towards the end of September. Although they didn’t arrive at the same time, both he and his pal Boston were left behind in a nearby village when their owners moved house. Boston was happily rehomed  last month and today was the turn of his pal Clifford.

It might seem incredible that someone could leave their dogs behind when they move house, but it happens more frequently than you might think. To be fair, usually the owners plan ahead a bit and make arrangements to bring their dogs to the SPA, assuming this is the only option. Leaving them behind is cruel and irresponsible. Lucily it has ended well for both the dogs in this case.

Clifford now has a loving home with a garden and we wish him lots of happiness.

brittany spaniel cross

Clifford – ADOPTED

We didn’t blog yesterday, but in fact an adoption did take place. Not even three weeks after arriving, shepherd cross Len left the SPA today. He and his sister June were found lost in some vinyards by a dog walker who brought them to the SPA. These beautiful dogs, only a year old and unidentified, were not in bad condition and were very well socialised, but no one came to reclaim them. Luckily despite their size both dogs were reserved quickly and Len was the first to leave with his new family. June’s adoption will follow very shortly.

German shepherd cross



Adoption of Nikki.

Today it was the turn of a pale dog to leave the SPA. After a mere 2 days we said goodbye to Nikki. She was abandoned on Saturday having been adopted as a puppy in May. Since this time, according to her owners,  she has become “uncontrollable”, although this cannot possibly be the family’s fault, as they have “had dogs before”. Please remember that dogs are not all alike; like people, they each have their own personality, and what is right for one dog may not be right for another. And never be too proud to ask for help; no one person has all the answers.

In any case, Nikki did not have long to wait for her new home. Today some supporters of the SPA came along with members of their exptended family to look for a new dog, and they fell for Nikki. At less than a year old this girl is perfectly receptive to be educated (in fact there is no age limit to a dog’s ability to learn, contrary to popular belief), and Nikki’s new life has begun in record time.

pale shepherd


One of our pups left with his family, but we will leave news of that until the adoption is official.

All in all it was a positive start to the week. Especially as today we totted up the results of the Hallowe’en promotion. During the eight day period, a total of four  black dogs and three black cats left at the special price. That is excellent. of course some of these animals may well have been adopted even without this relatively small financial incentive, but we are happy to point the spotlight at animals who would otherwise not be noticed.

Followers of the DRC website may notice a couple of new categories today. Thanks to our web-elf, we now have a sub-section in the adoption tab, entitled “Home to Home”. This is obviously to promote dogs who are not at the SPA but whom we are trying to rehome. We also have a section for training tips (as a sub category of latest news), where you can read about, amongst other things, Shirley’s progress with Poppy.

Hallowe’en Adoption of Cliona

Tonight we are all in celebration mode. The last dog to leave for Hallowe’en is none other than Cliona.

By now everyone knows or knows of this dog, who was found neglected and alone in a village in a terrible state, with huge tumours and severely malnourished. She finally made it to the SPA, luckily for her. Large medical bills awaited, and in a huge effort of solidarity many of you donated generously in order to ease the financial burden on the SPA. Yes, that is what the SPA is there for, but of course the are limits to our funding and therefore limits to what we can do. In Cliona’s case, not even the vet was sure she could be saved, but we wanted to try.

After her operations were complete, we saw the true beauty of this dog. Not only did she become a magnificent looking dog, but she is also affectionate and gentle and oh so willing to trust humans, despite her weeks or months alone. Lots of people love and walk her, but since her arrival in August, no one has offered her a home. However yesterday a family came to meet her and today they returned with the good news; after an evening’s reflection they had decided to offer Cliona a home.

It was an incredibly emotional moment for all those present. Cliona is much loved and in many ways represents all a good SPA (like ours) should be. And we are even more delighted that with is being Hallowe’en, Cliona, a black dog, should leave for her new far far better life.

Cliona when she arrived.

And leaving today!

Thanks to everyone who donated to help the SPA help Cliona. Look what we can achieve together! It is truly inspiring. And thanks to her new family for offering her a home.

Thanks also to everyone who joined us today. The weather was kind almost till closing time, and we had another reservation as well as lots of dog walks. and some scary goings on…

Hallowe’en “finger” biscuits thanks to Carole

Some frightening volunteers

It was a great day and tonight we are very happy indeed!