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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

A Furry ferretty arrival!

The day got off to rather a strange start, with the arrival of a ferret. I have to say, this is not the first time we have had one of these critters at the refuge; the A in the name SPA does stand for “Animal”. We have also had goats, pigs a buzzard, white rats, tortoises and (before my time) even a monkey. I must point out, though, that we are not at all set up to deal with anything other than dogs and cats. If you, or anyone you know has lost (or wishes to own) a ferret, please get in touch!

But please, people, do not take this as an invitation to abandon any unwanted animals you may have. The employees have enough to do with the dogs and cats who arrive on a daily basis, without having other beasts to look after, especially ones who need anything other than dog and cat food! What do ferrets even eat?

The afternoon was busy, but it was far more routine than the morning!

It started with the arrival of three puppies, who had been found in a hat, from what I could make out. They are all really sweet, and as they are about 8 weeks old, off they popped for their first vaccination. We now have 11 pups at the SPA, which is very depressing. How many different ways can you say “sterilise your dog” before people realise the consequences of not doing so?

No dogs were adopted today, sadly, but there were plenty of walks, and a couple of possible future adoptions. The 10 year old boxer who arrived yesterday turned out to be fine with cats, which means that she should be going to a foster family next week, thanks to the association “Terre de Boxer”, who saw her on our Facebook page and got in touch immediately.

We had one dog abandoned. His name is Echo and he looks like a medium sized schnauzer. Either Moira or I will give more details in due course, but isn’t he a handsome chap, already sharing his kennel with another recent arrival. He was abandoned because his owners’ working schedule means that this poor chap is left alone for 12 hours a day, and this is not fair on him. We will find him someone with a lifestyle more suitable.

We also had the arrival of Fox, who is a frequent visitor. He may or may not leave soon, depending on the mood of his owners.

So it was not the best of days, but with summer here (officially, if not in terms of the weather), it is not surprising that adoptions are slow. Thanks as ever to everyone who came along to walk dogs and to take photos of the new arrivals, as well as some of the long-termers. Keeping the photos up to date is really important but time consuming! Not just the taking of the photographs, but uploading them to Facebook, which is what I am off to do right now!

Hold on a minute, this is neither canine nor feline!












Three puppies arrive

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Echo is abandoned

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And Fox (who is not a fox) is back again. 🙁 


Time’s up for twenty-month Teddy!

I said last night that there had been an excellent reservation. Well, for once you don’t have long to wait as the lucky dog left today! And it was…


After 20 months at the refuge, this magnificent but strong dog finally left. All of us loved him, but few of us were able to walk him! I never managed it without the aid of an anti-pull harness, and a couple of times I had to be rugby-tackled by a fellow volunteer before being towed to wherever Teddy wanted to go; usually freedom!

Well freedom is what he has as of today. And his adopter is well able to cope with him. He is a young soldier who came to the refuge on Saturday and promised to return once he had taken the time to think about it properly and not jump in feet first (which can sometimes happen when you are smitten with a dog).

Teddy was born in January 2011, so he is yet another dog who has spent all his adult life in the refuge. It is lovely to think of him enjoying life to the full now. I hope that a trend has started.

In more good news, the nine year old dog who arrived on Tuesday was reclaimed today. We took him out of his kennel yesterday to take photos, and we realised then that he just must have an owner. He sat on command, gave his paw, and cried horribly when we put him back. Anyway, Nougat is back where he belongs; in a loving home.

So that is the good news of the day. 😀

As ever there was some bad news to temper the good. We had an arrival. This lovely female black labrador- retriever was found complete with harness in …..LIMOUX! The harness is a good sign, and we are hoping that she will be reclaimed soon. If not, we will find her a home for sure; she is magnificent, but almost inevitably she is not identified.

Teddy – ADOPTED after 20 months







Nougat (we called him Jensen)- RECLAIMED

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New arrival- Izabo


Four seasons in one day….

Today was meant to be THE day, the day when Todd left the refuge after three years. Sadly the adopter, who had met and spent time with Todd yesterday afternoon, arrived this morning to say that he had changed his mind, so Todd stays at the refuge.

I was and remain devastated. However, as I always say, it is better to reflect before rather than after an adoption. This was not a good match, clearly. I am just sorry that rather than phoning me last night to tell me about his change of heart, the man waited till this morning when Megane was at the refuge to say goodbye to her favourite dog. Who would willingly put a 15 year old through that sort of trauma?

So there were tears shed, as promised, but they were not tears of joy. I kept myself in one piece till I got home, but not for long.

Maybe now you understand why I don’t announce reservations in advance, rather I wait till a dog has actually left the SPA! People change their minds about things; dogs are far more reliable, in general!

Life goes on, we just dust ourselves off and start over. A bit bruised, but you get used to that in this world.

So this afternoon the mood was slightly sombre. Until…until…until……

The adoption of Brandy! Okay, he had not been at the SPA for as long as Todd, but two years (all but a couple of months) is a long time for any dog! His new owner is very sporty, and “tested” several dogs on walks before settling on Brandy, who ticked the final box by being good with cats. Bingo!

Surprisingly it was not Michele’s fabulous photo of him that did the trick, just a “walk-in”. But it was nice to have such lovely photos of Brandy in any case!

The mood was lifted. Then, just before we shut a ten year old female boxer was abandoned, so she is now an urgent case. Any boxer lovers out there, please spread the word. This girl is called Princess and she is magnificent, but oh so sad at finding herself at the SPA.

The mood was bleak. Then literally minutes before we shut, we had another reservation and this one is a goodie!

Talk about ups and downs. Bit like the weather right now, in Carcassonne, at least.

Brandy- ADOPTED (after 22  months at the SPA)











But who could resist? (© Mish 🙂 )

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Princesse – ABANDONED.  She is ten years old and needs a home









Comings and goings and NO to abandon!

This morning on my Facebook news-feed I saw a post from one of the sites I follow, which is simply called “Carcassonne”. Their picture is posted below, and I immediately commented on their page, to thank them on behalf of the dogs and cats of the SPA Carcassonne. The Carcassonne page does not have as many Facebook followers as the SPA page, but of course there is a major difference. The followers of the SPA pages (dog and cat) are by definition animal lovers. Publicising the problem of animal abandonment on a different page, one devoted to current affairs and the history and culture of the region, brings the issue to a whole new audience.

Let’s hope it has some effect and that fewer people go on holiday without having made adequate provision for their animals.

The SPA was very busy today, with four dogs arriving and leaving, thanks to being identified. A couple of them were old friends, having been at the SPA before. A fifth dog arrived, he too is identified but his details on the data base are out of date, so at the moment we have no way of contacting his owners. Or even knowing his name. He is a lovely looking lad, he looks like a medium sized black and tan coloured retriever. Stunning. Let’s hope someone is looking for him, as he is nine years old. Fingers crossed. I will try and take better photos tomorrow.

And why was I at the SPA on a Wednesday in any case, you may ask? Well, I was making some introductions prior to a much anticipated adoption. Paperwork is ready, money has exchanged hands, all that remains is for the dog to be handed over tomorrow morning. I am very excited, so do not miss tomorrow’s blog. I promise you there will be high drama and more than a few tears! Some of them may even be mine!

The post on the Carcassonne Facebook page
The dog is saying “it’s a game, it has to be a game!
Sadly for many dogs it is a reality of summer. 









Jiro popped in and out (already identified)












The only unclaimed dog of the day “I hope my owner is looking for me; I am nine years old”

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Two adoptions, but seven arrivals. We have PUPPIES!

Today saw the adoption of two dogs, the arrival of seven (six of whom are puppies) and a very special visit! So there is lots to tell you.

Taking it from the top, Phoenix came to visit us, along with a team from 30 Million Amis des Animaux, who were filming at the SPA. This was prompted by the mistreatment, rescue and subsequent adoption of this lovely border collie cross a couple of months ago. The subject of the film was what to do if you witness and act of cruelty towards an animal; who to call etc. I will try and provide details of when the programme is to be aired, but in any case it will be seen by lots of people and may encourage more acts of bravery, such as that which saved Phoenix.

I mentioned yesterday that a couple had been along to finalise the reservation of a dog, and I can no reveal that today’s lucky adoptee was Granite. His new “mum” was torn between him and Flint, but a visit to the cat house was the deciding factor. Flint is not okay with felines. So lucky Granite left today!

The SPA was contacted this morning by a couple who wished to adopt a female dog and sure enough, after having spoken to Moira (like Granite’s new owners they are Anglophones) they came along this afternoon. They live in the Tarn and so it was quite a journey, but such is the power of the internet! Their last dog, a German shepherd, died at 14 years old, and there was a big hole in their lives. They left today with a dog who had, until today, a big hole in her life. We all felt so sad when Chausette died of old age recently, but I suspect that Elsa was even sadder, having lost her lifetime companion. Well, now she has a new home. At seven and a half years old, and after eight months at the SPA, it must feel like heaven to this gentle girl, whose life even before the SPA, was not the easiest.

On a very negative note, we had the arrival of a young border collie, Émie and six puppies. The pups were left at the refuge gate by some courageous person, whom I hope has a sound night’s sleep with a clear conscience. NOT. I suppose at least they were not put into a plastic bag and thrown into the river, which is a popular means of getting rid of puppies in these parts, so I am told. Personally I can’t see the problem with sterilising your dog, but clearly not everyone agrees.

So a wonderful day for two dogs and a terrible day for seven. Or perhaps not. Let’s home those pups!

Phoenix visits – star of the screen!











Lovely Granite – ADOPTED












Elsa – Lost her owner, lost her best pal Chaussette but now is ADOPTED











New arrival – Émie


New display on Sunday open day.

Today was the regular first Sunday of the month open day, and as ever, a devoted team of volunteers was there to show people around, introduce prospective adopters to both dogs and cats, and of course take some lucky dogs out for a walk.. Several of them were washed too, although with the massive hail storm that finished the afternoon, I would not be surprised in many of the volunteers did not get a good soaking too!

Of course an open day is always a good time to do some sorting out and tidying up, and today’s great leap forward was the installation of a new display unit for the leads and collars. This arrived thanks to Ve Ro, whose pharmacist no longer required it. So, as Ve Ro put it, “I picked it up from the bin”. Well, as people say, ones man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure. The amount of time volunteers and staff spend trying to untangle leads and collars, this stand will pay for itself in no time. Especially as it was free!  😀

Other than that we had a visit from Julia, the recently adopted staffie cross, whose fur now feels soft as a teddy bear’s and who cannot stop smiling. And neither can her owners!

Both dogs and cats had a photo shoot, thanks to Tiffany. And as usual some generous people came by with gifts in the form of treats or collars for their favourite refuge “inmates”.

The reservation was finalised for one lucky dog who will be leaving tomorrow, and other introductions were made, which I am pretty sure will result in an adoption. More excitingly, final arrangements were made for a stupendous adoption that is due to take place later this week. I want to tell you more, but I want to make you wait too. I have a sadistic streak, I know. However I promise that you will not be disappointed!

Thanks to everyone who came along today. Rain or shine (and we had both, not to mention hailstones the size of marbles), the volunteers (and some employees) are there!

A visit from Julia, soft as a teddy bear!
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The new display stand, thanks to Ve Ro. No more playing with knots!

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Sven leaves and photos of new arrivals.

Today, as with most Thursdays, it was British day, with Anglophone volunteers busy taking dogs out on walks. We had been planning on doing some dog-bathing, but as it was not too hot, we took the opportunity to get some dogs out for a stroll or a play in the parks.

We also took pictures of the recent arrivals, two yesterday and three today. Two of today’s are identified, and are real breeds, (one is even a pedigree), so with any luck both Choice and Chabal will be reclaimed. The same is not so of today’s other newbie, who arrived just before closing, a Brittany spaniel who is not identified. Yesterday’s two are not identified either, but both of them are lovely and gentle, so with any luck they will soon find a home. Although with summer approaching adoptions are slow slow slow. And arrivals are filling up the SPA faster than any of us would like.

A couple did tour the refuge with a view to adopting a small dog for an apartment. And guess who they chose? None other than Allyah! So that is six people who wanted this little girl. They left disappointed, sadly for them. I have no doubt that today’s arrival, Tibetan spaniel Choice, will have the same appeal should his owners not come to claim him.

In other news Sven’s owners finally came to collect him. I can’t understand why anyone would wait a week before coming to collect their dog, but it takes all sorts. At least he is now identified.

So a typical refuge day in many ways, with a brief moment of happiness for the relatively few dogs who were walked or played in the park, and frustration for the others who were waiting their turn. With the number of dogs we have relative to the number of walkers, it is a miracle if a dog gets a walk once every two weeks. We keep a list of who has been out when, but it is a never ending task. We need more boots on the ground, so if you can possibly spare some time to help us out, you would be most welcome. It is best to come along when there are other volunteers there at first (so Tuesdays or Thursdays), then when you have got the hang of things you can come along whenever you like, especially if you speak (or ARE) French. Walking dogs makes them happy, and it enables us to get to know them better, which means we are able to find them the right home.

Let’s hope for some positive news this weekend, and with a Sunday opening, the chances are good.

New arrival DJ
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New arrival Darwin

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New arrival (identified) Chabal

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New arrival pedigree Tibetan spaniel Choice, also identified.

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Sven – Reclaimed at last


The tennis ball as lethal weapon…..

I am quite active on Facebook and people draw my attention to certain (usually dog-related) stories very often this way. Today I was shocked to read about a German shepherd who was in rescue and about to go to his forever home this Friday when a tennis ball thrown for him in play lodged straight in his throat, causing him to die within seconds.

I wish to emphasise that Murphy has no connection with the SPA Carcassonne; all this happened in the UK. However I reposted the story on my wall and I have been surprised at the number of people who have responded to tell me about similar stories or near-misses that they have had with their own pets.

I knew that sticks can cause problems, as dogs can sometimes carry them end on, like cigars, and run into something, piercing the back of their throats. But I have never thought about balls as being a problem. Even supervised play can be a problem, as in Murphy’s case there was nothing his owners could do.

I will not stop throwing balls for Nero, despite this tragedy, but I think I may be a bit more cautious and roll them for him to chase, rather than let him catch them. He is a dog of simple pleasures, fortunately, and is easily amused.

The refuge was quite again until just before we closed, with one dog arriving and departing due to the fact that he was micro-chipped. However just as the gates were shutting two more arrived with no identification, so the numbers are creeping up bit by bit.

The appeal for lever-arch files has proved very successful, with lots of you being kind enough to deliver them to us! Thank you so much.

I hate to leave people with bad news, so to cheer you all up, here is a photo of Junior, one of our “old men”, who was rehomed last week. Looking much happier and clearly loving life.

Please everyone don’t forget that we are open this Sunday, as it is the first Sunday of the month. The gates will open at 2pm; come along to meet the dog or cat of your dreams, or if, like me, there is no room at the inn, why not come to walk a dog or sit with the cats for a while. Let’s show the SPA animals that they are loved, even if they cannot all be as lucky as Junior!

Looks innocent but can be lethal…..








Junior happy with Sparrow (ex Polochon, also from the SPA)










We are open on Sunday! Please spread the word.


When size matters!

The weather was quite a bit cooler today, so the volunteers made the most of it and took as many dogs as possible out for walks or played with others in the parks.

Michele was there with her trusty camera, and she took photos of the dogs, which will hopefully give their adoption chances a bit of a boost.

On the subject of which, since yesterday’s blog, a further three people have tried to adopt Allyah. So I was wondering what makes some dogs more appealing than others. Clearly size has a lot to do with it, but being the owner of four dogs myself, I know that despite their cute favour, some small dogs have an attitude problem. Scout is the smallest of my dogs, but by far the most dominant, and I certainly couldn’t trust him alone with children. Nero, my lab, on the other hand is the most gentle of souls. Not the brightest of creatures, but incredibly good natured.

Of course if space is limited, a smaller dog may be more practical, and if you want a dog to sit on your knee at night, having a labrador is maybe not the perfect solution. Assuming that size was the reason for her popularity, I thought that in tonight’s blog I would introduce you to another tiny female whom we have at the SPA. Michele took some photos of her today, so perhaps Puppet, too, will find a home soon

At three years old and weighing just 6 kg, this little dog must appeal to someone out there. Perhaps one of the disappointed potential adopters of Allyah will see her and fall in love!

Otherwise at the refuge there was a bit of dog and cat juggling amongst foster families. Introducing an as yet unsocialised kitten to a household wiht a dog who is not 100% okay with cats was not an option (Vixen just wants to play, but playing with a scared kitten can be dangerous). So the kitten went home to a surprised Moira, Martine kept Vixen and Pip moved from Dominique’s to Isa’s (via Lisa, Geoffrey and Martine). You have to be good at chess to work all this out, but a bit of gentle negotiation and everything was sorted. Thanks to everyone for their willingness to compromise!

No news at the refuge apart from the arrival and departure of a little (identified) Yorkie. Small dogs have a much easier time of things, in general.

Lovely Puppet- Better photos on the way. Will someone love me? 











And a great cartoon from the excellent site Off the Leash
I swear that Nero follows that site!


Adopters are like buses…..

As we all know, the Internet never sleeps. Those of us who help administer the SPA Facebook pages (both dogs and cats; the pages are separate), know this only too well. Equally many of us liaise with potential adopters via our own websites, such as this one, its French version, or other sites, forums or just with friends. It is a never-ending task, uploading photos and answering questions posed by potential adopters.

However this work is crucial and simply cannot be neglected. Many refuges have internet sites or Facebook pages, and if questions are not answered promptly, we often find that another refuge has been quicker off the mark, and the adopter (who may have his eye on more than one dog or cat) has gone elsewhere.

Sunday is no different to any other day. Moira was hard at it, answering questions, initially by email and then on the phone and a deal was struck. Only problem was that Carole was busy doing exactly the same thing, and for the same dog! So instead of having one set of adopters, little Allyah had two! Carole’s contacts were slightly ahead of the game, so it was a case of wait and see if they liked the dog as much in the flesh as in pictures. I am sure that the fabulous photos taken by Michele helped, as until that point my pathetic efforts had not shown just how tiny and cute this dog was.

As things turned out, though, the first family was a “no show”, and as they didn’t phone to warn Carole, “Moira’s” family has now reserved Allayah. Maybe that is just how things were meant to work out!

Otherwise at the refuge it was a reasonably calm day, one dog arrived and was reclaimed, as he was identified.

Which brings me to my final point of the day, and which knits the two subjects together nicely. The internet is crucial, but so is identification.

To the person who posted onto our Facebook page today trying to home their unwanted but also non-vaccinated and non-identified spaniel, we have spent years building up our 8,000 “likes”, and we did not do so in order for you to give away your unwanted pet. Get him identified and vaccinated at least, before you rehome him, but in any case, our Facebook page is not there for your convenience.

Lovely Allayah – RESERVED