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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

SPA Annual General Meeting!

This blog is being posted early tonight, because I have to leave for the SPA Annual General Meeting. I mentioned this to a couple of dog walkers yesterday, and they knew nothing about it, so I thought it might be a good idea to explain to you all how the SPA functions.

The SPA Carcassonne is a non-profit making Association according to law no. 1901. We have charitable status, but are independent financially. We are not part of the Paris SPA group, as I have explained in a previous blog. Rather we are part of the Confederation of SPAs, which is based in Lyon. http://www.lesspadefrance.org/

The SPA Carcassonne invites all its supporters to become members of the Association. To be an active member costs 26 euros per year. That is a minimum, clearly 😉 . You can also become a non-active member for 16 euros and 85 euros will make you a benefactor. Membership entitles you to vote at meetings and after one year, you will be eligible to join the Conseil d’Admininstration (CA) or Committee, which elects the “Bureau” (Board) and is where all the decisions are made.

At tonight’s meeting we will be reviewing what happened at the SPA in 2013, but also looking forward to 2014 (easy as we are almost halfway through it!). We will discuss refuge policies, manning, fundraising, and most importantly the AGM will elect new members to the CA.

Many people are members without living in Carcassonne, and they are invited to vote by proxy. My parents are both members (no pressure from me there!) and pass on their votes as they are in the UK. Geography is no barrier to taking an active interest in the SPA.

It is in everyone’s interests to have the refuge well run. Active, intelligent and motivated people in the CA ensure that the right decisions are made. The CA decides how money is spent; it makes decisions on things such as sterilisation, adoption fees and much more.

Joining before the end of 2014 will mean you are invited to next year’s AGM. But why wait to the end of the year? Act now and you are less likely to forget! If you make a donation of 26 euros (either as a gift or from fundraising), and unless you state otherwise, we would like you to become a member. Membership makes us strong and all opinions are welcome. Together we have made the SPA a better place and can continue to do so!

One example of the decisions made by the AGM is to extend the cat house (which will benefit both dogs and cats). Here is a photo taken yesterday, which shows the progress that has been made so far!

Refuge news will have to wait till tomorrow!

Join us! 
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Building work continues

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None out, one in, but a sense of optimism!

Today was a day of dog walking and cat testing. No dogs left and only one dog arrived. She is absolutely beautiful  and although initially a bit nervous, soon responded when she was given her first cuddle.

A couple of dogs were reserved, and although I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder, all I will say is that there is a trip to the UK in the offing at the end of June. So if you are following this blog from there and think that you have found the dog of your dreams but are worried about the logistics, this could be the time for you to book a spot. Remember that we need three weeks’ notice because of the Rabies vaccination requirements.

I was very pleased to take Stivell out for a walk today. This young spaniel arrived in the middle of March in an appalling state, skeletal and with horrid scars from where he had been muzzled constantly since being a puppy. Just look at him now, just 2 months later. Although all dogs (and cats) want is a home, there are often worse places to be than at a refuge.

And we have news of one dog who waited a very long time to have the perfect home, but I am sure he agrees it was worth it. Gun was adopted a week or so ago, after having waited almost exactly two years at the SPA. He had been adopted as a tiny puppy and was abandoned when he was an unruly adolescent. One of the volunteers who adored him and who walked him often at the refuge went to see him on Monday. She found a beloved pet, who spends every minute of every day with his owners; he even goes shopping with them.

We want more happy stories like this! And tonight’s closing news (for which you will have to wait as it is very much thanks to Moira’s efforts) makes me think that everything is possible!

Today’s arrival, Fabergé. Because she is fabulous!

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And I promised you a picture of yesterday’s arrival, whom we have named Cola

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Here is Stivell when he arrived in March

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And today The scars on his nose will remain for ever, sadly.

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And look at Gun! Home at last!

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Woody is homed and Gryphon’s ex-owners come to call.

I very much regret mentioning cats on the blog yesterday.  I won’t be doing it again. It is not our fault that the law is the way it is, and if we took in all the wild cats that people told us about, the refuge would soon be full of unadoptable cats and we would have no room for those that are easily homed. Yes, it is lovely to think that we could spend our time socialising the wild cats and their kittens to make them homeable. Anyone who thinks that is possible is welcome to try and do it. We have neither the time nor the resources to do so. Please do not think that we don’t care about the cats, wild or otherwise; there are just limits as to what we can achieve.

Subject closed as far as this blog is concerned.

Onto the real subject area of this blog: DOGS!

News from the UK; Woody has been adopted, which is wonderful for this boy who arrived at the refuge all skin and bone and absolutely terrified. Six months at the refuge and he was happy, sociable and ready for a new home. Except no one here looked at him twice. Thanks to a pointer rescue organisation he now has the home he deserves.

And news from the SPA: Remember lovely Oscar (renamed Gryphon) who was homed nearly 2 weeks ago, having arrived (unidentified) at the refuge on April 22nd? Well today his former owners came to see if he was with us. Who waits over a month to look for their dog? In any case, he now has a wonderful new home, and so it is too late for them to reclaim him. We never divulge details of new owners, so Gryphon is safe.

I think of the times when my dog was missing (I used to have a very excitable and Houdini-esque beagle). I hardly slept a wink when he was AWOL, which was a frequent occurrence. I just can’t imagine not doing anything for a month! However, the fact that he was a family pet does explain why Gryphon was (and is) so well behaved.

Other than that, we had one dog brought in this morning, a black and tan female shepherd cross (I will post a picture tomorrow) and an EXCELLENT reservation. So watch this space.

Woody is rehomed via a pointer rescue association in the UK. Thanks to Linda who put us in touch with them!
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Gryphon- his former owners looked for him too late- He was homed 11 days ago.

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Peabody leaves and a word about kittens.

If we had wings we would have been able to fly instead of walk the dogs today, it was incredibly windy. The dogs seemed to enjoy it, though, plenty of fresh air. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a good job that Babette has left the refuge, though, as with her huge ears she could well have taken off.

On the subject of Babette, both she and lovely Ako are already reserved by families in the UK, just a week after they arrived. That is excellent news for them, and we are hoping that their fellow “immigrants” will be homed soon, too.

One little chap did leave us today. A tiny terrified looking pinscher arrived last week, and was still identified in the name of the place from where he had been adopted. We thought initially that this was a breeder, but in fact it turned out to be a privately run refuge near Beziers. As soon as we contacted them, they made arrangements to come and collect their dog. Not only that, they arrived bearing gifts, in the form of some bedding and some high quality organic dog treats. Like 20 boxes of them! How lovely!

So little Peabody (not his real name, sadly) went back to Beziers for rehoming. So why was this dog still in the name of the refuge and not that of his new owners, who had adopted him two years ago? Because their cheque had bounced! We follow exactly the same principal; we do not change the details if payment has not been made. Hopefully next time Peabody will find a home that wants him enough to pay for the privilege, because yes, having a dog IS a privilege!

We also had a reservation today, but you know my policy on that….patience please! More good news awaits!

A brief note, regarding cats. I know this is DOG rescue Carcassonne, but as we have cats at the SPA too, I thought maybe I would pass this message on here in the hope that it would reach the maximum number of people. It is kitten season and the first few have already arrived at the refuge from unwanted litters. Please note that the SPA is not responsible for wild cats, nor their kittens. They are protected by law, but it is up to the Mairies to deal with the problem, which they usually do via associations. So if you see wild kittens near you, your first port of call should be the local Mairie, who will give you the name of an association who should carry out a campaign of sterilisation of the adult cats and of the kittens as they reach maturity. This is the only way to stop the cycle.

Thanks for your understanding. It is not that we don’t love cats (and especially kittens), but it is not part of our role.

Peabody leaves
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Stray kittens are sweet, but please contact your local mayor.

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And now the REAL work begins

Over the past few weeks you will have seen plenty of photos of improvements that have been made at the refuge. Plants and trees have brightened up the refuge, as has all the painting. But that is far from being the end of our plans.

It has long been our dream to have some real building work done, and thanks to a number of factors, this has now started. We are increasing the size of the cathouse by a huge 90m2. That is bigger than some people’s houses and will make a huge difference to the lives of our animals.

We will have a second infirmary, so that the small one connected to the reception area can be used for first aid, but really sick dogs and cats will have a proper well-equipped area just for them. There will be a special area for cats that are between their first and second vaccination (at present they stay in the quarantine area, as we do not want to place our other cats at risk). And there will also be an inside area for our older dogs, so that they don’t have to suffer the cold outside kennels in winter.

All this is wonderful news, and will make the refuge so much nicer. We are able to do it thanks to a couple of legacies that were left to the refuge; we do not usually have the kind of money floating around that is needed to do work of this type. Huge thanks also to Philippe, our vice president, who oversaw all the plans and delivered the papers to the maire to get planning permission and who is also overseeing the work as it progresses.

Exciting stuff, which until now has just been a dream.

At the refuge we had three dogs brought in, one of whom is identified, so we will see what that brings. It was a bright sunny day and Lots of dogs were out enjoying the sun, as we several volunteers, in between making plans for the Spring Fayre on Sunday! Don’t forget to come along and say hello!

New arrival – Michigan
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And big things are happening at the SPA

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Dog identification at work!

Today was busy at the refuge. Very busy, even. But the end result, despite all the comings and goings, was just one extra dog on the books. And even he might leave as he is identified in the name of the breeder, who will give us the new owner’s name tomorrow. Fingers crossed that the dog’s owner comes to collect him.

The other four (yes FOUR) arrivals were all identified so all left straight away. However all of this takes time; booking dogs in, searching on the central database, and contacting the owners. My heart sank when I heard about the number of dogs in, and my immediate thought was “but we have just homed five dogs to the UK, will this never end”. And of course it will never end. But at least today was not just a question of filling up the spaces we have just made! That will happen in due course I am sure.

So what do we do when we have nothing to talk about? We show you photos of happy dogs, of course!

First up is Benson, who was homed just over a year ago to volunteers Rebecca and James (he of the recent dog- delivery fame). Look how handsome he is, and none the worse for his ordeal of having been left starving on a balcony!

Next up we have Harlequin, homed in the UK thanks to a border collie rescue organisation and who is now an agility champion.

Then we have recently adopted Luxor (now Luther), who is seen here together with Gwen.  They, are both in the UK with our great friends Anita and Phil.

Closer to home we have Sherman, adopted and adored, despite his age. Older dogs can be the best companions; they have the maturity to appreciate the second chance that life has given them. Thanks so much to Elodie for sending us photos so regularly. It really keeps us going on the bad days.

Finally we have recently adopted Oscar, now Gryphon, who is turning out to be the perfect pet.

Happy news today, despite there having been no adoptions!

Please don’t forget this Sunday’s Spring Fayre to benefit the SPA. It is taking place at the Club Canin Carcassonne from 10am-4pm and will be an excellent day out. Here is the cake which you can win just by guessing its weight! Thanks to Anna, yet agai

Benson
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Harlequin

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Luther (ex Luxor) with Gwen

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Sherman. I think he knows he is loved, don’t you?

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Oscar (now Gryphon)

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And Anna’s cake. Guess the weight!

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Catch up on news…..

After all the excitement of yesterday, I thought I would let you know what else has been going on at the refuge.

The old beagle who arrived on was reclaimed. This is excellent news. We had not given up hope of finding her owners, as we have a wonderful network of helpers who were about to launch into action, but it is even better that her owners were looking for Vicky (or Lily, as she is called in real life). Some of you may know that I have an old beagle called Lily myself, adopted from the SPA when she was about ten years old and supposedly “past her best”.  I have a very soft spot for the breed, so I am delighted for Lili. Especially as she too is 10 years old

The owners were not happy when they came to collect her, as in their opinion we should have contacted them. We pointed out that the details on the database that corresponded to the tattoo were out of date, but they were upset that we had not called the phone number that was “clearly marked on her collar”. Except it wasn’t. There was nothing on her collar at all.

It is very important to keep your details up to date at the central database. Otherwise it takes a bit longer for us to contact you, assuming we are able to track you down that is! It is a good idea to put an engraved medal on your dog’s collar with your phone number on it, rather than just using a marker pen as in this case. Or if you do use marker pen, make sure it is indelible! This is also the case if you know that your dog’s tattoo is a bit hard to read, due to age.

Today we had three new arrivals. One of them was identified and hence was collected immediately, but the other two are not identified and so are still with us. First a tiny wee girl who was found at the gate; she is about the size of a papillon and hopefully someone is looking for her. She is not in the first flush of youth.

Second was another little girl, this one found in the local village or Cuxac Cabardes. Information on both will be available soon, after they have been to see the vet.

I am sure that like me many of you were wondering how James got on with the dogs who left yesterday. Moira and James have been in touch, and all is going well. So once again thanks to everyone for this heroic effort, especially Moira and James. And yes, of course we will pass on news of the dogs as each of them is homed.

Here is the link to the database, where you can change your dog’s details if they are not up to date (thanks for the suggestion, Helene)

Lili- RECLAIMED
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New arrival – Vixen

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Arrival number two – Beauty

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Black dogs, gold hearts

Yesterday’s blog got many reactions, as you can imagine, mostly from people just expressing their approval on Facebook, with a “like”. My favourite comment came from our stalwart supporter, Michele, adopter of scruffy mutt, Pitchou. She wrote to say that yesterday’s adoptions were the work of Chaussette, who was looking down on us in our sadness and wanted to show us that we should never ever give up the fight.

Other people asked about the whole black dog syndrome. We have many black dogs in the refuge, overlooked because of their colour. And tonight’s blog is dedicated to them.

It may seem strange to many people who have black dogs (like both Moira and I), but there really is a prejudice against dogs of this colour. It used to be considered that they brought bad luck, “son and daughter of the devil” etc. But even though most people know rationally that this is nonsense, black dogs remain hard to home. Is it because there is nothing to distinguish them from the pack? In fact I find nothing more wonderful to look at than the coat of a glossy black labrador. The refuge is perhaps not the best place for this, as dogs can look scruffy, lacking the regular brushing and exercise of family pets, but give them a week or so in a home environment, and they will look just amazing.

Here is a lovely poem written by a lady called Ginny Hewitt, who obviously is a big fan of the black dog. This poem can be found on the website of a British association called Many Tears, and Moira will tell you more about them tomorrow, when we will have some very exciting news to share.

Black Dogs, Gold Hearts

To some the black dog means bad luck, to some it means depression,

To some black equals boring , lacking style or expression.

But colour has no meaning , it’s just fashion or a fad,

It can’t show love or loyalty, it can’t be good or bad.

My last three dogs have worn black coats, abandoned and alone,

But I didn’t see their colour when I offered them a home.

I saw their personalities, the sadness in their eyes,

Saw their hope, their loving hearts, and could not pass them by.

I’ll never understand those folk who look above the skin,

When anyone who’s owned a dog knows beauty lies within.

So don’t be swayed by colour, see instead their hearts of gold,

And spare a thought for all black dogs left waiting in the cold.

Atlas. At the refuge since November 2013, but this is his second stay. He was found wandering and his owners never came to collect him. They told their son that he had run away. Atlas is 3 years old

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Balthazar. At the SPA since April 2013. He, too was identified when he arrived, but his owners never came for him. Bathazar is 7 years old.

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Chips. At the SPA since August 2012 having been found straying. Chips is 5 years old. He was just over three when he arrived.

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Occitane. This lovely fine-boned black lab cross has been at the SPA since August 2013; she is just 3 years old.

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They are not the only black dogs we have. Remember, Black is Beautiful!

Bumper day for Black dogs!

With everyone still reeling from the shock of Chaussette’s death yesterday, today would have to be pretty good to raise anything even approaching a smile from most of us.

Fortunately it was, and far better than we could have ever expected! We had not one, not two, not three, but , FOUR adoptions. And three of them were of black dogs. !

First to leave was little Hamtaro, but we knew he wouldn’t be with us for long.

The second adoption was a fabulous surprise, though. After 2 years, we finally said goodbye to Gun. This dog was adopted from us as a tiny puppy (anyone remember the Pirates of the Caribbean litter?). Gun was the first to be adopted, but he was abandoned when he was a year old. Woops, his owners forgot to train him!  Since this time Gun has been at the SPA, that is two thirds of his short life.

He has received regular walks, most notably from Benedicte, who perhaps knows him better than anyone. Outside of the refuge he is calm and obedient, affectionate and attentive. Quite unlike the huge dog who jumps around his box frantically.

His new owner, used to know Gun when he had a home and when he was left to wander alone. In fact they used to feed him from time to time. When they came to the SPA they didn’t even know he was with us. However when dog and man saw each other, there was instant recognition. What a lucky lucky dog!

Next to leave was Oscar. The couple had seen him on this website and were looking for a medium to large young dog to share their mountain home with them. Lucky Oscar caught their eye, and he is now living with plenty of land and long walks. He had only been at the refuge for a couple of weeks, so he is one of the lucky ones, despite being black!

The next departure of this amazing day was that of Toby, abandoned at the refuge 15 months ago and sponsored by volunteer Val, who luckily was there to say goodbye to him today. He has a new family and children to play with.  His life is about to take a whole new turn.

In the middle of all this, yesterday’s little yorkie was reclaimed by his owners and a non-identified black labrador arrived and left identified, as his owners were looking for him.

And although I don’t usually talk about reservations (being unwilling to tempt fate), Candy has found a new family already; this time one with no other dogs! It takes some time to get all the paperwork together, but at least Candy’s time with us looks like it will soon be over.

Happy happy day!

When I hinted yesterday about good news on the horizon, I did not expect this!!!

Hamtaro – ADOPTED

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Gun – ADOPTED (after two long years)
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Oscar (now Gryphon) – ADOPTED

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Toby – ADOPTED (after 15 months)

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Chaussette crosses the Rainbow Bridge

Well there was no happy ending for Chaussette. Melanie and I held him as he left to join the others over the Rainbow Bridge. No animal leaves alone; we hold them till the end, so they know they are loved

However the injustice of Chaussette’s final six months is plain to see. Chaussette arrived identified, just like his “sister”, Elsa. They had both been at the refuge several times before, as their owner has an “unstable life”, but each time up to now he had reclaimed his dogs once his life had got back on track. This time, however, he did not come.  So instead of dying free and with his owner of over 10 years, Chaussette spent his last six months in a concrete kennel, where his health gradually deteriorated.

This is the reality of abandoning your aged dog at a refuge. Do not assume that someone will take pity on him and take him home for a final few days, weeks or months of luxury. People prepared to do so are saints, but we all know that saints are thin on the ground. Spare a thought for all our other oldies, and think twice before abandoning your dog (or indeed cat), whatever his or her age. Do not leave others to do your dirty work for you. We do not enjoy it either. I am fed up with shedding tears on other people’s behalf and I know all the SPA employees and my fellow volunteers feel the same. Because yes, we cry, Every time. Be responsible for your own actions and your own decisions.

Further bad news. I wrote a couple of days about the joy of having two rottweilers reclaimed by their owner. Dogs of this breed are hard to home, as they need permits, tests and additional insurance. Sadly few people are willing to jump through all the necessary hoops. So it is a tragedy when a Rottweiler is returned to the refuge after the miracle of having been adopted.

In July 2013 we were jubilant at the adoption of Candy, who had been with us for seven long months before being chosen. Better still she was adopted by people whom we knew, wonderful owners who had already adopted a dogue argentin, Fabio, from the refuge. Today they finally threw in the towel. We do not blame them. A bit like with Prosper, Candy had the perfect home. As with Prosper, compatibility had been checked (I remember the joy of watching the two dogs playing in the park), and initially all went well. But as with Prosper, jealousy of the existing dog was just too strong, and Candy, not realising that life could be a lot worse, has burnt her bridges.

As with every failed adoption we learn something. We know that Candy needs to be an only dog in the family. However on the plus side we know that she is excellent with children, including very young ones (the family have two toddlers). Let’s hope this is not her last chance. Candy was born in January 2011, so let’s hope she finds a new home too. Silly girl, Candy!

A sliver of good news: an injured dog who was operated on this morning following a car accident has been reunited with her owner at the vets, but to balance that, we took charge of a fabulous miniature yorkie, who is identified, but whose phone number is no longer in service.

Not the best of days. I feel emotionally drained and feel a sense of desperation for the enormity of the fight that we are up against.

However there may just be some good news on the horizon…….

Chaussette in happier times

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And with his companion, Elsa. She is 7 years old, let’s hope she finishes her life outside the SPA

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Candy  is back. You blew it, girl!

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