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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

Easter Market gets off to a great start.

Today was day one of the Easter market and I have to say an enormous thank you to everyone who helped out on the stall. It was a long day, especially for our organiser, Ve Ro, Val and the others who were there to set things up at 7am!

I arrived at a more civilised hour, along with many others. As time went on the stall got gradually busier, especially after we set up an “outstation” to direct people to our tent. We also had two lovely dogs to attract people’s attention. Our stall looked fabulous, really colourful and interesting and with all the goodies on offer, plenty of people came along.

We are lucky to have volunteer Isabelle who is a fluent Spanish speaker, too. I would say that about half the visitors were Catalan.

Thanks to Anna for her incredible cupcakes, which sold like…well…hot cakes! Belinda and Jan came along with cards and painted tiles, but I have to say that the dog and cat toys and accessories were the hit of the day.

I loved watching dogs try on new harnesses and coats. Lots of canine visitors came to say hello, and my dog Nero did his best to be adopted by just about everyone!

Audrey, new owner of Phoenix, came to say hello, and we had news of lots of ex- SPA dogs and cats.
We shared our tent with Veronique who makes hats out of recycled paper and other materials, and several of us had hats made.

It was great fun, and so nice to spend some time with the volunteers away from the SPA.

At the SPA itself today, two dogs were reclaimed; Xena, whose owners came all the way from Paris to collect her (she was identified) and also Chiquet who has been with us for four months. A young female beauceron arrived and sadly Prosper was returned. But I really don’t want to dwell on anything negative today, I will leave that tale to Moira, who will be blogging tomorrow.

The SPA stand in all it’s glory
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Tiffany has a new hat!

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A satisfied customer leaves with a new lead and harness

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Back at the refuge


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Zizouille – New arrival



Why we volunteer…..

The SPA was very quiet again today, so I thought I would talk about a subject close to my heart, that of volunteering.

When I first arrived to volunteer at the SPA Carcassonne some four and a half years ago, euthanasia due to lack of space was commonplace.  It was nobody’s fault, certainly not the fault of the employees or the direction. There were virtually no volunteers at the time, nor was their presence encouraged, as the more volunteers there were, the more risk there was that the euthanasia would become a matter of public knowledge. After all no one likes threatening phone calls from people who think the refuge walls are made of elastic.

But it was a vicious circle. No volunteers meant no one to walk the dogs, no one to really get to know them (because with the number of dogs versus the number of employees there was little time for niceties), and crucially, no one to publicise them. There was no Facebook site, and not much of an internet presence at all. To be honest, it was a pretty miserable place. Gradually I weedled my way in (under the pretext of adopting another dog, which I eventually did, plus 2 more since) and more volunteers, English, French and other nationalities too came along thanks to word of mouth and pleas on various news forums.

All the volunteers (and here I include the employees, many of whom give up their free time too) work incredibly hard to help our dogs and cats. We make posters, we take the trouble to get to know the animals, we walk them, heal them when they are sick and above all, we love them.  The better we know the animals the better able we are to find them the RIGHT home, not just any old home.

As for lack of space, this is a situation that many refuges come up against. Too many irresponsible people let their dogs have puppies. Ultimately neutering is the key. The dog population needs to be brought down to manageable levels. Lack of space is out of our control, but it has been over three years since a dog has been put down for this reason at the SPA Carcassonne.

Sometimes we squeak at the seams, but we get through. We send dogs to reliable associations abroad where we can follow their progress, we deliver dogs all over France using volunteer power. What we do NOT do is threaten to put them in secret. You will notice that each and every one of our dogs has an album on Facebook. With this we try to find his real owner but it also acts as a record of his progress and development up to adoption and beyond.  When a dog is put to sleep, like Rantanplan recently, we are open and upfront about why, and we pay homage on our Facebook page.

This all takes work and dedication. It is why we need to have a strong team to attend events such as this weekend’s market at La Cité. We want more and more people to know about us and the work that we do. And preferably adopt from us rather than getting an animal from a breeder or from the internet.

It is a passion for each and every one of us. We do not seek glory (although compliments are always appreciated)! We do it for the dogs and cats in our care.

So please, if you can spare five minutes this weekend, come and say hi to us; some of us will be at La Cité, others at the refuge. Perhaps we will inspire you to join us, and remember, if dog walking and cat grooming are not for you, then perhaps you can join the painters and gardeners! Everyone is welcome

Just some of the goodies that the volunteers have been busy making and baking for this weekend at La Cité,
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No arrivals and no departures, but a busy day nonetheless!

No dogs arrived at the refuge and none left either. In fact visitors were thin on the ground. Maybe everyone is busy gardening. On the subject of which, yesterday Steve and  Eric (who did some English language training and has now got the “SPA bug”) finished painting the long wall opposite a row of kennels. And instead of scrappy weeds, we now have a flower bed. Wouldn’t it be nice if this could be filled with aromatic plants? If any of you are visiting a garden centre and “accidentally” buy too many plants, we would help put any extras to good use!

We would like anything that doesn’t take too much care; water is no problem, but hardy plants would be best. At present we have a couple of lavenders and rosemary bushes, but there is scope for much more, if you have any thoughts. Compost will be needed too.

Plenty is going on behind the scenes too!

Many of you will know that this weekend is the Easter Market in and around La Cité, and the SPA will have a stand there, as we did for the Christmas Market. The activities run from 10 am till 7pm from Saturday to Monday, and there will be lots to do. As far as the SPA is concerned, Ve Ro and her team are busy making sure there are enough people to cover all the time slots. Three days is quite a commitment, after all, and there are lots of logistics to sort out.

Meanwhile Anna is busy making cupcakes which will be used to raise funds. She has got dog-themed ribbon and everything! Don’t know about you, but in this heat, baking hundreds of cupcakes would not be my activity of choice. Eating them is another thing, though!

Please come along to visit the market and support us, and why not bring your dog along to say hello!

The SPA wall. Looking nice but in need of plants!
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Cupcakes- Looking nice but in need of being eaten!


Black dog adoption shock!

Two dogs left the refuge today. Titus, a little wire haired teckel of 12 years old (and who was tattooed) found his owner, and there was an adoption of a black dog!

The adopters were sent to us thanks to a great friend of the SPA, Elaine, who lives in Toulouse and who, amongst other things, runs a boarding kennel. Through this she knows lots of ex SPA Carcassonne dogs, including Ripley, Guzzi and Balto. So when a couple she knows lost a dog, she knew where to send them.

Norma and her husband came along with their lab Daisy, to see who was there. They had already picked out a couple of “possibles” on line, and their only rule was that it had to be anything other than a labrador. Not that they have anything against labs, they just wanted a change and did not want to be in any way “replacing” the black lab they had lost in February. However the heart goes where the heart goes, and one look at Samson (real name Chippeur) and the deal was done!

This boy was brought in by the police some 2 weeks ago. He had an owner, the same people who came to collect Gulli, the pinscher, who, unlike Samson, was microchipped. Samson’s “pound time” ended on Sunday and we warned his owners that he would be up for adoption as of Monday if they didn’t come to get him. Perhaps they were relying on Black Dog Syndrome. But today is Tuesday, and after a quick call to the police and a quick trip to the vet for microchipping, Samson has been adopted! Never assume that because you don’t want your dog no one else will!

Samson has reverted to his original name, but with the English spelling, Chipper, and he has a lovely life ahead of him. Photos will follow, I am sure!

I thought you might also like to see two of our most loyal and long serving volunteers in action; Steve and Sue, hard at work! Thanks guys, nearly done!

Chippeur then Samson then Chipper –  ADOPTED
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Steve and Sue – hard at it!

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Phoenix leaves but his place is soon taken…..

Well, the big news of the day was the departure of Phoenix, the dog who has been in the news due to having been beaten up in Carcassonne. No doubt he will be in the papers again tomorrow, as his departure was witnessed by the press. There were numerous people wishing to adopt this “star”, but he was in fact adopted by Audrey, the girl who came to his rescue when she saw his owner hitting him. She wasn’t chosen just for this reason, by the way, she is an animal lover of long-standing and Phoenix will be well-loved.

As luck would have it, Phoenix’s departure coincided precisely with the arrival of a new dog. A yellow lab was brought in by English volunteer Di. He had been abandoned in Quillan by a woman who went to live in Morocco several weeks ago, leaving her ten year old dog to fend for himself. This lovely boy, Voice, was badly attacked by the village dogs (who roam around, as in many French towns) and so for his own safety it was decided that he should come to the SPA.

I explained to the journalists that for every dog like Phoenix who makes the news, there are 20 more whose suffering and neglect goes unnoticed and whom no one rushes to adopt.

At his age, Voice would have a hard time at the refuge, so after an urgent appeal, volunteer Dominique offered to foster him. Only problem being that Dominique lives and works in Narbonne. So having put in an 8 hour day at the SPA, and a bit teary after saying goodbye to Phoenix, whom she had been fostering, Carole is now on her way to Narbonne to deliver Voice to Dominique. That is dedication!

There is another very sad new arrival at the refuge, too. Bill was saved by us from the Narbonne refuge (Arpan) where he was about to make the one way trip to the vet. He was then adopted from us, and a year later he is back. Very overweight and un-vaccinated. Nice one! Honestly, some people just make me so angry. Next time perhaps he will have better luck.

Tonight I am happy for Phoenix, who has landed on his paws (only three of them right now, till the plaster comes off) but sad for all the other dogs who spend sometimes years in the refuge unnoticed.

Phoenix leaves with Audrey

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Voice arrives. 10 years old; owner gone to live in Morocco

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And a very sad and fat Bill. Another failed adoption, but after a whole year!
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Cavanac Success and Luxor is renamed.

I said yesterday that it was hard to judge how well things had gone at Puivert in terms of funds, so here is the answer; €850 euros! That is simply amazing, and I think it was well above everyone’s expectations. Deb is over the moon, and quite rightly so. It was an incredible amount of work, and it is wonderful to see that this was so well rewarded. Thank you so much Deb!

Half of the money goes to Twilight, the retirement home for dogs, with whom we have a great relationship and who have taken a number of SPA dogs in the past. (http://www.twilightchiens.com/) Leeanne and Mike are delighted too. As for the €425 that will be coming to the SPA, this will cover most of the cost of Phoenix’s operation. The SPA gets no state funding, and so any money from events is always welcome. We just never know what is going to arrive on our doorstep!

A further €100 was raised at the event at Cavanac last night, along with donations of dog food and other accessories. Here I have to thank another great supporter of the refuge, Cathy Del, who organised this event for the benefit of the SPA. The children gave a concert and by all accounts it was charming. Thanks to volunteers Audrey, Benedicte, Dominique, Estelle, Melanie, and Val for representing the SPA.

I was expecting Moira to be blogging tonight to tell us all about Luxor’s journey. Sadly she and Roy have hit serious traffic problems, so although Luxor is safe at home with Phil and Anita (who adore him!), Moira is still in the car. She that Luxor was a dream throughout the whole journey and will tell us more about it when she has got her breath back! Phil and Anita have posted clips of Luxor (now renamed Luther) playing in their garden, so all appears to be going well.

Thanks to Moira and  to everyone who helped out with the events yesterday. There is always so much to do. We need to work as a team and share the load, as we have done this weekend.  Together we are mighty!

The SPA stand at Cavanac













The show in full swing!












And celebrating afterwards












And Luther (ex Luxor) all happy at home!


Fun and Fundraising!

Today was a bit different for me, as instead of going to the SPA, I went to the fundraising event at Puivert. For those of you who didn’t make it, you missed a treat. There were lots of stalls, fabulous cakes, sausage baguettes, and a great atmosphere. It is hard to say how many people there were, as people came and went during the six hours of the event, but I suspect that if they had all been in the room at the same time, it would have been pretty busy!

Thank you to everyone who came along. Primarily the organisers, of course, and I don’t want to name names, for fear of either missing someone out, or sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech. So I will just say thanks to Deb and “her team”. You know who you are!

It was great to see so many of our loyal supporters there. Helene who translates the blog finally got to meet Rosa, who takes over when Helene is busy, and lots of other people met for the first time or at least for the first time in a while. I snapped up a few bargains and quite a bit of cake! No phone call so far, so I guess my husband didn’t guess the weight of the cake correctly!

That was not the only event today, though. I hot-footed it back to Carcassonne to meet up with a volunteer who was joining other SPA volunteers for an event at Cavanac. I handed over goodies and publicity material for this event, along with some leftover cake (not two words that are often seen together, I know). As I write this, things will be in full swing in Cavanac. I hope you are having a great time!

Meanwhile at the SPA, two dogs were returned to their owner without setting foot on the refuge thanks to Facebook. Two other dogs arrived though, one of whom is identified to a company address, so no reply is expected before Monday. And we had one adoption, that of Mimi Cracra, who was brought in by volunteer Marine. She will no doubt be delighted to know that this lovely dog has a new home.

So a busy day all round, and next weekend should prove to be the same, as we take the Cite by storm for the Easter Market!

Enjoying coffee and cake at Puivert
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One of the lovely stalls

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Tim (aka Mr Saucisse!). Real English sausages. (husband happy!)

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Mimi Cracra – ADOPTED


Good Friday a week early!

After publishing the pictures of Stone (really Icare) on Facebook yesterday, his owner contacted us to say that he would be along at 14H00 to collect his dog. And sure enough he was. So after a quick trip to the vet (for identification) this lovely looking dog went home. The gentleman’s post on our Facebook page made me a bit sad, as it read “please keep him for me at least until tomorrow”. I know some pounds do euthanise (an unidentified dog is officially in “the pound” not the refuge – at Carcassonne we fulfil both roles). But all pounds are obliged to look after the dogs that arrive for at least ten days. I hate to think of this gentleman worrying that his dog would be put to sleep overnight, before he had the chance to come and collect him. It’s okay, we did tell him his dog was fine!

Stone was not the only dog to be reclaimed today. The old spaniel who arrived yesterday found his owners. His name was Pacha and he is 14 years old! We had a feeling he was loved, as he was not at all thin and was very cuddly!

On the adoption front, Luxor started his journey to the UK, where he will go to live with Phil and Anita. They already have two of our dogs, Gwen and Yessa, so Luxor will have them to play with, not to mention the couple’s other dog, Harvey. Originally Phil and Anita were going to foster Luxor until a perfect home had been found, but it looks like they have fallen under his charm, even long distance!  Luxor will travel with Moira, who took him home today for a long walk and a chicken dinner before she and husband Roy set off at the crack of dawn tomorrow. I am sure she will tell you all about the journey in a future blog! Thanks so much Moira!

But that is not all. There were three other adoptions! One of my favourites, Peejay was adopted (I knew he would go quickly) and Carl, the well-mannered spaniel found a home.

But I think in many way the big news of the day was the adoption of Dastan, a Rottweiler. It is rare that a category 2 dog is adopted from the refuge, as it takes some dedication to jump through all the hoops required; a training course, an evaluation of the dog’s character, informing your insurance company that you have a “dangerous” dog and finally permission from the local mayor. With local elections so recent,I suspect it is the latter that was proving difficult. We are all delighted for Dastan; long story short, but he was mistreated and abused by an unscrupulous breeder and was rescued before being brought into the SPA. He is only just a year old and deserves all the happiness that is going to come his way with the lovely couple who have adopted him. As for calling rottweilers dangerous; no comment. I have a terrier that could go ten rounds with Mike Tyson and come out on top!

The best Friday we have had for a long time!

Please don’t forget the fundraiser at Puivert tomorrow. It promises to be a great day!

Stone (Icare) – Reclaimed











Pacha- Reclaimed

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Luxor- Adopted (and chez Moira post chicken dinner)

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Peejay- Adopted























Dastan – ADOPTED

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Three lovely ladies leave

First good news of the day, the girl in the apartment who was planning on taking the malinois puppy has, following our advice, decide against the adoption. This is surely the right decision, even if the puppy arrives at the refuge, better that this should happen sooner, rather than later. And much respect to the girl for requesting and heeding our advice. I am sure there will be a dog out there who suits apartment living and someone who is willing to ask advice and reflect is probably going to be a great owner.

Second good news, we have been featured on yet another website, thanks to our friends Yvonne and Henny, who adopted Lily Blue and are friends with Greg, who adopted Noosa. Here is the link to this great new English language resource and (today at least) a plug for the SPA!


But the big news was the departure of not one, not two but three females. I was not at the SPA yesterday so I missed the adoption of Little Minx. She was reserved at the open day on Sunday and left us yesterday. Fabulous news for this tiny but very active dog who is half spaniel and half monkey!

First to leave today was lovely Tanya, she of the mask of Zorro. Her new mum, Emma fell head over heels in love when she was at the SPA helping her friend with the adoption of Gabriella and Rodrigo. Tanya was sterilised on Tuesday and today she left for her new life complete with new name, Scarlett. There are quite a few little communities of ex SPA dogs around the local villages! I like to think of them all discussing their time at the refuge and comparing their experiences.

And last but not least, we said goodbye once again to Fetide/ Laika. Yes, I know, I know. This is her third family; she has been brought back twice. But with each failed adoption we have learned a bit more about her. So we were able to tell her new owner that no, she is not good with cats, and no, she is not quite house trained. Unless Laika turns up to have yet another “fault”. The lady who has taken her has been told the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth and seem unphased, so let’s cross our fingers tightly!

It was not all rosey, however, four new arrivals. First a German Shepherd who is identified, secondly a beautiful spaniel, whom we have named Stone, third a very old Brittany spaniel, found in Trebes and identified, but the phone is no longer in use (he looks like he is loved, though, so hopefully someone is looking for him). And finally Gamin, a German Shepherd born in 2009, whose homeless owners have finally found a place to live. But living inside means that Gamin is in much closer proximity with the couple’s other dog, a black labrador. After numerous fights, a sad decision has been made, and we all felt great sympathy for the young girl as she abandoned this dog, whom she clearly loves.

I returned to my car with a heavy heart, but someone had left two tins of Heinz baked beans on the seat, which cheered me up a bit. Might leave the window open more often!

Oh, and this evening we have heard that the last dog who left for the UK, Mix, has found a new home.

Little Minx- ADOPTED (yesterday)









Tanya (now Scarlett) – ADOPTED

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Laika – ADOPTED (3rd time lucky)

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New arrivals






Old Boy found in Trebes
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And Gamin

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Publicity for Chiquet and more cake!

This whole internet thing is pretty amazing. Last week I shared an article about prong collars from a site called shake paws (http://shakepaws.com/). I received an email from them, thanking me for the link (they too feel very strongly about prong collars), and asking if we would like them to feature one of our dogs on their page as Rescue Dog of the Week. After a bit of discussion, we decided to send them information about Chiquet, as he is a breed not often seen in the UK. And look at our boy, proudly on the front page!

Who knows what this will bring! It certainly can’t do any harm!

At this rate, with four dogs already scheduled to leave for the UK, we may well be looking for bulk transport! I must add that we are always happy for our dogs to find homes, be it in France, UK or Belgium, but when it is via an association, we make sure that our dogs are not at any risk should things not work out with their adopters. We carry out careful checks to make sure that the associations with whom we cooperate follow the same principles and us, and that our dogs will always have a fall back home.

On the subject or responsible homing; the Facebook page received a message this morning from someone who is about to buy a malinois pup for 50 euros, not identified, not vaccinated. Moreover she lives in an apartment and this is her first dog. There is so much wrong here that it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps the legalities of homing a non-identified animal is a good place to start. Then we have the characteristics of this highly active breed and its suitability for an apartment. I could go on. But I won’t.

At the refuge one dog found his owner and there were no arrivals. I had not posted photos of the dog, Trust, as he was identified and we were pretty sure that he would be reclaimed. I didn’t want all the pinscher lovers getting excited!

Finally can I say a big thank you to Anna who has made this beautiful cake for the fundraising event at Puivert on Saturday. It is for a “guess the weight” competition. Doesn’t it look fabulous! Thanks so much Anna! Don’t forget, Salle de la Mairie at Puivert Saturday 12th April 10am to 4pm.

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Anna’s cake! Or maybe it could be yours!