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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

News from Charly!

As you know, other than on the first Sunday of the month the refuge is closed, so Sundays are usually a time to discuss topics of general interest to dog owners, or catch up on news of old friends. However today is different, as we have news of a dog who has only just left the refuge, but whose story has touched many people.

People have written to tell us about their dogs, missing for several years, and how they are far more optimistic about finding them now, especially in those cases where they are identified. Likewise the fact that Charly lived a life of luxury while he was missing has reassured many of those whose pooches are AWOL.  It is easy to imagine the worst, but perhaps your missing dog is being well looked after by whoever found him.

True to their word, Charly’s owners have sent us photographs and news! Amazingly, the couple’s old dog, a St Bernard called Marylou recognised Charly when he returned home. This is after eight years, remember! He is getting on fine with the other dog as well as the cats. The family also have a donkey and a pony, both of whom were Charly’s friends when he was younger. And yet again they recognised each other and were all leaping around the place with joy!

Yesterday Charly’s mum took him to the local market where she bumped into an old friend who recognised him at once, and was amazed to hear his story. And today he went to a Carnival at a local beauty spot. Basically Charly has slotted back into his old life as if he had never been away. Apart from when his dad goes out without him, Charly’s tail is in permanent mode “wag”.

I am not sure if any studies have been done about dogs’ memories. I know that my dog, Scout, only sees certain people once a year but he never forgets them in the meantime, and welcomes them into our house with open arms (or paws, rather), which he does not do with strangers. I always assumed this was due to his sense of smell. I wonder if Charly’s case is unique or if there are other dogs out there with incredible memories. They say “an elephant never forgets”, but maybe a dog is no slouch in that department, either!

We are so happy for you, Charly!

More photos will be added later on, so come back and re-read the blog tomorrow for pictures of Charly out and about!

Charly happy at home











A real daddy’s boy


News from the UK and arrival of Gizmo, complete with torture collar.

Yesterday’s blog didn’t exactly go viral, but it was shared far and wide, including on the Dogs Today Facebook site, and so the reader statistics took a huge leap. Let’s hope that some people who read Charly’s story will continue to follow the blog, and that it results in more adoptions. Or perhaps in more people identifying their dogs. In France it is the law, and even where it is not, I hope people can see how it really can help reunite you with your four legged friend.

Today brought news of another Charley; the spaniel/setter cross who left for the UK two weeks ago. He is the third of the five dogs to find a new home, and we are over the moon for him.

Back to the subject of identification…..A dog arrived this morning. She was not identified and we feared the worst, especially as she was a malinois, a breed often found in refuges. They are often far more active than their owners expect and need an outdoor lifestyle with mental as well as physical stimulation. However her owners arrived to collect her at 14H00 and when we accompanied them to the vet to get their dog identified, they booked her in to be sterilised, as she was on heat and they did not want any unwanted surprises! Yippee, responsible ownership!

We had fabulous weather today and lots of volunteers came to walk dogs. We did have one new arrival, Gizmo, a fabulous 3 year old Australian Shepherd. The reason he has been abandoned? That old favourite of mine; divorce. Yes, but you don’t have to divorce your dog when you divorce your wife!

Something we hate even more than people abandoning dogs is prong collars. And so today’s arrival was a double whammy. When we asked the owner why the dog was wearing such a collar, he said it was to stop him pulling. Sigh.

Prong collars were designed to stop dogs from being attacked by wolves when they were guarding sheep etc. The spikes are meant to go on the outside. There are better ways to stop a dog pulling, such as special harness, which is far less likely to cause harm to your dog. Gizmo is probably glad to be with us. I am sure he won’t be with us long.

So no adoptions, but some lovely walks and so there will be lots of happy tired dogs tonight.

Gizmo- Abandoned
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Gizmo’s collar- straight in the dustbin

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A Friday Miracle

I have been volunteering at the SPA for over four years now, and I thought I had seen and heard just about everything. But today I truly feel stunned and amazed. And very happy.

On 26th February the SPA welcomed four dogs whose owner had died. All of them were small and varied in age from 2 to 12 years. All but one of them is identified in the name of the recently deceased owner. So as is customary, we sent a letter to the owner of the fourth dog to the address on the database in Paris.

And guess what? The owners came to collect Charly today. They live in the Herault and their dog had disappeared from their garden there almost eight years ago. Yes, you read that right. EIGHT YEARS! They just couldn’t believe the news (or their luck) and after several phone calls back and forth (checking tattoo numbers, exchanging photos and descriptions), they hastened to Carcassonne to collect Charly. I am not usually at the SPA on a Friday, but I couldn’t resist, and it was one of the most wonderful things I have seen there: Charly recognised them!!!

I guess we will never ever know how Charly came to be living with the woman in Carcassonne. He is 10 years old and has been missing since he was two and a half! I cannot imagine the emotions of either Charly or his owners. I think of all those people who are still looking for their dogs years after they went missing, and those who have given up hope and are no longer looking. And how they would feel if a letter arrived to tell them that their long-lost friend was at a refuge.

I was a bit teary, to be honest. But I was not the only one!

Yet again the benefits of identification are clear! Even if it took eight years for Charly to be found. In fact usually a vet will check a dog’s identification on the first visit. And Charly had been well-looked after, there is no doubt. He has even been castrated during his “missing years”. We have no idea why his tattoo was not checked, but the main thing is that Charly is back at home and is, as we speak, getting reacquainted with his family. This includes a young master (who was a toddler when Charley disappeared) and two doggy friends, one of whom Charly knows from before!

The couple have promised to send us photos and I for one cannot wait!

If you find a dog, please give his owners a chance to find him. Ask a vet to check to see if he is chipped or tattooed, even if you would like to keep him for yourself. Imagine how YOU would feel if your dog was lost and you had no news of him.

Other refuge news can wait till tomorrow; today is Charly’s day!

Charly. Nine days at the SPA, but missing for eight years before that!

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Internet brings love!

We live in a modern era. There are so many ways to meet a life partner. Some of us meet our match at work, in a social situation, avenues that have been open for decades. Internet dating is a relatively modern phenomenon, but can be just as successful in helping bring people together.

Today an internet romance came to fruition when the two parties met. On one side we had a human, Gabriella, who was obviously the more active in terms of her choice. On the other side we had a dog, Calysta, who was busy being adored from afar. We knew that providing the chemistry was right, it would be Calysta’s ticket to freedom.

Calysta, you may remember, was found on a well-known dog walking route, and although she had clearly had an owner, they did not make any efforts to find their dog (who, guess what, was not identified). Gabriella had seen her on the website and was sure this was the girl for her! So today Calysta found her new home and we wish her and Gabriella every happiness.

Another lucky girl was Clara, whose brother Rocco left us last week. Again she had been spotted online, and although her new owners had come to meet her, she was unable to leave her kennel to meet their dog, as she was recovering from a nasty tummy bug. So rather than taking any risks, she had been reserved pending a compatibility test. No problems there, by all accounts, so Clara now has a jack russell as her new buddy!

And there was a third lucky girl. Beautiful Cora, a seven year old Anglo, was brought to the refuge having been found wandering many miles from her home. She was tattooed, and her owner came to collect her immediately. I am pleased for her, and sad for the gentleman who brought her in, as he had planned to adopt her. And if I could get away with it, I would be tempted too! As it was, I had to be satisfied with a lovely cuddle.

Loads of volunteers showed up to walk dogs, and with one exception they were all girls. So it was a real ladies day at the SPA!

Calysta (now renamed Karla, which means “free and strong” in Danish) – ADOPTED








Clara  and her new family







And beautiful Cora – Reclaimed


The wheel of fortune…..

Today a lady drove all the way from Arachon, a round trip of some seven hours, to collect her two dogs from the SPA. There is a lesson here. This lady lived in a nearby village until very recently. When she moved away to nurse her ailing father, she gave away her dogs “free to a good home”. Having spoken to her, it appears that the first of the dogs, Bonnet Red, arrived at the SPA the very day he was given away, and his friend, Chispa, was found in the external boxes on Monday.

The dogs were not identified, (incidentally it is illegal to give away or sell unidentified dogs), so we had no way of contacting the original owner. And no way of knowing that she wanted her dogs. But her daughter saw the dogs on the SPA Facebook page, and an emergency trip to Carcassonne was made!

When she arrived to collect them, she found a third dog, who had supposedly been rehomed earlier. All three have now left and are identified.

How many times do we have to say it, Free to a good home is a bit of a lottery for the dog. These dogs  were lucky that their original came to collect them, but there are doubtless many more “rehomed” dogs in refuges throughout France, with their original owners unaware of their plight.

In other refuge news, we had two new arrivals, another puppy (a black male shepherd cross) and lovely Ginger, who is bound to have an owner, but will they reclaim her before someone else snaps her up? The clock is ticking and Ginger is not identified….

The Free to a Good Home Lottery








Ginger arrives


A metaphorical pigeon arrives….

Okay, money is exchanging hands and beers are being bought to settle bets. Last night Moira told us that of the five dogs who left for the UK, the first to be reserved is ….(wait for it)… HOOD! Yes, just one week after he arrived, this fabulous dog has found his new family! So that answers the question as to who will be the first to leave.

I was going to see if we should take bets on who would be next, but it appears that as soon as one of the SPA Carcassonne dogs is available for adoption (following castration and evaluation of behaviour) he is reserved. I say this because today Galileo was put up for adoption and he, too, was reserved immediately!

So NOW will you believe us when we say that the SPA Carcassonne has the best dogs in the world?!

Despite some nasty-looking clouds, the rain held off this afternoon, and volunteers tried to walk the dogs who had not been walked this weekend. We welcomed a newbie, Sylvie, to our team, as well, and she soon found her feet thanks to Anoushka who showed her the ropes.

Of the five dogs who arrived (sigh), four were identified. The owners of Tommy  had already contacted us on Facebook to tell us he was missing, which is always a good sign. The two spaniels should leave tomorrow. Not sure about the border collie. He is clean and appears to be well cared for until you feel how thin he is.

The non-identified dogs, a puppy, has been named “Pigeon”, for reasons that will be obvious if you are familiar with the French expression “to treat someone like a pigeon”. The people who abandoned this puppy seriously thought we would believe their bizarre tale about how they found him. We were not born yesterday. I just hope the novelty of the other Christmas presents they got last a bit longer.

The refuge is very full……..

Tommy- RECLAIMED (thanks to his microchip)

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And 4 month old Pigeon arrives

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Two happy goodbyes; one sad farewell.

Well, last night’s blog has provoked much discussion, as expected, along with a fair few anecdotes. The only thing I would like to add is that whereas castration/ sterilisation will not necessarily change a dog’s behaviour,  it will DEFINITELY stop it having puppies, and fewer puppies means fewer adult dogs in refuges.

As you know, yesterday was the SPA regular Sunday open day. And whereas there were no adoptions, there were lots and lots of walks. I lost count of how many dogs got out in the lovely sunshine, so thanks to everyone who came along and thanks to Di for (wo)manning the cake stall. We were spoilt.

Someone else who was spoilt yesterday was the old man of the SPA, whom we had named Hordage (which means literally “past his expiration date”). He had been brought in just over 6 weeks ago as a complete bag of bones after yet another case of mistreatment. We did our best for him, feeding him the best quality food (thanks Nath) and letting him sleep in the warmth of the infirmary. Despite initial hopes that he would recover, we soon realised that it was not fair to make him struggle on. He could no longer hold himself upright and would fall several times per day. Yesterday he spent a couple of hours in the sunshine being patted and fed cakes, and this morning we said our final goodbyes.  Hordage was spoken to with gentle words and held lovingly as he went over the rainbow bridge, because that is how we do things at the SPA Carcassonne. We will miss him and it was a sad way to start the week.

On a positive note, the lovely boxer who was at the gate yesterday morning found his owner (thanks to the photos put on Facebook) and he is now identified. Hercule (aka Houdini) , who is a regular visitor, was collected yet again by his ever patient but despairing owners.

Less positively, just after the staff left the refuge for lunch, a small female dog was abandoned in the outside box. Such courageous people; they couldn’t even bring their dog in and tell us a bit about her so that we could find her a suitable home. Chispa is quite distinctive looking, a dachshund sized spaniel, and so if you know who her owners are, please let us know, as we would like to contact them.

Chispa is not the only new arrival. As Facebook pictures make clear, after a week of mostly good news and several adoptions, the refuge is full again!




















Chispa – Found at the gate. Two other dogs arrived aswell








And Hordage went over the Rainbow Bridge. Run free, old man!

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The even sadder return of Blanca

I can hardly believe that I am writing this, as I feel that I am in some kind of alternative universe. Blanca was returned to the refuge today. Yes, the couple who adopted her on Saturday (the Saturday that was 3 days ago) have given up on her already.  Blanca is deaf, you may recall. But she is a jack Russell and is too lively for them, and she “needs help that we are not able to give her”.  Moira had spoken to them last night to explain how to deal with some of the issues (squeaky toys are not always a good idea, for example), but they left home at 04H45 this morning, so it was clear that by the time they asked for help, their minds were already made up.

I was unable to speak to them, as I didn’t trust myself not to be angry. Moira dealt with them, and was her usual polite calm self. A great friend of the refuge, Jane, happened to be there, and I overheard her saying a polite version of what I wanted to say. I don’t think they will listen, though, because they know EVERYTHING and it is the dog’s fault, quite clearly.

When I was told by Doglinks that these people were driving from Rheims to collect Blanca, I thought it was a good sign. I thought that anyone prepared to travel that distance would be willing to do whatever it takes to make an adoption work. But perhaps all it meant was that they have too much free time and too much money. I don’t have enough of either, but my dogs are happy and I will do anything to keep them that way. I know Doglinks will be as upset about this as we are, but I have given up trusting my own judgement. Dogs are far more trustworthy than people, in my opinion.

Nothing good happened, except I did get my walk with Dusty. It looks like he hasn’t been walked since being adopted, as he pulled like crazy, but thanks to a magic harness (the Premier Easy Walk, in case anyone is interested), he just trotted alongside me. He didn’t even look too upset to be back at the SPA, to be honest. Not all adoptions are good adoptions. I learned that lesson twice more today.

Oh, by the way, I gave some wrong information in yesterday’s blog. Yemen is the boxer cross’s real name and he is actually micro-chipped. But no one rushed in to reclaim him today.

Quelle surprise!

Blanca.  Back at the SPA after a 1800 km round trip. Oh, the folly of man. 


The sad return of Dusty

First news of the day is that the five dogs arrived safely in the UK. As Moira said in her message to me, it was very impressive, how, despite the fact that they arrived several hours ahead of schedule and well before the place opened, night security staff were there to welcome the dogs and make them comfortable, even though we had no way of warning them of the change of arrival time. Those five dogs are in good hands, believe me!

Back at the SPA, today saw the sad return of Dusty. Like Tayson, that is the fourth time he has been returned to the refuge and each time it is for the same reason. Listen, people, when we tell you that a dog is a runner and needs an enclosed garden, we mean it. Poor Dusty, back again, and probably wondering if he will ever find someone who loves him enough to keep him; someone who already has an enclosed garden or someone who is willing to raise the height of their fence to accommodate this lovely boy. I will go and see him tomorrow, and assuming his vaccinations have been kept up to date, will take him for a walk and try to reassure him that YES, we will find him the right home, one day. He was born in November 2010 and so there is still plenty of time for him. I hope.

A beautiful boxer cross arrived too. We have called him Yemen, although of course we do not know his real name because, surprise surprise, he is not identified.

Better news for Gem, whose owners had already contacted us to say that her IDENTIFIED dog was missing before he even arrived. Responsible ownership! Owner and dog were quickly reunited. I hope the same can be said for the other missing dog whose owner signalled our Facebook page. She is not identified. I hope she is found, but I hope that her owner learns a lesson and pays what is a relatively small amount for a microchip. What is wrong with people that they would rather put themselves through hours of worry and heartache, rather than just get their dogs identified? I know identification does not guarantee that your dog will be found, but it certainly increases the chances.

Although this blog tries to put politics aside, we are definitely in favour of anything that can make animals’ lives better. So please, if you haven’t already done so, could you sign this petition and spread it far and wide. At present  in France legally you can be either a person or a thing, meaning there is no difference in law between the rights of a piece of furniture and those of an animal. This needs to change, and the Foundation 30 Millions d’Amis  is spearheading a campaign to introduce a third category, for living creatures other than humans. You can sign regardless of where you live. Please do so. Together we can make a difference!











New arrival – Yemen (unidentified)








Gem – RECLAIMED (identified)













And Shaina (ex Pippa) would like you to sign the petition, please!


Five (more) dogs leave for a “Pawsitive” Future

So what could possibly happen on a Sunday when the refuge is not having its monthly open day? The departure of five more dogs, that is what!

Of course you remember the appeal that we made for transportation fees for five lucky dogs who have been chosen to go to a fabulous association in the UK. Well, today was the day. Or perhaps better put last night was the night. Or was it morning? In any case, it was a time when most normal people are asleep. But we are not normal!

At 03H00 Moira and I (plus husbands) and Dominique drove to the SPA to meet the dog transporters. We had all eaten together chez moi, and thanks to the wonders of modern technology, were able to live track the wagon as it made its way through Spain. Thus we were able to time our arrival at the SPA to meet them.

All five dogs were loaded up, after papers and microchips had been checked, and we waved goodbye to Charley, Kiko, Galileo, Hood and Mix. We had already had news that all is going well, and with a three man team of drivers, the dogs will be walked every three hours until they arrive at their destination in South East England.

I would like to thank Moira particularly for all her organisation, including visiting the association to chat to them about our dogs and to make sure they had the same basic principles as us (ie no euthanasia and (something that we would love to provide but are unable to), luxury living quarters). Also to Moira (again), Dominique, Viv and Roy for getting up so early (or staying up so late in the case of the guys!). Thanks also to Carole and the SPA employees for making sure all the paperwork was sorted out, and to yesterday’s volunteers, who made sure every dog got a nice long walk before moving to the top kennels to make it easy for us to load them up in the pitch dark this morning.

I am so pleased for all the dogs. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for them, a new country and an association a bit like our great friends at Animal Trust; plenty of walks, house-training and obedience training and an average waiting period pre-adoption of just three weeks.

I wonder who will be the first to leave….

Let us not forget that it was thanks to the recently departed Jim that we were given a route into this well respected association, and the adoption of each of them will be homage to this gentle man who loved animals so much.  I am certain he would be delighted to know that all went well and thanks to him, five dogs are on their way to a better life.

Thanks to everyone who donated towards the travel costs, too. You have been amazingly generous, as ever. The appeal continues, by the way, as transporting the dogs was not cheap. However we wanted them to arrive safely and at a time that suited everyone. I can’t say we were happy about the middle of the night pick up, but in the overall scheme of things, it means little. Early bed for me tonight, though!

Moira and Dominique have a final look at our lucky five, before wagons roll!