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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

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













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.










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










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










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

Oscar - labrador griffon cross








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












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









Candy  is back. You blew it, girl!


Old friends and a very poorly old man.

Another bank holiday in France, so the refuge was shut. After some more heroic planting yesterday by Mme Aalders, we have run out of plants and places to put them (although once we have done some more tidying up we will be looking for more). And the volunteers did yet more painting, too, a big thanks to them. So today we all took the day off and spent time with our own families, both human and animal.

Tonight might be a good time to catch up with some old friends. I was not at the refuge yesterday, so I missed the visit of Dingo, adopted a couple of months ago. You may recall that he had been abandoned outside his apartment building when his owners moved, and this tiny chap was left to fend for himself. He arrived at the SPA in a very tatty state and very fearful. But just look at him now;  Lovely.

Also at the SPA yesterday we had Okkie (formerly Grizzli), who helped his owner with the gardening! Isn’t he a fabulous chap?

We also have news of Chipper (aka Samson), who has adapted very well to his new home, by the looks of things!

And we also have news from further afield. Do you remember Mango, who was homed thanks to Doglinks when he was just a puppy? Well just look at him now! What a magnificent dog and what a happy looking family. Oh, if only all dogs could be this lucky.

Sadly we have over 100 who are still waiting patiently for their turn.

Moira is slowly making her way back to France, by the way, but making several stops en route. Today she is visiting an association that has offered a lifeline to some of our dogs, and providing everything goes as expected (and we have no reasons to suspect otherwise, as we do a great deal of “due diligence” beforehand), there will be more exciting news soon!

Finally please can everyone send positive thoughts in the direction of Chaussette, who is very ill indeed and is at the emergency vets. He seems to have kidney failure, and we are not sure what the future holds for him. At nearly 11 years old, Chaussette  is probably going to end his days at the refuge, even if he pulls through his current crisis. He has been with us for six months now, and this is no way for a dog to end his life.

Dingo visited yesterday











So did Okkie










We received a photo of Chipper (ex Samson)

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And this one of Mango with his family











We need positive thoughts for Chaussette who is very ill


A new arrival and an upcoming event

A quiet afternoon at the refuge, but that does not mean there is no news.

We always dread the arrival of so called “dangerous dogs”, and this will be the subject of a future blog. Briefly, though, the owners of any dogs who are either pure bred or crossed rottweilers or staffs have to jump through a series of hoops to demonstrate their suitability as owners. As I said, the reasons for this are complex and now is not the time, just let me say that the law is inflexible and it is invariably the dogs that suffer, even when they are the gentlest dogs on earth.

Today when two rottweilers arrived we feared the worst. We have five rottweilers at the refuge and homing them is very difficult (hence the celebrations a couple of weeks ago when lovely Dastin was adopted). Wwe certainly didn’t want two more to swell the ranks. However we were in luck. Not only were the dogs identified, they were also “legal”, ie there owner had all the required permits. So they left immediately!


However, into each life a little rain must fall and today yet another puppy arrived. This chap is not as young as some of the puppies we get, he is about 4-5 months and looks to be a griffon beauceron cross. He is understandably a bit nervous about finding himself at the refuge, but has realised that we mean him no harm and is starting to play already. The family who brought him in “found” him a week ago and wanted to keep him, but they have a young child and the puppy was too much for them to cope with as well. Let’s hope his original owner is looking for him, assuming he was ever lost that is.

Some more news in the form of an upcoming event. On May 18th the SPA is holding a Book Fayre at the Club Canin. At least it was going to be a book fayre, but it seems to have developed into something much bigger! Put this date in your diaries, everyone, and please let all your friends know. If you can put up a poster in your town hall or local shop it would be much appreciated. Please support us in any way you can.

New arrival- FAUSTINO











Book Fayre poster!


The cat, the dog and the dragonfly!

Now here is something that doesn’t happen very often!

Just over a week ago we had a visit from Miranda, a British girl who adopted Fleur from us over two years ago, since which time the two have become inseparable.  She and her partner thought it was now time to add a cat to the family group. We were short of volunteers that day, but Miranda used to dog walk with us and knows the refuge well, so I just told her to go and look round the cat house and see who stole her heart. She and Damion reappeared about an hour later with big smiles on their faces, so I guessed they had found a new friend.

Sure enough, I was right. Except they had fallen in love with a dog, not a cat! We took Energiser to the park where he did all his tricks. Look, I can be affectionate; look, I can be lively; look, I can be calm. Basically he did everything possible to sell himself and it worked! A reservation was made and today was the day.

He was given the name Energiser as he is extremely lively, as is Fleur.  I am sure they have many years of playing together ahead. Eny, as he is now called, left minus his family jewels, but somehow I don’t think this will calm him down; in fact it may just make him lighter on his feet!

I did point out several times that he is not a cat, by the way, but as we all know, the heart goes where the heart goes. And the feeling was clearly mutual, when Damien arrived Eny jumped into his lap and despite much excited, wriggling, that is where he wanted to stay.

In other SPA news, one of everyone’s favourites found a home today. Libellule (aka Dragonfly) flew off. This dog just has that magic something, a femininity and grace that is hard to describe, but is so appealing. Her new owner visited the SPA yesterday and rushed back today after a night’s reflection. All of you who like long eared dogs will be thrilled, as are we all.

So two lucky dogs have homes tonight, and we had no arrivals.

Fleur leaves with Eny
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Libellule – ADOPTED

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Upon arriving at Place Gambetta this morning at about 09h30 I was a bit worried. Clouds! Spots of rain. AARGH! But by the time we had finished setting up, the sun was shining and everything was fine. Phew.

Rosa and her friends, Marine, Cindy and Clemence did a fabulous job, and with the help of an amplifier (thanks Sophie), we were able to attract plenty of people to the SPA stand. Then the dancing started; at first with just a few of us, but gradually people joined in, mostly kids who were wearing face paints beautifully applied by Clemence. She is a beautician by training, so it is no wonder that the face painting was high class!

We certainly created a buzz. People came to chat to us, and as usual to talk about their dogs or cats, and we received donations totalling €110euros. But money was not the goal of today; the goal was to attract some publicity to the SPA, and we certainly did that. We have been offered the chance to do a repeat performance at La Cite for la Fete de la Musique on June 21st, so if you missed out today, you can come and see us there, if you like!

At the refuge we saw the return of Til, who was adopted several years ago, but whose family are not able to keep him due to a severe allergy by one of the children. There were many tears shed, as they loved him. He comes with great references; their garden is not enclosed but he stays close by, he is housetrained, great with other dogs and children. Hopefully he will find a new home soon

On a brighter note, the dog whom we name Prince, but who is really called Silver was reclaimed. He was the poodle with the illegible tattoo, and who arrived in a sorry state. We had a chat to his owner about the need to take better care of his dog, and he has promised to do so. We will see (and yes, we WILL check).

The painting of the refuge continues, with special anti-rust paint being applied to the door grills. The volunteers will have trouble getting that out of their hair, unlike the water based paint we have been using up to now!

Don’t forget that the SPA is open tomorrow, as it is the first Sunday of the month. There is still planting and painting to be done, or just pop in and say hello!

PS If you are wondering why there are no pictures of the dancing, it is because I was dancing myself, and so far, to my great relief, no one has sent any pictures!


The SPA stand complete with anti-fur dress!
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Clemence, Rosa and Marine having their moment of fame with l’Independant
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Some of Clemence’s handiwork

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At the refuge, the return of Til

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And Prince (Silver) reclaimed

Prince apricot toy poodle










Getting ready to be Happy

Response to the SPA makeover have been overwhelmingly positive, and our efforts were helped by regular heavy downpours of rain throughout the day. That should make all the plants settle in nicely (says she, trying to see the positive side, as usual).

A couple of things that I didn’t mention yesterday. Despite the fact that the refuge was closed, we did in fact have two new arrivals. First in the morning was Volt, a husky who belongs to the SPA neighbours and who is a regular visitor. He left with his owners (again) today. The second dog arrived in the afternoon, and we knew her, too. Zia had spent a long time at the refuge with her pal Luther, before being reunited with their owner. A young couple found Zia wandering and weren’t to know that she was close to her home, so brought her in to us.

In any case, it was lovely to see her again, and her owner came to collect her as soon as possible this afternoon, so no harm done!

We had one arrival today, a small and presumably young dark chocolate coloured lab cross who was found in (guess where…) LIMOUX! I knew a dog would be arriving from there, as last night I received a telephone call from a woman in Limoux to ask me if I could come and collect the dog, as the police municipal didn’t want to because it was a bank holiday. Well, it was a bank holiday in Carcassonne too, and at 19H30 I was trying to relax a bit after my afternoon at the refuge. Sigh.

In other news, we got a letter from the Mairie giving us permission for tomorrow’s Flash Mob event. Just to confirm, it is taking place at 11am (not 10am as in a previous blog) on Place Gambetta (not Place Carnot, also as in a previous blog). In my defence, it is not me organising the event! We also got a mention in today’s Independent, so there should be some people to watch us. Rosa is coming armed with face paints if anyone wants to join in the dance!

The SPA will have a small stand, with some publicity material and some donation boxes. Please come and support us!

Perhaps this video will inspire you!


Zia – Reclaimed (but it was lovely to see her again)

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New arrival from Limoux


Spring makeover for the SPA

As many of you know, today was the long planned makeover day for the SPA. Over the past couple of weeks we have received many donations of plants, paint and compost, even a couple of trees. And today was the day to put as much of it as possible in place.

Of course we were very much in the hands of the weather gods, but today the sun shone. Most of the time, at least. We had husbands up ladders (mine!), we had more child labour, and we had a heroic display of endurance by Mme Aalders, who, as well as donating a huge amount of plants and donkey poo, decided to do all the planting along the main wall. Thank you so much!

The core group worked all afternoon, with others  popping in for a couple of hours, according to their other commitments. A huge amount was achieved and I am sure everyone left with a sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. This is our refuge, and it deserves our attention. Thank you to everyone who came along to help, or who donated plants and compost. We did not quite finish, there are enough plants left for a couple of window boxes, and we hope to get these done on Saturday.

The refuge looks so much brighter and more welcoming, and that of course was the aim.

Good job, everyone!

Sorry if you weren’t able to make it today. For many people a bank holiday is a precious thing, I know. Besides which, I am sure that lots of you have been busy doing other refuge-related things, like practising the dance for Saturday’s flash mob event! The location for this has been confirmed as being Place Gambetta, by the way, not Place Carnot. The Maire is worried that Carnot will be too small to accommodate us all. I hope he is right!

Outside reception
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Mme Aalders hard at work

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That looks better!

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One oldie and one youngster say goodbye!

Remember Urio, who arrived on Monday with an illegible tattoo? Well, thanks to “the network”, his owners have been traced and they came to collect him this afternoon. Huge relief. It is never nice when an old dog arrives at the SPA, but when one arrives in fabulous condition, as in this case, I find myself imagining a distressed elderly couple, desperate for news but not knowing how to go about finding their beloved pet. Not everyone has internet, and not everyone thinks to phone the SPA.

Urio’s owners lived near to Lezignan Corbieres, and as there is a refuge much closer to them, it is hardly surprising that they had not contacted us to look for their dog. This shows once again the importance of identification, but also that your details must be kept up to date at the central database in Paris. Don’t assume that you will never lose your dog. As one of our Facebook followers, Lauriane Villa wrote recently, a dog can be “spooked” by a sudden noise, such as thunder or fireworks. Also a bitch on heat may cause your uncastrated male to wander. Equally you may have a car accident and your dog or cat may run from the scene. This happens more frequently than you might think. Identification and up to date details may be the only thing that saves your dog.

Urio is a lucky boy. Thanks to those who helped us, you know who you are!

There was another lucky dog today. Jexie did not physically leave the refuge, as apart from a very brief appearance, her 10 days of “pound time” was spent being fostered at Carole’s house. Today she left for her permanent home.  Thanks Carole. It is so nice when puppies don’t have to learn the hard way how sad life can be.

In other refuge news we had yet more plants delivered in preparation for tomorrow’s working afternoon, and so thank you yet again to the Aalders, adopters of Grizzli and (lucky for us) donkey-owners!

My fellow volunteers and I are really looking forward to getting these plants put in the ground tomorrow. I promise to take photos and tell you all about it!

Urio- RECLAIMED (thanks everyone)












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More plants and compost.

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