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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

A great end to the year!

Well, another year has passed. In terms of numbers, up till closing time today (and of course there may be some arrivals out of hours) we had 706 dogs brought in in 2013 and 276 cats. Not quite a record, but depressing all the same.

But the year ended well. A further five dogs found homes today. First to leave was little Polka who had been adopted from us as a pup and then abandoned as she was a “runner”. Her new fa,mily, who travelled 6 hours to collect her are determined to enclose an area of their garden to deal with the problem.

Today also saw the departure of Flora, aka Chipie, who was brought to the refuge after the death of her owner and who was lucky enough to be fostered with volunteer Isabelle. Gary found a new home, too, which was great as he is the sort of dog who can just go unnoticed in a refuge. No, he isn’t a black lab, he is a boxer-y sort of mix, but one who had enjoyed a lovely home life before being abandoned due to a house move. Pfff, as the French say. Lots of walks in the mountains await this lovely affectionate dog.

Some more wonderful news came with the adoption of Onyx. Although officially he had “only” been at the refuge since August 2012, in fact that was his second visit here, as he had been adopted briefly before, but turned out to be “too lively” for the family. This life looks much better for him, with lots of land and horses and other animals. Here is a photo of him with his godmummy. Dominique, who is a bit emotional at saying goodbye to her boy. That is two of Dominique’s favourite dogs in two days!

Today we also saw the departure of Winter. He arrived exactly ten days ago, on the same day that Karting found his owners, and he immediately stole my heart in the same way that Karting had (and I think Carole felt the same). Soon after his arrival a couple came to the SPA looking for a small female, probably black in colour. I told them to take a tour of the refuge and they returned to the office, having fallen in love with Winter, a big male. He was not up to date with his vaccinations, so the safest thing was to go into his kennel, which is what we did. Instant bonding was followed by a nervous week; would his owners reclaim him? The days passed and today, minus his family jewels, Winter left for what will be a life of nothing but love. There is some work to do with this beautiful dog who has clearly suffered some mental trauma, but he is in excellent hands.

As well as the adoptions of recent days, there have been some lovely gestures on Facebook and by post. A couple who cannot adopt any more dogs have offered to sponsor ten dogs, and a parcel is on its way containing blankets, collars, flea treatment, treats and toys. They will then concentrate on sharing photos of these ten dogs, in the hope that someone may fall in love and adopt.

Another great supporter of the refuge, Didi, has paid the adoption fees of Braquou, so if you are able to offer a home to this handicapped (but treatment free) dog, there will be nothing to pay. Having a badly healed back leg means this boy limps, but he is as deserving of a home as all the other dogs in our care. He has already been at the SPA for over two years, so maybe Didi’s kind offer will help Braquou find a new home.

So although the year ends with the refuge full to the brim and the worries about the inevitable influx of chasse dogs which will start when the hunt season finishes, we have had a good couple of days.

I would like to thank everyone for their support during the year; through the hard times and the good (to quote Fatboy Slim). No blog from me tomorrow; I invite the volunteers and other supporters round for a wee drinkie so we can chat away from the noise of the refuge and on subjects other than animals. We will be starting afresh in the New Year.

Thanks to the employees who work so hard, and thanks to everyone who has adopted from us this year, or helped with fund raising or publicity. It all counts and together we really do make a difference.

Let’s hope for a better year next year, with fewer animals abandoned and fewer unwanted litters.

Happy New Year to you all.

Polka with her new pal Tibo -ADOPTED











Flora (aka Chipie)- ADOPTED


















Onyx  (with Dominique) -ADOPTED








And the last adoption of the year, Winter, now “Fender”.


Keops decamps!

There is no denying that things are tough right now, so any good news is welcome. Yesterday Angelique from Association Orfee informed us that Flocon has finally found a home. So now all five of the dogs that Orfee so kindly took from Carcassonne have found new homes. Flocon waited the longest, but it sounds like he has landed firmly on all four paws. He is moving to Dept 36, Indre, where he is going to a family of four men; a fireman and his three sporty kids. With a big, enclosed garden and lots of exercise Flocon is going to have a wonderful life. Thanks to Angelique for fostering him and to Isabelle and all at Orfee for helping us out last time we were overcrowded.

Things eased up a little today, with the departure of four dogs and NO ARRIVALS!

Three of the adoptions are those of recent arrivals. Alec the little dachshund left, as did the puppy, Latte. Merlin’s departure was good news because as a black male, his chances of adoption were not great. In fact he caught someone’s eye quickly and has left just as his pound time finished. We are delighted for all three of these lucky dogs.

But the big big BIG news was the departure of Keops. He arrived at the refuge on December 26th 2011. That is 2 years and 4 days ago. This shows that no dog is without hope; and yet another reason why we are so firmly against euthanasia.

The adoption of Keops has a lovely story behind it. While we were at the Magic of Christmas in the Cite in early December, a gentleman saw the photo of Keops which was on our publicity board. He promised to come and meet Keops with his family at the open weekend, and sure enough he did. It was clearly meant to be, and today Keops left the refuge. The planned adoption date was tomorrow, and I was hoping to give Keops a final cuddle. But I know he will be having plenty of cuddles from now on!

Great news for this lovely dog who has waited so long for the right family. Thanks to his godmummy, Dominique, for all the walks she gave him. I know she will be shedding a tear or two tonight, but happy ones, I think! And there are plenty of other dogs for her to exercise her arm muscles on!

Flocon finds his forever home thanks to Orfee. Just look at his tail!










Alec (now Harry) – ADOPTED
























Merlin – ADOPTED








And KEOPS leaves after 735 days!


What is the Pound, what is the SPA?

In Thursday’s blog I mentioned that we could not know that a dog was a “runner” while he was in the Pound as we ARE the Pound. A couple of people have asked me to explain what I meant, so here goes.

In many towns and cities there are two separate facilities, the Pound (or fourrière in French) and the SPA / refuge or another association. The Pound is the place to which all stray dogs and cats are taken, be it by the police or by individuals. Under French law, the Pound has to keep an animal for 10 days (actually it is 8 working days, so we say 10 days to be safe). During this time, the owner can show up, provide proof of ownership and sometimes pay a fee to reclaim his animal. Identification by micro-chip is obligatory at this stage.

If the dog is already identified, the same rules apply. Ten days is the maximum time the dog spends in the Pound.

If the Pound is a separate facility, there is usually an agreement with an association or sometimes several, who go and inspect the animals and take the ones that they feel are re-homable. The rest are put to sleep.

Several pounds make no effort to find the owners of dogs and have no internet presence. Others only publicise on the internet dogs who are identified or whom they think can be rehomed. This is yet another reason to identify your animal, especially if you are going away for more than ten days!

At the SPA Carcassonne we are both Pound and refuge. We are legally obliged to take all strays brought to us from within the area we serve. Each animal spends 10 days in the Pound, unless he or she is reclaimed. At this stage every single one of them moves (on paper- quite often they stay in the same kennel) to the refuge proper. This is why some of our dogs can be reserved but are not allowed to leave. It is our choice to keep all the dogs, most organisations who serve both functions do not do so.

Technically speaking the name “SPA Carcassonne” refers to the part of the organisation that is not the Pound. So when you donate money, you do so to this part. The Pound is paid for by the local authorities. Except the amount they give us is so small that we have to use SPA money to subsidise the Pound.

Refuges who do not act as the Pound do not have to take any dogs they don’t want to. They do not have the Police showing up with stray dogs. They do not have chasse dogs tied to the gates at the end of the hunting season. They do not have people arrive with boxes of puppies or kittens. All they do is agree (often against payment) to accept unwanted family pets etc. They have the right to say no, in which case the local Pound will take the strain.

It is the responsibility of the Mairies to deal with stray animals, and each Mairie should have an agreement with a local Pound or have other arrangements in place to deal with stray dogs and cats. It is they who should be contacted in the first instance, should you find an animal.

We are lucky; the entire area on which the SPA Carcassonne is situated belongs to us. We own the land and the buildings outright, as well as the building next door (which is where our “guardian” lives). We can function quite easily without acting as Pound.

Being the Pound is no joke. It is expensive to run (especially if like us you give the best possible care to the animals and operate on any injuries etc), and it is stressful, especially at peak periods, like now. Were the SPA to be just a refuge, we would have far fewer animals, far fewer headaches and far more money to go round. We would wonder what would happen to all the dogs and cats, but out of sight is out of mind, to some extent. Once a dog or cat has arrived within our four walls, we do everything we can for him or her. But if an animal is unlucky enough to be taken to another Pound (because they are out of the district we cover), where euthanasia is the norm, we do not get involved, as we have enough problems of our own to deal with.

Et voila, as they say in these parts!

Some of the kennels at the SPA plus adjoining parks
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Another oldie is back in the warm

Well, things didn’t get any better in terms of numbers, but there is good news nonetheless.

As expected, two new dogs arrived; one was a pre-planned abandon, and the other was a dog who had been found at the gates this morning.

Two dogs left, though. Firstly what can only be described as wonderful news; Marcel was reclaimed. This elderly dog (he was 15!) has been living in the infirmary since his arrival on Monday. He was not thin, and was obviously loved and well cared for, and was also well-socialised. He had been staying with his owner’s relatives for Christmas and had escaped. They (not really being dog people) didn’t know where to look, but his owners got in touch via Facebook and lo and behold, there was their dog, whose real name is Sultan, by the way.

So as with Kalie, who was also 15, and was reclaimed on Christmas Eve, an oldie is back in the warm tonight.

One of our super supporters / fosters, Edith, came to relieve the pressure on the refuge by taking home Anouka, on the proviso that she would be okay with the family cats. Anouka passed the cat test and here is a photo of her in her new foster home. Some time in a proper home will hopefully give this girl some confidence; Edith tells me Anouka is getting on with Tello and has already discovered the “dog-sofa”. What a change for this girl who was dumped to fend for herself  and her pups in a quarry.

The dog abandoned today was Mylord, a young Brittany spaniel who was adopted 18 months ago, but whose owner is fed up with him running away. It “broke his heart” to abandon his dog, apparently. Oh yeah? In which case, why had you not given him his annual vaccination? Honestly, protecting a dog from disease is the least you can do, especially when you know you are going to be bringing him back to the SPA.

I did have dreams of the refuge being full of people coming to adopt dogs to help us out of the dreadful situation we find ourselves in. Sadly this did not happen. However plenty of people brought us bedding and dog food (thanks Isa!), and we really appreciate your support.

Let’s just hope no more dogs arrive tomorrow!

Fifteen your old Marcel (Sultan) is reclaimed
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Anouka finds the “dog-sofa”










Mylord is abandoned


Telling it like it is…

One thing I notice is there is that there is a significant decrease in the number of people who read this blog when the news is bad. I don’t blame you, to be honest; no one likes to read about other people’s misery. Especially when it concerns the desperate plight of animals and you are unable to help in any way.

Some of my friends and followers urge me to tell it like it is, others say to keep things upbeat. So today I will do a bit of both.

The day started with a phone call from Carole, who is actually on leave. Despite supposedly having a much deserved break, she was about to go to the refuge, as the arrival of four more dogs this morning meant that there was not a single kennel free at the SPA. Both Carole and Melissa are dog trainers, so they spent the afternoon trying to make some room by mixing dogs. They had some limited success, which is just as well, as tomorrow we have two more planned abandons; and they are just the ones we know about. No doubt more will arrive. We have had more than 700 dogs in this year; I was at my vet this afternoon and he said he has never known anything like it.

We have not put a dog to sleep due to lack of space for over three years, and I am determined that this should continue, but at the moment I don’t know how. An urgent appeal on the SPA Facebook page has resulted in a lot of support, but messages like “You should give the dogs away, charging 120 euros is shameful” are no help at all. We struggle to survive financially as it is, and we actually make a loss when we home female dogs (who we insist leave us sterilised at 170 euros). Keep your ill-informed opinions to yourself! To everyone else who sent us messages of support, or shared our status, thank you so much; let’s hope it bears fruit!

One dog was adopted today, and I am very pleased for him, as his life up to now has been horrible. No, I am not talking about his time at the SPA, which was undoubtedly the best he had ever known. I am referring to the first two years of his life. As a puppy Duke had been given to an elderly man by his granddaughter. He had spent the following two years chained up and neglected, till he was finally brought in by a concerned neighbour. That was on December 11th, and this handsome boy has found a home in double quick time. Excellent.

And of course we are always buoyed by news of our dogs who are now happily homed. Some of you will remember Molly, who was adopted then abandoned almost straight away (no comment) before leaving for her new home in London on December 21st, thanks to Veronique. Well, here she is, now very much “chez elle” and HAPPY!

We need more good news! If you can’t adopt a dog, please spread the word about the SPA and our lovely dogs. We need help now more than ever.

Duke finally finds happiness







As does Molly




Things can only get better…..

The refuge was open today and despite the foul weather, there were a fair few volunteers to help out. This was fortunate, as it is holiday time, and in terms of employees, only Melissa and Melanie were present. Not that there were many visitors, but we needed manpower (or actually woman-power) in any case.

The afternoon started with Bones being abandoned. Strangely enough this young dog does not like being left in a garden all day, so he escapes. And although he is fine indoors, his new owner would rather abandon him than leave him inside all day. The dog gets no vote, clearly.

He is now back with his old pal, Gary, and we hope better things await.

A small baby pinscher was found somewhere between Limoux and Carcassonne. He had spent the night at the home of the gentleman who had found him, and, thanks to this we know that Sputnik, as we have named him, is good with cats. We also know that he is fine with dogs, as he played with the two dogs in the infirmary and is now in the cat house playing with Latte.

The main excitement of the day resulted in our having to call the Police due to a rather aggressive visitor. I don’t want to mention any names at this point, not even that of the dog he was trying to abandon. However I would like to thank the two young guys who were looking to adopt a cat for wading in to help us, and I would like to apologise to the family with the young child, who heard some words that children of his age should not be exposed to. Please, if you are cross with us because a dog is not perfect, take a deep breath before you launch in with all guns blazing.

A few things you need to remember: Firstly it is you who has chosen the dog. We have not forced you to adopt him or her. Secondly, we cannot possibly know if the dog is a runner. Don’t tell us that we much know this because the dog “came from the Pound”. We ARE the pound, and we do not let our dogs off the leash. Thirdly, what difference does it make if a female has had a litter? All females leave us sterilised, and I can assure you that we do not mix males and females unless one or the other is sterilised. We do not breed puppies, we get enough brought in without adding to the problem.

Finally, we do not reimburse adoption fees. We are a charity and we survive on adoption fees and donations. An animal is not a piece of furniture; you don’t take it home to find out how it suits your life and then bring it back if it does not fit. Being aggressive with us will not change our minds.

And no, we will not let you swap one dog for another. Once you have shown your lack of patience with one dog, why should we let you do so on a new one? They are living creatures, and bringing them back must cause them no end of confusion.

Just so you all know, we have had 30 dogs brought in since December 15th. Admittedly some of them have been reclaimed, but forgive us if we don’t jump at the chance to accept back an animal because you have changed your mind. There is bound to be a period of adjustment, especially with all the additional stresses of Christmas time, so please make a bit of effort.

Bones is brought back











And Baby Sputnik arrives.


Xmas in the warm for Kalie, at least.

Well, another day of mainly bad news. Four more dogs arrived, and as the refuge is shut tomorrow, even if their owners are looking for them, they will have to wait till the 26th (or Boxing Day, as we Brits call it). So 24 more paws are in the cold tonight. Their photos are on Facebook, so perhaps some minds can be laid to rest. Or perhaps no one is looking!

However it was not all bad news. The elderly husky cross who was brought in yesterday but whose owners we could not track down was reclaimed today. This was thanks to a Facebook supporter of the SPA page, Veronique, to whom we sent the dogs identification details yesterday. Her research started  immediately and she sent us a phone number where we should be able to find the owner.

Melissa (who is standing in for Carole who in turn is having a well-earned break) made the call and 30 minutes later fifteen year old Kalie was on her way home. The refuge now has up to date details of the owner, so if Kalie arrives again, we will be able to call her straight away.

Many thanks to Veronique. This is not the first time she has helped us out.

Two dogs were reserved today, too, and news of their departures will be announced in due course. And we had some last minute Christmas goodies delivered by dogs’ sponsors.

I will not be blogging tomorrow, by the way. British people tend to celebrate with a huge  lunch on the 25th, as opposed to the evening of the 24th, and by this time tomorrow I plan to be relaxing in a chair and refusing all offers of “just another wafer thin mint”

Business as usual on Thursday, when the refuge reopens!

Happy Christmas everyone!

15 year old Kalie finds her owner!












And some last minute gifts arrive (thanks!)


Do they know it’s Christmas ?

Do the animals at the refuge know it is Christmas? What a ridiculous question; of course they don’t. The employees and volunteers certainly do, though.

Some of this is for positive reasons; the arrival of gifts, the donation of money, the purchase of treat filled baubles for the dogs and cats. Thanks to everyone who has donated, you have been incredibly generous.  However the clearest indication that it is the holidays is the arrival of large numbers of dogs.

Today we had four new arrivals (well, five, but one was reclaimed). I fear that the owners have gone on holiday and can’t (or won’t) pay for kennels, like the “gentleman” who left his dog, Kenpeh, on Saturday, so he could spend Christmas in Martinique.

However bearing in mind that three of today’s four arrivals are very old, it is also possible that money has played a role. The fifteen year old dog may well be on medication, and this may be an unwanted expense when there are presents and luxury food to be bought. Of course as the dogs were found straying, we do not know if /what medicines are required, so let’s just hope that we find out in time to stop the dog suffering.  I know it is the season of giving, but at the moment all I am being given are sleepless nights.

The other two oldies are between ten and fifteen, too, and I am sure they are not happy at being in a concrete box.

Our jubilation of last week has well and truly ended.

One bit of good news, though. Gold, the beautiful pedigree spaniel found his owners. Their phone number had changed, so we were not able to contact them immediately, however we always follow up with a letter, and this time it paid off.

In terms of numbers, though, things are not looking good.

Gold- reclaimed thanks to being identified.


One name two SPA organisations (take two)

This is the first Sunday for three weeks that the volunteers have not been busy at the refuge, or at Christmas markets various, so there is nothing new to report from the SPA. The very young puppies were bottle fed this morning and again this afternoon (thanks to Patricia and Anne-Marie) and the good news is that all three are eating the starter food that is essential if they are to survive. Thanks to those of you who have donated to help them. We really appreciate your support.

But on to other matters.

This is not the first time that I have written about this topic, but for reasons that will become obvious I am tackling it again.

There are two separate SPA organisations. There is the Paris group and there is the Lyon group. Each has a separate website and they are different in many ways. The SPA Carcassonne belongs to the Lyon group, which is a federation of independent SPAs, established in 1926. We have no connection at all with the Paris group, apart from sharing the same initials.

The French equivalent of Private Eye, Le Canard Enchaîné, recently did an exposure about the Paris SPA group, the number of euthanasias they carry out and the amount of money that is not accounted for. The Lyon group put out a stark defence, explaining that our hands are clean, and we at Carcassonne agree 100% with their position. We would like to state the following:

“The SPA of Carcassonne is not part of the Paris group of SPAs.

Thanks to its high media profile, the Paris SPA group is able to flood France with publicity and appeals for donations. Many people want to help their local SPA and so they respond to these requests. There are numerous key-rings and other nick-nacks on sale in shops and pharmacies in Carcassonne and signs say that the money raised will go to the SPA. In fact all the money will be sent to Paris”.

And after that who knows where it goes, but any organisation that pays high salaries to people doing jobs that are done by volunteers in other refuges needs to have a good look at itself and what it is trying to achieve and for whose benefit.

Here is the link to the Lyon Group, where you can see recent articles and news.

On the subject of euthanasia, someone contacted me yesterday following my blog about Karting/ Spike to say what a good thing it is that we are a “no kill” shelter. I have got so used to this state of affairs, that it hadn’t even occurred to me that in many other refuges, Karting may well have been put to sleep. After all, he was an elderly dog who had little chance of being adopted. My main thought when he was collected was not “Thank heavens we hadn’t put him to sleep” but rather “Thank heavens we hadn’t castrated him”. Not that I am anti-castration, far from it (as many of you, including my dogs, know), but it is interesting that I was worried about his owners being upset about Karting’s family jewels, whereas in fact far, far worse could have happened!

Please get your dog micro-chipped if he/she isn’t already, and keep your details up to date on the central registry. That way you can be contacted if your dog arrives at a SPA (be it part of the Paris or Lyon group) Fewer unidentified dogs means far fewer dogs to rehome! Karting’s lost seven months could easily have been avoided.

Hand in hand for life.

Three more dogs leave….BUT

This afternoon got off to one of the best and most emotional starts ever. After having spent 7 months at the refuge, Karting was reclaimed by his owners today. He was found thanks to Facebook, and in fact until today they were not sure that Karting really was their dog (who incidentally is called Spike). He had been found 25 kms away from the family’s house, and they had just recently moved. They hadn’t given up hope, though, but were not expecting to find Spike/Karting so far from home.

It was an emotional reunion, to say the least, with this lovely elderly German Shepherd crying with delight to see his family and also giving kisses to all the employees and volunteers who had been walking and looking after him. Lovely way to start the afternoon.

Nady had left this morning for her new family, thanks to Doglinks. Organising dog transport is one of the hardest things there is, but on this occasion it was a doddle. A Facebook appeal resulted in an immediate offer of a lift and the driver was put in touch with the adopter and everyone just got on with it, despite the worries about a language barrier. Brilliant and stress free for us!

Apart from the adoption of Portos, the third of the three Muskateers, the rest of the afternoon was nothing but disaster after disaster. Two dogs were abandoned (but we knew about them, as they had been pre-booked, as it were). What we were not expecting were the two other dogs who were brought in having been found straying. And we certainly were not expecting the three puppies who had been found in a bag at the town dump. Well, four arrived, but the fourth, a beautiful female, did not pull through.

Whoever dumped the puppies deserves a special place in hell, if you ask me.

If you include the three puppies who arrived yesterday, that is 10 new dogs in two days. And how many dogs were adopted at the open days? Ten. Ever feel like you are running to stand still?

However we have to be happy for Karting/Spike and all the other dogs who have found new homes this week. And in a strange way, we have to be happy for the dogs who have arrived; at least they will be loved and cared for until they find a new home.

And I mustn’t forget to thank the donations of food that we received today. Thank you for not forgetting our four-legged friends at this time of year.

Karting (Spike) found after 7 months at the SPA







Nady on her journey








Portos leaves











Kenpeh arrives- his owners are going to Martinique for Xmas and don’t want to pay for kennels.










And Kopo arrives because he is “no longer required”