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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

Girls’ day out

When I arrived at the refuge on Saturday the first thing I saw was a family sitting on a wall playing with a recently arrived  female, Zizouille. I gave her a cuddle then went to say hello to the staff and other volunteers (that tends to be the way it is at the SPA, dogs first!). Turns out the parents had been to search for a dog earlier in the week and, following Carole’s suggestion, came back to make sure that Zizouille was fine with their children.

Today was the end of this lovely young dog’s “pound time” (the legal delay we have to give an owner to come and reclaim their animal). So Zizouille was sterilised and off she went with her new family. One happy dog, and one delighted family!

The day’s other adoption was even better, as far as I am concerned. Folie arrived at the refuge in mid March and has been overlooked until today. Lots of people ask if we have puppies, and we have sent plenty of people to see this little girl, who was living with the cats. We wanted her to have her two vaccinations before moving to the outside cages. Today was the day when she joined the other dogs, and she had been sharing with Prosper for about half an hour when a family saw her and fell in love! Folie was already identified, so she left straight away. Fabulous!

So two dogs left, but in terms of puppies we effectively did a swap. Except I bet you have never seen a dog like this before. Born on March 1st, this little boy has been named Hamtaro, which is the equivalent of Hamster. We have no idea what at all he is; perhaps you can help us? In any case, he is just lovely, will be small-ish (but bigger than a hamster) and will definitely turn heads.

More painting and DIY took place and Marie-Pierre one of our volunteers brought us an olive tree. The sun shone and spirits were high. The refuge will look beautiful when we have finished our DIY (hey, that rhymes!)

Zizouille – ADOPTED
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Folie – ADOPTED (at last)

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Hamtaro – new arrival (but what is he?)

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A lovely olive tree ready for planting (thanks Marie- Pierre)

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Simpson says farewell!

Today saw the departure of our beautiful boy, Simpson, He caught the eye of his new family thanks to our website, and they came along to see if he was as lovely in real life. Funnily enough Simpson arrived a couple of days before Bart, who looked like his naughtier, smaller-eared brother (hence the latter’s name) and the two dogs ended up being reserved on the same day!

Simpson’s new owners were just about to move from their appartment, and it was thought best that he should move straight into the new house (complete with garden) rather than add to the trauma of a house move. In the meantime (3 weeks), Simpson, now renamed Manfred or Manny, has swapped his family jewels for a passport. Not sure he thinks it was a good deal, but perhaps he will thank his family one day!

The little dog who arrived at the refuge gates yesterday is tattooed, but the phone number to which his microchip is registered is no longer working. This means we are unable to trace Urio’s owners. This little Shih-Tzu cross was born in April 2003, so he is no youngster. I just hope someone is looking for him……

We received some more plants (thanks Sandrine) and our great supporters, the Aalders, who provided us with the donkey poo, have been the first people to use the wish list. They saw that our high priority items were wormers (both dog and cat) and found them cheaper elsewhere! And why not! They tell us that http://www.petmeds.fr/  has a special offer. Any order over €65 placed before 30th April receives a 10% discount and there is free delivery for orders over €9.90. Even if you are buying for yourself and not the SPA, this seems like a good deal!

In other news, the refuge received a phone call this morning, and the caller was referred to me, as her English is better than her French.  Without wishing to uncover this woman’s identity I will just give you the gist of the email; she has 2 cats and a dog and if we refused to take them, she was having them put to sleep this afternoon. They no longer suit her lifestyle and she has been trying to rehome them privately for several weeks.

Now I am not sure if a vet would have agreed to put them down, as all three are young and in good health. We negotiated that the animals will come to the SPA, but not today. So I thought this might be a good time to remind people that giving us a deadline like that is not very kind, nor fair. We have problems accommodating all our animals, so to leave things to the very last minute whilst threatening your pets’ lives amounts to little more than blackmail.

If you are unable to keep your dog or cat, please let us know well in advance (assuming it is not a sudden event). We can then give you a date on which you can bring the animal(s) in, making sure we have a suitable space, and if possible ensuring that he or she has vaccinations etc beforehand. If you change your mind (ie solve the problem with the help of advice that we are only too happy to give) or find a good home beforehand, then you can just cancel with us. In fact this happens with about 60% of planned abandons. In this way we can regulate the arrival of dogs and cats at the SPA where possible, (clearly we can’t do anything about the strays that are brought in) and euthanasia due to overcrowding can be avoided, as it has been for over three years now.

Please have a bit of respect for the work that we do by playing fair and not trying to “guilt” us into taking on your responsibilities.

Simpson (now Manfred) – ADOPTED










11 year old Urio – we are looking for his owners












More plants arrive – thanks Sandrine



A stroke of genius! (not mine!)

Good ideas are invaluable, and we are not too proud to admit that we have “borrowed” someone else’s stroke of genius here. We have Moira to thank for this one, but as I am blogging tonight, I am the one to tell you all about it.

Amazon runs a system of “wish lists”, which work a bit like a wedding list. You just note down the things you want and either you or some other kind person can buy you presents. Well, now the SPA Carcassonne has such a list. There is one on both the Amazon.uk site and one on the French site, too, links to both are below.



We thought this would be ideal for people who do not like sending money, people who don’t have Paypal or who do not want to pay bank transfer fees. You can choose what you would like to send and it will be delivered directly to us! Be aware of delivery costs, sometimes you have to place a minimum amount in order to avoid these. And for UK people it may be easier to order from the French site if delivery is an issue. You can use your UK account to place the order, the same password will work!

What a brilliant idea, thanks Moira! Things that we require range from expensive items such as specialist dog food for Scotch, our diabetic dog, or Beyrouth, the Rottweiler who needs hypoallergenic food, but also items like Scalibor collars wormers and kitten milk. Something for all budgets.

If we have any emergencies, we can add items to the list and highlight the issue on Facebook or this blog and with any luck people will rally round. How clever is that?

At the moment priorities are good quality wormers (Drontal and Milbemax, the latter is not available on Amazon, but it is on the list in any case, as a wanted item).

Of course the “old” ways of donating are still possible; lots of you send gifts via zooplus or directly (thinking particularly of Sarah, who sent a whole suitcase of goodies earlier this week). And of course you can continue to donate via Paypal or by bank transfer. This is very much an extra. Equally you may see something that is on our Amazon wish list but find it cheaper elsewhere. At least you will know what we want!

Thanks to everyone as ever for your wonderful generosity. All we want is for our dogs and cats to have a better life at the SPA until they are lucky enough to find their forever home.

A recently arrived gift (thanks to Sarah)…….











…..who adopted Michel from us nearly 2 years ago, but hasn’t forgotten us!


Victory for the SPA means freedom for Kitty!

We were blessed today, with the rain only starting after the SPA shut, so we had a lovely sunny day. We had a new arrival, but two reservations, so it was not too bad.

The new arrival was that of an elderly poodle cross who was found wandering near to Geant Cite 2. Looking at the state of him we are not sure if we want to find his owners or not, but in any case we have not been able to decipher his tattoo, so unless they are looking for him, he will be in need of a new home.

Thank you to the lovely people who brought us plants and compost, and Eeyore was good as his word and we know have some lovely donkey dung, with more on the way.

The really big news today concerns Kitty, originally named Princess. Some of you may remember this tiny dog who was brought to the refuge in June 2013 in an appalling state. You may recall that her owner took us to court to force us to return the dog, despite the years of neglect she had suffered. We were mystified as to why someone should treat a dog in this way whilst at the same time insisting that the dog was HERS and that she had every right to keep it.

The court case has dragged on and on, since the month of October, in fact. The owner’s lawyer requested delay after delay, despite the fact that the case was classed as “urgent”, a status apparently usually only given to cases where there is fear that a child will be abducted and taken abroad. Still, I do not pretend to understand the French legal system. All I know is that a dog who arrives at the refuge barely able to walk due to lack of grooming and with a tooth so infected that it has caused an abscess of the eye deserves better.

Today we received word that although the owner has the right to appeal, we have won the case. Kitty does not have to return to her previous owner. This may seem like no big deal to many readers, however it is hugely important. It is only the second time the SPA de Carcassonne has won a case like this, and we are all over the moon. Not just for Kitty, either, we hope that perhaps the tide is turning in favour of animals.

To the people who supported us and gave witness statements in our favour, thank you. A huge thank you to Melanie who has been looking after Kitty for ten months now, and under whose care this little dog has blossomed. Thanks to Anne- Marie who dealt with the legal side of things. No thanks to the press who gave far more sympathy to Kitty’s owner than she deserved. Perhaps you would like to cover the story again now?

Dogs are NOT pieces of furniture, you cannot treat them as you wish. This ruling is a big victory for the SPA and for animal rights.

A wonderful result.

Some lovely plants ready for Thursday
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In case you were wondering, this is what donkey poo looks like

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New arrival, Prince

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Kitty when she arrived

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And  her infected eye

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Kitty today, thanks to Melanie. Sometimes the law isn’t an ass!



Arrival of new puppy and Eeyore offers to help!

Today saw the arrival of a little puppy, about six weeks old and hence very much in need of a foster family. Many of you know that we like to use foster families for elderly dogs (like Voice, who arrived injured and at the age of ten), but we also like to protect our young pups from refuge life. Partly because they are more susceptible to diseases and so are at risk before they have their vaccinations, but also because when they arrive at a young age, they are often in need of “canine guidance” in order that they can develop into mentally stable and well-adjusted adult dogs.

Many are the tales of dogs who have been taken from their mothers at too early an age (sometimes as young as 2 weeks) and whereas this CAN work, it is usually the case that after about a year, psychological and emotional problems become apparent. Dogs need to be with their mums for a minimum amount of time both for nutritional reasons (nothing beats mother’s milk!) but also in order to learn doggy manners.  Unscupulous breeders are often to blame for this state of affairs, but also people who can’t be bothered to have their bitches spayed, and then just leave the pups to fend for themselves or give them away free on the internet (which is ILLEGAL unless they are idientified).

Sadly foster families are few and far between. We used to have several people upon whom we could call in our hour of need, but for various reasons they are no longer available. One common reason is that people fall in love with the dog they are fostering, and all of a sudden their home is full. This is what happened to me, and with four dogs of my own and a fifth as a temporary guest (two months and counting), I just can’t help out. Other volunteers just move on, or don’t have time to take a pup.

Carole has Jexie at her house (the puppy who arrived earlier this week) so when the new girl arrived, there was no option but to post an urgent appeal on Facebook, where we have a group for foster families. Luckily Lisa saw the appeal and immediately came forward. Another volunteer took the little one to the vet for her first visit, then drove her closer to where Lisa and Andrew live. Teamwork!!

Lisa and Andrew have four other dogs, so the new arrival, a little spaniel as yet to be named, will get plenty of doggy companionship. Thanks so much to everyone involved in giving this little girl the best possible start. Bearing in mind she has been lost or abandoned at such a young age, things can only get better!

Just another day at the refuge!

Regarding yesterday’s appeal for compost and plants, we are delighted to be taking delivery of some 10 month old donkey poo, which will be excellent. Many thanks to the adopters of Newfoundland, Grizzli (renamed Oki). Don’t worry, after this amount of time it does not smell! The idea is to make the SPA more attractive to visitors, not less 😉 !As for plants, we hope to fill flower beds but also large flower pots, so anything at all is welcome.

New arrival- Lisa and Andrew will decide on her name!











Relatives of Eeyore help the SPA.


Abby visits and slave labour is alive and well!

Believe it or not we had yet another quiet day at the SPA. A beautiful chocolate labrador, Pitoche, found his owners (he was identified) and we had two new arrivals, but by our standards this was a quiet day; especially as I don’t think a single person came to adopt.

Of course many people have gone away on holiday, but by the same token some people have come to Carcassonne to see the sights. One family came to see us, bringing with them the puppy (now fully grown) whom they adopted from us last summer when they visited the city from their home in Marseille! Initially Abby was terrified, as she must have thought she was being abandoned, but once she realised that her owners were just chatting (as well as donating two huge bags of dog food), she relaxed and said hello to us all. She was particularly pleased to see Carole, who was her foster mum and who had turned Abby  from a traumatised and terrified creature to a trustworthy family pet.

It was lovely to see this young dog but I am ashamed to say that we took advantage of their daughter in our spring makeover efforts. I am not sure when child labour was abolished in France, but it had a long tradition in Britain. At least we didn’t have any chimneys that needed to be swept!

Next Thursday is May 1st, which is international labour day and hence (illogically) a bank holiday. We are thinking of having a working day at the refuge, though. We will not be open as such, but we plan to do some planting, (we still need plants and compost) and also some more painting and other chores. If anyone would like to help out, please get in touch. Personally I would like to find someone who isn’t afraid of heights to paint the top bits of the building. I chickened out on about the 5th rung of the ladder!

Pitoche- Reclaimed
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Abby says hello

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Child labour in action!

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Mob handed

As you know, we are great ones for publicity and so- called “outreach”. Offer us a chance to be somewhere to promote the refuge and we jump at the chance. Hence our stand at the Easter Market, hence the event at Puivert and hence all the hard work put in by our “vide-grenierists”.

There is an event coming up soon that is a bit different, but we are hoping that it will help further the cause! Rosa, who translates this blog when Helene is away, has a friend who is an event organiser. Thanks to her, on Saturday May 3rd we are hoping to be out in force at the Carcassonne Market (Place Carnot) with a “Flashmob”. For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, a seemingly random group of people suddenly start singing/ dancing and generally creating a buzz, which attracts passers-by and (hopefully) grows in size. Rosa and Marine have decided to benefit from the hugely popular song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and we will have a SPA version!

We are hoping to have a small stall at the market with publicity materials for the refuge (approval of the new Mayor is awaited).You are all invited along, of course, either to join in or just to watch. And guess what? Animal costumes are encouraged! What could be better?! If you want to join in the dancing, here is a link to the website where you can learn the choreography, and it also has ideas for costumes! Go on, you know you want to!!!


At the SPA we had news of Fetide/ Laika, who was adopted a week or so ago and it was very much a case of third time lucky. Funny how dogs know when they are in the right place, as her new owner tells us that she IS housetrained and is the perfect dog. I think clever Laika pulled a fast one deliberately so she could come back to the SPA and wait a bit longer for a home that she wanted to be in!

The little pup who arrived yesterday is in foster with Carole (thanks!), and has been named Jexie.

Other than that, no news. One dog arrived but is identified and his owners are coming to collect him tomorrow. Touch wood, but even though adoptions are slow, so are arrivals. All we need to do now is get the rest of the dogs adopted and we can all relax!












Yesterday’s arrival, Jexie

Business as usual

However “unlucky” we thought we had been with the weather over the weekend, I am sure we all woke up this morning counting our blessings. It has been raining hard all night, and it is hard to imagine anyone at all visiting what was essentially an outdoor market.

Just glad we are not taking the tents down today!

At the SPA today it was business as usual, of course, despite the rain. I always dread when the SPA reopens after a long weekend, as we often have hoards new arrivals. However things were not too bad today, with just three “newbies” since we shut on Saturday. One of them left straightaway, as although she was not identified, her owner was actively looking for her and so after a quick visit to the vet for micro-chipping, off she went.

The second arrival is Misty, who has yet to see the vet, but who has already had plenty of cuddles. She is irresistible. A playful but affectionate dog with good basic education must surely have someone looking for her!

The other arrival was that of a female puppy who was supposedly found. How often do you find a lone puppy by the side of the road? Me, never. Found free on the internet more like. But hey ho, what can you do?  Better that this lovely little lass finds a home while she is small and sweet. Puppies are not always the easy option, however, so think long and hard before deciding to adopt one in preference to a more mature, calmer dog.

On the subject of which, we have some good news. Dominique has decided to adopt Voice. She took him home to foster when he was abandoned by his owner who left to live in Morocco. A refuge is no place for a dog of ten years old (although sadly we have several of this age, and older ones too). Moreover Voice arrived with injuries after being attacked by local dogs in Quillan, and Dominique felt he deserved more than to be put in a kennel for however long it took to find him a home. However he has fitted in so well with her existing pack ( two biggish males and several cats), that it seemed a shame to disrupt the formula.

I am very pleased for this old boy, who deserved much better than the life he had been doomed to live once his owner decided she no longer wanted him. So all’s well that ends well, It is just sad that Voice had to suffer before finding his way to us. He is already very settled with Dominique, as you can see.

New arrival – Misty
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New arrival- yet to be named!

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Voice- ADOPTED by his foster family


Easter Market day three!

The excitement of the weekend is over and how did we do? The three days passed quickly and although yesterday was a bit quieter, mostly due to the weather, today the sun shone again, albeit perhaps not quite a brightly as on day one.

And the result? Apart from the numerous contacts we made and lovely dogs (and people) who came to see us, we made a huge 764 euros, all of which will go to the SPA and will be well spent. Bear in mind that this weekend was run purely on volunteer power; the SPA had no financial outlay at all. We were even offered our tent for free, thanks to Valerie Lafon and the other event organisers.

The main mover and shaker behind the SPA’s efforts was Ve Ro, who together with Val, has been busy planning and creating for several weeks. Others helped, of course, but as with the Puivert team, I would rather not name names for fear of forgetting someone. You know who you are and I hope you know how much your time and good humour was appreciated.

Again we had plenty of visitors, both canine and human to the stand. Old friends came to say hello and again it was a tower of Babel.  Spanish was prevalent, but some Portuguese and Italian thrown in, too. We got by, with smiles and gestures. Luckily some words, like “cupcake” are international!

We had an English Honeymooning couple (they got married on Saturday), we had handsome Spaniards, plus as were closing up someone gave us 10 euros for a tennis ball. Really it was just people being happy and lovely and most of all generous to a cause that is close to so many people’s hearts.

An enormous thank you to everyone.  I am sure we will all sleep well tonight. Job well done, guys!

Ve Ro and Audrey with handsome Spanish men 😀

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Melanie in the SPA hat
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A happy honeymooning couple with a jar of cupcakes!

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A visit from old friend Doggy

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This lovely girl was adopted from the SPA nine years ago!

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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