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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

Situation Normal (ish)

Today the refuge was back to normal, or as normal as things ever get when anything at all can happen without warning!

Carole was back at the helm, and trying to find all her papers in the chaos of a desk that had been manned (or “womanned”) by four different people during her absence. Staffing levels were back to normal after the Christmas break, too.

Now that the holiday period is over we are hoping that people will think about adopting (although admittedly the last couple of days of the year weren’t too bad). In general, though, people have plans over the holiday season, and quite wisely (in my opinion) are nervous about taking in a new dog when there are so many comings and goings. Needless to say some people will have bought or been given puppies, and we hope that the novelty doesn’t wear off too quickly (if ever), and that these poor lost souls do not start showing up at the refuge. I am still very cross at the fact that there was a puppy sale in Carcassonne two weeks before Christmas and at the same time as our open weekend. How many puppies sold there will arrive at the SPA, I wonder?

In any case, today saw a couple of reservations (sorry, you will have to be patient) and also one dog found his owner. Actually he was not lost, per se. His owner knew he was there, but if you recall, he preferred to continue his day’s hunting than wait to have his dog identified on Saturday. I don’t want to be too quick to pass judgement, and perhaps knowing that his dog was safe at the SPA was enough to reassure him, but personally I would have not left my dog in a refuge for 72 hours. Hey ho, takes all sorts.

The most important thing about today was that no dogs arrived. Long may this continue. There is only one orange card on the board so far!

EmSee is reclaimed. The hunt must go on!


It’s been a hard day’s work!

Today was the first Sunday of the month, so the refuge was open, and not only that, the sun shone!

Loads of volunteers came to walk dogs and we took the opportunity to have a bit of an “admin day”. The Christmas Trees were all taken down and the treat-filled baubles put aside to be given to their lucky recipients (don’t worry, we will give treats to everyone; no one gets left out)

My husband and his brother (who has been staying with us for Christmas) came along and put the recently arrived kennels together, and there was a working party in the dog-food storage area too. The place is now looking much tidier. It is rare for the employees to have the time to do such things during opening hours, so we volunteers made the most of the time.

That’s not to say that we didn’t have any visitors. In fact quite a few people came along to meet the dogs and one lucky pup is now reserved. A couple of people are going to come back with their existing “family members” to see if they get on with dogs who have caught their eye, so more reservations may well follow.

All in all a very productive day. Many thanks as ever to everyone who came along to help, be it by walking dogs, or helping to tidy up. The refuge is looking much smarter and it is a good way to start the new year!

Two proud brothers! (don’t tell them how easy it is!)









And the newly organised dog tin shelf.


Kaiser’s turn finally comes!

Today the refuge was absolutely manic. No better word for it!

I arrived just as Froggy was leaving, but just in time to get a photograph. I am so happy for this lovely, good natured girl who has spent 7 weeks at the refuge. Thanks to Moira, who spent lots of Tuesday afternoon finding the right dog for this family, who already have two dogs, so the mix had to be right.

Next to leave was our malinois, Fenec, who arrived a month ago already chipped, but whose owners had given him away to person or persons unknown, and no change of ownership had been done. I think four weeks is more than enough time for anyone to collect their dog, especially when pictures are all over the internet. So off went Fenec to a more committed home.

Next to go was the adoption of the day. I would say adoption of the year, but it is early days. Kaiser, our ever reliable, well balanced dog finally found a home of his own. He is the dog we use to calm down new arrivals, as he is a steadying influence on the more nervy dogs. A family with five children who have already adopted a dog from us (Springbock, for those of you who remember these things) and have another dog too wanted to help out with our overcrowding problem, and decided to see if there was another dog who would fit in with their family. And they chose Kaiser!

They nipped off home to collect their other dogs to check that they all got on, and within the hour, and after fifteen months at the SPA, Kaiser left us! I am not sure who is going to be our “steady” dog now, but in any case, Kaiser has more than done his duty. Seeing him playing in the park with the family’s young Rottweiler was fabulous! Shame Carole missed it, but I have it on good authority (ie from her) that she cried.

Other than that we had one dog abandoned (but this was “pre-booked”) and three dogs were brought in and reclaimed. A fourth dog who was brought in last night was due to be reclaimed, but his owner refused to miss any of his day’s hunting while the dog was being identified, so EmSee, as we have called him is still at the refuge. No comment!

Froggy – ADOPTED



















Kaiser – ADOPTED  after 15 months!!!
Also with Springbok (now Titus) and Eros








But Rox is abandoned


Baileys finds a home, after 14 months!

As the New Year dawned, it was time to start a new Facebook album for dogs who leave the SPA for their new homes in 2014. As you can imagine, we have all been agog, wondering who would be the first dog to leave; whose would be the first photo to go into the new album, the link to which you can find here:


We already know of one dog that is due to leave tomorrow (she was reserved in 2013, but needed to be sterilised before leaving). I personally thought she might be the first adoption of the year. However, today a surprise adoption took place. And it was not that of one of the new arrivals, which makes it all the more wonderful.

After over a year at the SPA, Baileys found a home. She is going to have a fabulous life, by all accounts. And believe it or not, Balieys is yet another of Dominique’s sponsored dogs, she really is on a roll at the moment!

The day was not all good however. This morning we had the tragic news that another of the puppies who had been found in the rubbish tip had died. These pups were brought into the refuge on December 21st, one of them, Angel, died the same day, and little Nestle has been hanging on. He has been at the vets for 4 days, but this morning he died. I was very upset and was talking to the vet about the sadness of losing two out of the litter of four. But the vet told me that we had actually SAVED two out of four, as without the SPA (and of course the gentleman who brought the puppies in), there would have been no survivors at all.

Both Praline and Cocoa are doing well, I am pleased to say. We put a note on our Facebook wall to pay homage to little Nestle. Of course the idiot who bred the pups and dumped them in the tip will not read the post, and if he or she did, they presumably would not care. However the idea is to make people aware of their actions. If you do not sterilise your dog, the arrival of unwanted puppies is your own fault.

So not the best start to the year, but it could be worse.

Baileys with Godmother Dominique









And a sad farewell to Nestle. 


No orange cards yet….

Today the refuge re-opened and despite my fears, we were not inundated with new arrivals. Not so far, at least. Each year we change the colour of the small T shaped cards, which indicate on a plan of the refuge where each of the dog has been located.

Last year the cards were green. In 2012 they were yellow and the year before that they are white. There are sadly still a few white cards left, a few yellow and plenty of green. This year the cards are going to be orange. But none were used today!

One dog did arrive and although he was micro-chipped, his owners live miles and miles from Carcassonnne and had given “Stan” away ( for such was his name, according to the database) 18 months ago. However the new and old owners are still in touch, and 20 minutes later Stan (now renamed Pepitou) was reclaimed. Many thanks to the lovely gentleman who brought him in and offered to look after him while a new home was found. Two days on the sofa don’t seem to have done this boy any harm (!), and the new owner is going to get the central database in Paris updated.

Apart from that, the little dog who was brought in on New Years Eve found his home, so you shih-tzu lovers will have to wait for the time being. He too is identified now.

And today we had a visit from Ruby, one of the Anatolian Shepherds who were found in a terrible state and brought to the refuge in autumn. Look at Ruby now; six months old and with a lot of growing to do still, but what a beautiful dog she has become!

The sun was shining and it was like a spring day. We had several new volunteer dog walkers and we mixed some dogs to make some much needed space. All in all it was not a bad day; if we could carry on like this for the rest of the year, I would be very happy!

Aslan -Reclaimed






Stan (really Pepitou) -Reclaimed










And Ruby comes to visit! 


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