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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

Deed not Breed

People often visit the refuge and ask about some of the dogs that are there but whom they have not seen on the website. Sometimes this is because I am just behind the curve, often it is because there are as yet no photos of the dogs, and sometimes it is because the dog is already reserved, so there is no point going through all the work of putting the dog and his details on the site if he already has a home. All the more so as although I write the text, I have to rely on the web-elves who do the hard bit and I don’t want to abuse them.

Some dogs I do not put on the site, because unfortunately they are unadoptable. No, I do not mean that they are so aggressive that we cannot possible risk them leaving the SPA. I am referring to our so-called “dangerous” dogs. I hate this expression and I hate this law.

Basically it is French law that certain dogs are “dangerous”. Rottweilers, pedigree American Staffordshire terriers and pedigree Tosas are Category 2 (defense dogs), so we are allowed to home them. However this involves lots of paperwork; the dog has to be tested for its behaviour (involving being manipulated by a vet who has the appropriate training), the owner has to go on a course to understand his responsibilities and he must inform his insurance company and the Mairie that he owns the dog.

Then there are the Category 1 dogs. They are described by French law as attack dogs. Here we have all the non-pedigree staffies and staffie crosses, mastiffs (ie pitbulls) and non-pedigree tosas and crosses. There are very strict measurements that apply here, and sometimes a couple of centimetres can make all the difference. Many a time we have waited nervously at the refuge while a “borderline” dog is taken to the vet to have its breeding assessed.

Officially Category 1 dogs have no right to exist and if their parents’ owners had been more responsible and sterilised their dogs, they would NOT exist. Equally the refuge is not legally permitted to home Category 1 dogs. The law requires that they are put down within 48 hours of their arrival. However you know what a bunch of softies we are at the SPA, so thanks to Carole we have an agreement with a specialist association, who provides “cover” for our dogs while they are waiting for a home. Even then, the association (el Rancho de Canailles) does not have the right to home the dogs, but they home them in long term foster, so the dogs can have a normal family life. All Category 1 dogs have to be sterilised or castrated, for obvious reasons.

All our “dangerous dogs”, be they Category 1 or 2, are loved and although we do not have the right to walk them (even once they are homed, they have to be muzzled at all times when in public), they spend the mornings (when the refuge is shut) in the parks. In fact some of them live in the top parks. I often go in for a cuddle, as do some of the other volunteers.

And the reason I don’t put them on my website? I am not sure that any Brits are able to work their way through the paperwork required to adopt one of these dogs. If you disagree, please get in touch.

And the reason I don’t like this law? It is ridiculous and completely arbitrary. Different breeds are considered dangerous in different countries. In England, for instance, the Dogue Argentin is banned, whereas here you can adopt one with no additional paperwork at all. It is a form of racism caused much more by the reputation of a breed, which is inevitably down to the owners.

I have been bitten by a couple of dogs at the SPA, but never by our lovely staffies!

We at the SPA are great believers in DEED NOT BREED.

Connor, a pedigree American Staffordshire Terrier. Category 2







Zina, a staffie cross Category 1


A different kind of cuddle!

It is not every day that I have a farewell cuddle with a dog like Duffy; calm, gentle and affectionate. On the other hand, it is not every day that I have a farewell cuddle with a dog like Roxanne. This German shepherd pup was found and brought into the SPA on the Saturday before the Open Day, and she was reserved the very next day. So she just had to wait her ten days before she could leave. In fact her name was chosen by her new family, as we knew she was going to leave so didn’t want to confuse her!

Today was the day! It was amazing that this photo even happened. It is the only one of about 10 that is actually in focus. This little dog really moves! In fact, when I said I had a farewell cuddle, it would be more accurate to say that I had a farewell wriggle!  It was really nice, though, and I am sure that in time she will develop Duffy’s more mature way of accepting affection!

A number of volunteers were at the refuge today and so several dogs were walked, and a few new dogs arrived, too sadly. One of them was reclaimed and to the man (not “gentleman”) who brought one of them in, please don’t blame the dog if he is in your garden. Please don’t threaten to hurt him if he comes back into your garden. The only person to blame is the dog’s owner and perhaps yourself, but do not threaten to hurt a dog who is just following his instincts.

The new arrivals since I have been away include two jack Russell pups, a female coton de tulear, some older calm dogs and some big beautiful younger ones, too. In short, something for everyone! Come and see us, take them for a walk and enjoy some canine company with like-minded folk. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon, for sure!

Roxanne the wriggler








New arrivals Gulliver




















…and Bikini


Good news day!

It is me, Darcey, back again after my work-related wanderings! Although it is a Monday and not one of my normal refuge days (not that any of them are “normal” per se), I had to pop in to the SPA to deal with some paperwork. Talk about good timing!

I was there just as Duffy was being adopted! I had time to give her a final cuddle, and I was not the only one who wanted to say goodbye to this lovely, gentle girl. She had been with us since the beginning of July, which isn’t very long, but we all loved her and could not understand why she had not found a home until now. So when a kindly gentleman came in saying that he wanted a female dog who was not in the first flush of youth, Sabrina thought of Duffy immediately. However he specified that the dog should be neither black nor white, so clever Sabrina asked if a mixture of the two would be okay!

Duffy fit the bill perfectly, and as she was already sterilised and micro-chipped, off she went!

Gromit, our beautiful young spaniel left for his new home too, and yet another lucky leaver today was Rocky, whose owner is ill, but has some friends who have taken Rocky home with them until he can go back to his real owner. This pint-sized German Shepherd cross had many admirers, but ultimately going back “home” is the best solution for him, so that is great news.

Going back to the real owners is not always the best option, and this was emphasised by the arrival of yet another of the Anatolian Shepherd puppies. They are all accounted for now. Five in the refuge, and three homed by the vets (and we hope they are good homes). The rest (apparently there was a litter of 11) died at birth. I refer back to Moira’s excellent article yesterday on sterilisation. Why oh why oh why…….However all the stray pups are now with us, safe and well-fed at the SPA; a situation they have never known in their lives. When they are fit and healthy they will be rehomed and their days of neglect and misery will be over for ever!

All in all a good day. Big happy smiles from me today!

Duffy finds a home
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Gromit is adopted too

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And Rocky goes to friends of his owners











From bad to worse.

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a net increase in the number of dogs at the refuge despite the open days. This is not usually the case. What ALWAYS happens, however, is that people assume that the refuge will have space after the open weekend, so they choose the Monday afterwards to abandon their dogs.

Today we have had four new arrivals; two puppies and two adults, none of whom is identified.

We have no space.

We cannot carry on like this.

Can anyone give us some advice as to what we should do, please? We already sterilise all the females that leave the refuge, so the puppies who are arriving on what appears to be a daily basis are not our fault. What can we do to stop people abandoning their dogs?
What can we do with all the dogs we have got at the refuge if no one is adopting?

If you look at things logically, there are only a certain number of people who are willing and able to adopt, and once they all have animals, there is nowhere else for the dogs to go, other than the refuges. Ours is now full.

We have not conducted any euthanasia due to lack of space for three years and this is something of which we are all extremely proud. We do not want to return to the bad old days. But we have several puppies in foster care, and several adult dogs too, and despite this, there is no more room at the refuge. The SPA acts as the pound, so we are legally obliged to take any stray dogs brought in by the Mairies with whom we have an agreement, and from the Police and Gendarmes too.

And the icing on the cake? The Anatolian Shepherds who were brought in yesterday are three of a litter of 12, the other nine having been given away randomly to anyone who wanted a puppy. I am convinced that most, if not all of them, will arrive at the refuge in due course. Sterilise your dog, you irresponsible people!

So what can we do? Does anyone have any answers? Can anyone help us, please. And don’t think we are all just sitting idle, waiting for help. We are constantly looking for answers and ideas. Thanks in advance to Association Orfee, who are taking five of our dogs later on this month. Can anyone else out there offer a lifeline to any of our dogs, please?

I have no good news to give you today. I see no end to this and I feel more desperate than I have for years.

Sterilise your dogs!








I am upset and angry (in case you hadn’t guessed)

Open weekend disappointment: 7 dogs in, 4 out

Well, it was day two of the Open Weekend, and I just wish I had better news! There was a time when the National Open Days (which take place 3 times a year) would result in numerous adoptions. In fact at the Christmas Open Day two years ago we had 23 dog adoptions and not a single return. Those days appear to be well and truly over.

I am trying not to be too down, as we did have a lovely day, and there were a number of reservations made, but only one dog actually left. That was Mojito, who had been abandoned on Thursday the same time as Habbie. So we have to be happy for him. And Poppins, who had been brought in yesterday, found her owner.

There was a net increase in the number of dogs, though, as one spaniel was found tied up at the gate this morning and three Anatolian Shepherd puppies were brought in having been found in an appalling condition. Our thanks to the couple who brought them in, they would surely have perished had they spent much more time straying.

On a more positive note, there were lots of volunteers at the refuge, as well as visitors. Karen and John ran the bottle tombola, and there was a cake stall, too. Thanks to Anita and everyone else who brought cakes. Thanks as ever to dog walkers old and new for giving up their sunny Sunday afternoon to support the refuge. We really appreciate you, and the dogs and cats even more so! And let’s not forget Melanie, Carole and Geoffrey who are SPA employees but who came along to help out in their free time.

Plenty of dogs were walked, and cats caressed, and if you ignore the fact that we have more animals now than we started with, the weekend was quite a success. However if adoptions do not pick up soon, I simply do not know what we are going to do.

There was plenty of kindness to animals shown this weekend, but I don’t think St Francis of Assisi would be very impressed with the human race right now!

John relaxing at the bottle tombola! (don’t worry, we made him work, too!)











And just look at the state of these poor puppies!


Open days are meant to result in fewer animals at the refuge, not more!

Well, the first of our two open days didn’t go quite as planned. I thought it was generally understood that the movement of animals on open days is meant to be out of the SPA, rather than in. Especially on the open weekend that is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Some people used the opportunity to dump their pets. One adult dog, one puppy and five kittens were waiting outside the gates this morning, and another puppy arrived this afternoon. For any animal found at the gates, there is an automatic 10 days pound time, so if you think your abandoned animal is going to leave the same day, you are WRONG.

We are at our wit’s end. What are we supposed to do with all these dogs and cats? The refuge walls are not made of elastic, you know!

On a far more positive note, the second day of dog and cat food collection at Geant was even more successful than yesterdays, with a further 8 trolley loads of goodies arriving at the refuge. Once again many many thanks to all of you who gave so generously (some of you brought food directly to the SPA, too), to all the volunteers who manned the stand and again to Geant for hosting the event.

In terms of adoptions, two lucky dogs left. First was Wallace, who caught the eye of a young couple. He was fine with their toddler and scared of cats, so he went off very happily. This picture does him no justice at all, he is a very handsome boy.

Second to leave was Djinn, mother of Galice who was adopted a couple of months ago. I like this story particularly because Collette and Dave came for a male dog under two and left with a female of five and a half. They let their heart be their guide, and Djinn is going to be a very happy girl!

Let’s  hope tomorrow brings more adoptions. If you are thinking of coming to see us, you are more than welcome, but not if you are planning on abandoning an animal. There is just no more room!

Poppins, just 6 weeks old









Lucky Wallace
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And Djinn leaves despite not being a young male!










The van arrives from Geant. Thank you everyone!


Dog food collection and Habbie leaves the SPA.

Today was day one of our dog and cat food collection which is taking place at Geant Cite 2 to coincide with the National SPA Open Days (tomorrow and Sunday).

Things got off to a slowish start, but by the end of the day we had seven shopping trolleys piled high with goodies. It was wonderful to see people’s generosity, despite the general lack of funds around. But for me the best bit was chatting to people who had adopted dogs and cats from us and were keen to give us news, and in most cases show us pictures of their beloved pets on their smart phones.

So we had news of Coco (formerly Sangria), although I must admit that her owners keep in close touch via Facebook already, and also of a spaniel/setter cross, Alex, who was adopted 2 years ago. Then the adopter of Prince came to see us; This lab/sharpei cross had been abandoned and spent all his time at the SPA crying. He readjustment to his new life was not easy as he had aggression issues, but his owner persevered and now this lucky boy goes everywhere with his mum, happily sitting by her side in crowded cafes. Take heed all you people who give up if your dog so much as growls at another dog.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came to man (or mostly again “woman”) the stand; thanks to everyone who gave so generously and thanks to Geant Cite 2 for offering to hold the collection. We are lucky enough to be placed opposite Rose and Michel’s bar, which happens to do the best cappuccino in Carcassonne, too!

Anyway, back to the topic of people who give up on dogs without making any effort…..Habbie left again today. She has another chocolate labrador to play with and owners who clearly know and love this breed.

I don’t want to speak too soon, but this time I think it is going to work out for her!

Don’t forget the open day this weekend. I know the weather was appalling today, but it is due to clear up. We don’t want our cakes all going soggy, do we?

Midway through the afternoon at Geant. It got better! 

In praise of cuddly toys!

Sometimes I feel as if I am banging my head against a brick wall. How many times do I have to say this before people will listen:

Do not take a puppy or a dog of any age, in fact, if you are not willing to put in any effort to its training. This applies whether you have bought a puppy from a breeder (grrr) or adopted a dog from the SPA or another refuge. If you are not willing to put in time and maybe even attend dog training school, then it is better for both you and the dog if you buy a cuddly toy.

To my huge disappointment, today saw the return of Habbie, the pedigree chocolate labrador who was adopted eleven days ago. The first and only indication that anything was wrong came by email two nights ago. Before I had time to reply to give advice (yes, even I like a couple of hours off if possible), another email had arrived to say that “the dog” was being returned today (between last night and this morning Habbie had lost her name). No advice (most notably to visit a dog trainer) was welcomed, despite my efforts to persuade them to contact a trainer (whose number I provided), for what are nothing other than usual puppy problems.

So just like that, this dog who is under a year old and has already had several owners due to NO FAULT OF HER OWN (divorce, house move and lack of patience in that order) is back at the refuge.

Even before she had been dumped (that is the only word I can use), another dog was abandoned. This time it was one of the cocktail litter, Mojito who had been adopted two weeks ago, and whose brother, Bronx, left yesterday. He was adopted when he was ten weeks old, so his behaviour cannot be any different from that of any other puppy! The owner freely admitted that she was not watching her child when the puppy supposedly “bit” him, and of course puppies of all ages nibble (cos that is what this was) until they are taught not to. And in any case you should never ever leave a child and a dog together unsupervised.

There is a page on this site entitled “Adoption Guidelines”. This explains some of what you should expect when you adopt a dog. Please read this page before deciding to adopt. It causes dogs enormous upheaval to be adopted and brought back to the refuge. They don’t understand what they have done wrong (especially when they are just being dogs!). And I am fed up with this constant refrain of “but I am scared for my child’s safety”. Decent training and discipline of both children and dogs can stop the two coming into conflict. If you are not willing to put in any effort, get a teddy bear.

Finally remember that like people, all dogs are different. Don’t go online and decide that you want a dog of a certain breed because they are “always gentle and obedient”. Each dog has its own personality, a bit like children, in many respects.

And there are some lovely looking teddy bears out there.

Habbie is back
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So is Mojito










This may suit both families better. Meet Edward Bear!


Cocktails and Cupcakes!

This morning at (almost) the crack of dawn, Bronx went off to start his new life, courtesy of Moira, who took him halfway to his new home where he was handed over to his new family. They had contacted us via the internet and after much discussion; they chose Bronx, one of the “Cocktail litter”. This still leaves two females and a male from this litter looking for a home.

Although we know that the mum is a border collie, these pups really are remarkably calm, so if any of you were worried about crazily active dog behaviour, I think you can relax! But of course these are not the only pups looking for homes, as we have the eight dogs from the Egyptian Deities litter as well as lovely Moka, who is in foster with Val.

Why not come and meet them this weekend, when the SPA has its open days, so will be open on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

The adopters of Bronx live very close to a relatively new but extremely committed SPA supporter, Jim. So they swung by his house and filled up their car with goodies that he had put by for the refuge. Cat boxes, dog baskets, leads and collars, not to mention 100 anti-flea treatments for dogs and 100 for cats! What a haul!

Many thanks to Moira for her dog-delivery, to Bronx’s family for adopting the little guy, and to Jim for his generosity.

However Bronx wasn’t the only lucky dog today. After just short of six months at the refuge Cupcake finally found a home. He is a little jagd terrier, and we have several dogs of this breed at the refuge right now (Mozart, Martin and Groove being three who are still waiting for a home). Cupcake had been waiting the longest, however, and it is great news for him.

Be happy, both of you!

Here is Bronx, meeting his new family!











And here he is, already settling in with his new pal, Hugo

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Cupcake found a home after 6 months








And look at this fabulous hall from SPA supporter, Jim.

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Third super adoption in a row!

Today is Tuesday. Let’s just ignore Sunday, when the refuge was shut, and just look at the last three days when the SPA was open. On Saturday we said goodbye to Lucky. Then on Monday we said goodbye to Dusty and then today we had yet another single adoption but again an excellent one.

Today we said goodbye to Cheyenne. I know I say the same about all of the dogs, but she really was one of my favourites! This beautiful young malinois arrived in early June, complete with a broken leg (which is presumably why she was discarded). She spent several weeks in the infirmary while she was recovering and was tied up during the day in the sunshine on a long lead to meet people (she was initially a bit unsure of herself). This is why so many of the employees and volunteers know her so well, we all had plenty of cuddles!

Once Cheyenne had recovered and been sterilised we moved her to the big kennels, where she shared with a male and got lots more chance to meet other dogs and people. But finding her the perfect home wasn’t going to be easy. This breed, despite its popularity in France, is not an easy option. Malinois are highly intelligent and require plenty of stimulation and exercise. Not a dog for lazing around the house with an occasional walk (another reason these dogs are so often found in refuges).

Finally today was the day. After getting in contact with Carole yesterday, what proved to be the perfect owner arrived today. Cheyenne will  have lots of company and exercise with this sporty lady and her two older children. Perfect! I am so happy for her!

Of course as ever we have had some dogs brought in. Yesterday after the refuge was shut a small but strangely familiar dog was found tied to the gate, complete with harness and lead. Adopted from us in Summer  2011 having been seized from a dog trafficker, Poody, an Andelucian Podenco, born in 2007 has apparently been abandoned. The fact that her adopter’s phone number is no longer in service is a pretty clear sign that the dog is not lost. Shame on you.

And today a dog of at least 12 years old arrived, very sad looking and with mange. Her owners have had enough of her, too, it would seem.

The world is a very sad place for certain dogs. But for Cheyenne things have just got a whole lot better!

A very happy Cheyenne

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Poor Poody is back.













And we have just got this little girl, as yet unnamed.