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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

A Partnership that works!

A couple of reservations at the refuge today, but you know my golden rule, so you will just have to wait and see who which dogs have found new homes !

I thought it might be useful to tell you a bit about the Club Canin, Carcassonne, with whom the SPA has a fruitful and on-going partnership. Both Carole, the SPA secretary, and Melissa, one of the employees, are trainers there. Melissa trains puppies on Wednesday mornings and Carole takes a class for adult dogs on Tuesday evenings. However there are many other classes available, including agility, general obedience and education.

Thanks to the Club President, Rene, every dog adopted from the SPA has the right to two free lessons at the Club. Many people take advantage of this offer, and most see the benefits and stay on afterwards.

A typical class with Carole will start with a walk so that the dogs can meet each other (off the lead, if possible, and it is mostly possible, as even “runners” often prefer to stay with the pack). We then do some general socialisation training such as forming a line and getting the dogs to weave in and out of the other dogs. We then teach the dogs different positions, sit and stay, and the all-important recall. We often go behind a small shed, leaving our dogs to wait for us. This builds up their trust that we will return. Exercises depend very much on the ability of the dogs and the mix on the evening, and the classes suit all abilities and vary from week to week.

I go with my dog, Bella whom I adopted from the SPA some 3 years ago. She had been badly beaten and the first time I took her to the Club, she bit Carole. Oops! Admittedly at the time she didn’t know Carole, but it was a bit embarrassing, to say the least. However it is thanks to Bella that I met Carole and a few weeks later, after a bit of coaxing, Carole became a SPA volunteer and eventually an employee.

I particularly enjoy the courses, as it is great seeing ex- SPA dogs. Last night I saw Handsome, who is now called Dyson. And I have seen numerous other old friends there, learning good dog behaviour and, most important in my opinion, being socialised. For many new owners it is the first time they have let their new dogs off the lead. The Club territory is vast, and is completely enclosed. There are several parks with agility courses set up, and in winter flood lights are available. There are even two indoor halls in case it rains.

These halls have also been used for SPA fundraising events. A very successful Spring Market was held last year, and we are tentatively planning a Doggy Olympics in October, as well as a book sale, complete with our own dedicated catering van, run by Lisa and Andrew!  Watch this space.

Ultimately we and the Club have the same goal; healthy and happy dogs. Well-educated dogs are less likely to be abandoned at the refuge and new owners can discuss any behavioural problems they may have and work through these with qualified trainers. Other Clubs are available, naturally, but for me the SPA and the CCC make a fabulous partnership.

The Club is located on the Route de Bram at the Stade Gilbert Benausse. Visit their site (which consists of photos and documents that you can download) at http://ccc.quarante-deux.me/ or just pop in!  The Club is open most of the day!


Three different kinds of Lucky!

So who do you think is luckier? Chaussette, who was adopted yesterday, after over a year at the refuge, or Bali, who spent the minimal possible time at the refuge and left today after just ten days? Ten days is the so-called “pound time”, ie the period of grace we give to the owners of a dog to come and reclaim him or her.

This pound time does not apply to dogs who have been abandoned, of course, as their owners have legally signed their dogs over to us when they brought them to us. In my opinion Bali was actually an abandoned dog, but the people who brought her in denied that she was theirs, and as she was not micro-chipped, we had no proof to the contrary.

In any case, Bali was lucky enough to catch the eye of James and Elizabeth, who are friends of Lisa and Andrew (they of Vet Advice 24/7 and puppy fostering fame). They needed the permission of their friend Sue who owns the gite complex where they live, but that was given quickly and off Bali went, fresh from being sterilised. She is now going to live at Lampiod Creek in Saissac with another friend and we are sure she is going to be very happy!

The third type of “Lucky” refers the dogs who are called by that name, but who so frequently end up in the refuge. We already had eight dogs on the list of soon-to-be-abandoned dogs (yes we have a waiting list), which was really depressing. Another dog called “Lucky” was added to the list today, and once she arrives I am going to ensure that her name is changed. We already have one Lucky who has been at the refuge for 18 months. I don’t think he feels very lucky right now and neither will this little sheltie cross once she arrives in early October.

A really lucky dog, Bali, with James and Sue








Another Lucky, at the refuge for 18 months and counting.









And yet another Lucky, on the waiting list to be abandoned.




The Lady and the Sock!

One of the things that I like most about the SPA is that you just never know what is going to happen. When people arrive to see the dogs, in general we ask them to take a tour of the refuge and see where their heart goes. Thanks to Dominique, one of volunteers, each box has a laminated boards with information as to who is within, so visitors can see a dog’s age and other details, such as behaviour with other dogs, cats etc.

Sometimes people come in with a fixed idea and only want to see dogs of a certain size. Others already have a particular dog in mind, having seen him or her on the internet, and only want to see that dog, fearing that a tour of the refuge could be distressing.

In any case, everyone has different tastes when it comes to dogs, and so when people return to the office to ask for more details about a particular dog we just never know what to expect.

It is easy to predict that the puppies will go quickly, and today it was Lady’s turn to find a home. No surprises there! But then came the big surprise of the day. This news will please many of our volunteer dog walkers, and has delighted the employees too.

I am happy to announce that after one year and three days in the refuge, Chaussette has found a home! He is now three years old and one third of his life has been spent with us. I am so happy for him. He is a wonderful dog, with a gentle nature and is good on the lead. But like so many dogs of no particular breed, he has been overlooked for so long. At last he caught someone’s eye, and now his life can really begin. Thanks to everyone who helped him on his way by regular walks and thanks to Ronan, our Marine Parachutist who was Chaussette’s sponsor. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you read this and know that your boy has finally found a home! News like this really raises morale!

There were also several other reservations made today, but being just slightly superstitious I won’t announce anything until the dogs leave. But I am very excited so watch this space!

Lady leaves








And Chaussette finds a home after over a year at the refuge!

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The adoption process at the SPA Carcassonne

Although there is a page on this site entitled “Adoption Guidelines”, this is primarily concerned with what to consider before taking on a new pet. I thought it might be useful to actually explain the process at the SPA, as this is a question that people often ask.

The most important thing is obviously to find a dog that is right for you, and of course this is a matter on which we are happy to advise, but ultimately has to be your decision. Some people do their initial research on the internet, either on this site, or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SPA.CARCASSONNE), where numerous pictures of each dog can be seen. Other people just come to the refuge and see where their heart goes or to check that a dog is compatible with existing family members.

Once you have selected you pet, we will tell you whether or not he or she is ready to leave. This is not just a question of the 10 days “pound time” for all dogs other than those who have been officially abandoned by their owners.

If you have chosen a female and she has not already been sterilised, then, together with you, we will arrange a date for the operation to take place. In general we like the dog to leave the same day, so that she can recover in her new home (space inside the infirmary is limited, to say the least). If you have chosen a female who is already sterilised or want a boy and do not require him to be castrated*, then it is just a question of getting the dog micro-chipped. This can usually be done immediately. Our vet is close by and someone will either take the dog and get him identified and bring him back to the refuge while the adoption contract is being completed, or sometimes we phone ahead to the vet and get the chip number and fill in the contract and you take your new dog to the vets (accompanied by a member of staff or a volunteer), and you leave directly from there.

The vets is just a five minute drive away, so which of these is done depends on how busy the refuge is and how soon the vet can implant the chip.

Another group (usually those far from Carcassonne) is happy to take a dog “sight unseen”, relying on us for character references.  In these cases, we get the dog ready to leave and either a pick-up date is arranged or a human chain is organised to deliver the dog a bit closer to his new home. This system, called “co-voiturage” is not simple and is the cause of more effort and lost sleep than almost everything else we do! But if the home is right, then it can be done!

In all three cases we ask for proof of address and id, which for “remote adoptions” can be done by scanning and emailing the relevant documents. We are flexible on this though and if we “know” you or you come to us via a trusted route, such as Doglinks, this is not always required.

I hope this helps you understand the process a bit better. A good home is what we want for each and every one of our animals and we like things to be as straightforward as possible. We do not insist on home visits, as our manpower budget does not allow for it, but we love to receive news of our dogs post-adoption. And with 2 dog educators on the full time staff and several other experts amongst the volunteers, any behaviour-related queries are welcome, too!

If you would like an English speaker to be present to help you at the refuge, just let us know in advance (a couple of days is usually adequate notice). And yes, we can organise Rabies jabs and passports too, if you would like! Some dogs, as you are no doubt aware, leave us to go straight to the UK, so we are becoming quite adept at the whole process!

*We do not insist on the boys being “done” before they leave but are happy to oblige if you wish.

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A (snow) flurry of activity!

Today’s news follows on quite nicely from yesterday’s blog about naming dogs. And there you were thinking it was all completely random!

I am happy to report that today two of our adolescents were adopted. These are dogs that are particularly difficult to home, as they are in that inbetween age; too old to still be cute puppies, but without the maturity and calmness of many of our adult dogs.

The first dog to leave was Handsome. This wasn’t his name when he arrived at the refuge; he used to be called Tyson. We know this, because he belonged to the SPA neighbours. Strangely enough their son is also called Tyson, so I guess they really liked the name. In any case, we had at least two or maybe three Tysons at the refuge at the time, and as this boy was born in an H year, we called him Handsome. Who says irony is dead?

Today a couple who already had visited the refuge and had been hesitating between him and a pedigree Staffordshire made up their minds. Handsome requires none of the permits that owning a so-called dangerous dog demands. Shame for Connor, but great news for Handsome, of course, who has been waiting with us since the end of January.

The second dog to leave was lovely Snow. He arrived at the beginning of July and was chipped and already called Snow, although he was clearly not born in an “S” year. That would make him ancient, and he is just a youngster, born in October 2012. His adoption depended on how well he got on with the couple’s flatcoat, and it was love at first sight.

We did have an arrival, who has been called Trompette. We have no idea why, she just seemed to respond to this when Carole tried it out on her. She is only 10 weeks old and already weighs 9kg, so she is going to be enormous! The vet thinks she is a Pyrenean Mountain cross, so expect 50kg of dog in due course!

So long, Handsome!











Snow leaves the refuge






Trompette arrives. Big dog in waiting!




What’s in a Name?

People quite often ask how we choose names for our dogs. Well, it is a carefully managed system which is extremely complicated. Err, actually there is no logic to it whatsoever!  It is just whatever springs to mind!

Pedigree (“LOF” in French) dogs’ names usually start with the letter from their year of birth. Puppies born this year will generally be called by names starting with the letter “I”. Some people follow this practice for non-pedigrees. So yesterday’s sad arrival, Hoch, was born last year, for example.

At the SPA when a litter of pups arrives we often stick to a theme. So we had a “Planets” litter earlier this year, and also chocolate bars (we still get news from Twix and some of his chocolaty siblings!). And Mabrouk and Lady are two puppies at the refuge who are left from the “Celebrity” litter.

Dogs who are abandoned at the refuge or arrive already identified tend to keep their names, unless there is a good reason why not. Occasionally a dog has clearly been mistreated and we wish to give it a fresh start, so we change its name. Sometimes  if a dog is not reclaimed we rebaptise him or her. One such case is an identified dog, Gaspard, who arrived last week. But we already have a Gaspard, so whilst we are keeping this name for the time being (in case his owners are looking for him on the Internet), once it is obvious that he is available for adoption, we will change his name to Inuit, which suits a husky cross much better, in our opinion. It also avoids confusion when volunteers say they are taking Gaspard for a walk! One dog could end up getting his legs walked off and the other could be very neglected!

Sometimes a dog arrives and just “looks like a Harry” or whatever. Sometimes it is a unanimous decision, sometimes whoever puts the photos on our Facebook page (and five of us share this task) makes the decision.  Sometimes I suggest a name and all the French native speakers laugh their heads off, as it may sound rude in French. However we have a dog called Pollux, (this week’s urgent appeal) and I doubt that any English adopters would keep this name!

Personally I don’t like very macho sounding names on dogs that risk being viewed as aggressive. I don’t like names like Tyson and last year we even had a Rottweiler called Danger. I think this just reinforces stereotypes. But of course as with naming children, it is a matter of personal preference. Unless you believe in nominative determinism, that is!

And finally, of course everyone is free to rename any dog they adopt from us. An entire life is changing, so a dog will get used to a new name very quickly! Kindness and regularity of routine are far more important to a dog than what he or she is called!

Much more an Inuit than a Gaspard!


Dog rehabilitation works wonders!

One of the aspects of the SPA’s work of which we are justifiably proud is our dedication to the rehabilitation of dogs. I am not just referring to their physical rehabilitation, such as we saw recently with Hoffen, the beautiful Pyrenean Mountain dog, or one of today’s adoptions, Ficel, who arrived in a skeletal state and was covered in cuts and grazes.

I am referring also to the mental and psychological rehabilitation that we give to dogs such as another of today’s adoptees, Manon. Although she had an owner prior to being abandoned at the SPA, this young dog had seen absolutely nothing of the world and was scared of her own shadow.

Putting her in a box with a more confident dog helped her to regain confidence, and regular walks and playtime in the parks did the rest. Of course the fact that Manon is a stunning looking dog also helped her on her way, and today she left with her new family.

We are also lucky enough to have the help of Melissa Martyn, is a dog behaviourist who  drives a long way every week or so to visit our dogs and assess their needs in terms of socialisation and training.

All these strands, volunteers walking and socialising, employees showing nothing but love when the dogs are cleaned and fed, and regular, good quality food means that we can and do work miracles!

So two excellent adoptions today; one from the malnourished category and one from the formerly  timid category!

We did have one very sad new arrival, however. I am sure that many of you will have read of the terrible car accident that took place some two weeks ago, when a teenage driver lost control of his car close to Carcassonne, killing himself and 4 of his friends and leaving a fifth in a coma. Well today one of the bereaved mothers came to abandon her son’s dog. She cannot bear to see this constant reminder of her loss. Our sympathies are with her and the other bereaved parents, and we hope that young Hoch is soon out of the refuge, as it wasn’t his fault either

Ellie (ex Ficel)









Manon, she knows how to charm!










Poor Hoch, his young master is dead and he has been abandoned as a result.



One name, two SPAs.

Several people have recently congratulated us on our upcoming good fortune, as beneficiaries of a charity concert organised by Brian May. When I initially saw the headline, carried in several papers, of  this rock legend’s plans  to hold a fundraising event for the French SPAs my heart soared.

However a couple of minutes later I realised that, like so many people, including no doubt many of you, Brian May is unaware that there are two SPA groups in France.

Firstly is the Paris group, who get government funding and are generally pretty well off. Then there is the Lyon group, of which we, at Carcassonne, are part.  This is seldom made clear, and a search on the internet generally throws up the Paris group. This is the reason why, several years ago, I was accused on an online forum (of bored wives, mostly) of being a charlatan who was stealing money under the pretence of running a refuge. I posted on the forum the link to the Lyon SPA group and this diffused what was essentially libel. Luckily for them I am always too busy trying to rehome dogs to take legal action, unless it is on behalf of the SPA and concerns the mistreatment of animals.

In any case, here is the website that shows you the Lyon group of SPAs, and you can see that Carcassonne is on there:

Why are we not part of the Paris group, if they have much more funding, you may ask? Well the reason is fairly simple. As part of the Lyon group we are completely independent. We decide what to feed our dogs (Royal Canin, in case you are interested, nothing but the best). We decide which dogs and cats to put down (none, other than in extremis, and I do not just mean overcrowding or high medical costs) and we decide whom to employ and when to open. The Paris SPAs have none of these freedoms.

The Lyon Confederation provides us with our charitable status and it is this means we do not pay excessive taxes on the (too rare) occasions when we are left money in someone’s will.

You can help us by becoming a member (“adherent” in French) of the SPA Carcassonne. This costs 26 euros per year and gives you the right to attend and vote in our Annual General Meetings, where the governing body, or Conseil d’Administration (CA) is elected. They decide on SPA policy and also vote for the Bureau, who run the refuge on a daily basis.

And by the way, there is nothing to stop anyone becoming a member of the Conseil d’Administration. Nationality is no barrier, you just have to have been an adherent for one year and be supported by two members of the CA. Everyone is approved. The more active, motivated people we have the better!

Just pop in to the SPA and say that you would like to become an adherent. Or send a cheque (made out to SPA Carcassonne) and  write on the back “carte svp”. You can give more than 26 euros, if you like! Your money goes into the general SPA fund (so it is the same as any other donation), but you get a say in SPA affairs. If you can’t attend the meetings, you can fill in a proxy voting form, too! We have adherents all over France and overseas as well.

Our address is
SPA Carcassonne
BP 600
11000 Carcassonne

Why not join us! And remember, we can give receipts against donations which can be offset against French income tax!


Friends stay united!

Something wonderful happened today. I am not referring to the arrival of another fridge (thank you Laura, one of our Facebook followers). This means we can keep medicines cool in both the cat house and the infirmary, which will make life much easier for the employees. Nor am I referring to the wonderful pampering given to one of our scruffiest dogs, Pollux, following a request by his sponsor and an appeal via Twitter and Facebook (thanks to both Nath for the suggestion and Sandra, for the execution.)

I am not even referring to the adoption of little Salsa, whose sister Polka left yesterday. I am referring to the adoption of two dogs, both of whom had been previously adopted from the SPA and both abandoned afterwards.

One of them, Hector, spent 4 months in a family before he became ill, showing signs of epilepsy. The couple didn’t bother to take him to the vet, they just decided that they didn’t want a sick dog, so they tied him up outside. It turned out that Hector had an enlarged prostate, so one castration later and he was back on form. Not epilepsy then! However he had no idea what he was doing back at the refuge, so just lay miserably in his kennel.

Nero was adopted when he was a year old, and he was one of my favourite dogs, as I have a black labrador also called Nero. A year later the family moved house and accidentally forgot to take their dog. Oops. One day we decided to put these two dogs in together, and this completely changed Hector, who simply bloomed. The two dogs became best buddies, and were often seen playing in the parks or in their box.

The couple who adopted both dogs today really came for Hector, whom they had seen on the website. But they knew they wanted a second dog, and decided not to split up the partnership. Both dogs were ready to leave (chipped, and castrated even), so off they went! I shed a tear or two, I have to admit.

Two dogs were brought in, one of whom will probably be reclaimed by his owner. The other one will be snapped up in a trice. And I promised to show you photos of Black Jack, the puppy who arrived yesterday. We now know that he is 3 months old, so if you are looking for a baby Nero, you are in luck!

Pollux gets a “do”








Salsa leaves











So do Hector and Nero; together!








Here is little Gadget, who arrived today







And here is Blackjack, yesterday’s arrival, who sadly will probably stay a lot longer than Gadget



Just another manic Monday!

Oh hail the power of the internet! Yesterday’s Twitter appeal for a new fridge resulted in three offers within about 5 minutes! The first one was close to Carcassonne and a friend of the refuge immediately offered to bring it up to us. We need a fridge to keep medicines cold and also preserve half open tins of dog and cat food. We were short of this, too, and after another Twitter appeal, we received several Paypal donations (thanks to you all!) and several people brought tins to the refuge directly.

Another supporter brought us items for our upcoming vide greniers, which are a source of much needed income for the refuge. This seems to have become the preserve of a dedicated team of Brits. If you would like to join in, just let me know! And remember, if you are selling on behalf of an association, as opposed to as an individual, there is no limit as to at how many vide greniers you can have a stall. Or you have items that you wish to donate, please either bring them along to the refuge any afternoon, or contact us via email: website@dogrescuecarcassonne.co.uk

But this was not the only good news at the refuge today. Five dogs left for new homes. First to leave was was Polka, a little fox terrier pup, who has just finished her pound time. Her twin Salsa is still there, so if you like the look of Polka, get your skates on! Then there was Donuts, a little shih-tzu. He had been found over a month ago by a couple who initially wanted to keep him, so did not inform the SPA about him. They then changed his mind, but of course his real owners may well have given up hope by this time. Naturally Donuts did not stay long (we kept him for the legal 10 days to be sure) and today he went off to his new life. I can’t help feeling sad that someone somewhere is missing him, but he was not identified, and our internet appeals for his owners have failed.

Next we said goodbye to Galice, which I was very happy about. She had been reserved over a week ago, but the family never came to collect her, despite our numerous phone calls. Was this because they had a change of heart? Perhaps, but the least they could have done was let us know. In any case, she had already been sterilised and was ready to leave, so leave she did. And the SPA is 85 euros richer, as we demand a deposit to reserve a dog.  And we do not return it to people who can’t even be bothered to let us know they are not coming to collect!

We then said goodbye to Scarlett, one of the small to medium dogs that risks staying at the refuge for a long time, as she looks like many of our other dogs. Bit of beagle, bit of something else. She was lucky enough to catch someone’s eye and her new life begins!

The last adoption is the cause of much rejoicing. Hoffen left us. From a bag of bones to a magnificent beast in just 6 weeks, this boy’s tale has touched many of you. Best of all, his new owners are great supporters of the SPA and their café La Galloise in Alaigne  has a collection box for the refuge. This café hosted the Brit fundraising group a couple of months ago and I can recommend  a visit. Great food, great live music and now a great big dog!

In addition to this 3 dogs came and went (all identified) and there were a couple of reservations. Only one arrival, that of a little puppy, and I will show you pictures of  him tomorrow.

It was a very busy day, but so rewarding!

Thank you Sophie and Joelle








Polka waltzes off (?)








Bye-bye Donuts








Galice leaves after one false alarm (Grrr!)









Scarlett finds a home as well









And then it was an emotional farewell to a smiley Hoffen.