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Author Archives: Darcey Dyson

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.



Sangria time!

Well Sangria’s time at the refuge didn’t last very long; she was adopted today by a super family who had read about her yesterday. They arrived at 14H00, determined to not be pipped at the post, and even had anyone else been there, this family would still have won my vote. They have another dog to show Sangria the ropes, the mother is at home all day, and their sixteen year old daughter has grown up with dogs.

As promised I warned them about Sangria’s man-eating tendencies, but at this stage she was busy licking the face of a four year old boy who was visiting the refuge, so I am not sure how seriously they took me. But they are experienced dog owners and I have no doubt that they will educate this puppy and solve any problems she may have. It is super news for Sangria, and closes a chapter in her life, and a lot of ultimately useless debate on Facebook.

Other than that a couple of dogs were reclaimed, thanks to being identified, and lots of dogs were walked. There were two new arrivals, one lovely girl found in a nearby village, and another “pre-booked” abandonment of a fabulous dog that looks like a wire-haired beagle. Beagles steal my heart every time, and this boy is no exception. He has been renamed Biggles, which suits him much better than his old name (Pippo). He is really laid back and on Monday we are going to find him a dog to share his kennel with. For now we are letting him get used to the smells of the refuge.

Oh, and we were visited by Castro, who used to be known as Ray, a blind Bleu de Gascogne. He was completely unfazed at being back at the refuge and went round making friends with everyone!

So only one adoption, but an excellent one.

Spirits are high!

Hello and goodbye to Sangria








And a visit from Castro








Introducing Bali








And Biggles


Free Dog Friday (or Three Dog Thriday?)

A day of mixed news. It started with the return of Sangria, who is 4 and a half months old and was adopted just six weeks ago. She is a puppy and as such some “misbehaviour” is only to be expected. But children and puppies is not always a good mix, and if left unsupervised things can go wrong. Without wishing to apportion blame, I have to say that play-biting is typical puppy behaviour and if left unchecked, can get out of hand.

My best advice to anyone who has young children and who is not willing to put in the work required to educate a young puppy, (and no, two lessons in 6 weeks is not really enough effort), is to get a cuddly toy. They are far less work, don’t wee in the house and require no training or exercise; what’s more, you can leave them unsupervised with your children, which you should never do with a puppy.

So Sangria is looking for a home. Ironically she is the sister of Schweppes, the adoption of whom was a cause of much celebration just 4 days ago. Sometimes it is better for a puppy to stay longer in the refuge than be homed with the wrong family. We are a responsible organisation so will mention her “history”, but I suspect this will not prevent her being rehomed.  Even with children. A misjudged play bite does not mean a dog is dangerous. And just for information, the fact that you were bought up with dogs does not mean that your children are automatically good with them!  Children need to be taught to respect animals. One of the best lessons they can ever learn, in my opinion.

However it was not all bad news. We had three adoptions! First was Betty the puppy who was being looked after by Lisa and Andrew, one of our foster families. She is going to have a wonderful life, as her new mummy is a friend of OUR good friend at Doglinks. Lisa took another puppy home, one who had just arrived. Talk about good timing! Lucky pup!

Also today two border collies found homes. One of them, Remy, had only just arrived (he did his 10 days pound time and off he went!), but the other one, Blaise, had been with us for 8 months. He had been thrown out of a moving car near to the refuge and it has taken him quite some time to find a new home. But I think it was worth the wait. His new mum came all the way from Switzerland to make sure he got on with her own dog (an elderly female Rottweiler).

So it wasn’t another four dog Friday, but still not too bad.

Unlucky Sangria is back










But Blaise left (with a girlfriend, no less!)










As did Betty, here happily playing in her new home










And Remy found a new home as well!



Venusio’s long wait is finally over!

The refuge was closed today as it was a Bank Holiday in France. Of course the employees were present in the morning to clean the boxes and feed the dogs and cats, as well as give various medicines to those dogs that are currently undergoing treatment.

So no refuge news, however HUGE news from elsewhere!

The last of the dogs that were sent to Animal Trust in Belgium has just been adopted. Venusio spent 18 months with us, where he was lonely and miserable. Although initially happy to share his kennel, Venusio gradually became more and more intolerant of other dogs, and ended up in a box alone, where despite regular walks, he started to pine and get depressed.

When Eline of Animal Trust offered a lifeline to some of our dogs, her first choice was Venusio. A dog who is nothing special in France is viewed completely differently in Belgium, which has different breeds. As a  griffon Nivernais of seven years, Venusio’s chances of being adopted from Carcassonne were decreasing all the time. So, thanks to Sarah, in April he made the long trip to Melle.

I popped into Animal Trust with Sarah in early July this year, and all five dogs were still there. I spent time with each of them, and the transformation in Venusio was amazing. He was playing in the park with another ex-Carcassonne dog, Carbon, and gone was all the aggression of his time with us. Eline had realised that it was just his prolonged confinement that had made him grumpy, and that with regular exercise off the lead, he would be fine. When I saw him he was busy persuading Carbon to give up his ball mostly by howling as loudly as possible in Carbon’s ear. It was hilarious and extremely good natured. Not many dogs could hold out for long when faced with the baying of a hunt dog right into their ear, and Carbon gave the ball up every time, just to get away from the noise! At this point Venusio would parade round the park proudly carrying the ball only to have it stolen by Carbon and the whole thing would start again!

Since my visit, the dogs have left, one by one. In fact Carbon was adopted just two days after I saw him. Pepere was next and then Jojo and Murphy on the same day. So it was just Venusio left. When would his turn finally come? Well, the answer was TODAY!

I am over the moon. Once again I must thank Eline, Sarah, Amber, Nancy, Kevin and all the other amazing people at Animal Trust. We are so happy that you are there and that your commitment to help animals has benefited our dogs as well as all the needy souls you look after in Belgium.

Oh, happy day!

Lovely Venusio, happy after so long!











And here is a picture of all five Carcassonne dogs soon after their arrival at Animal Trust. They are chasing round the park, led by two other residents of this fabulous refuge. First taste of freedom!


Any colour as long as it’s black!

Another hot day at the refuge and not much to report. A couple of dogs had people to visit them, but nothing sure, and no departures, sadly. However I admire people who come and visit a dog and then go home to reflect. Taking a dog is a huge commitment and should be for the lifetime of the dog, so it is as well to be certain before taking the plunge!

One dog arrived, a beautiful retriever. He is 4 years old and micro-chipped. His owners’ answerphone say that they will not be returning from holiday until August 18th. One wonders who is meant to be looking after their lovely dog Elios. Perhaps they left him with friends, if so they can collect him from us, providing they have proof that they are acting in loco parentis, as it were. And if they pay us enough, we won’t even tell the owner that they lost the dog (only kidding!). Interestingly according to his identification papers in Paris, he is a black golden retriever, which seems like a contradiction in terms, so I am calling him a flatcoat! As Henry Ford may or may not have said, “Any colour as long as it is black!”. If the dog is not claimed by August 24th, he will be up for adoption. And I know lots of you love both golden retrievers and flatcoats, so you can take your pick as to what breed you call this beautiful boy!

As the hot weather continues, it is nice to see our recent appeal bearing fruit. Here is the cathouse complete with some recently arrived bamboo fencing making a lovely shaded area. The SPA is very lucky to have a salaried part time Mr Fixit, however he is always open to offers of help, so if you have any DIY skills that you would like to offer, you would be welcome to come along and lend a hand. A couple of British volunteers already do so, and both seem to enjoy it (or at least they both keep coming back!)

Oh, some of you may be wondering how Isa got on in her Trophy of the Mountains. Well, I am pleased to report that she did in fact finish in the top ten female veterans. The photo below was taken at the finish line. At this point Isa was too scared to take  her socks off, as she wasn’t sure what was going on underneath. Turns out it was nothing major, and Isa was relieved to have finished this gruelling trial intact. Running day and night, on some occasions,  for nine days, injuries could have been far worse than mangled toes. Still sooner her than me!  Congratulations once again to Isa and her little warrior, Canelle.

Shady cats







Isa’s feet. OUCH!
1146270_10201840737724599_243139148_o (1)









And a black golden retriever. No comment!

Yesterday’s adoption and today’s arrivals, including a puppy in a box!

Some of you may remember the puppy Loubar, who was adopted a week or so ago by Sophie, a friend of one of our volunteers. Well so in love has she fallen with Loubar, that she decided to come and adopt his brother, Sumo.  Only problem was that Sumo was adopted on Saturday.  His departure left one poor little pup, Schweppes, alone in his cage, as his other pal, Clyde, had also left.

So what was Sophie’s solution? To adopt Schweppes, of course! Yesterday this puppy, who had been overlooked for so long (his sister, Sangria had been adopted over a month ago) took the train up to Versaille with his new mum, and now he is playing happily with Loubar!

I am over the moon for him. He was suffering a bit from long-eared syndrome, but why be put off a dog who has never hunted in his life? A puppy (in fact a dog of any age) can be educated, and whereas some instincts are innate, dogs should not be written off and categorised just due to the length of their ears!

Loubar and his new pal Schweppes taking a time out!







The SPA still has puppies, don’t worry. It is just that until they have had their two vaccinations, we keep the litters separate to minimise risk of disease. We have pups in both the infirmary and the cat house, as well as two in foster, one of whom arrived today (see below)

We have received some lovely photos of Polly, who made it to her final destination on Saturday morning and is proving to be a delight. She has decided that she wants company all the time, so moves her blanket from her basket to wherever her mistress is sitting at the time. After a year in the SPA, Polly has decided to never be alone again! Wouldn’t you love this kind of devotion from a dog? Well, that is what rescue dogs are like! So grateful and full of love.

Devoted Polly on a walk. Free at last.







At the refuge today, three dogs were brought in, and none at were adopted. With Thursday being a bank holiday, I suppose this should be no surprise. One of them, a puppy found on the motorway, was lucky enough to go home with a foster family. The other two have joined an ever-more crowded SPA.

And our new arrival!