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Author Archives: Jane Hartley

Urgent Appeal: Tag


Tag shepherd crossTag is one of our dogs who just seems to be left behind. He was nearly adopted a few months ago, when the family chose another dog in preference (although they were very torn) and again just last week, when another dog “won” instead. What usually clinches the deal is that Tag is not great with other dogs, although he is quite happy to walk alongside them, just not live with them. Although the video received by DRC recently showing Firmin playing with a male dog shows that outside the SPA a dog’s behaviour can be very different than when he is constrained.

One thing is for sure, Tag is starting to get a bit depressed, and it is for this reason that we would like to find him a home.

Tag will have been at the SPA for one year in August. This is a long time for any dog, but especially so for a dog who is this affectionate and who is living alone. Okay, he does get more walks than many of our inmates, as he is wonderful on the lead and everyone adores him, but he would like to be out full time.

Tag is a German shepherd cross who was born in September 2011. So he is just coming up to five years old, although is greying muzzle makes visitors write him off as being too old. Not at all, this lad is in the prime of life.

Tag is vaccinated, castrated and identified and would make a wonderful companion for anyone who has no other animals at home but who would like a loyal and affectionate dog.


Bella formerly Esquise

bella2Bella is not our first rescue dog, so we do have a bit of experience having bought Lara who was our first dog with us from England. She was from the RSPCA rescue centre in Bristol in 2001 when she was 4/5 years old. Sadly we had to have her put to sleep when she was 16 in March 2013. Her death came at a time when there were other big family bereavements, and she was another big loss to the family.

I had been periodically looking at the Carcassonne SPA website, after a recommendation from a friend, looking for another dog. In May 2015 we were about to depart on holiday to Montenegro when I saw a beautiful Labrador cross who was described as large, very playful and affectionate called Esquise. I said to my husband that if she was still available when we returned from holiday I would be paying the SPA a visit.

On returning from holiday she was still there.  I was very excited, but held off for a whole 3 days before taking a nearly 2 hour drive from our house near Grenade to the SPA. It was pouring with rain and I could barely see a yard in front of me on the drive down there. The rain had stopped in Carcassonne by the time I arrived and so I went to her kennel to see her. She jumped up and showered me with kisses through the wire fencing. She pushed and harassed the other dog she was sharing with to the back of the kennel as if to say “Hands off! This one’s mine!” I went into the office to make further enquiries and to see if I could see her out of her kennel. They brought her to the office and we were introduced. She was very affectionate and quite calm for a young dog, but the main thing that struck me was her size! She is a big girl! She is about 2 or 3 times bigger than any Labrador I’ve ever seen and at just 1 year old at the time already weighed 37kgs; it didn’t put me off at all! Her feet were nearly the same size as my hands! I took a photo on my phone and texted my husband to show him what a gorgeous girl she was. I handed over the cheque and arranged to pick her up the following Saturday. This gave me a few days to prepare for our new arrival, collecting the necessary kit, ie. Lead, bowls and bedding plus some toys together that I had put away.   I’d already decided on the name Bella, as it suited her better and was easier to pronounce than Esquise.

Bella1We collected her as arranged and my husband had to lift her into the boot of my car as she appeared unable/unwilling to jump in herself (more about that later). I have since bought a ramp for her to use as I cannot lift her. She travelled well on the way home and we got a lot of admiring glances and waves from other motorists as she was periodically looking out of the window at the passing traffic.

On arriving home, we wanted her to live in the house with us so we tried taking her inside. This was obviously unacceptable to Bella as she flatly refused by plonking her bottom on the doorstep. We resolved the matter by running up to the door three of us side by side, it was a bit of a squash but we got her in! We allowed her to investigate the whole house, but she was reluctant to come in the kitchen and took a bit of persuasion. That evening we had invited a friend and her dog for dinner. They duly arrived, when I opened the door and they saw Bella and both of them looked as if they wanted to run for the hills! The dog wet itself and hid amongst its owner’s skirt, as if to say “Help! Save me! It’s a monster!” Thankfully they are now good friends and get on very well together.

Needless to say, lots of fun has ensued with her training. At the time of her arrival, the wall we had had built to enclose the garden wasn’t quite finished, as we were having to wait for the electric gates to be delivered so we had to sort out a temporary gate until they arrived. During this time we had to keep her on a long rope (15m) because sometimes the gate couldn’t be up due to the continuing building work. She obviously enjoyed being outside and we needed to keep her safe! During one evening we were playing with her, throwing a ball for her to fetch. My husband threw the ball not realising that the rope was wrapped around my leg, of course Bella went hell for leather after the ball upending me in the process, causing a bump to the back of my head and a rather nasty deep friction burn to my calf from the rope. Looking back it must have looked very slapstick, but I was in considerable pain and was not a happy bunny. I still have a slight scar there now. She has also taken my husbands’ feet out from underneath him whilst playing causing him to face plant right in front of the neighbours, who thought it completely hilarious and pulled me over whilst walking in the forest because she was frightened when some people came up behind us.

She has escaped a couple of times, which nearly turned me grey with worry as we live on a country road where drivers speed along it in both directions. The neighbours must have had such a laugh at my expense because at one point I was out on the road in the morning in my red with white spotted dressing gown, shouting at the top of my voice and waving my arms in the air to stop the traffic. She’s also very excitable when going out for a walk, and sounds like Darth Vader which is a bit scary for passers-by. She also wants to say “hello” to everyone and they always seem to think she’s going to bite them. She also sees cyclists and Lorries, which she hates, as fair game to chase and bark at too! We are very lucky, we live in the countryside and there are lots of very good dog walking places which are traffic free.   We have also taken her with us when we’ve gone for days out to visit various tourist attractions and also when my husband plays Cricket.bella3

In January of this year she was attacked in the garden by a very large semi-feral cat. She had cornered the cat underneath the garden shed and as a consequence suffered various facial injuries as well as a deep bite on her chest. The worst injury was that she broke her front left leg. She was referred by our vet for specialist treatment in Toulouse and had to have an operation with a plate and pins to secure the break. Worst still she had to be kept on bed rest for 2 months and then was allowed only to have gentle exercise. This is no mean feat especially when this concerns a very lively, young dog who just loves to be outside in our very large garden running “hell for leather” everywhere. This was when we also discovered that she also has a dysplasia of her left hip, which accounts for her inability to jump. We will have to keep an eye on this because she is big it may be a problem for her when she gets older.

We have now trained her to come when she is called. We tried many incentives to achieve this, food, toys, treats. Anything, you name it we tried it! Eventually we very reluctantly turned to a collar that buzzes or beeps. It doesn’t hurt her, just distracts and refocuses her attention. I must say I was extremely reluctant to use it at first, but we have only had to use it a couple of times and it really does work. Now all we have to say is “No Bella!” and she behaves herself. We have also used it when we walk her to keep her under our control and out of harm’s way. I am pleased to say that our perseverance and encouragement of good behaviour has paid off and she just decided herself that it was better to do as we asked. We still don’t trust her enough to be able to let her off the lead yet. I am sure that will come in the future. Training was also helped by her having to go to a dog sitter for a couple of days whilst we attended a family funeral back in the UK. The British lady who ran the place had 5 dogs of her own and there were a number of other dogs who arrived over the course of her stay, so she learned how to behave from them. I am pleased to say that she has continued like this ever since, which is a win-win for everyone as before we had to get hold of her by her collar to bring her in.

Bella is now nearly 2 years old and has been with us for 11 months. Life with her is eventful, but full of fun. The main problems we have encountered are due to her size (now 43kg) and her lively nature. Not only does she love to be outside but she also loves to be inside, especially when it’s either hot, to take advantage of the cool stone floors, or raining as she loathes getting too wet. She’s getting used to the shower routine to have her feet washed when she’s been out in muddy the garden. She is especially cute when she listens to us because she puts her head from side to side and now she has begun to calm down a bit, she is becoming a wonderful loving and loyal companion. We are besotted!



Urgent Appeal: Phoebe P310


No sooner was Princess made the urgent appeal than she was reserved, so in double quick time we are swapping the appeal to try and find a home for Phoebe. As her SPA number indicates (a single rather than a double P at the front), Phoebe has been at the SPA since 2015. In fact rather shockingly she has been there for over a year. This is unbelievable when you consider that, like Princesse, she is absolutely perfect! Phoebe was born in March 2014 and is a shepherd cross who is predominantly tan in colour. She is fine-boned and has excellent body language, knowing just when to play, when to calm down and is great with any dog she meets. Any initial pulling on the lead soon stops and she trots along quite happily. She really is a gorgeous girl. We simply cannot understand why no one has picked her; perhaps because (as we have said before) there are so many other dogs that look similar to her. It is only when you see her in isolation and outside her kennel that you really appreciate her. Let’s find Phoebe a home and not leave her as one of the SPA’s invisible dogs.


Fundraising in the Gardens

Every year at this time La Petite Pépinière in Caunes Minervois holds a Porte Ouverte, and we have had a stand there for the last 4 years.

Among the the stalls for beautiful glassware, garden tools, musical instruments, metal garden sculptures, and fabulous water colours, to name but a few, we try to raise awareness for the SPA and for what we do, as well as raising some money by selling secondhand books and accessories for dogs and cats.  Gill the proprietor offers garden tours around her beautiful garden where there is a wide variety of Mediterranean style plants as well as many others. This year the Association Audenat and the LPO were building habitats for reptiles and demonstrating ideal habitats for bees, birds, toads and weasels. But perhaps my favourite were the fabulous terracotta beehives and the stall selling all things honey related.


Terracotta beehive

Apart from being a lovely setting and a very nice place to spend a summers afternoon. I particularly like this venue because lots of ex SPA doggies come by to say hello and to show their support for us. We were very lucky this year to have Row Henson with us doing a book signing and donating all proceeds from the sale of the books to the SPA. Row lives part time in Caunes and the rest of the time in the USA. She wrote the book about her adventures with her rescue dog Mackenzie and the sale of all the books have benefited dog rescue associations both here and in the US. You can read about Row here travelswithmacandrow.com

Row books

Row signing her book “Travels with MacnRow”

A good time was had by all and despite the cloud burst on Saturday and the gusty wind trying to destroy our abri covering on Sunday.  Janice and I had a memorable weekend and we raised lots of money for the SPA. If you didn’t get to come along this time, save the date in your diaries for next year in the first weekend in June. We will be there again and hope to see you there.

Garden Weekend 1

Jane and Janice holding the fort

Eve’s Story

eveWe lived in France for a year, Sep 2014 – Aug 2015, with our little boy and Collie X. We’d gone from being a two-dog family to one after the death of our gorgeous Sadie the previous year. We’ve always had rescue dogs, I spend quite a bit of time looking at refuge websites and we decided that when we returned to the UK we would once again be a two-dog family…enter Eve (previously known as Maggie).

We walked Eve with Alice our Collie once we got to Carcassonne. She was very easy to walk but not really interested in us as there was such a lot of barking and excitement from all the other residents. She seemed quite aloof! We thought that as she had Labrador in her she would be a good choice for a house with a four year old in it. Whatever she’s crossed with is a bit more athletically built than a typical Lab though, slim and long muscular legs. We arranged to collect her the following week, spayed and with her new passport. She travelled brilliantly in the car. During the following weeks she grew in confidence and bonded with everyone including Alice (no mean feat as Alice is now 15 years old and can be a little grumpy with other dogs). She was house-trained so no problems there.

We had two months in France before we returned to the UK, again she proved to be a great traveller for what is a very long journey. We’re an outdoor-type family, love going for long walks and running, these activities are much nicer with your dog. Eve couldn’t agree more, she LOVES going running. When she sees me put on my trainers she gets very excited and starts jumping on the spot, she’s like Zebedee!

She does get too excited when we meet other dogs and being a big, strong dog can be hard for me to control but I’m starting to take treats when we go out as a distraction and reward. After walking/running her favourite pastime is sitting looking out of the window and barking at squirrels.

She’s affectionate, great with our (now) five year old, a friend for Alice, the best running mate I could have (she makes me feel safe in secluded areas) and we couldn’t imagine being without her. She’s turned into a lovely member of the Simpson family.



Urgent Appeal: Princess


Why is Princess this week’s urgent appeal? Has she been at the SPA for a long time? No. Is she sad and old? No again. The reason is simple. Princess is just a lovely lovely dog who deserves a home. Yes, the same can be said of all the dogs at the SPA (or nearly!), but there is something about Princess that just touches our hearts.

She arrived identified and with an owner who said he would collect her the following day. Except he never came. Moreover the same owner had previously failed to collect another of his dogs (presumably Princess’s predecessor), so he appears to be someone who loses interest in dogs very quickly.

Being a big girl, Princess has trouble attracting a new owner. In general small dogs go far more quickly. However anyone taking the trouble to meet her would agree that Princess is far easier than many small dogs.

She does not pull on the lead, she knows basic commands and she is incredibly affectionate. Moreover she is good with other dogs and cats. Perfect.

Princess was born in May 2015 and so has her whole life ahead of her. She has already been at the SPA for four months. Let’s get her out of there and into the loving home before she wastes any more time behind bars.



Urgent Appeal: Flash and Poppy


Poppy border collie crossI am not suggesting that these two dogs be homed together, but as they are brother and sister, it was hard to choose which one should be highlighted in this urgent appeal.

Flash and Poppy were found when they were five months old, which is not an ideal age to arrive at the SPA. The cuteness of being a puppy has gone, and in the case of these two, their lack of socialisation at an early age means that they are quite timid and nervous.

At the moment taking them for a walk is quite a challenge, as although once they are in forward motion all is well, they both have a habit of going on strike and just refusing to budge. Lots of encouragement and biscuits are required to get them moving again. Having said that, they have only had a couple of walks, so it is early days.

And we must point out that neither of them shows any aggression at all; they wait passively as you lift them up and carry them a few paces.

We think that the dogs are border collie crosses, but Flash is quite a stocky boy, and Poppy has slightly wiry fur. They were born in mid-October 2015 and are vaccinated, sterilised and identified. Gentle, patient homes required, possibly with another resident dog.
Flash border collie cross

Urgent Appeal: Looky

lookyOkay, a deaf dog might not be everyone’s dream. But on the other hand why not? Border collies are famously bright, and at one year old, Looky has his whole life ahead of him. Sadly until now he has had no training or socialisation at all; from the age of three months to one year he was tied up on a tiny balcony. We doubt that his owners even realised that he was deaf, he was just a dog that was unwanted.

Looky was born in late February 2015. He has bright blue eyes and is a stunning lad. He will need an experienced and training minded family with a lot of patience. He is lucky enough to have a sponsor, who walks him regularly, and already he is making enormous progress; he is affectionate and has the border collie’s desire to both learn and please his master.

Looky is castrated, microchipped and vaccinated and is ready for his new life.


dingo2Monty, or Dingo as he was known was not my choice. I had contacted the refuge to offer a home to a poor little mite who had his toes cut off and was found wandering and abandoned. Fortunately this particular dog had already been re-homed which was fantastic news. However, it was suggested that I might like to take Dingo and give him a chance as he had nothing going for him, he is black, scruffy and very badly put together, the sort of dog that would never grab the attention of the viewer, but the main downside was that he was reported to be a biter. This was not good news so I asked if I could think about it as I have three other rescues and needed to think of them. I rang the following morning to turn down the offer. Moira and I then chatted for some time and eventually I said that I would give him a try, after all the only thing I had to lose was a few fingers!!!!! Dingo had a lot more at stake. We met the van that delivered him at the airport in Limoges and this scruffy ugly bundle fell out at my feet and he was twice the size that I had imagined. The small crate which we had brought with us to make the journey easier was immediately put in the boot and we set off for home. Monty has now been with us for six months and is the most loving and cuddly dog on the planet. It took him a while to stop cowering and we left him to do as he pleased and to get the measure of us all. Every morning when Peter lets him out of the kitchen he dashes up to the bedroom and dives under the covers where we have cuddles and all the dogs snuggle down till I have had my tea. The lesson here is don’t listen to others tales, God knows what he had been subject to that made him bite but he has never shown aggression to any of us and does everything that the Chihuahua tells him (big softie). I am so glad that we decided to give him a try and as we sit here on the sofa together watching TV it seems that he is happy in his new ‘forever home’ .





trixie2The little dog here is Trixie, she was found by the Carcassonne SPA wandering around the streets last summer. We had just lost our little 16 year old terrier and we felt Phoenix our 12 year old red setter was missing her. We live half the year in France and half in Northern Ireland so we contacted several SPAs near us and then in Carcassonne. When we first saw Trixie it was love at first sight and Phoenix tolerated her! They are best friends now and sleep together in the kitchen, but it took time. Our cat Billy was also a little anxious but now they respect each other although I dont think they will ever be best friends! We are now in Northern Ireland and Trixie loves her daily walks, there is a big garden to play in with Phoenix and we really think it has helped Phoenix. Trixie was a little sore in one hip and the vet thinks she may have been hit by a car while she was on the street but is fine now… she loves everyone and everyone loves her, she is so affectionate, a wonderful friend, very athletic and full of energy. We reckon she is about a year and a half and has just lost her grey streak of puppy hair. She still sometimes pees when she is excited but this is becoming rare. I cannot imagine our home without her. for only a few hours when it’s not possible to take him with us. But, he is very calm when he is alone at home!