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Author Archives: Jane Hartley

Echo’s Story


echo1In December 2014, I went to SPA Carcassonne looking for a medium-sized, 3 to 7-year-old, easy-going, low maintenance dog that would get on with my neighbours’ griffon fauve de Bretagne, Gaspard, possibly a griffon cross or Brittany spaniel. Though he wasn’t on my list of candidate dogs. I was introduced first to Echo, but he was very shy, reluctant to meet me and, though he was a black griffon cross of the right size and body type, I wanted to get on and see the dogs I’d picked from the website. However, none of them appealed to me; they were either too big, overweight (I like slim, wiry dogs), too bouncy, young or not housetrained. I was attracted to a lovely black labrador, who seemed determined to make eye contact, but was told he didn’t get on with other male dogs. I asked to have another look at Echo. On the website, he was described as a “good-looking”, griffon-cross, the photo showed schnauzer-type face furnishings, which I didn’t like much and a mad look in his eyes. In fact, he had lost all his face furnishings except a straggly beard (possibly through stress), had a goofy look because of his undershot jaw and just looked like a slightly ridiculous black mutt, which I did find quite appealing. We went for a walk, Echo’s tail went up from between his legs and even gave a little wag and when we came back I asked to reserve him.

A couple of weeks later, I took him home. When introduced to his dog bed with fitted sofa-type cushion (chosen because it can be easily washed), Echo plunged nose-first into it, snuggling and wriggling into every conceivable position a dog could be comfortable in. His evident love of comfort made me think of the other dogs facing a cold winter on the concrete floors of their boxes and wish I could manage more than one dog.

I was completely ignorant about French scent hounds, except for the neighbours’ dog. I’d previously had a miniature poodle as a child and, later, a pointer cross acquired as a tiny puppy. A seven-year-old rescue dog of a totally different type was a leap in the dark. I was delighted to find I had adopted an affable, self-contained dog who is totally housetrained and has a minimal amount of basic training (sit, stay, go to bed and sitting for his lead to be put on), doesn’t jump up and lick people, doesn’t chew things he shouldn’t, who rarely barks or growls and never whines, but does bark when he hears a stranger approaching the house. He seems content to be alone downstairs or in the garden while I am working in my office upstairs, loves going for walks and for trips in the car. The house is on the side of a small mountain and Echo’s favourite place in the garden is the corner, overlooking a neighbouring garden, where a cat suns itself on the letterbox, and the street 15 metres below.

Initial power struggles over sitting on the sofa have now been resolved: no he can’t. On the negative side, he’s not terribly bright when it comes to training and cannot be trusted off lead. Echo seems to have been mistreated in the past, he was terrified (now downgraded to scared) of new people, especially men, crowded places and noise. He cowered, clearly expecting to be hit when a friend made a gesture, raising her arm. Gradually he is getting more confident and more affectionate, especially since I established myself as pack leader by not letting him walk ahead of me or eat before I do. Those last two changes seem to have made him less stressed and he has begun to walk through town with his tail in the air, rather than between his legs. The fur is growing back on his snout, which had become rather bald on top and his ridiculous eyebrows and moustache (which I’ve only seen in a picture from last summer), show signs of sprouting anew.echo2About a week after coming to live with me, returning from a long walk, Echo did a little play bow and intimated that he’d like to walk off lead like Gaspard. Foolishly, thinking he just wanted to get home and have his delayed breakfast, I let him off the lead. He shot away up the lane and past the house. I followed calling him; he came halfway back and then rocketed up the path that leads to the top of the mountain. I followed and saw him sniffing something interesting about 200 m ahead of me. I called him; he looked and ran off up the path and out of sight. A couple of minutes later, he came flying down towards me at about 50 km an hour and carried on past for 100 m, turned again and rocketed up past me and up another path into the trees. I stayed still, calling him from time to time and eventually he came back just long enough to wolf down some treats and be caught.

A few days later I let him off the lead somewhere a bit safer, where he was less likely to get out of sight. After about 2 km of high-powered running around, he came back and was suitably rewarded, (in spite of the times he’d been called and hadn’t come back). Thinking he must be tired, and as he showed an inclination, when we got home, to explore up the mountain again, I let him off the lead. He disappeared out of sight before I could blink and calling produced no results. Eventually, just as I thought that I would simply have to go home and wait for him to come back, he came tearing back, closely followed by a large off-lead husky, and let me clip his lead on in return for a treat and hiding behind me. Fortunately the husky turned out to be friendly.

There was another incident soon after, when Echo wriggled past me before I could put his lead on for our evening walk. He disappeared up the mountain behind the house. I called him for about 10 minutes, then went back indoors. The heavy rain forecast for the next three days soon started. I phoned Moira from the SPA and followed her advice to leave the back gate and the downstairs shutters open and the lights on outside. Hours passed and there was no sign of Echo. I started to think he was gone for good and felt really sad looking at his empty dog bed. I stayed up working upstairs, but came down for a last check at midnight. A soaking wet, miserable hound was shivering outside the patio door, silently staring in. Having been towelled down and blowdried, he hid behind the furniture, expecting to be punished. Since that night, he seems to realise that he will not get hit for being a naughty dog and is more affectionate. I have bought a 10 m lead for recall training, but don’t know whether he will ever have a reliable recall.

One morning, coming back up the lane from the market with my hands full of shopping, Echo (who was on the lead) plunged his head into the ivy hanging down a wall and emerged with a struggling black and white cat in his jaws. I shrieked and slapped him and the cat managed to get away, leaving a large chunk of what happily turned out just to be fur in Echo’s mouth and a look of mixed triumph and disappointment on his face! I reminded myself that he’s a hound and hounds are bred to hunt, so it’s not his fault. He seemed very puzzled at my negative reaction.

There are very big advantages with adopting an older dog as they are calmer and less demanding than a puppy or a youngster and still trainable. A small or medium-sized seven-year-old dog is only middle-aged. You don’t have to guess what the dog will look like or how big it will be when it grows up and you can see its basic character. Though the effects of any past mistreatment or lack of early socialisation may never completely disappear, that applies to younger dogs too. I’m really pleased with Echo’s progress over the past month and sure that he will continue to become more confident and learn new things.


How Roadie Became Brody



Roadie arrived at SPA Carcassonne in very poor shape, having been abandoned on a main road (hence the name), and found seriously injured. He spent several weeks in the refuge’s infirmary and staff were not sure that he would pull through. It’s too distressing to give details of his injuries. After lots of patient care he was released from intensive care and came out for a walk in the February sunshine before being assigned a kennel. I walk dogs at SPA and was one of the first people he saw when he came out and, timid as he was, he came up for a cuddle.




It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for either of us but I decided to foster him that same day so that he didn’t have to be kenneled. My partner and I had been considering a second dog as company for our eight-year old Alsatian-Boxer cross, Flora. Roadie and I travelled home to meet the family. He was very wary of his new surroundings and of his new big sister. Flora, for her part, was miffed at not having been consulted, but tolerated the newcomer on the understanding that we’d be taking him back to where he came from asap. It took a long time for her to accept him, afterall, she’d been an only child for eight years but she’s great with him now, so long as he remembers who is top dog.



Roadie was a difficult name for our French-speaking neighbours to pronounce and a name with a harder consonant at the beginning is easier to call. We wanted his new name to be similar in sound for the sake of familiarity. Brody was the name of the hero of a TV series back in 2013 so Brody it was. For the first month or two, he was referred to, in a lilting Scots accent, as “Wee Brody” until he got used to the house rules after which, we were able to drop the “wee”. Brody and Flora now spend all day in each other’s company, begging treats from neighbours, messing in the river and harassing the Roe deer which live in our forested valley. In the summer months they spend lazy afternoons soaking up the sun on the church steps, scratching round with our chickens in the back garden or squeezing through the rosemary hedge into the potager to steal cherry tomatoes. Brody’s a happy lad, very much at home and enjoying a life which is rich and varied in every season. He’s loved and responds in kind with an enthusiastic and generous



Clara’s Story

Life after1As new retirees currently living in France with our four year old Jack Russell, it seemed an ideal time to adopt another dog. After making enquiries we found the SPA Carcassonne, the best & most regularly updated website in the area, in our opinion.

An on line romance

We had already decided that we would prefer a younger female dog to join our family. From the information on the website several dogs caught our eye so we telephoned and made an appointment to visit. There are so many deserving dogs at the SPA, it would be easy to adopt half a dozen!

All we know about Clara is that she was abandoned at the gate with her brother and at just over a year old were potentially unwanted (unsold) puppies? She was quite ill at first with a stomach upset so couldn’t come out to meet us straight away but once we saw her it was love at first sight. So with an open day coming up we reserved Clara on the spot just in case she caught someone else’s eye!

Our second visit was to introduce the two dogs & to check their compatibility. They were quite neutral towards each other, no apparent problems although when she tried to lick him he didn’t look too impressed! We made the decision to adopt there and then & having completed the paperwork she was ours.

Green eyed monsters

We knew it would take time & patience to welcome this abandoned puppy into our home, so we tried to slowly introduce them and avoid any confrontation. At first all seemed OK, both dogs were accepting of each other & played in the garden. However, there soon started to be an element of jealously, Clara was obviously desperate for our affection and tried to push Jackson out of the way and growled at him when he came near us or wanted to sit on our laps. Bedtime was a struggle over who was top dog and we had to separate them.

The next day it all escalated, they attacked each other over their food bowls even though we had fed them separately, they totally locked onto each other and we had difficult prising them apart. Jackson bit Clara’s ear and she bit his lip, they drew blood, really got quite nasty. There were subsequent fights over and at one point it took a dousing with a bucket of water to separate them!  During those first few days it was so upsetting to see them both so hostile towards each other. We were even having doubts that the adoption was ever going to work but were determined not to give up.

The team at the SPA were really supportive and on hand with good advice &, advising us how to look for & remove any “triggers”. Another piece of good advice was to encourage positive behaviours to make them a “team” such as walking them side by side & doing basic training together.

From a health point of view, Clara’s stitches became infected and on closer examination our vet also noticed that she had a lump (trauma) at the base of her rib cage, probably from being hit or kicked. We were asked to monitor it & thankfully it disappeared within a few weeks.

Clara didn’t arrive without issues.  She is still a little nervous, suffers from separation anxiety (we are careful not to leave her on her own for very long) has problems with toilet training – never mind she is now nearly two years old it has been totally back to basics! Car journeys & general socialisation with other dogs off lead was also an initial problem. BUT nothing is insurmountable and a bit of love & patience goes a long way!

Together forever terriers

So here we are 6 months on, with our new family, Clara is such a sweet affectionate dog who just wants to be loved & cuddled. She wakes us up every morning with big licks and loves to have her tummy rubbed! We’ve had a fabulous summer together , both dogs are now best of friends and absolutely inseparable and it’s lovely to see how their body language mirrors each other when they are playing or sleeping. Jackson is so happy with his new “petite copine” and now we can’t imagine life without Clara, our beautiful rescue puppy who never stops smiling!



Benson2I can still remember the day we brought Benson home. My partner James and I had just finished an afternoon of dog walking at the SPA Carcassonne. Rowan, the former President of the refuge, told us to go look at the ‘ball of fluff’ that had just been brought in by the Gendarmes. We strolled over to the office to see Carole, the refuge secretary, holding onto a frightened, thin, and grubby little dog …his owner had been hospitalised and neglected to mention that she had a dog at home. Three days without food and water had passed by the time he was found. He was traumatised and needed a quiet place to recuperate from his ordeal. James and I agreed to foster him until his 10 days ‘pound time’ was over. I held him in my arms on the drive home, reassuringly stroking him. He stunk of stale cigarettes….so we named him Benson!

It was not long before we realised that Benson had been mistreated by his former owner. Over the next 10 days, he slowly put on weight and became more comfortable around us. We took him everywhere; he loved meeting other dogs and especially loved been taken out for walks. After careful introductions to our other resident animals, my three houserabbits, we decided that we would adopt Benson. This little Coton de Tulear had stolen my heart.

A few months passed and Benson’s confidence around us grew, but the realities of both his lack of socialisation and mistreatment became apparent. Benson was fearful of certain people and exhibited fear aggression. He cowered at the sight of a broom or at a hand raised anywhere near him (unintentionally of course). Living isolated in an apartment meant that certain outside noise absolutely terrified him. We were at our wits end; seeing our little chap petrified by certain people and things was stressful…for both him and us! On advice from Rowan and Moira, we decided to enrol Benson in dog training classes at a bilingual club in Azille. Shirley, the trainer, agreed that he needed socialisation and helped us to develop strategies to cope with his anxieties. Shirley, who has two rescue dogs herself, explained that Benson would be gently socialised with other people whilst learning new things and making new friends, both human and canine.

Slowly but surely, Benson has become a different dog. Although he is still fearful of certain people and noise, he is certainly less anxious in those situations. We now know that there is no ‘quick fix’ for anxiety issues, and he will always have insecurities. We want him to feel safe and secure and try to manage situations where he feels threatened. A rescue dog is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. It has been a long, tough journey but I would not give him up for the world. As James puts it, he is our ‘dear little chap’.



poolux apres le refugeWe wanted a dog but it wasn’t supposed to happen until I joined my husband in full time retirement in our house in France. However the sight of a scruffy, hairy Griffon Korthal cross called Pollux on the SPA Carcassonne website changed all that!

What a difference a year has made to both our lives and his……

We collected our handsome boy from the SPA in Carcassonne on 25th September last year and, despite never having seen him in the flesh before, fell immediately in love with him. Moira and Rowan took care of all the adoption process over the phone and by e-mail. So, with the paperwork completed and farewell tears shed by volunteers, we began the long drive back to the Lot Valley and Pollux’s new home.

Yes, we kept the name Pollux, which always causes great hilarity amongst our English speaking friends, although it is actually the French equivalent of Dougal from the children’s TV programme “The Magic Roundabout”. It is, however, a popular dogs’ name in France and many of our French friends and neighbours talk fondly of their own dogs who were also called Pollux. In fact, more people know his name than know ours and he often gets a “Bonjour Pollux” from the local bar as we pass.

I can’t say that the whole experience has been a breeze and sometimes it has been quite hard but with a lot of patience we have all settled down to a happy life together.

When he first arrived home, Pollux preferred to stay outside on the terrace and only came into the house to sleep at night. He had to be coaxed into eating and practically fed by hand to get him to eat anything – so different from now when his food is wolfed down in less than 5 seconds. On the positive side, he did sleep through the night without any crying or barking and was housetrained. Well I say housetrained, he did have a problem in that he peed every time he was excited or frightened, which in those first few months happened very frequently. We have since been told that this is a well-known problem with Springer Spaniels, so maybe that’s who his dad was. Anyway, he is getting so much better with that little problem and it is now safe for us to go upstairs and come back down without having to stand with our legs spread to avoid the unavoidable excited wee and yet another change of clothes.

Pollux was, and still is to some degree, wary of men, sticks and big gloves. We don’t know what his background was but there does seem to have been some sort of ill-treatment at some point.

He also didn’t like the broom or vacuum cleaner but he is getting better with them as he realises what they are and they are not going to hurt him. People always ask us what language we speak to a French rescue dog in, well we have always spoken to him in English but he certainly understands the word biscuit in many different languages now.

As the weeks and months go by we are always learning new things and have recently enjoyed our first seaside holiday together. Pollux really loved the beach and the sea and impressed us by lying down in restaurants so that we could actually eat out.

He is a real comedian and can make us laugh out loud with his antics and funny ways. He is also very affectionate and loves having a cuddle, leaning in hard against our legs or snuggling up on the sofa to watch television. He is quite selective with his television likes and dislikes and has taken to growling at Prince Charles, Ed Balls and Alexander the meerkat on the TV advert which now means we have to distract him whenever they come on.

We are so pleased to have adopted him and he has brought us a lot of love, happiness and laughter over this past year. Thank you Dog Rescue Carcassonne for bringing Pollux into our lives.

Lazar| LL332

Lazar german shepherd crossLarge, Young, Male  

I was at the SPA when Lazar was brought in. His owner cried. Divorce had left him and hence his dog homeless and there was no prospect of a change in circumstance to allow him to keep his dog. Lazar was born in April 2013 and is a lovely German shepherd cross. He has had no training, but we are working on that. Lazar spends some time every afternoon in the office with dog trainer Carole, where he is learning his manners. He is getting used to people approaching him and is learning not to jump up to greet them. He is turning into a lovely dog, and I have a feeling that with relatively little work, he really will be man’s best friend.



Contact SPA Carcassonne about this dog


  • Needs basic training
  • Good with other dogs
  • Friendly and sociable

Urgent Appeal: Falco

falcoIn the normal course of events Falco would not be at the refuge. He had a young owner who loved him and walked him. However she lives with her parents and they made her life and that of the dog very difficult, so he has ended up at the SPA. 

Being a black labrador is not a good thing for SPA dogs, however Falco has youth on his side. He was born in December 2012, so is just 18 months old. This is barely out of puppyhood as far as labs are concerned, as owners of the breed will know. Falco is fine with other dogs, he has shared with several since his arrival at the SPA at the end of March. He has some basic training and we know that he used to be housetrained, although he may have forgotten some of his manners. He will quickly relearn, though, as he is a very bright dog.

As labs go, Falco is of the leggy variety so is probably not a purebred, although he is very elegant. He is fine on the lead and is good with children. He would live quite happily as a second dog or as a singly too. Ideally a garden would be great to play in. Like most labs he loves chasing a ball and generally having fun.

Please help this lovely dog find a home.

Taser | LL385

taserMedium, Young, Male  

Taser is a brindle and white boxer who arrived at the SPA in August 2014. At the time he was a bit imid, but he has changed a lot since being at the SPA. Hardly surprising when you consider that he has spent so much time there! Taser is good with female dogs but not with cats. He is strong on the lead but soon calms down, and is a very playful dog who would benefit from some training and an experienced home. He was born in December 2010.

Contact SPA Carcassonne about this dog

  • Good with other dogs

Everybody loves to be rescued

everybody lovesWe wanted to write this note for several reasons

1. to thank the wonderful folks that care for the animals at Carcassonne SPA 

2. to admit that adopting a dog can be hard work

3. to explain how glad we are that we did

We are a couple in our 40s living in a spacious French house surrounded by the wonderful Languedoc countryside.  Neither of us would describe ourselves as “dog-obsessed” – but we did love one particular dog, a Weimaraner who died in January (very suddenly aged almost 9) from bloat.  The big empty space he left in our lives was ghastly.  Life just wasn’t the same without those extra feet.

In the first instance we had no plans to get another dog and we donated his food and treats to the SPA and thought perhaps we might see a new 4-legged friend to bring home.  I liked a young spaniel cross but my partner just couldn’t feel a bond and we returned to our large empty dog-less space empty-handed.  Anyone who has owned a pedigree will know how attached and familiar you can become to the traits of a particular breed.  So at the end of February a new Weim pup entered our lives but we continued to check the SPA Facebook page on a daily basis “just in case”.  We had talked many times about having 2 dogs and now we had the chance to make it happen.

4 weeks later we spotted a shaggy black and white dog (named Vania by the staff) on the Facebook page – about a year old, with hardly information about her past.  I was passing through Carcassonne and called in to see her just after receiving the devastating news my mother had just died.  As fate had it, that small(ish) scruffy mutt happened to be on a walk as I walked in, she sat calmly on my foot almost as if she knew I had come specially to see her and would one day take her to her forever home.

My partner later visited the SPA and took Vania for a couple of short walks while I was away, and it was rapidly decided we wanted to bring her home – but there were complications in adopting a rescue dog so soon.  We could not do it whilst having a young (not fully inoculated) pup at home.  So we found a friend that “might” take her for some of the time but only on the condition the dog was flea-free and child-friendly. 

All these circumstances were definitely not straightforward but thanks to an amazing network of “SPA helpers” a lovely foster family agreed to take Vania for an extra fortnight to help us out.  During this period they fed, walked and wormed her (she was riddled with them), and took the time to update us on how she was adapting to a home life beyond bars.  Vania then went to stay with our friend round the corner so we could introduce her to our pup on neutral ground – which as it turns out was barely necessary.  “Mattie” as we have named her, played and snuggled up with our pup straightaway and has done so to this day. 

What we had not bargained on, was waking up (for what seemed like weeks) to a shaggy unknown dog covered in its own diarrhoea and a shoe-chewer terrified of most men, hair brushes or people coming downstairs.   A new set of challenges presented themselves.  We are still working on the hair brush phobia, but the other issues have largely been resolved by plenty of cuddles and exercise, some very basic training, along with a change of diet and a lot of socialisation with people and other dogs.    Mattie has been such a hit that we have even been offered money to take her off our hands!    She grows more confident in her surroundings by the day, is boisterously playful but still rather unpredictable and there are very occasional toilet-training accidents indoors.  Her history is a mystery so we just don’t know why she reacts to certain things the way she does.  It’s taken 8 months of adjustment and the learning curve is continual although certainly not as steep.  

To anyone that has lost a special dog, or is considering a new adoption, we’d never say it’s easy, comparisons will be made, what works for one dog probably won’t for another.   But the foster families, the follow-up advice from the SPA, a lot of patience and industrial amounts of kitchen roll have helped us along the way.  Mattie now seems to “smile” her way through life – she’s great fun, very entertaining and incredibly affectionate. She has definitely found a place in our hearts and we can’t imagine her living with anyone else.  

Our friends say they’d like to find a dog as lovely as Mattie, and we just say go and see the dogs at Carcassonne SPA!

As a side note, Mattie’s influence on the Weimaraner is interesting. He started out as quite a handful, very confident and potentially dominant. After several months play-fighting with Mattie, he is very funny, very cuddly and sociable with anyone, no matter how many legs they have. She has taught him a lot, and in return she is picking up basic obedience by watching him – so both characters are balancing each other well and we feel lucky to have two such lovely dogs. 


Maddie’s Story


MadieWe set off from our house in Esperaza,  on a very hot August afternoon to visit Malaga (now Maddie) a young Griffon Bleu de Gascogne who had been abandoned by the Chasse and was being cared for at the SPA in Carcassonne. On arrival we waited for about ten minutes behind an English family that seemed to be very excited about getting a dog from the refuge.  After they left we met Moira  who set off to get Malaga from her kennel.  I was quite taken aback as to how terrified she was of us and was concerned she would break out of her collar in an attempt to get away from us.  Moira quickly suggested that she take her to an enclosed field where we could try and get to know her.  She was so terrified she just ran around the perimeter of the fence and we went and sat in the shade under a tree and had a good old doggy chat.

I remember giggling at the dog in the next field who was playing with a rubber kong in a paddling pool, very scruffy looking and covered in mud.  ( turned out it was the dog that was going to the family before us in the queue….Pitchou).  He was having a great time in the water and about to go off on a new adventure to his new family.  Malaga however was still circling the park keeping well away.  We continued to chat about the dogs and after about 20 mins she came and sat beside me.  Decision made, she was coming to Scotland.  Moira very kindly arranged transport for her and when she arrived at our house she was still quite traumatised, constantly circling… she was too scared to come in the back door and she was so thin she could run through the bars of our garden gate.

However two months down the line with a lot of patience and lots of cuddles she has transformed into quite a rowdy but extremely lovable dog.  Very boisterous first thing in the morning throwing her toys around and galloping around.  She loves to chase the rabbits round our (large) garden.  She comes back 99% of the time to a gundog whistle even though she’s a hound! She sits (for a bit of sausage) and walks relatively well on the lead.  She loves to go walks and is keen to meet other people but still is a bit wary of strangers if they try to speak to her.  Every day she is getting better though.  A lot of the credit for her quick transformation must go to my lovely two Petit Basset Griffon Vendeens who are very relaxed and calm and have shown her the way – oh and yes the hubby too.  I do think however they were secretly hoping that she was only staying for the weekend.  She still needs to meet more people and experience more things so we have decided to enrol her at a local training class.  Maddie is a joy to live with, very affectionate, very inquisitive, very funny and happy to please.  We are very lucky to have her and we must thank all the good folks at the SPA for the fantastic work they do.