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Author Archives: Jane Hartley

Echo’s first year – progress report

Echo - Life after the refuge

It’s almost a year now since I adopted Echo and I thought I would let you have an update. Echo (also known as Doggy-Poo) has turned out to be an easy-going, well-behaved hound. “Hound” gives the clue to one problem area: recall. Though he makes no effort to escape, Echo is an opportunist and, once free to run, that’s what he does. He has (so far), always come back, sometimes after 10 minutes sometimes after four hours. Moira and DRC’s consultant trainer, Sharon, gave advice and reassurance. However, the problem remains that I have a hound with unreliable recall, who needs to run and a garden too small to meet that need. Echo’s fearfulness of strangers, crowds, noise and dominant male dogs is less severe than it used to be and building his confidence in other contexts (e.g. play and exercise), is helping to make him less fearful generally Echo recently visited a dog behaviourist, who concluded that he is a dog who needs to run long distances at high speed (I already knew that) and, if he has other dogs to run with, he will tend to stay with them rather than disappear over the horizon (I didn’t know that). He thought I shouldn’t treat this as a major problem and advocated a degree of risk-taking. Unfortunately, I can’t adopt another dog or two as lures. However, the more I allow Echo to run off lead, the better his recall is becoming and the more he chooses to stay closer to me, rather than running off out of sight and coming back when he feels ready to. This flies in the face of the usual recommendations not to allow a dog off lead until it has a solid recall. However, the alternative is to keep him a miserable prisoner until he’s too old to run. His recall on a 10 metre line has been close to 100% for ages, it just disappears when the line is unclipped. I now let him run freely somewhere fairly safe, like at the sports ground or on an open mountain top, but far enough from home so he’s not over-confident about finding his own way home after a 1 to 4 hour escapade. I try to do this most days and Echo is getting the idea that I allow him to run and meet other dogs, give him treats when he returns and then let him carry on running. Then, when I finally put him back on the lead, we go home and he gets his meal. We also do a circuit by the river, where he can scamper up and down the rocks and drink river water. I really enjoy watching him stretch out to race and his speed suggests there’s some whippet in the mix. I still worry when I watch a happy dog racing away from me, but it’s lovely to see a little black speck appear on the horizon and resolve itself into a happy dog racing back to me. Unfortunately, when he knows the walk is coming to an end, Echo disappears to chase cats in the nearby streets. I now know where his favourite cat lives, so I can go and collect him. Another achievement has been demonstrating that even a seven-year-old hound can learn to play. At first, he hadn’t a clue about playing with toys. He gets some of his meals in food-dispensing toys, to stop him eating too fast, and has developed new skills in manipulating, swiping and throwing them around using his paws and snout. He now loves playing with fluffy, squeaky toys and is even learning to retrieve a squeaky ball, though that only interests him in the garden. Perhaps he will eventually run to fetch a ball or frisbee elsewhere too. Santa Claus brought Echo an activity game, where he has to slide covers, open covers using levers etc. to get the hidden treats. This is now a favourite. He is gradually accumulating quite a lot of toys. Echo used to pull like a tractor on the lead, making alarming choking noises and might, in the past, have damaged his throat by pulling on a collar, so I started using a training harness and double-ended lead instead. Having two points of attachment confused him over which way to lean and so he had to balance himself. I also stopped or turned around each time he pulled. Now he trots nicely beside me on the lead. This did take quite a lot of time and effort to achieve. Particularly when adopting a mixed-breed, adult dog, you have to be prepared to find out about them gradually and not have too many pre-conceived ideas about the exact character of dog you want, but be prepared to accept the dog you adopted and put some effort into training and behaviour shaping, while being ready for things to change unexpectedly (e.g. Echo has now found his voice and barks and bays more than he used to, though not excessively). Some things were essential to me, like getting a dog that was house-trained and didn’t pull too hard on the lead (I have arthritis, so wanted a dog with max. 20 kg pulling power). The recall problem is manageable because, though I only have a small garden, I’m semi-retired and work from home and have suitable places for Echo to run fairly close by. If he had chewed and damaged furniture etc. that would have meant containment in non-vulnerable areas and training. I’m sure Echo would have been happier had he been adopted by someone with a large, enclosed garden/park and a couple of other dogs to play with. Fortunately, he isn’t capable of thinking about that and accepts life as it is. He seems happy and I am too. Yes, I’ve sometimes regretted not having got a golden retriever or a labrador, rather than a hound, but that only lasted until Echo returned from his latest escapade.





Urgent Appeal: The Oldies

At the moment, and just as winter is getting underway, the SPA has many older dogs. Some of them, like last week’s appeal, Kipnak, have been there for many months. Others, like Rosie and Larsouille, have just arrived.

There are many advantages to adopting an older dog. Firstly the adoption fee is reduced, and for just €80 you can have a fully vaccinated, sterilised and identified dog. You may worry about vet’s bills, but any medical problems will be explained to you before the dog leaves, (although none of our oldies have any medical issues), and in any case vets bills here are far lower than in the UK.

Older dogs are often far easier to look after. With age comes wisdom, and the very fact that these dogs have been at the SPA shows that they know that life can be hard. They are often very good at recognising when they are onto a good thing, and settle immediately to their new life.

They often have a kind of peace about them and can bring a calmness to a boisterous pack, or a focus to a family without dogs. Often requiring less exercise, an older dog can be a great companion for a less active family or elderly couple.

Please consider giving a home to one of our older dogs. They all have their own personalities and needs, but I am sure that we can find a perfect match for you and your lifestyle.

Urgent Appeal: Gege

gegeGege is our urgent appeal for no other reason than that he has been very unlucky. He was adopted but brought back 24 hours later as his new owner seemed to have an adverse physical reaction to him. Devastating for the poor dog, who had done nothing at all wrong.

During his brief time in his new home he was absolutely perfect; clean, calm, affectionate. Everything a dog should be, in fact. This is why we would like to help him find a home as quickly as possible. He arrived in May 2015, and as far as we are concerned he has spent more than enough time behind bars. To have freedom snatched away from his so quickly is just so unfair.

So let’s see what we can do to find him a home again!

Gege is a porcelain cross, who was born in August 2011. He is fine with dogs of both sexes and despite his size, does not pull hard on the lead. He is simply beautiful and has proven his worthiness to be a great pet. He has frequently been walked by people with young children and he respects their size.

C’mon guys, someone out there must be tempted!

Urgent Appeal: Peraud

peraudSometimes you can tell how long a dog has been at the SPA not just from his unique identification number (we start with a new letter and from 001 on Jan 1st each year), but also from his name. Looking at the number LL326, SPA aficionados can tell that Peraud has been with us since last year (LL) and about the middle of the year (we get about 650 dogs in annually, so 326 is about halfway. So maybe June or July. Then his name, Peraud. This is a cyclist who did great things in the 2014 Tour de France! Et voila!

Peraud did indeed arrive in late July 2014. He was found as a stray and never reclaimed. His date of birth was estimated as being July 2008 (it has to be an estimate, as like so many of our dogs, he arrived unidentified). Peraud is a grey and black spaniel, who is fine with female dogs and most males. He is very lively, despite his age, and loves his walks.

Peraud is of small to medium size and shares his kennel quite happily. I am not sure how he is with cats, my guess would be enthusiastic, but not necessarily aggressive. A voir, as they say in French.

In any case, if you are looking for a middle aged but active dog to accompany you on walks, why not give Peraud a chance? He has been with us for a long time, and we just can’t work out why no one is interested in him. Spaniels are not just good for hunting, they make great pets too. And the fact that his owner did not come and collect him implies that Peraud is probably not a great hunter. That has to be in his favour! Go on, give this boy a chance!



toffeeToffee here (although you guys used to call me Farage). Well I arrived in the UK back in October 2014 so I thought it was time I updated you all on what I’m doing. I settled into my new home really quickly, I have lots of other doggies here to show me the ropes and play with. To start with I was a bit a shy but soon found my feet and my spot in front of the fire!! I’ve been to school and I’ve learnt lots of new things, Mum says I am a really good boy and it makes me really proud and waggy when she tells me so. My brothers and sisters all go to school too and they do this silly thing where they run round lots jumping over jumps and they have a walkway and A Frame that they run over and they weave through the poles and things but I don’t see the point of all that nonsense, so when Mum let me try I did the A Frame and the walk way bit just to prove I could but when we got to the jumping bit I laid down and crossed my paws in front of it so after they all stopped laughing she said OK if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to do agility. She also wanted me to try flyball at school, I know she said it was just for fun but I think it is stupid, I can’t see the point of running all that way just for a ball. I mean who needs a ball that badly, even when my school teacher put a sausage on the flyball box especially for my turn I didn’t run, I couldn’t be bothered if I sit and look cute I will get a sausage anyway so RESULT I don’t have to do that either he he, let them nutty collies run round I say (although when it suits me, If I want to play with them I can run around as well as they can). My big brother Harlequin (you remember him, he lived with you too) doesn’t like that agility stuff either but he is loopy about chasing the ball and he likes all the other school stuff so he does that instead. What I really like to do is to go to the local village fetes and things with my Mum & Grandma – I’m Grandma’s favourite so she spoils me rotten, when she comes to see me she brings me mini toad-in-the-holes they are my favourite treats I really like them. On Sunday Mum took me and Harlequin on a sponsored 10 mile walk with my Grandma. We was very good, because it was hot Mum walked us through the ford so we could splash about (I didn’t really care but Quinn loves to play in the water) and we didn’t even chase the ducks that everyone was feeding from the bridge so we got more brownie points with Grandma. I had my very own T-Shirt for the walk I was the only doggy there that looked so smart matching all the people, so I had lots of pictures taken I’m quite a poser!! And I got an ice-cream for my effort I quite liked that too. Anyway I better go because it will soon be teatime and I don’t want to miss that – I will write again soon folks – thank you all for helping me find my forever home I’m having lots of fun here, I have attached some pictures so you can see me. Loads of Love Toffee XX





Pepper (Flavie)

pepperWhen we lost our darling Tessa, a calm, never any trouble, flat coated retriever of 9 years old, we thought we’d just see how we all were for a while, including Tally, another flat coat and just 2 years old.

We realised very soon that we were spoiling her rotten and that she was suffering from quite severe loneliness without Tessa so I started talking to Moira at SPA Carcassonne about a rescue dog.

At first a Golden Retriever caught our eye but was snapped up so Moira asked one of the volunteers Carole which dog she would place with us, knowing our backgrounds with dogs etc. and Carole said ‘Oh, Flavie would be perfect for them’.

So, off we went to meet Flavie, who is now renamed Pepper and who we have had for 3 months.

Lucky for her, she hadn’t been at the SPA for very long, only a month, so was raring to come to a new home and showed no signs of being nervous about it at all.

Once here, she soon met some of our friends’ dogs and got on with all of them, racing round our large garden, playing games with them and never seeming to get tired, even when they said ‘enough is enough, thank you!’

She is a cross between a gazelle and a saluki to us, very long, bambi like legs and she can outrun most dogs that we know. She loves her walks in the countryside where there are streams to splash in, she has been camping with us to a lake which she really enjoyed plus we’re taking her to Spain for our annual camping holiday on a campsite which allows dogs and has a huge stretch of beach to run about on with Tally.

Taking on a rescue dog isn’t always completely plain sailing. Pepper had a pretty poorly tummy and an ear infection for a bit but the vet has sorted those now (plus help from Moira and Darcey on email!). she also chewed through 3 leads so we now have chain ones; she still ‘mouths’ at us when very excited which is fine but she has a strong jaw and she is also quite a barker at passing neighbours and the postman – something we’re not used to with the flat coats we’ve had. We’re working on these bits though and I’m confident that, in time, we’ll have it all sorted.

We certainly wouldn’t be without her – she’s a fantastic addition to our family and she and Tally are like sisters now! She also gets on really well with Boris, our cat, something that was checked before we took her on.

Moira and Darcey were absolute stars in being very patient with me and my elongated emails on occasion and for us to finally meet Pepper and take her home. The dogs at the SPA are very lucky to have them but of course they (the dogs!) would all very much like to be in forever homes.

If it were down to me I’d have more but, for now, two is what we have and I think Pepper is certainly very happy with her new home and her new life!

Nikki & Dave Harland . June 2015




Shadow’s Story


Shadow is a truly sweet soul who has obviously had a few trials in his life along the way ending up in a refuge again at the age of 7yrs . He was very quiet when he first arrived and we didn’t hear him bark for about a month . He was always just there , no real greeting or confirmation that he knew we existed . Christmas was a bit bewildering! Why were these people giving him squeeky toys , teddy and tennis balls ! What was he meant to do with them , he hadn’t a clue ! The wrapping paper was delicious !! Saucisson on the other hand !! He had stolen one whole saucisson & a baguette by christmas ! Now I have to point out that this was quite a feat , as he was unbelievably unfit & very very fat . His first walks consisted of going down the drive and back , then we progressed to walking to the first bend in the road , about 200m . Not only was he completely puffed on our return , but he was very stiff in his joints . We decided to give him a month of Corteflex , which did the job . He was less stiff and more able to continue with his fitness programme . He has managed to steal 2 more saucisson , but I blame us for turning our backs on him ! He knows the routine , people turn up for an apéro , out comes the saucisson , then we walk the people to their cars and voila , saucisson gone without a trace !! He has however done us proud by losing over 5k in 7months . He is truly obsessed with food , and once in his grasp you can just forget it !! Shadow is an absolute poppet with all other dogs , irrespective of age & size . He has also been a diamond with our neighbours children , a 6yr old and twin 3yr olds ! He likes to chase the chickens when he’s feeling sporty , but it’s only a game ! He now greets us like a puppy whenever we come home and occasionally has been know to give us a cuddle ! He barks at any cars that arrive and defends his home with pride – if I didn’t know him , I don’t think I’d not take him seriously !! As sweet as he is , he’s been an education for us . Before Shadow we owned 3 weimaraners , a Retreiver , 2 Border Terriers and a Griffon . But taking on a rescue dog is a whole new ball game . I think we have had to be more patient with him than any of the others because he’s not a puppy , he has had problems , but therefore the reward we get when things start to come good is immense ! We have no regrets and I am now sure Shadow knows that this is his Forever home , chickens and all ! The pictures are November & now – I hope you can see a difference !
Nikki & Dave Harland . June 2015




The Journey by Zelda


Zelda1“Let’s go back to February 28th 2015….a story from Zelda”
Two dogs that thought they had a home for life were abandoned at the SPA today. First was two-year old Zelda, who was adopted from us (as Zizouille) about a year ago. She is on the “no longer wanted” pile. BUT My new Mum, Jane found this picture of me, and you can see that now I have a different life altogether!! She had decided to volunteer at the SPA Carcassonne, and ventured into the “concrete jungle” initially December 2014. To return shortly after in March on a permanent basis…there was strict instruction from John to find a new member to the family but not a small dog! Well, an open brief and where to start, there was so many to choose from all barking for attention and affection but she kept returning to my home which I shared with a great dog Tazer. Initially I was very frightened and wouldn’t approach anybody, but with some support from Tazer and a treat…we became friends and went out for a walk together. Jane returned on several occasions as a new volunteer and although there were several new dogs, always sat with me and I enjoyed the cuddles that she gave me behind the bars…little did I realise that she had decided…I was going home. Jane shortened her last return to the UK and I was adopted on April 11th…ten days after my 2nd birthday….approximately 6 weeks at the SPA is unusual. We both started our journey together walking the vineyards near Brezilhac, and I soon found new friends as you can see from the pictures…socialisation is hard for me, and I am afraid of people, children, flags, loud noises and shoppings bags to name but a few, but in eight weeks we have made great improvements. I am very lucky as we have a small open garden where I can play with my various toys, and I am particularly good at football…OK I’ve destroyed a few and have thrown a few tennis balls down steep banks which both my new Dad and I have managed to retrieve…we have been to Mirepoix/Limoux markets as my Mum loves to source local fruit/veg and I generally always get a treat when she stops for coffee. Many people have approached me on these days out and I have even had photographs taken….today has been an adventure Toulouse airport….who know’s where we will be going next, such an adventure!!
“A day in the life of a volunteer” Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I set off for the afternoon to the SPA Carcassonne….with so many dogs to walk I have to choose those that have not been walked recently…I was surprised it could be up to a week! I personally have a soft spot for the big dogs in their single boxes, and have built up my muscles in my right arm!! (thanks to Gus…lovely chap).They are all so very different when they are given the opportunity to get out… for anyone considering “adopting” please do not pass by those that look over excited, or retire to the back of their homes..just give them a second look. There are two tips I would give any new volunteer make sure you bring water as some days it has been over 30 degrees, and even though we don’t walk on those days…Cindy, Moira and myself washed three puppies for the first time it is thirsty work. Secondly, pair up with a friend, and enjoy the walks together this allows those dogs that are homed in pairs to go for a walk together, and it is great to see the difference. When you have the time get the brush out…with the warmer weather some of the dogs are losing their winter coats and is great to see how they appreciate the cuddles and warmth that you can provide…it always gives me great satisfaction to see the “older dogs” adopted and see them off with their new owners. Anyway back tomorrow with my daughter to show her the ropes and despite the weather, a walk and a smile costs nothing.




My Search & Rescue – A Risk Assessment

search1After the birth of our second daughter and reducing my working hours to part-time, my partner and I felt the time was right to finally add a canine member to our family. I had grown up with spaniels (English Springers and a Brittany Spaniel), and Paul grew up with various breeds, from terriers to poodles. We already had 2 cats (Fonzi, a Burmese, and Cleo, an Egyptian Mau X Bengal). But because we had both worked full-time we did not think it was fair to have a dog we could not commit the time to. My experience of dogs was such that I knew it’s not just about taking care of their physical needs but also their emotional needs.

We did not want to buy from a breeder over here: A : because it’s so expensive, B: because we liked the thought of being able to help a dog who had been given a rubbish deal in life, and finally C: I fell in love with Garf at first sight. After trawling through pages and pages on google of UK dog rescue centres, and unsuccessfully trying to find a spaniel or a hound that was good with kids, and was still young enough for the kids to grow up with, I accidently stumbled across the SPA Carcassonne page. I could not believe all the lovely looking dogs looking for a new home. Garf took my eye straight away, as he was obviously a Brittany Spaniel and so beautiful. I was also keen on an older Brittany spaniel, however we felt Garf maybe too lively for him to handle. As luck would have it my mum decided she wanted the older Brittany (Eclat – who we call ‘Clay’).

After a year of having Garf in our lives, and feeling he was suitably settled and happy, we decided to give him a pal. When a Brittany spaniel puppy appeared on the SPA website we thought she would be ideal as being a puppy she would be more likely to be accepted by Garf. The idea being she would accept his position as leader and be his subordinate. Hmmmmm, enter Pip, she had other ideas. She is a very lovely, but bossy little sister for Garf, just as well he is now a chilled out sort of dude! We purchased a dog crate after about 2 weeks of Pip’s arrival, it has been a brilliant buy. She sleeps in it and it also means Garf isn’t harassed at night by her.

I suppose in sum a we did a risk assessment before we decided to adopt from the SPA Carcassonne, the risks were:

  • Distance, the dogs were in South France (we are in Scotland) – we did not view them before we adopted them;
  • Relying on SPA to test the dogs with kids;
  • Patchy historical / medical info
  • Assumption that a rescue dog will have more issues and be more work;
  • Having to wait longer to get the dogs due to distance/transportation;
  • What if something goes wrong afterwards? E.g the dog is aggressive with the kids?

Why we still went ahead with it regardless:


  • The satisfaction of helping a dog in need;
  • The Calibre of dogs available;
  • Good communication with staff at the SPA throughout the process, very helpful and reassuring – and I liked that Moira was Scottish! We trusted them.
  • The SPA sorted vaccinations, passports, transport, and this with cost of the dog was very low compared to theUK.
  • Finding a Brittany Spaniel rescue is a rare thing.


search2For these reasons we did it a second time with Pip. It’s actually funny, because she has been more work than Garf, for us the Rescue dog was ‘easier’ than the puppy. I guess all dogs have their own pros and cons regardless of where you get them from. A pure breed dog can have a blow-by-blow account of its medical and family history, but they are not always the most healthy and they maybe expensive to buy. A rescue may be more of a mystery, but I think this makes them quirky and interesting. Here is a low down of our dogs:


Exhibit A : Garfield

AKA: ‘Gorgeous Garf’

Brittany Spaniel X Setter, 2.5 years of age at time of rescue.

Issues: Hyper, sensitive tummy, pulling on lead, Poor recall.

Needs: Plenty of walks, to run off the lead, cuddles, Sensitive dog food, PATIENCE.

Pros: Handsome, Intelligent, Already house trained, not destructive, Sporting (helps me stay healthy), Handsome, great with the kids,

Makes me proud he is ours, Handsome, cuddly, A dog as great as him in the UK would cost hundreds as a puppy, and there was no rescues of

his calibre in the whole of the UK – I looked!

 Exhibit B: Pip

AKA: ‘The Enforcer’

Brittany Spaniel X ?, 6 months of age at time of rescue.

Issues : Not toilet trained, chews: toys, books, socks, etc. Can open the pedal bin in the kitchen – likes to empty it, bosses Gorgeous

Garf about – bit jealous when he gets cuddles, doesn’t seem too keen on learning basic commands.

Needs: Food if you want her to perform basic commands (it’s weird that she suddenly knows them when you have chicken in your

hand!), cuddles, a patient big brother (cue Garf!), exercise, not to be overfed.

Pros: She is great with the kids, cuddly, loves people, friendly with other dogs, keeps Garf entertained, good on the lead, excellent recall, loyal.

My mum adopted Clay, as mentioned earlier, he was around 9 years of age when she got him. We initially thought we may only have him for 1 or 2 years as he seemed like he had a rough time in life, appearing weathered. He literally had no issues behaviourally. He and mum ‘clicked’ straight away, he is calm and loving. He is super with the kids, and would make an ideal Therapet. He had to get a lot of teeth out when mum first got him, and has a touch of arthritis, but he is happy and has such a glossy coat now. He is mum’s ‘wingman’ and goes with her when she is out and about in the car and such like.

I guess we have been lucky that I stumbled across the SPA website that day, we have ended up with such lovely additions to the family. We took the ‘risk’ and it paid off, I would only ever choose a rescue dog from now on. It doesn’t make sense to pay hundreds of pounds for a puppy when there is such an abundance of great rescue puppys/dogs needing a better deal. There are risks involved in any form of dog ownership, the most important thing would be to research it fully before you make a decision and make sure you know what to expect, be prepared and be patient!   If a dog can trust and love a human again and give us a second chance, then it’s probably not too much to ask for the same in return.

Wishing all rescuers the best of luck in their adventures,

The Emslie-Fyfe family, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.



patoLarge, Mature, Male

Pato was adopted recently and brought back for no particular reason other than an apartment is not the right place for a dog of this size! Pato is a big dog, and despite his age (he was born in May 2004) he is very active. He is a fine looking boy, but he has a major problem. He HATES cars! My Bella will chase cars, but Pato will attack them, whether stationary or not. Not only that, he will bite through the tyres. Hmm. What sort of home would suit this dog? One with a garden in which no cars enter, for sure. And as for walking, it would have to be somewhere where no cars are likely to pass by, or he will lunge and probably take you with him. Not an easy dog to home! But he deserves his chance!

Contact SPA Carcassonne about this dog

  • Hates cars!!!
  • Needs a strong caring owner
  • Lovely looks