After 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:
Why we still went ahead with it regardless:
For 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.
In 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.About 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.
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
As 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!
I 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’.
We 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.
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.
In 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.