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Author Archives: Moira

Bakkie ( ex Blackie)

12782463_10153400872902286_1677673209_nHaving settled in France in January 2015 after a couple of years working in Honduras we decided that we were ready to have a dog again.  As our family was growing up we had always had animals in the home, all from puppies and kittens, and decided that we would like to find a dog from a rescue centre – probably a slightly more mature dog to hopefully avoid the house training, two plus years of chewing and with a more relaxed, considered and less manic approach to life in general!

I visited the SPA Carcassonne at the beginning of June 2015 with a vague idea that we were looking for a small/medium sized bitch, but as soon as I saw Blackie (renamed Bakkie) I fell a little bit in love with his handsome face and expressive eyebrows.  His demeanour was one of calm resignation that he would most likely be overlooked again – not surprising considering he had spent 3 of his 7 years in kennels.  We had a little chat through his fence and despite his kennel mate berserking around doing the fandango Bakkie very quietly chatted back with me in a very gentlemanly manner.  After going for a short stroll together and spending a little more time hanging out we thought we might suit each other very nicely thank you!

A couple of days later, once all the paperwork had been completed, I returned to the SPA with my husband to pick Bakkie up and bring him to his new home with us (despite my husbands surprise that he was neither small nor a bitch!).  He travelled beautifully in the car for the hours journey and on arrival was inquisitive about his new surroundings but settled in very quickly.  We have had no accidents in the house, we haven’t had anything chewed or destroyed, we have had to do very little in the way of training to lead on walks – in fact all the upsides to having a dog.  And the best part has been getting to know Bakkie better, watching him gain in confidence and rediscover his ‘joie de vivre’.

Since we have had Bakkie we have done several trips to Andorra, Spain, the Alps and each time he has behaved impeccably – he loves travelling, hotel stays, mountain walks, beach walks and, in fact, only a couple of days ago he enjoyed his first swim in the canal (I think the ducks may have been an incentive to brave the cold!).  Being slightly older he also really enjoys his down time, lazing in the sunshine in the warm and in the winter curled up on his bed in front of a fire.

An advantage of having a dog that has been in the refuge for a long time is that there won’t be any big surprises about their character – whatever their history before arriving at the refuge you can be confident in the fact that they have been gently and knowledgeably rehabilitated whilst there.  We are toying with the idea of getting Bakkie a companion and when the time is right we will most definitely be returning to the SPA.



Holiday Care for your Dog – Be Prepared!

It wont be long until the summer holidays are upon us so to make sure that everyone is organised and informed we will cover  holiday care options with guest bloggers describing their experience of each option.

The main options available are house sitters, boarding kennels, family or friends or of course take your doggy with you.

Today we will hear what our behaviorist Vanessa Lee – Jones has to say:

“Get your pet ready for its holiday”

Your cats or dogs are no fools. They know when something is going on!. Here’s a few tips to keep your favourite pet from stressing too much near the holidays!

First of all, don’t leave your suitcase lying around the house days before your departure: best case scenario they’ll sleep in it, or worst they’ll destroy it! Whether your pet comes with you or not, the suitcase is a visual reminder something is about to change and that’s stressful.

If you call a pet sitter at home (friend or professional) try to insure they will respect in the maximum of their capabilities your dog or cat’s habits: feeding hours, walking times etc…and it’s highly recommended for your pet and it’s sitter to already be acquainted before their “roomy” experience begins!

If your four legged pal is going to stay at someone’s home (friend/family) or in professional kennels; it’s important to visit their future “holiday home” with them so they can see and smell it out, it will allow them to relate to the place as a safe and friendly environment. Do not forget to prepare their travel bag too: bed, favourite toys, even a t-shirt of your own for your sent, when you will drop them off on D day, they should be more relaxed and less frustrated.

One last thing : your animal picks up YOUR stress ! In theory you trust the person you leave your beloved cat or dog with so DON’T be worried and DON’T feel guilty…you are allowed a pet free vacation and they are allowed an owner free time out too !!

Thank you Vanessa. Tomorrow we will hear from Milena about her experience with house – sitters!


holiday dog




Two adoptions and three arrivals..

Todays weather did not stop adoptions and  both Boogie Woogie and Chronos were adopted!

Before we talk about the doggies, we have an update on the pussy cat who arrived yesterday with a collar injury. She will be fine and is now recovering after have her shoulder injury repaired, being sterilized and identified.

Boogie Woogie, now Prince arrived at the refuge about three weeks ago with his litter mates and we knew that such cute gorgeous pups wouldn’t have a long wait. On Monday we posted their profiles on facebook and were inundated with enquiries. Today he had a quick wash before his new owners arrived. It was Jeanne who reserved Prince on Tuesday and today he is off to his new home where he will be a play mate for five children and a lovely one year dog.

We want the best for our pups and we give each new owner advice sheets on preparing the house for their new puppy, house-training and crate training.

We also advise new puppy owners to socialise their pups and to enroll in dog training classes as soon as possible. With pups you want to make the most of the socialisation window so you will end up with a well-balanced happy pooch!

The dog training club in Azille is both English and French speaking and is run by our volunteer Shirley who will give you a couple of free lessons after which you will hopefully sign up for more!

Next to leave was Chronos, an 18 month old shepherd cross who arrived in December 2015. Chronos is a calm and super natured young dog and is going to be a super family dog. Like all young dogs he is going to need patience and training but this is a smart, keen dog….now his life can really begin!

On the arrivals side we had three, a lovely but deaf dalmation and two very cute puppies. Pictures will follow once they have been vet checked and are ready for adoption.

Puppy Prince ( ex Boogie Woogie) adopted!


Chronos also adopted..


Monday Catch up…

Tonight’s blog is a catch up of Saturday’s news and it’s mostly good!

Four dogs left on Saturday, that was three adoptions and one dog who was reclaimed by its owners.

The first adoption was Basile, a seven year old Pyrenean sheepdog x. He has been with us since August which was in fact his second stay at the SPA so let’s hope that this time it’s forever.

Next to go was Orlando. This one year old Labrador cross hadn’t been with us for long and we knew he’d soon find a home. A very handsome, sociable boy who didn’t pull on the lead…a lovely boy!

Last to be adopted was Scotty. This 10 month old Yorkie x was found near Limoux and like most small cute terriers he didn’t have a long wait.

The dog who was reclaimed was Cupucin, an eight year old Shih tzu. It was obvious that this little boy had been well cared for was just lost.

[NB We stated in an earlier blog that Capucin had been abandoned by his owners at a municipal office, so clearly he was NOT just lost. It appears rather that his owners changed their minds and came back to collect him]

We can’t stress enough the importance of having your dog identified and keeping the details up to date. It is of course the law but that aside it allows us or whoever finds your dog to reunite you very quickly should he become lost. It’s not expensive and the peace of mind you have makes it well worth every euro!
Everyone knows that the SPA cares for dogs and cats but once again we have a very special guest. Young Tanki, a very handsome ferret has been found in Belvèze du Razès and brought in. He was identified but its a foreign microchip so unless we can either trace the owners or he is claimed, he will be available for adoption. Do get in touch if you’d like to offer him a forever home!

Basile – adopted!


Orlando – adopted!


Scotty – adopted!




Is your dog spoilt?

The refuge is closed today so I though we would have a look at whether we spoil our dogs? It’s amazing how many pictures we receive from folks who have adopted one of our dogs where the dog is cuddled up on the sofa or bed. So tonight’s blog is about how and if we are spoiling our dog!

So here is a little quiz..

  1. Does your dog sleep on the bed? Oops.. mine does!
  2. Does your dog eat human food? Oops.. yep to that one too!
  3. Do you cook for your dog? Oops..yep!
  4. Do you let the dog on the sofa? Oops ..yep!
  5. Do you take your dog on holiday? Emm.. yep!
  6. Buy them birthday presses and then even wrap them up…Yep to that too!

So have I spoilt my dogs and are they raving loonies?

Contrary to what you may have read in some dog training books, in my opinion,letting your dog get on the sofa and feeding him real food does not mean he will turn into a raving dominant maniac-dog. It simply means that you have made a conscious decision to grant him furniture privileges and provide him with a diet that goes beyond processed kibble. These deliberate choices on your part do not give rise to behavior problems. Spoiling a dog in a manner that leads to undesirable behaviors is something else entirely.

Whenever you are with your dog, one of you is training the other. The healthiest dog/human relationships generally occur when the human is the trainer and the dog the trainee the vast majority of the time. This means that the human controls most of the “good stuff” in the dog’s life, and decides when, where, and how the dog gets it. The dog can earn the good stuff by doing things that please the human.

I would identify a “spoiled” dog as one who is allowed to be the trainer more often than he is the trainee, when the resulting behaviors are damaging to the relationship. The spoiled dog does things that don’t please his human and gets the good stuff anyway.

One example is the dog who “demand-barks” to get a treat or a toy – and the human gives him what he wants because she knows the barking will just escalate if she doesn’t.

So carry on allowing your dog to be comfy,  let him enjoy some tasty healthy dinners but do try and discourage pushy demanding behaviors and you will have a happy pooch…a little comfort never hurt anybody!

Here are Twiggy and Georgie..comfy and cosy!




Meeting the terriers…

Many of you will have asked about the 26 dogs that the SPA Carcassonne took in as a result of a dog-hoarding situation in a local village and some of you have even offered homes to them so here is a little update on how they are doing.

When they arrived they were terrified, It was a real struggle to cope with 26 arrivals over a few days never mind the fact that these poor dogs were scared of being handled but still need to be vet checked and vaccinated etc

Nevertheless we got to them vet, they were all checked over and have now had their second vaccinations. This of course meant that we could begin the slow process of assessing them and to see just how sociable they actually were.

On Thursday we spent time with Pinder, Posca, Samba and Hippy. Three year old Posca was by far the most at ease with us, and enjoyed cuddles and kisses, Pinder and Samba would approach for a treat and Hippy was the most cautious.

The more confident dogs such as Posca and Pinder could now be adopted and over the next few weeks we will get to know all of the others.

These homes will need to have lots of time and patience, be quiet and have someone around most of the day until the dog is settled. They will have to be prepared to go back to basics with house training and of course a confident resident dog would help.

If you are interested in adopting one of these dogs now is the time to come along and meet some. We have males and females from a few months to about 10 years old.

The story of Misery, the five year old griffon x who arrived with two enormous mammary tumours, has touched many people. Some have asked how they can donate towards this surgery. This is very, very kind and can be done via paypal to website@ dogrescurcarcassonne.co.uk. Regardless of donations Misery will of course have the surgery that she requires but as they say…’every little helps’!

We will keep you updated with Miserys progress but this is a real changing point in her life. We will be looking for a very special loving kind home for this girl where she can live the life she truly deserves.

Posca…a  very pretty terrier cross.





Barking Mad!

Barking…its one thing that most visitors and volunteers at the SPA comment on. As the dogs see you walking past their kennels they bark, really bark! This is mostly due to excitement, a bit of boredom  and of course they certainly want to get your attention so they get taken for their walk!

One of the most common after adoption help issues that we are asked to deal with is barking,  This isn’t because rescue dogs bark more than non-rescues it just that most people don’t realise that barking is in fact how dogs communicate with us.

If your dog barks, there is a reason why. It may be simply a response to a stimulus, like a jogger running by the house, boredom, excitement or it may be your dog’s way of asking for help. You need to find out why your dogs bark in order to stop them from barking.

So lets look at why dogs bark…

Being left ‘home alone’ for long periods of time with nothing to do would make the best of us look for some sort of entertainment, dogs are no different. Barking can be a way to relieve boredom. Some dogs become so attached to their owners that when they are left ‘home alone’ they start to panic. Barking and howling is the dogs way of trying to call its owner back.

Some dogs find that being able to see other dogs or even people through glass doors or windows very frustrating, this in turn leads to barking type behaviour. Being able to see and hear things that go on in everyday life can make dogs bark, especially guarding breeds or very sound sensitive breeds such as terriers or collies.

Barking as people approach the house is normal. I know that my dogs bark with excitement if they see anyone the know approach the house, others may bark as a warning! This is normal but its best to train them to stop after a few barks rather than continue and risk scaring away your visitors or annoying your neighbors!

And how to stop it…

For dogs who bark through boredom giving a dog something to do whilst it is left ‘home alone’ is very important: Pacifier toys such a Kongs, Activity Balls and Buster Cubes that can be filled with food, go a long way to solving this particular problem.

For those dogs that bark at things that they can see and hear it is recommended that the owner pulls the curtains shut and leaves the TV or radio on to drown out any external sounds that may cause their dog to bark.

If your dog barks outside at passer-byes, simply screen off their line of sight and if this isn’t possible be proactive and call your dog in when he barks or you hear someone coming.

There is nothing surer to drive neighbors mad than continual barking. If this is a problem then get professional help to stop it as soon as possible.

News from the refuge today is that puppy Samoa was adopted. A golden coloured female puppy was never going to have a long wait. Samoa had only been with us about 3 weeks and she is off to a new home! We did have two arrivals who were quickly reunited with their owners. So one less dog at the refuge tonight…fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Samoa adopted!


Woof woof!




Easter, Chocolate and Dogs..

As we approach Easter weekend the supermarket aisles are full of chocolate eggs, bunnies and goodies so we thought that we would remind readers about just how toxic chocolate can be to some dogs.

As a dog owner you’re probably well aware of the fact that chocolate is poisonous to dogs – but what often isn’t so clear is how much is poisonous?

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine – a natural product produced by the cocoa bean. Theobromine is not something we humans need to worry about, we would have to consume a lot of chocolate to suffer even mild theobromine poisoning. unfortunately for dogs, it is easier for them to consume enough chocolate to become poisoned.

The level of theobromine and caffeine in chocolate varies between the type of chocolate, the brand and the fact that the natural occurrence of these substances in cocoa beans is variable.


  • White chocolate – 1.1 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Milk chocolate – 64 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Dark sweet chocolate – 150 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Instant cocoa powder – 151 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate – 440 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate; and
  • Dry coca powder – 808 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate.


If you come home to find your stash of Easter eggs has been devoured by your dog, then you should call your vet immediately as they can administer activated charcoal, which can stop the uptake of theobromine into your dog’s blood and or give the dog something to make the dog vomit.

However if you’re not sure whether it was your dog or your kids that munched all those chocolate eggs, signs to watch out for in your dog include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Excitability or irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tremors

If you notice any of the above, then you know your kids weren’t lying and it was the dog who ate all the chocolate! If this is the case, then again, be sure to contact your vet as soon as possible.

So what can you do to stop your dog getting at all that chocolate? Well many of us will be buying a lot of Easter eggs this Easter – especially if you have a few children, so be sure to hide them well!

Make sure you keep your Easter eggs preferably in high-up cupboards, away from  the dogs!

Have a happy Easter and enjoy all that chocolate!






Change in UK microchipping laws!

If you’re a dog owner, 2016 marks a change in how you register your pet in the UK.

From April 2016, every dog in England and Scotland will have to be microchipped in a move which the Government says will help reunite people with lost or stolen pets and track down the owners of vicious or illegal dogs. Under new laws that were made in February 2015 – it will be compulsory for all dogs over the age of eight weeks to be fitted with microchips from 6 April 2016.

Dogs will need to be microchipped and registered with their keepers’ contact details. All keepers, including breeders, must keep these details up to date. The microchip will be officially registered with an approved microchip database, which will hold up-to-date information about the dog and its owner’s contact details.

The reason behind these changes is that lost and stray dogs cost the taxpayer and welfare charities millions per year. A microchip makes it much easier to reunite a dog with its owner. This will reduce the burden on animal charities and local authorities and help protect the welfare of dogs by promoting responsible dog ownership.

If you don’t comply, you’ll be in trouble. Once the new rules come into effect, if a dog without a microchip comes to the attention of the authorities, its keeper may be served with a notice requiring the dog to be microchipped, and may face criminal prosecution and a £500 fine if they do not comply with the notice.

So, how does this change effect dogs travelling from France to the UK with a passport. Most French dogs with a passport are chipped and details registered with ICAD, an approved database. If you are going on holiday just make sure that your contact details are up to date and have a contact for you whilst away. Then, if you lose your dog in the UK and they are scanned, the refuge or vets scanning your dog will simply call your mobile. If you are moving back to the UK make sure the change of address is registered with ICAD or register it on Petlog, whatever you prefer.

Microchip databases are only as good as the information on them and the people accessing that information. For that reason my two dogs who have a UK microchip are registered with Petlog in the UK and ICAD in France. Why? Because if they are lost in France and their details were only registered with Petlog, I would be relying on the vet or shelter being able to speak English and do some detective work to find me! In a busy shelter that might not happen.

There are some UK databases other than Petlog who do not subscribe to European search databases so that dogs registered on these can’t be traced if lost in France. So if your pet is registered with any data base other than Petlog and you travel to France regularly you have two options. Change the registration to Petlog or register the chip with ICAD in France.

Sometime in the future all the databases will be linked but that will not happen for a long time so please take no chances and keep your dog’s details up to date no matter what database you dog is registered on.




Who ate all the pies?

You all know how much we love visits from our adopted SPA dogs but in the last little while we have seen quite a few who have been, emmm ’larger than life’ !

There can be many reasons why a dog puts on weight but the most usual is simply that it’s taking in far more calories than it is using. This can happen very easily, something tasty added to his dinner, a biscuit here and there, training treats…it all adds up! I know how difficult it is, my dogs are no skinny minnies and are greedy Labradors who adore food!

So what are the health risks for fat dogs? There are many!

Diabetes mellitus .One of the most common complications of obesity in dogs is the development of diabetes mellitus. Obesity causes an increase in the secretion of insulin in response to the increased blood glucose level in the overweight dog. Insulin is also more in demand simply because there is a greater amount of tissue in an overweight dog. When requirements for insulin exceed the ability of the body to produce insulin, diabetes mellitus develops. If the need for insulin increases over a long period of time, the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin can actually ‘burn out,’ again resulting in diabetes.

Damage to joints, bones, and ligaments. Studies have suggested that approximately one-quarter of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications. The bones, joints, muscles, and associated tendons and ligaments all work together to give the dog smooth and efficient movement. If they are required to carry excess weight, they can start to become damaged.

Heart disease and increased blood pressure. As in people, overweight dogs tend to have increased blood pressure (hypertension). The heart has an increased work load since it must pump additional blood to excess tissues. This can lead to congestive heart failure.

Difficulty breathing. In overweight animals, the lungs cannot function properly. The additional fat in the chest restricts the expansion of the lungs. The extra fat in the abdomen pushes against the diaphragm, which separates the abdominal cavity from the chest. This also results in less space in the chest for the lungs to expand on inspiration. To make matters worse, the increased quantity of tissue puts an increased demand on the lungs to supply oxygen. These changes are especially serious in dogs who may already have a respiratory disease.

Heat intolerance. Fat is an excellent insulator, which is fine if you are a polar bear. But if you are an overweight dog in the heat of summer, the excess fat can make you miserable, and much less capable of regulating your body temperature.

Increased surgical and anesthetic risk-The effects of obesity on the heart and lungs have serious ramifications during anesthesia. Cardiac arrest (heart stops) and poor circulation of oxygenated blood to the tissues can occur.

So without doubt an obese dogs has a decreased quality and maybe length of life.

What should you do if you think your dog is overweight? First of all have this confirmed by the vet. Take the vets advice and follow a reducing diet and sensible exercise plan.