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Author Archives: Moira

A Home For Willy….After 22 months!

After yesterday’s  sad news of Blanca’s return , today we have wonderful news. Willy our handsome nine year old Shepherd cross has found his forever family after 22 months at the refuge and Foxy who has only been with us a few weeks also left!

Willy was abandoned at the refuge in April 2012 and apart from the fact that he didn’t like other males was a really lovely boy. He was a gentle giant who had great obedience skills and was fine with children so it’s a bit of a mystery why he wasn’t snapped up before now.

Sometimes it’s just meant to be and I am betting that tonight he has already forgotten the SPA and is luxuriating in his new home with his new family.  I am sure that he is thinking that the 22 months wait was well worth it!

It really is news like this that perks up employees and volunteers alike and gives us the inspiration to keep going.

Two years in the refuge is far too long for any dog but we have 8 other dogs available for adoption who have been there longer than Willy. It makes you wonder why no one is choosing to adopt these dogs. They are all lovely dogs who would love a fresh start with a new family, so why are they being passed over?

When you adopt a rescue dog, especially one who has been with us for a while, you will know exactly what you are getting. We know all of our dogs little foibles, we can tell you whether they get on with all dogs or just some, how much exercise they will need, what training they will need and if they can live with children or cats. So before you leave with the dog you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. We are always honest about our dogs and encourage all of our adopters to consider what they expect from a dog before adoption.

Willy had just left when three year old Foxy was adopted by a super couple who are well know to the SPA. They adopted Buster a handsome black and tan Labrador cross nearly two years ago. Foxy was one of the lucky few dogs who only have weeks rather than years to wait for a home, I wish that they could all be so lucky!

Willy adopted after 22 months!


Foxy, off to live with Buster


Disco – 26 months and still waiting!




Carlo -24 months and still waiting!



Chico – 25 months and still waiting!




Dog Owners Of The Future – Our Children

Last week we blogged about therapy pets in an old folks home but this week’s blog looks at the education of our future dog owners! These are our children and it is of utmost importance that they are taught how to respect all animals from as early an age as possible.  Children need to learn how to be safe when around dogs, whether the dog is the family pet or a loose dog in the park. They need to learn how to recognise and assess different situations in which they may find themselves either in the home environment or when they are out and about.  This knowledge should then hopefully minimise the risk of dog bites, of which most actually occur in the home.

Wanda  from The Association Vivre a  Plein Temps in conjunction with the SPA Carcassonne  are planning school talks and on Friday we went along to the school in La Force where we had great fun talking to the children about how to stay safe around dogs as well as responsible dog ownership.  Several of these children said that they had been bitten by dogs and most of the time it was their family dog!

We began by asking the children who had dogs and what breeds they were and followed that with a question about what jobs some dogs did. The first reply to that question was not as I expected, it wasn’t a guide dog, but ‘chien de chasse’. This was a real reminder that we were indeed in rural France!

We discussed at length the warning signs that a dog might give before biting and how a dog’s body language tells us how it is feeling. I have to say that I was very impressed at how quickly and accurately the children interpreted the dogs body language in the doggy posters we took along.  These children were very quick learners and already very dog savvy !

Next we discussed the SPA and responsible dog ownership. The children were very shocked when we told them that nearly 700 dogs arrived last year. We talked about what to think about before getting a dog and the importance of looking after and educating a dog. I was very surprised when one young chap asked for the SPA’s phone number and address and I have to say, had that been my son, I would have been very, very proud of him!

With the aid of display boards we talked about the dangers of animals in different situations such as off leash around traffic and then the best bit of all; we went into the playground to do some practical demonstrations!

Here the children learnt to always ask before before touching a dog, how to stay tall and still should a loose dog approach you and how to curl up like a ball protecting your head and neck should a dog attack you. The children practiced all of these moves around Wanda’s immaculately behaved dog Dalba and saw for themselves how differently a dog reacts to a calm still child rather than one running around squealing.

We finished off by answering questions and emphasising the importance of staying safe around dogs.  Congratulations to the children from La Force school, they were wonderful , caring and knowledgeable children and if they are an example of our future dog owners then our dogs will be  in safe hands!

Wanda and her lovely dog Dalba.


Saying hello to Dalba



Therapy Pets

Last week we posted a picture of Sake, one of our ex SPA dogs, working as a therapy dog in an old folks home on our facebook page and we were surprised at some of the comments, so tonight’s blog is to explain the role of a therapy dog and also the benefits to both the dog and to humans.

A therapy dog is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, hospices and to people with learning difficulties.

Its well known that interaction with a gentle, friendly pet has both physical and mental health benefits. It lowers blood pressure and releases endorphins which have a calming effect and reduce pain. Petting a friendly dog or cat lifts moral, reduces boredom, lowers anxiety and increases communication.

On Monday I went along both to help and to see for myself and I have to say I was really impressed! When we arrived we did a quick tour of the dayroom to say hello. You could see the expression changing on patients faces, they smiled and were very interested in their special visitor! I bet lots of these old folk had owned a pet at one time and were remembering happy times!

We then went into a treatment room where we worked with a group of 5 elderly people. Most of these patients had varying degrees of mobility problems so we began with letting them pet the dog and brush him. This encouraged them to talk and to move their arms and hands.  They all smiled when it was their turn, it was truly amazing to see a little smile appear on a previously blank expression!  The patients who were mobile then had a little walk with Sake. To keep everyone nice and safe we used two leashes, the patient  held one leash encouraging them to grip and pull whilst we held the other leash. Of course the patients confined to a wheelchair didn’t miss out on this fun and also had a walk, again they held the leash as we pushed them along. Next was a game of hoops where the patients put a collar like hoop on the dogs neck and then took it off. Again this was encouraging gripping, stretching and movement.  The highlight of the day for Sake was when the patients used their bare feet to gently massage him. Gosh he really loved that, as did the patients!

Not all doggies could be or would want to be a therapy dog. They must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle , calm and most of all enjoy human contact.  They also need to know certain commands such as come, stay, sit, down, no, off and ok.

So what does the dog get out of this? Well some dogs love to interact and be petted by humans. They thrive on the attention and interactions and seeing Sake’s happy demeanour and waggy tail I would say he certainly enjoyed his visit as much as the patients did.

A year ago Sake was abandoned at the SPA and now he has a fantastic life which he shares with several other dogs, horses ,donkeys and a lama. The lama has also visited the old people’s home, now that I would have loved to see!  We are very proud of him!

Who wouldnt love this?

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Our ‘ Pawsitive Future’ Appeal !

In the next few weeks five of our lucky dogs will be on their way to a wonderful Association in the South East of England where they will stay in luxurious kennels where they have lots of kennel staff, trainers, volunteers and all set in 50+ acres of countryside! We are delighted to be working with this Association and have spent a lot of time and effort getting to know them. I have visited their premises, met the staff and seen their facilities and we know that they can offer a superb future to our dogs.

The average turn around at this association is only 3 weeks but whilst there ,the dogs are assessed and have training as well as lots of exercise and fun.

This is the chance of a lifetime for these five dogs where prospective adopters are carefully matched to each dog.  With the best intentions in the world we just don’t have the resources to walk our dogs every day or do much training with them so these five dogs are indeed very, very lucky! We will of course keep everyone updated with their progress; I wonder who will be the first to be adopted?

It will be a long days travel for them but one day is nothing when you consider the benefits which lie ahead! As we always transport our doggies safely, in large cages and ensure that they have comfort stops every few hours we find our dogs cope very well with the journey and always arrive at their destination hale and hearty!

Here are the lucky five:

Charley, who  arrived at the refuge on 1st June 2011. This wonderful boy arrived on my first ever day volunteering at the refuge so I am delighted that I will also be there as he leaves. He was adopted but returned after about a year but this was through no fault of his own so this is a fantastic chance for him to find a loving family.


Galileo is a two year old handsome Briard cross who has been with us since September. He’s an active boy and full of fun. He will make a fantastic family dog and one thing is for sure, you won’t see many like him in England!


Hood is a one year old Dalmatian cross who arrived in July so has already spent nearly half of his life in the refuge and a refuge is no place to grow up in! He’s a lively, clever boy who will thrive in a family who are willing to spend time with him showing him how to become the dog we know he can be.


Kiko is a seven year old Shepherd cross who was abandoned in November. He’s a beautiful looking black and tan boy who gets on with everyone he meets so I am sure he won’t have a long wait before he finds his forever family.


Mix is a one year old Spaniel cross Labrador who needs a bit of socialisation. He’s very friendly with people but needs to learn how to behave around other dogs! This isn’t his fault, he has just never learnt to behave around other dogs but he’s young and clever so we are sure that he will come on in leaps and bounds!



So, these 5 lucky boys leave on the 23d February and its wonderful to  think that we have the opportunity to enhance their chance of finding a loving family! This is an exciting opportunity for both the dogs and the SPA Carcassonne and we are proud to be working with such a wonderful organisation who will certainly ensure our doggies have a ‘pawsitive future’!

From a financial point of views all five must leave fully vaccinated (including rabies), microchipped and with pet passports and of course there are the transport costs on top of that!

If you would like to help with a small donation towards their travel costs we would be really grateful!

You can donate by paypal to spacarcassonne@yahoo.fr, by cheque or cash to SPA Carcassonne, Chemin de la SPA, 11000 Carcassonne, or just pop along to reception.  If you like fundraising and would like to host an event for our appeal then we would love to hear from you!

Please help us ensure a ‘pawsitive future’  for these five dogs!

On a different note, today being the first Sunday of the month, we were open. The highlight of today was the departure of Alpha, the third and last of the tiny Shih tzu cross pups. We knew that they would be popular but that’s all three adopted within a week of being put up for adoption! I wish all our doggies were so lucky!

Alpha, a real little cutie!




Toilet Training a Pup

Today the refuge was closed so tonight’s blog is on a subject that we are asked a lot about, toilet training pups! Just like everyone has opinions on potty training children you will get lots of advice from everyone about toilet training your pup but at the SPA we recommend using crates to give the pups their own safe space and also for toilet training.

Toilet training is all about creating good habits. Young pups have very small bladders and very little bladder control so they need to be in the right place when nature calls.

To toilet train successfully in as short a time as possible you must take your puppy to the garden:

When they wake

After eating

After taking a drink

Before, during and after a period of activity

When you come in

Before you go out

Before bedtime

And every twenty to thirty minutes in between unless they are asleep.  During periods of activity change that to every ten to twenty minutes.

Take the pup outside and stay with your pup, don’t nag or distract him just stroll  about and once he has done what he needs to tell them him he is a clever boy.

If you have to take him back in and he hasn’t done anything outside then either confine him to his crate, sit him on your lap or tuck him under your arm (small breeds only) as you go about your chores and try again in five minutes.

It is imperative that you do this, especially if you have started off with newspaper down or puppy pads because your puppy may prefer to wee indoors and he could simply be waiting to be taken back in.  Give him zero opportunity to go wrong.

Here are a few common mistakes during toilet training:-

– Using newspaper or puppy training pads.  Whilst it may help the clearing up process it can be very confusing for the pup that is taught or permitted to toilet in the house to make the transition to going outside and will often result in a pup that when playing in the garden will simply hold on until they are back indoors because that is where the toilet is.

– Leaving the door open. This does nothing to teach the pup to toilet outside and reprimands for toileting in the house will result in a dog that believes you disapprove of what he did not where he did it and is damaging to your relationship with your pup.

– Giving treats for toileting in the garden, again the dog is being rewarded for what he did not where he did it.  Whilst this is not going to be as big a problem as the reprimand, the clever dog will learn to do lots of little wees and never fully empty their bladder.  The insecure dog may wee indoors to appease you if you get cross about something else because they know that this is something that pleases you and gets rewarded.

– Expecting your pup to tell you when he needs to go out.  Once a pup understands that outside is where the toilet is then he may start to let you know he needs out.  However if you are not there to ask or you fail to notice him asking then the house training will break down.  Far better to have a dog go out to the toilet on your schedule once they are house trained.

– Giving your pup an ensuite in his crate.  Do not encourage your pup to toilet in his crate by putting puppy pads in there.  If you have to leave puppy for a while and he is going to need to go then best to have the crate inside a larger pen or blocked off area and leave the crate door open so that he can get away from his bed to toilet.

During the night young pups will need to go to the toilet once or twice in the night for anything from a few days to a few weeks.

If your pup is sleeping in a crate in the bedroom with you, then they will wake and should let you know they need to go out.  Carry pup to the garden to toilet and then straight back to bed again. If you choose not to have his crate in the bedroom make sure you can hear him or you will have to clean up in the morning!  Don’t feel guilty about having a crate in the bedroom, Leaving a puppy to cry in a crate or downstairs alone is teaching the puppy to associate the crate and night time with being distressed. Should you wish you can move his crate further away as the pup gets older and can hold on all night.

The good news is that this stage doesn’t last long and as very few pups like toileting where they sleep, the crate will encourage him to wait. Before long you will have a pup that understands that outside is for toileting and will happily run to the door to do out!

Clever boy…outside is for toileting!

Puppy Weeing out side

Papers help with the clean up but you are teaching the pup its ok to toilet inside. You then have to teach him to go outside so this method takes a little longer.

Puppy wee papers

The Breast Start For Pups..

This week saw the arrival of yet more young pups. They certainly do have the ‘ awww’   factor but the fact of the matter is that the future is very uncertain for young pups taken away from their mums too early.

Most decent breeders will make sure that the ‘mum to be’ is in tip top health and fully vaccinated well before mating even takes place. This ensures that the necessary antibodies are passed to the pups . Antibodies are passed in two ways, first of all to the pups through the placenta and secondly to the pups in the colostrum,the specialized milk produced by the mum for the first one to two days after giving birth. Colostrum provides the puppy with protective antibodies, and it is extremely high in calories, protein and vitamins. Therefore, it is critical that a puppy nurses within the first 12 to 24 hours to obtain the important benefits of colostrum. This is called passive immunity.

Antibodies received from mum generally circulate in the pups system for several weeks so pups born to mums which haven’t been vaccinated or pups who don’t receive colostrum are at a distinct disadvantage and are at risk from any infections they come into contact with.  After the short period of colostrum production, the pups caloric, protein, fat, vitamin, mineral and water requirements are matched perfectly by the nutritional content of mum’s milk.

Pups taken away from their mum after birth that haven’t had their mums colostrum have few defences against infection and are at high risk from any infection. Apart from the antibodies and perfect nutritional content of mum’s milk it is also delivered at the correct temperature, at the correct speed to pups in the correct feeding position. WOW…try replicating that with a bottle of milk replacer!

It’s for all of the above reasons that we sigh instead of ‘awww’ when young pups arrive at the refuge.  The window of risk for pups, between about three weeks and when they can be vaccinated ( active immunity) is often when they are abandoned. The refuge is a very dangerous place for pups with compromised immune systems and they are at severe risk from infections such as parvovirus or even distemper. All we can do is isolate them to protect them from infection and bottle feed them until they can be weaned and then vaccinated.

Please, please sterilise your dogs and don’t produce unwanted pups. Unless pups are nurtured as nature intended, with their mums, they are at risk and none of us would want that for the dogs of the future!

Pups need to be with their mum, like my pup Zac ( on the left). He stayed with his mum until he was 8 weeks old!



To Crate or Not To Crate…

When working with dogs we often come upon controversial subjects but one which seems to rear its head the most often is the use of crates.

I am not sure when dog crates became so popular. My family didn’t use crates with any of our childhood pets.  Now they seem to be routinely recommended by breeders, shelters and veterinarians.  However, dog owners too often receive insufficient information about how to use crates appropriately and safely.

I’ve crate trained all my dogs for the last 20 years and I think that crates are wonderful tools for training puppies, preventing young dogs from getting into mischief and for keeping dogs safe while travelling in the car. Used sensibly they can help with toilet training, chewing or destructive behaviours as well as providing a safe den for your dog. Dogs love to have a safe and secure area to sleep and somewhere they can be alone, so a covered crate is ideal. but its very important that they should not be overused. Like with anything else, common sense tells you that of course it’s not right to crate your dog at night and then all day whilst you are at work.

If you are going to use a crate for your dog you need to have the correct size. The dog should be able to stand up and turn around. Next, you need to acclimatise your dog to the cage. Once the crate is in place and has the dogs blanket in it I usually throw in a few treats. When the dog goes in, tell him he is a good boy but don’t close the door. Gradually increase the time in the cage, a filled kong or his feeding his dinner in it will build up positive associations with the cage and soon he will go in quite happily and settle on his blanket.

Once your dog is used to his crate you can pop him in for short periods and its a god send to have a dog who will happily settle in a crate should you have visitors who don’t want dogs around or whilst young children are playing.

Crates are fantastic tools when you have multiple dogs, it allows you to keep all you dogs together but safe as you can simply rotate dogs in and out of the cage. When I have multiple dogs staying over before travelling they are seldom all roaming free around the house at once. The crates allow me to separate those dogs who need space or who are nervous or scared without ever putting any dog at risk.

The key to success with crates is to have the correct size cage for your dog, to introduce them carefully and not to overuse them.








Another Incredible Adventure!

After the weekends fundraising successes, today we have more good news. Yesterday was the start of Frizzy and Reglisse’s big adventure as they left the refuge to stay the night at my house before an early start at 5am this morning with my hubby Roy, who drove the dogs to Folkestone where they met their new family. Like lots of our UK adoptions, these  owners had only ever seen pictures of the dogs on line so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the phone rang 10 minutes ago to say that the family were absolutely delighted with the dogs! After an overnight stay in London they will then travel up to Wales to live with a super family who have lots of experience with rescue dogs and who are delighted to offer these dogs a home.

Frizzy a Braque Allemande cross arrived at the refuge terrified and very thin. I was there when she arrived and as I held her in my arms I promised that I would find her a perfect family. I was over the moon when Edith agreed to foster her and I knew that her dog Tello would help Frizzy on her road to recovery, just as he has done with many of our dogs.  Reglisse , a griffon cross, was abandoned at the refuge after his owners divorced and its beyond comprehension how anyone could give up such a sweet, lovely boy. They will make a great pair and will have an older calm Labrador to show them the ropes! I am always amazed how well refuge dogs settle when they come for their overnight stay before a big journey, I am sure that they know that this is the start of something really good and so they behave impeccably!  Roy however thinks that its more to do with the roast chicken dinner and sausage treats but hey, if it works, that fine by me!

We are becoming experts at finding fantastic UK homes for our dogs and logistics have never yet proved to be a problem. You might wonder why on earth someone from the UK would bother taking a rescue dog from France when there are so many dogs in the rescue centres in the UK. The reality is the rescues in the UK are often much better off than us and have become very selective with their adopters. This means that it’s sometimes difficult for families with young children, working families or elderly people to be approved as adopters. We are also finding that British people love the variety of breeds we have here and without doubt it’s our excellent website that attracts lots of potential people to us. This does not mean that we let our dogs go to anyone; in fact we take a lot of time to ensure that the adopters know exactly what to expect and discuss at length their requirements and expectations. This ensures that there are no surprises or disappointments and gives our dogs the very best chance of success.

So bon voyage Frizzy and Reglisse….be happy in your knew life running free in the Welsh countryside!

Don’t forget we have the offer of transport mid-January should anyone fancy a dog or two!  This means that they must have their rabies injection before the last week in December so if you are thinking about it please let us know as soon as possible.

Frizzy and Reglisse leaving for Wales!


Frizzy made herself at home right away!







The Magic Of Christmas..

Today was the second day of the SPA’s stand at the ‘Magic of Christmas’  in the Cite.  Lots of volunteers turned up with their dogs and I have to say that Zac, Nero, Berson, Chunky and Grace were fantastic ambassadors for the refuge! Having the dogs there was a great way to encourage people to the stall and lots of people wanted to adopt Zac so I am a proud mum tonight!

The really surprising thing about the afternoon was the amount of people who had their dogs out and about with them, it was lovely to see!  So not only did our wonderful dogs welcome the adults and children who wanted to say hello to them, they also said hello to all the dogs who came along from a Jack Russel puppy to an Irish Wolfhound!  Most of our dogs there were ex SPA dogs so this just proves that a rescue dogs, like all dogs who get a little training and socialisation can become family pets you can be proud of and take anywhere!

Lots of people who had adopted SPA dogs came along to tell us how they were getting on  and it was wonderful to hear that Dic and Doc our two lovely spaniels who were adopted in May are doing fantastically well and are loving their new life. We even managed to get a new volunteer, a lovely lady from Phoenix, Arizona who has recently moved to France and has lots of experience with rescue dogs and fostering!

There was more good news when I checked the mail box when I got back and saw some super photos of Cadbury, one of our dogs who went to Orfee last month. He is doing really well in his new family who are absolutely delighted with him. We love hearing stories of how our dogs are doing after adoption and would love everyone who has adopted from us during the year to send us a ‘festive fido’ picture for our facebook page, so please get the tinsel out and get clicking!

So this weekend has been a fantastic weekend for fundraising , raising awareness  of the SPA and stories of successful adoptions!

Zac with his festive tartan collar.



 Cadbury in his new home.






Kensit Steps Out…

Today wasn’t nearly as bright and sunny as Tuesday but despite this lots of volunteers turned up to walk the dogs. For Kensit, the last pup left from the litter of five who arrived at the refuge in September, it was a big day as it was her first ever walk. Our patient volunteer James carried her out of her kennel but poor Kensit was so terrified she just couldn’t move. Sometimes when a pup is afraid, walking it beside an older calmer dog gives it confidence and as soon as we introduced her to Catcus off she went. Outside the refuge, away from the noise and chaos she soon gained confidence and bounced about trying to entice Catcus to play and trying to grab her lead. Until recently Kensit had four sibling for company but  for the moment is all alone in her kennel, so if anyone fancies a beautiful German Shepherd cross, she is fully vaccinated and ready to go.

We look for the very best of homes for our pups and always advise people to think long and hard about the impact a lively pup will have on their life. You need time, patience and understanding to have a pup in your household so if you are very house proud or not willing to put in lots of time and effort training the pup  perhaps one of our older, calmer dogs would be best for you.

We also had two fantastic adoptions. First to leave was Impact our lovely two month old border collie cross. What a handsome boy he is going to be and its fantastic to think that he will have a warm loving family before  Christmas. Being the dog of the week last week certainly paid off and tonight he will be having fun with a wonderful new family.

Next to leave was Chouquette, a six year old Shitzu who hasn’t had to spend long at the refuge at all. This is great news for her but I feel so sorry for our ‘long timers’ who have been waiting over two years. For some of these dogs this is more than half of their lives and a refuge is no place to grow up!

Please, please think of these dogs should you be considering adding a new doggy to your household.

Kensit steps out.


Impact looking happy to be leaving.


Last but not least to leave was Chouquette.