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Author Archives: Moira

The Big Chill…

It was great to be back at the refuge today, especially as it wasn’t too cold and was bright and sunny. As the temperatures plummet we all know to put on a cosy jacket, hat and gloves before we venture out but what about our dogs? How do we know if our dogs are cold and how can we make sure they are comfy on their walks on even the coldest day?

Well all dogs are different, long haired and short coated dogs, young and older dogs will have different tolerance levels to the cold weather. Some dogs have double coats to help them keep warm but don’t think that because your dog has a coat he will not feel the cold. Some breeds are closer to the ground and their bellies become wet and cold quickly when out, this can cause a dog’s temperature to plummet.

Dogs feeling cold also show it in different ways but some of the most common are a hunched stance, tail between the legs, shivering, whining, and lethargy.

To ensure our furry friends are nice and cosy, provide a warm dry bed which is in an area free from drafts. Remember that certain floor surfaces such as tiles, become very cold so make sure your dog is not left sleeping on a cold surface as he has nowhere else to go. Dog coats or dog sweaters are great for when your dog ventures outside even if just out into the garden and can be worn inside as well-depending on your dog and how cold it gets where you live. These are particularly great for dogs without adequate protection of their own such as lean, small or older dogs.

Please remember that the salty grit placed on pavements can irritate your dog’s paws and if it contains chemicals can be toxic should your dog lick their paws. Keep a bowl of water and a towel ready at the door to give their paws a wash when you get back from a walk.

Keep an eye on how long your dog is outside and don’t forget your dog is out in the garden if you have closed the door. When your dogs are outside don’t forget to put any antifreeze or screen wash well out of the dogs reach. Anti-freeze, screen wash and some types of de-icers contain ethylene glycol which is poisonous to dogs. The scary thing about antifreeze is that it is very sweet which makes it very attractive to many dogs.  Even a small amount can be fatal so seek immediate veterinary advice if you suspect that your dog has swallowed or come into contact with any.

One more of our dogs found their owners thanks to the fact it was identified so that’s one less who will be in a cold kennel. Dogs don’t like being cold any more than we do so wrap them up well and keep them cosy!

Keep you dogs cosy!


Settled in Scotland..

I am writing this blog from Scotland and from what I hear its much warmer than the South of France this week! Now you probably suspect I am spending my days lunching and shopping but although there has been quite a bit of that I have also been visiting our Scottish doggies, so in tonight’s blog we will follow their progress and look at the up and downs of taking on a rescue dog.

The first is of course Melba, who is my grand doggy! Melba was first adopted from the SPA when she was a pup but abandoned as a boisterous youngster. She spent several months waiting patiently at the SPA until Stuart and Juliette, my son and daughter in law, spotted her on our website.  I hadn’t thought to Melba to them as they were definitely looking for a border collie but like lots of people, sometimes you just see a dog and decide that is the one. Melba travelled to Scotland with me in August and then the real fun began! Like lots of refuge dogs Melba was not house-trained so that was the first hurdle, this was easy to manage when they were in the house  but as they both work during the day it did mean that the mop and bucket was required when they got back in! When left alone Melba howled, luckily there are no neighbours to disturb but getting a  doggy walker has been indispensable in breaking up her morning and a friend with a spaniel pops in during the afternoon,  so she now settles well and they come home to a clean house. Although Stuart had grown up with dogs Melba was signed up for doggy classes where she could meet and play with other dogs and learn the basics in doggy behaviour. She now sits, stays in a down until released and runs free, coming back to her whistle. I remember a phone call with Stuart a couple of weeks after they got Melba and he said ‘this dog training is really hard work, mum’…yes it is, but its well worth the effort! Seeing Melba run free, racing over the hills and sand dunes this week was magnificent!  Melba spends the weekends on the hills and has already ‘bagged’ more Munro’s than I have! They now have a well-adjusted, happy girl who is an absolute delight to own and it all can’t have been too bad as they are now looking for a playmate for Melba so are avidly watching our arrivals! I wonder who it will be?

The next visit was with Maddie (ex Malaga). When this little girl arrived at the SPA with a neck wound and absolutely terrified, little did she know that she would not have too long to wait!  Elinor and Dave a Scottish couple, have a holiday house in France and spend the summers here so after spotting Maddie’s photo on our website, took the opportunity to pop along and meet her. I remember them arriving at the refuge on a scorching August day and me having to carry Maddie into one of the parks she was so scared she just wouldn’t walk on the lead. It takes someone with a big heart and a lot of doggy experience to see past a dogs initial timidness but Elinor and Dave sat in the shade and just waited patiently until Maddie approached them. They were undaunted by her behaviour and reserved her on the spot! Maddie then travelled to Scotland with my hubby and there her real life began. Eiinor already has two Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s who soon showed Maddie the ropes and it certainly didn’t take her long to appreciate home comforts. Like Melba she too had to be house-trained but as Dave works from home she came on in leaps and bounds!  Maddie too has started doggy school to improve her confidence with strangers and to improve her recall. When we visited last Sunday I could not believe the difference in Maddie, there was no sign of the scared, anxious dog that left France, all I could see was a happy, bouncy confident girl who raced around playing with the other dogs. So Maddie has gone from being a neglected hunting dog in France to a much loved family dog in Scotland. I wish all of our hounds could be so lucky!

It was a stunning morning when I drove to Cruden Bay yesterday to visit Garfield and Eclat. The sun was shining and the two hour drive up the east coast of Scotland was simply beautiful. Angie was a bit worried that Garfield wouldn’t be at his best for my visit as he was just back from the vets after being castrated. She needn’t have worried for he certainly recognised me giving me a fantastic welcome! I am so proud how well this young boy has done, adapting to life in a busy household with a 4 year old, a 15 month old  and two Burmese cats! This is down to Angies sensible approach to how children, dogs and other animals can live in harmony. Garfield is still pulling a bit on the leash and can be distracted when off leash which is not unusual for a rescue dog so he too is off to doggy school. I bet in six months’ time he will be trotting along to heel and racing back when called, for there is one thing no one can deny, Garfield is a very, very clever dog! Garfield has gone from a boisterous out of control youngster to a lively, happy family dog who settled after a few minutes of me being in the house. I never care about young dogs going daft when I visit and I know not everyone likes dogs to be too enthusiastic with their welcome but each to their own and I love it!

Last but not least was my visit to Angies mums house to see Eclat. My goodness, this elderly spaniel who was chased out of two French villages before being brought to the SPA has truly fallen on all four paws. Eclat has a lovely walled garden which looks onto a North Sea estuary with sand dunes and miles of deserted beaches. He walks to heel when on leash but runs free daily on his walks. I had a lovely walk with him and couldn’t believe how well-behaved he was, racing over the beach but keeping a careful eye on us all the time! Angies mum only moved into that house the weekend of Eclat’s arrival so it was a new start for both of them. Eclat has helped her meet new friends as everyone wants to hear the story of how this lovely Brittany spaniel arrived in Scotland and he is also a great companion for her in her new house. With six young grandchildren Angies house is often chaotic but Eclat is always the perfect gentleman and loves all the attention! He is a great example of how one of our elderly, calmer dogs can go to a new family without any transition problems whatsoever!

So four months on we have four happy dogs in families who cant imagine life without them…well done to these families for taking a rescue dog and transforming its life!  We now really do have dogs all over the UK and this time next month there will be three more, one in England and two in Wales…our SPA dogs are cosmopolitans, they can and do  travel anywhere!

Melba on Lochnagar, a 20 km walk!

Melbas munro

And afterwards a marrow bone and a sleep alongside Milly the cat (also from the SPA of course!)


Maddie, all ready for doggy school.

Malaga dog school


Garfield, not long back from the vets.


Eclat, racing back to his mum!


A Poem For The SPA Carcassonne..by Michele

Today has not been a fantastic day at the SPA and just when Darcey and I were feeling a bit glum we received a poem written by Pitchou’s mum Michele which really cheered us up. So thank you Michele and I hope all our followers enjoy it as much as we did…

SPA Carcassonne..by Michele

In a big walled city in the South of France,

Dogs and cats sit and wait their chance.

All shapes and sizes to come and see

If you’re looking for a bit of furry company.


Boys and girls,some are young,some old,

Some small and timid ,others big and bold

Long hair and short hair,tricoloured or plain

They all want a home to get out of the rain.


They all have a story,most we’ll never know

Just what made their owners say ‘it’s time for you to go’

A life in the kennels is better than none

But why be in prison when you could be out in the sun.


Walks in the country a bed and some feed

A kind gentle owner,a walk on a lead

They don’t hold a grudge against humans at all

They just want their freedom to play with a ball.


Winter is coming and when you’re snug and warm

Think of them in the kennel all cold and forlorn,

So come find a ‘mutt’ or a pedigree

You can choose your new friend for a reasonable fee.


So open your door and open your heart

And give a furry friend a brand new start !

Here’s Pitchou who  inspired Michele to write the poem!

DSC08951 (1)

I Would Drive 500 Miles..and I Would Drive 500 More

Yesterday Darcey told you about all the dogs who left the refuge and we are still smiling! It was fantastic to think that last night eleven of our dogs ( eight adopted and 3 into foster homes) were in loving families instead of in concrete kennels. That’s what we want for all of our dogs and we will do whatever it takes to find the right family for them. Our superb website helps so much and we know how lucky we are to have a volunteer IT consultant!

Its not often that I open an email from a dog savvy couple, with an enormous enclosed garden and who have lots of experience of rescue dogs asking if we can recommend two of our dogs for them! Andrew and Marie recently lost two of their three older doggies but were ready to adopt again.Their main remit was that the dogs were not too much for Sheba, their old lady, and were good with cats.

So we made our recommendations and between us we came up with a short list! A week or so ago they traveled over here from near Biarritz with Sheba and after trying several combinations of dogs decided that they loved the dynamics of Lemon (now Buddy) and Shakira. These two daft youngsters raced around playing with each other but were very respectful to Sheba who joined in the fun for a bit and then let them get on with it. Clever dogs, little did they know it was their chance of a lifetime! Andrew and Maria reserved the two dogs who were then sterilized on Thursday ready for yesterday’s departure.

When a couple make the effort to drive all the way to Carcassonne with an elderly dog in tow and then have to wait until the dogs of their choice are sterilized we certainly don’t mind delivering the dogs . So yesterday morning I arrived at the refuge at 11am to pick them up. In the mornings the refuge is closed to the public and only a few staff members are around.  I marveled at how quiet and peaceful it was and even managed to sneak into the infirmary for a cuddle with baby Eddy a poorly pup, and fed him some chicken. I also watched our impressive Rotties play in the park, really I could have quite happily pottered around all morning but I knew that Andrew and Maria would be anxiously awaiting Lemon and Shakiras arrival. I loaded them into the car and off we set for a lovely drive over to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

It was great to receive an update this morning telling us that Lemon and Sharkira have settled down really well. Life for these two will be long walks, playing in the garden and a warm comfy bed at night. That’s what we want for all of our dogs and we don’t care where we have to drive our dogs to achieve that.  Yesterday wasn’t a 500 mile drive but it often is much longer, distance is no object and we would do it every week to secure such a future for our dogs!

Today, being the first Sunday of the month meant that we were open. Lots of volunteers turned up to walk the dogs as well as Team Sport! Team Sport consists of our soldier/volunteer Ronan and his friends who run or jog with the dogs in the countryside around the SPA. This really tires out some of our high energy dogs so we will have nice tired dogs tonight!

To add to this weekends great news our handsome boy Shadow was adopted today! Three year old Shadow arrived just over a month ago so hasn’t had long to wait for his forever family. A golden Labrador with a gentle nature who is going to make a great family pet!

Lemon (now Buddy) and Shakira



Shadow with his new family


Titus Toddles Off..

We are always pleased when the week starts off positively and so were delighted when tiny Titus was adopted today. He was brought to the refuge with another small,l younger female who looked remarkably like him, probably his daughter, but she was adopted very quickly leaving Titus alone. Titus was a lovely, friendly little chap but was limping due to a twisted Achilles tendon. A minor operation sorted this and of course we took that advantage of the anesthetic and had him castrated at the same time. He recovered quickly and today he left with his new mum, not a care in the world!

When you are thinking about adopting a dog its very important to consider your lifestyle and there is no denying that there are several advantages of adopting a small breed dog. Lots of people like the fact that you can take them almost anywhere and more and more stores and restaurants are allowing dogs to come inside, particularly if they’re small in size. I often see small dogs in trolleys in the supermarket and I certainly couldn’t pop either of my Labradors into one of these! It’s a fact that small dogs tend to form close bonds with their owners, possibly because their small size allows them to follow their owner almost everywhere.

Many apartment complexes have regulations specifying the size dog you can have. If your dog is Tinkerbell size, he may be allowed whereas a bigger dog would not. In general,small dogs require less food which can be a cost savings to you. Plus, if you need to take them to a kennel or have them groomed, it generally will cost less than it would for a larger dog. Small dogs tend to be less threatening to other pets you may have in your house. If you happen to already have a cat, a small dog isn’t going to strike as much fear in your cat’s heart as a German Shepherd would. Don’t underestimate them though. Small dogs can sometimes be quite feisty and need the same sensible rules and training that larger dogs do.

Health wise,smaller dogs tend to have fewer issues than larger dogs and certainly have a much longer life expectancy so Titus at 7 years old is a mere puppy compared to a 7 year old Newfoundland.  So goodbye Titus we wish you a long and happy life!





We All Need A Little Help From Our Friends…

At the SPA, like most refuges times are tough and we can certainly do with all the help we can get. This might mean making a donation, sponsoring a dog, becoming a volunteer or fostering one of our dogs or cats.  Lots of our volunteers also fund raise and these monies really are a lifeline to us!

Debbie one of our volunteer dog walker and fundraisers is organizing two events in the near future which are going to be held in the Salle de Mairie at Puivert. Half of the proceeds will go to the SPA Carcassonne and half to Twilight the retirement home for old doggies, so all donations will make winter a wee bit easier for our furry friends.

The first is Saturday 16 November from 10am – 1pm, when there will be cakes, books, cards, food and various craft stalls selling a  wide variety of items which will be just right for Christmas presents. There is also a raffle and a bottle stall.

On Friday 6 December we are having a musical evening when the Puivert choir will be singing followed by a performance from the Old Spice Girls – who are not to be missed! There will be mulled wine and mince pies in the interval.

At both events we will be running a silent auction with the opportunity to secretly bid for a selection of items, including wine from Chateau Begude, holiday break, house cleaning, pedicure, meals at local restaurants etc..

The success of both events is dependent upon donations and if you can donate any of the following items we would be very grateful:

New or nearly new clothes, furnishings, appliances and unwanted gifts.

Bottles for the bottle stall

Raffle prizes


Items  for the auction. This can be anything from a mornings cleaning, pedicure, Holiday accommodation, meal at a restaurant or anything people can secretly bid for!!

If you can help us by donating any of the above items please contact one of the volunteers below who will be happy to receive any donated items.

English Library  Quillan-

Julie Christian – Quillan  juliechristian6249@gmail.com

Fred Alsop –     Quillan fred.alsop@gmail.com

Jan Fleming-  Lavelanet chez.fleming@gmail.com

Karen Pead-  Balestie karen.pead@orange.fr

Debbie Jones – Puivert nelliejones6@gmail.com (after 18th October)

Belinda Carter-  Les Bordes- Belinda.carter@orange.fr

Moira Doig – Fanjeaux –moiradoig@aol.com

Jane Hartley- Villeneuve Minervois-janehartley@gmail.com

Di Eccles- Quillan   dieccles1234@hotmail.com

SPA – Carcassonne

At both fundraisers  we will also be acting as a drop off point for any of the following items, which both the dogs homes are always so grateful for:

Dog ,or Cat Food, Collars, Dog treats, Bedding and Balls of Wool

(we have keen knitters amongst us who knits blankets to keep the dogs warm in winter!)

So come on folks, have a clear out and put unwanted items to good use. Our doggy friends will be very grateful!






‘La Vie En Rose’ for Rose and Ariel..

Many people who come to adopt, come with the remit that they want a ‘good family dog’ and for us Brits when we think of a gentle, calm, happy go lucky dog we think of a Labrador.

We have all sorts of Labrador and Labrador crosses at the SPA and having had Labs or Lab crosses all my life I can certainly understand the attraction.  They are easy to train, love being part of an active family and love everyone and everything they meet. Labradors love to please and are playful, protective, loving, and reliable.

When a couple with a young family turned up on Wednesday looking for a family pooch, they were immediately attracted to Rose. Rose is a smallish Lab cross who was brought in by Rebecca and James, a couple of our volunteers who found her wandering in a local village. At only 13 months old she is a great age and will fit into family life very easily. What really sealed the deal was when the children gave her a cuddle and she wagged her tail with delight.  Rose is certain to have a great life with this young active family and tonight she will be surrounded by love instead of a concrete kennel and lots of barking! So a massive thank you to Rebecca and James for bringing her in, she now has the future she really deserves!

It’s not unusual to find dogs wandering in French villages and where I live there are quite a few dogs who wander free during the day but certainly have homes to go to. I know who the dogs are and who they belong to but should you find a dogs who seems lost and doesn’t seem to belong to anyone please speak to the local Mairie. No matter what they tell you it is their responsibility to arrange for the dog to be taken home or brought to the SPA. All Mairies are affiliated to a SPA and it’s their job to make the appropriate arrangements.

For anyone else looking for a Labrador, we have lots of super dogs who will make great family pets.  Please remember that all Labs, rescue or not can be boisterous youngsters and need training.  We always recommend doggy training lessons and in fact Club Canin will give you two free lessons if your dog is a SPA dog. There you will learn to train your dog, teach him appropriate doggy manners and best of all your dog will learn to socialise with other dogs of all shapes and sizes. So both you and your dog will make new friends so its well worth giving it a go!

Yesterday we also saw the departure of tiny Ariel who arrived with her brother Polochon. These three month old Jack Russel pups attracted lots of attention. Polochon left last week and Ariel left yesterday with her forever family.  These pups like lots of our pups have been living with the cats in the cat house which certainly ensures that they are feline friendly !

Tomorrow is an open day at Club Canin (10am – 6pm) so why not pop along, see what classes are available and meet the trainers. There will be fun and games for the dogs and you might see a few SPA dogs there as well!!

Rose who left today


Ariel left yesterday


Solo is looking for a family



Schadow needs a family too



Don’t Shop….Adopt!

Every week we hear of people going to breeders for pups, buying from stores who sell pets or from an add in the local paper!  With thousands of dogs abandoned in refuges in France every year, adopting a pet instead of buying is the only responsible choice! We are once again nearly full up so why would anyone want to buy a pup rather than save one? Can you really validate lining the pockets of irresponsible breeders rather than saving a life? And if you do so are you truly an animal lover?

If you buy a pet from a breeder you are giving money to the pet breeding industry – pet shops, puppy mills and breeders – and encouraging further breeding when there are already too many unwanted animals. Each time you buy one, you are saying, “do that again.!” Buying from a breeder or pet store simply tells them to breed more animals!

If you are breeding from your own dog , these puppies will need homes.! You may plan to keep one or all of the puppies, but if you have room in your home to add one or more animals, that space could go to a refuge animal. The people who you might give one of the puppies to could have adopted from the SPA so instead of saving 4, 5, or 6 animals from the SPA, breeding creates new animals who will need homes.

To some people, “responsible breeder” is a breeder who makes sure their animals are going to good homes and generally takes good care of their cats or dogs. They are different from puppy mills, which sell to pet stores, have no idea where the animals are going to end up, treat the animals as disposable, and often keep the animals in crowded, filthy conditions. However, too often “responsible breeder” is an oxymoron. No matter how well the animals are cared for, there are too many animals for too few homes, and there is no responsible way to intentionally increase the number of dogs in France right now. In a perfect world there would be a place for responsible breeders as well as rescues but that ‘perfect’ world is a long way away.

Adopting from us frees up space in the SPA and it allows us to take in new animals. Adoption saves not only the animal you adopt, but also the new animal the SPA can take in. Combined with not breeding or buying, adopting from the SPA helps both ends of the problem: fewer animals will be bred, and more animals who are already here right now will go to a good home.

Please,  please, adopt don’t shop!





The Myths Of Sterilization

In light of all the pups who have recently arrived I thought that we would deal with the benefits and myths of sterilizing your dogs!

The biggest benefit of course is that the animals can no longer breed and multiply, thereby the stray animal population eventually decreases. This means that The SPA would no longer be saturated and our adolescent and more mature dogs would have a greater chance of being adopted!

Sterilizing animals eliminates the desire to find a mate. This means fewer animals running off or wandering into traffic; chasing or biting people or their pets. Loose dogs also toilet whenever and wherever they like so as well as looking unsightly the risk of disease would lesson. A cleaner, happier and healthier environment for us all!

The health benefits for both the male and females are numerous. As far as disease is concerned, it certainly reduces the risks of mammary tumors and ovarian cancer in females and if you neuter a female dog prior to puberty, she has an almost zero risk of developing breast cancer.

Male dogs, too, may benefit, with the risk of testicular cancer eliminated – and rates of prostatic cancer reduced. From a behavioral standpoint, sterilization may reduce aggression toward other dogs, territorialism, and roaming, which can in turn protect dogs from the risk of injury associated with those behaviors, such as fights and getting hit by cars. Neutered males, particularly males who were neutered before puberty, are less likely to exhibit inappropriate urine-marking as well.

So why don’t people sterilize their pets?

Some say it’s the cost but really there are a lots of myths about sterilization: Here are a few:

-My dog is a male! – This comment normally comes from men! In addition to the benefits listed above, dogs conceive purely on biological instinct and don’t feel deprived by sterilization, but a dog that is not sterilized will suffer from extreme frustration if it scents a female in season and cant get to her. The result of this could easily lead to behavior problems and even reactive behavior – you are stopping the dog from following its natural instinct – to propagate the breed.

-All female dogs should be allowed to have one litter before sterilization. False. There are absolutely no health benefits by allowing this at all.  In actual fact female dogs that are sterilized before the first heat cycle have much lower risks of developing mammary cancers.

-You should always let a female have one heat period before sterilization. False.The only thing allowing a bitch to have one session may accomplish, is the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy!

-It will change my dog’s personality. Dog owners tend to accord anthropomorphic properties to their pets and feel that a neutered dog will somehow be less “manly” and a spayed bitch will only be interested in eating all day. This is not true. Castration does not affect a dog’s nature; he retains his playful instincts.

-Sterilization will make my dog fat. False, although the lower average metabolic rate of sterilized dogs will make it easier for some dogs to gain weight, this can be eliminated by cutting the daily food intake by about 15% subsequent to the sterilization procedure. Remember, sterilization will not make your dog fat – too much food and not enough exercise will make your dog fat!

-Undergoing sterilization is dangerous. As with all procedures that require an aesthetic, there is always a degree of risk, but if the procedure is undertaken by a licensed vet, the routine sterilization procedure is actually less dangerous and stressful than the complications that could happen in pregnancy.

So no more excuses, no more letting someone else take responsibility, please just sterilize you dogs!



Its Summer Again..but 4 Adoptions and 6 Reservations!

Today truly was the end for Summer! Summer arrived with her sister as pups and we were all delighted when she was the first to be adopted as black dogs in France are usually the first to go. So Summer  didn’t have to spend too long at the SPA and in June she left with who seemed the perfect family.

You can only imagine our devastation when she was returned today due to, wait for it, her owners moving to an apartment!  So I wonder what really happened, did the novelty of a six month old pup wear off after three short months or did they expect that she would train herself and return her when this didn’t happen. Most accommodations in France accept dogs so couldn’t they be bothered walking downstairs to exercise or toilet her? Young lanky adolescents can have a long wait at the SPA, I wonder what Summer would have preferred, an apartment with her family or a concrete kennel? Shame on them, to give up on a young pup after 3 months is not acceptable! But although Summer is back I cant help but think that she deserves better and we will find her a super forever family!

And we do try our very best for our doggies as today’s 4 adoptions have proved.

First to leave was our beautiful  3 year old Braque cross Piper. Her kennel mate Malage left for Scotland a month ago but today it was Pipers day and off she went.

She was very quickly followed by two pups, Heddet and Heka from our Egyptian God and Goddesses litter. These two lovely pups are the first to leave from a litter of eight, so 6 more to go!

Then Paradise from the Cocktail litter was adopted. I love these pups and took Bronx, their litter mate to Bordeaux last week. These border collie cross griffon pups are a wonderful cross, absolutely stunning and very, very calm happy pups.

Theses adoptions were followed by 6 reservations!!! I did say to Darcey that the things would pick up and they have. This is not down to luck but to the absolute dedication of our fantastic staff and volunteers. A massive thank you to everyone who adopted, reserved dogs, worked or volunteered today. What a day!

Summer is back again


Piper Has Left



Heddet was adopted


As was Heka



Last to leave was Paradise