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Author Archives: Moira

Melba and Petit’s Incredible Journey!

Many of you will know that Melba, the beautiful Braque Allemand, was reserved by my son and eventually arrived chez moi last Thursday! Because I had 5 other foster pets I didn’t think it was fair to bring Melba here until I could give her all of my attention but at last she was there, her first step towards a happy future!

Melba arrived at the SPA as a pup and really did have the ‘cute’ factor so was adopted from us fairly quickly. She was then abandoned, a boisterous adolescent who had received no training, little attention and had been left to her own devices! We all know the havoc that a bored, unexercised and ignored pup can cause but I knew that Melba was a clever, keen girl.

Anyone who knows me well also knows my dogs Zac and Phoebe. Zac is a Labrador cross Collie who I have had from a pup and gets on with anyone and everything. Phoebe is a Boxer cross who I have had since she was 2 and is a fantastic people dog but needs careful introductions to other dogs. If things are done at Phoebes pace then there are no problems but she likes to dictate that pace!  After picking up Melba from the refuge I had my hubby meet us with my dogs and off we went for our first walk together. I breathed a sigh of relief when Madame Pheobe gave Melba a sniff and then ignored her; this really was the doggy equivalent of the thumbs up!  When we got back to the house Melba had a good sniff around and hoping she would settle I popped her in her cage.  She howled and after 10 minutes I gave up and let her out. She quickly jumped up on the sofa and went to sleep…hmm…should I let her settle or what?  By this time it was dinner time so the lure of food and a glass of wine was much too much for me so I let her sleep.

At bedtime I was a bit wary about putting her back in her cage but she quickly settled and slept until morning. Next day we packed up a picnic and the 3 dogs, then headed up to the Pyrenees for a long walk to tire them out before their big journey to Scotland. This certainly worked and after 3-4  hours walking on the hills we had very tired dogs!

Next day was hectic with an early morning walk and then a very special pick up in Limoux, a lovely little Pincher cross called Petit who was also travelling with us. Petit had been fostered by our volunteer Di, who had gone out of her way to accommodate this young chap, even although this is her busiest time of year. When Petit arrived at Dis a few weeks ago he was scared, not house trained and very wary of men but the Petit I picked up was confident, clean in the house and for all the journey and fine with my hubby. This was all down to Di’s hard work socializing and training him so a massive thank you to her. It’s so hard to hand over a foster pet especially when you know that they have a 16 hour journey ahead of them with people and animals they have never met and Di would be the first to admit there were a few tears!

Petit made the animal count in my car up to 6 so we decided to travel at night. We left France about 4pm and had a very relaxed drive through France. 3am we were walking along the promenade in Calais with all the dogs and the smell and sight of rabbits around the beach huts certainly perked them all up! The animal checks at Eurotunnel went painlessly and we arrived in Folkestone at 7am where Ellen the new mum for Petit and Kevin my son who adopting two kittens were waiting to meet us. Ellen had brought along Zelda, her staffie cross whippet to meet Petit and both were delighted with the new arrival!

Off we set again through the UK with only 10 hours drive in front of us until we reached home!  That was a journey of 27 hours for Melba who arrived a bit bewildered but ready to begin her new life roaming the Scottish hills. A walk in the woods, a splash in river and lots of new smells really perked Melba up and Stuart and Juliette were absolutely delighted with her. We shall definitely have regular updates of Melbas progress. This will be their first dog and I am very proud how they have thought long and hard about the dog they wanted, have planned training classes and also considered how Melba will fit into their lifestyle.

For rescue dogs like Melba and Petit, to travel so far to a new life certainly is an incredible journey!

Melba in the Pyrenees



Ellen giving Petit his first cuddle.



Young and Full of Fun !


When we look at the ages of the dogs abandoned at the SPA it comes as no surprise to see that a large proportion of the dogs are adolescents. We certainly see a lot of unruly young dogs aged between 6 and 18 months who have had no training and have become too much for their owners to handle. A cute puppy jumping up at you can be amusing, but it’s much less funny when the dog jumping up is a fully grown Newfoundland! All of these undesirable behaviors are so easily avoided if an dog is trained and socialised correctly but its surprising how many people seem to think that pups will train themselves!

This is also one of the main reasons we prefer our puppies to go into a foster home rather than stay at the refuge. In a foster home the pup is very carefully socialized and training begins right away which really sets the pup up for a positive future. When all of foster places are full we have no option but to look after the pups as best we can and they often go and live in the cat house.  This may seem surprising but it allows pups access to an outside run as well as ensuring that they will be able to go to homes with resident cats. They soon become quite proficient at negotiating the cat flaps and most can make it through without any problems. I have only seen one pup struggle and that was of course a chubby Labrador!  Two more pups arrived today and we will soon be unable to accept anymore.  The only way to prevent this recurring problem is to sterilize your pets!

For the other youngsters who arrive and have never been adequately socialized or had any training, all they need is a new start. These issues are all very easy to overcome and with a bit of patience and understanding you will be amazed at how quickly these dogs learn and become superb family pets. We do try our best to teach these youngsters lead skills and to get them socialized as much as possible and its very rewarding to see a dog who pulled like a tractor, trotting alongside you to heel. Don’t forget if you get a dog from us and encounter any behavioral problems we are more than happy to give advice. We are really lucky to have 2 dog trainers who are staff members and also volunteer, so you are never alone!

Here are some of our youngsters looking for a home.

Hood a lovely Dalmatian cross.



Griffo – a cross Griffon



Nero – a handsome Labrador.



The Scottish Connection

It’s a bit of a mystery how, but we have been having lots of enquiries from Scotland about some of our fantastic European breeds of dogs!  We have a beautiful Braque Allemand leaving on Saturday, a Ariegeois going to Barra in September and two Brittany Spaniels going to live in Gourdon near Aberdeen. Then to top it off today a lovely couple from outside Edinburgh arrived and reserved a Bleu de Gascogne! This lucky girl will be going to a very experienced doggy home as her new mum shows and trains dogs!

This is fantastic news for these dogs and especially exciting for me as the Braque Allemand is going to my sons so will be my very first ‘grand doggy’!  She will be leaving on Saturday with myself and  5 other animals …we never miss out on a free travel space!

Through our web and social media sites more and more Brits are spotting dogs which are rarely available in UK  rescues and even although the logistics of getting a dog to them may take a lot of effort,  the positive feed back we have got from previously  UK homed dogs really validates all our efforts.  Lots of people ask us why we bother taking dogs to the UK when there are already lots of dogs needing homes over there. The only answer I have is, if something motivates a person to make any dogs life better be it here or in the UK then why not? Of course most of the criticizers don’t actually do anything to help but I guess that is true in every walk of life!

If anyone is driving to the UK or indeed has friends or family who are driving and wouldn’t mind a furry passenger we would love to hear from you as we now have three dogs waiting to go anytime from the end of August .  I can promise you that the feel good factor you will have from helping a rescue animal towards a bright and happy future is well worth the effort!

Here are some of our European Breeds still looking for a home.

Cherokee – a Basset Fauve de Bretagne.


Bench – a Berger Pyrénées


Éclair – a Griffon cross.







A Home For Harley!

Well this has certainly been a week which we will never forget! Yesterday Darcey told you about Goudas adoption and today I have even more good news…Harley has a home to call his own, he was adopted today!!

Harley arrived at the refuge in February last year.  The refuge is a stressful place for dogs and the noise of 130+ dogs is enough to push the most balanced dog over the edge and poor Harley did not cope well with refuge life. He hid at the back of his kennel, much too scared to venture to the front to greet prospective adopters! On his walks away from the refuge a very different dog emerged and ever so slowly we began to see the relaxed , affectionate side of Harley. It was heart breaking to then have to return him to his kennel but such is the reality of life for far too many refuge dogs in France.

When Harley was adopted earlier this year we were all over the moon and so happy for both him and his new mum. Such elation was however short lived and he was returned to us a few weeks later as he howled and barked when left alone. His new mum lived in an apartment and her neighbors were not impressed with his constant barking whilst she was at work.  Luckily James and Rebecca, a super young couple who volunteer for us agreed to foster Harley whilst we looked for a forever home for him.

When dogs are fostered it gives us the perfect opportunity to assess their needs and Harley did have specific needs! He really didn’t like being alone,only really relaxing when right at someone’s side and also became a bit reactive on the leash whilst near male dogs. We also discovered that he really didn’t like rabbits and as James and Rebecca have 3 house rabbits we thought it prudent to move him to another foster family as quickly as possible!.  Lucie, her hubby and 3 children are one of our most experienced foster families and we were delighted that they agreed to look after Harley. Lucie also has a young Beauceron pup and numerous cats so Harley was in for lots of fun!  He settled well with Lucie and having her dog for company did help his separation issues but Lucie was going back to England in July and they couldn’t take Harley with them. The thought of Harley returning to the refuge was just too much and once again James and Rebecca stepped up and fostered  him whilst we looked for a home for him!

Dog Links is an organisation in France which connects dogs in need with people looking for a dog. This is a God send  for refuges like ours and Evelyn  from Dog Links worked tirelessly searching for a family for Harley and her hard work has certainly paid off!  Bill, a recently retired gentleman who has not long relocated to France read about Harley and today, after many chats, photos and emails Bill came to meet Harley.

Like estate agents say there is a buyer for every house, Bill has proved that there is an owner for every dog. It was love at first sight and apart from popping out to the shops for groceries there will be no need for Harley to be alone ever again! Bill too needs a companion, someone to share long walks with and he cant wait to have Harley curled up on the sofa beside him at night. Bill has no more desire to leave Harley than Harley has to be left so its really a match made in heaven. After a long chat and a nice walk off they went, happy to be together. I am sure Harley will agree that such a future was well worth the wait!

Harley, happy at last!



How Much Is That Doggie in The Window?

When people come to the refuge to adopt a dog they often ask, how much does it cost? Some people are so pleased with their new friend that they give you a donation on top of the fee whilst othesr are visually shocked, having expected a rescue dog to be free or almost free.

Perhaps it’s because it used to be in the UK that when adopting a dog from a rehoming centre only a token fee or donation was asked for. This however was a long time ago and these centres received local authority monies!

The SPA is a charity and to exist we cannot lose money. Without the SPA most of the dogs would be roaming the streets and last year alone we admitted nearly 700 dogs. A large percentage of our income comes from adoption fees and donations. To look after 140+ dogs we need staff, utilities, food for the animals, insurance, etc etc. All of our animals are vet checked on arrival, are vaccinated, wormed, have flea and tick treatment, our females are sterilized and all of these things cost money. If we were to then just give our dogs away for little for no fee how could we pay our bills?

Lots of people ask how they can help and we always welcome donations of food, bedding, cages, leads, collars and toys.

If you have time to spare we are always looking for volunteers. Some people volunteer and walk dogs whilst others love to play with the cats.  We are always desperate for foster families who provide a lifeline for many of our dogs and cats and it always frees up a refuge place for another. If you can help please get in touch…we would love to hear from you!

Todays lucky dog to leave was Brioche, a tiny terrier cross who arrived with some strange looking cuts on her neck. All it took was a little TLC and she was quickly snapped up by Jess, the lady who adopted Filou as well as taking the odd pig and goat off our hands!

Unfortunately we have had another 3 dogs arrive but as I keep saying, that is the reality of this time of year in France. The only way we can make a difference is sterilization and education and we do have exciting news on the education side. That however is a blog for another day so watch this space……..,

Tiny Brioche leaves happier and healthier than ever!


Happy Endings!

Today was another very hot and quiet day at the refuge. The best we can do to keep the dogs cool is to spray them with the mister spray on the hose. Its on days like this that we all dream of kennels with air-conditioning, we can but dream!

As always, updates of dogs in their forever homes boost our moral and keep us smiling and this week we have had news of three ex SPA dogs.

The first is lovely Maisie (ex Helfie). She has been living with Pauline for about six months now and has settled into life as a ‘gite’ dog extremely well. She loves welcoming all the guests, especially the children and is a fantastic example of how a rescue dog can fit into a busy household. Pauline was very honest and certainly put a lot of thought into whether to adopt a rescue dog and she is overwhelmed at how obedient and well behaved Maisie has become!

Our lovely pup Daisy ( ex Sangria) is also proving how a pup can fit into family life when introductions are sensibly handled.  The family who adopted Daisy had only recently relocated here and with two young girls and a new kitten a pup was going to be a lot of work.  Its fantastic to hear that one of the girls has already begun Daisy’s training and that she has taught her to sit nicely for a treat!  I love when we hear stories like this where children are really involved with looking after their pups!

The last update for today is Cedric who was adopted about a year ago. This handsome spaniel was a favorite with the volunteers so there were lots of sighs of relief when he went to such a super home. He has astonished everyone with his retrieving skills and is an absolute delight to his owners. They have promised us a full update and more pictures on the ‘one year with Cedric’ anniversary!









Two Out..Two In !

Today was very hot and the refuge was quiet.  Only the very keen dared venture out in this extreme heat but nonetheless we did have two adoptions today, as well as one on Saturday and one last week I haven’t told you about yet.

First today was petite Italia who has been living in the cattery. She certainly had the cute factor which proved too irresistible for one family so off she went to her forever home. She was then followed by Smacks, another tiny dog.  At just seven months Smacks is just a pup but will be no bigger than about 3kg!!!  It’s heartening to see that both of these little dogs have had to spend less than a month in the refuge, I wish they could all be so lucky!

Praline is another of the lucky dogs who don’t have to spend too long with us before they were adopted. This is no real surprise, being a beautiful chocolate colored braque she was bound to be noticed. When you meet or speak to her, her whole body wiggles with absolute delight so she quickly caught the attention of a young family who are real dog lovers and already have numerous other dogs. She is going to have a great life with plenty of doggy and human playmates!

Cajou a two year old shepherd cross who was found in a nearby village was adopted on Saturday. Luckily this handsome boy was very sociable and had certainly had some training so we were delighted that he was snapped up quickly. Like Praline, Italia and Smacks he didn’t have too long a stay in the refuge which must be a great relief for him in this heat.

Of course the extreme heat does not stop the number of dogs arriving and yet another two arrived today! Lets hope that they are as lucky as the others mentioned and don’t have long to wait for a forever home.

Italia – Too cute To Resist


Smacks smiling as he leaves



Beautiful Praline



Last but not least..Cajou



Oh..What a Night!

Last night was Karen and Johns fundraising event and what a night it was! The full moon and balmy weather provided a super back drop for the stunning settings of Balestie! Sitting by the pool looking over to the lake was absolutely devine!


Lots of organization and planning must have gone into this evening, so I would like to say a massive thank you to Karen and John for all their efforts. For those friends of Karen who contributed to the buffet it was superb, a fantastic selection of yummy food and whoever made the desserts really outdid them selves! The bar ‘staff’ and the ‘dj’ coped really well, so thank you for your time and efforts. Thanks also to everyone who contributed to the raffle and to those who bought tickets. Darcey, Belinda and myself won something in the raffle so this will be a bit of good news for Darcey when she gets back from holiday next week! I’m sure everyone who helped will agree it was well worth the effort when you hear how much Karen has raised! I shall let Karen tell you herself how much she raised but all I am saying is WOW!


The SPA  like most refuges is constrained by its finances so events like these go a long way to help make life a bit better for the 140+ dogs and cats we look after. Even although Karen and John already had 3 dogs, they fostered and then adopted a lovely retriever called Belle. Last night was the first time I had seen her since she left the refuge and it wonderful to see her so happy and relaxed with her own family. She is one of our lucky dogs who leave the refuge to a much better life than they had previously and this is why we all work so hard, to give each and every one of our dogs as bright a future as possible!

Our hosts, Karen and John – thank you!




Ain’t Nothing Like a Hound Dog….

Today, yet another ‘hound’ type dog left for an experienced, happy home in the UK.  Jaffa, a stunning  three year old Griffon Khortal is being driven by James, one of our super volunteers, to meet his forever family who will be waiting for him with bated breath!  Until they meet tomorrow, the adopters will only have seen pictures of him so I can only imagine their excitement!  As well as Jaffa, James is also picking up Alexis, another SPA dog who has been staying with a foster family near Toulouse until she could join her owners in the UK. Next month there will be another dog going off to live in Scotland and one of our lucky foster dogs is going to the Outer Hebrides for his holidays!  Our dogs are certainly becoming international travelers; you never know where you might meet an SPA Carcassonne dog!!

Jaffa, enroute to the UK


Unfortunately for every lucky ‘hound’ we have lots more still waiting.

At the end of the hunting season many dogs who are either too old or do not excel at hunting are abandoned and the fate of these dogs is not always rosy! A lot of French people do not consider hound type dogs to be suitable family pets so these dogs can wait a long time before being re-homed.  They are in most cases kennel dogs who have never lived in a home environment and have not been socialized with humans, so are often fearful and very stressed when they arrive at the refuge. Having lived in a kennel also means that you may need to go back to basics with things like toilet training so this requires a lot of patience and understanding.

Luckily ‘hound’ type dogs do seem to have become favorites with us Brits and here are some of our lucky ‘hounds’ who have gone to fantastic families in the UK.  Seeing how well these dogs have settled down into family lives really validates the effort of getting the dogs there and when you compare their previous lives to what they have now you really realize how much better off they are.

Here are some of our happy hounds who have gone to families in the UK.

Casper,who now lives in the Cotswolds.



Munro who lives near Bath.



Gwen who lives near London.



Yessa, who is now Gwens big ‘sister’!


On The Black List!

We do in fact have two black lists at the SPA but the one which is growing fastest and is the most concerning is the list of black dogs! Looking around the kennels today I couldn’t help but notice that about 40% of our dogs are black, At the SPA we have certainly noticed that black dogs are harder to home than light colored dogs. Maybe this is down to superstition and people associate black dogs with evil or maybe because they are harder to photograph so look less attractive on our web or face book page.  Could it be that most of our black dogs are also big and people are scared of them because the mean dogs in movies are always black?

Personally I love black dogs and have 2 big black Labrador crosses.  I love how black dogs coats always look shiny and how their teeth look sparking white!  Another distinct advantage is that they hide dirt well and they are very easily spotted in the snow!  Maybe we could promote them as status symbols; after all black pearls are certainly the most expensive!

In the last week alone 9 black dogs have arrived and they may have a long wait.  So why should we love our black dogs….because they need us to!

There was however good news today when Constance, one of our lucky black beauties was adopted! This is great news for Constance who has just recently recovered from mange but is now looking fantastic.

Constance who was adopted today!



Here are a few of our SPA black pearls who have been waiting a long time, if you could offer any of them a home please get in touch.

Louve – Its such a shame but at only two and a half years old, this is Louves second time at the refuge! She was adopted but her owner developed a terminal illness so she had to come back. She did stay with a neighbor who had children who she loved; unfortunately she did not like their cat!



Toby – Toby is only two and has been  at the refuge for over a year so has spent most of his adolescence behind bars! He is now sharing with another dog and is steadily improving on the lead. With a little training he will make a super pet!



Solo- Another two year old who has been with us for at least a year and really needs a family of his own. Solo is very sociable with other dogs and has learnt to walk nicely on the lead. He’s a very clever boy and learns very quickly!