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Author Archives: Moira

Puppy Love!

In light of yesterdays arrivals, I thought that today’s blog should look at the implications of adopting a pup. Yesterdays litter, named after cocktails, are ten week old collie crosses and are very cute! There are three boys and five girls who  as adults, will be medium sized dogs about 26kg so just smaller than the average Labrador.

There aren’t many of us who can resist going ‘awww’ when we see a puppy!  There really is nothing quite as adorable as a cute, cuddly pup full of life and love. The look from a puppy’s big, round eyes can melt any heart but if you adopt one of our puppies we would prefer that you are prepared for its arrival.

You will certainly need some basics such as a lead and collar, a bed or cage, bowls, toys and food.  We will tell you what your pup is being fed and if you are going to change this please do so gradually to avoid any tummy upsets.

Before the new pup arrives have a walk around your house and garden and make sure that it’s a safe place for a pup to come to. Lift all shoes, cushions and anything else you don’t want chewed and keep them out of reach. If you have young children move any toys that you don’t want chewed or that the pup could choke on. Lego bits are some pups favorite and a common cause of intestinal blockage so why not use a baby gate to restrict access to bedrooms etc where such dangers could be lurking! Your new pup wont be able to tell the difference between your new shoes and his chew toy so remove all temptation. Put all cleaning fluids, washing powder etc out of reach in the house and the garage. Please make sure that your garden is secure and enclosed or be prepared for constant supervision.

Once the pup is home, toilet training begins. Pups don’t understand that they cant just toilet anywhere they like so you need to take them outside every hour or so and give lots of praise when they get it right!  It may be a good idea to restrict the pups access to certain areas and keep it in an area with tiles so when accidents occur they are easily mopped up. I use baby gates for this but accidents are inevitable so be prepared with a mop and bucket and ignore any little mistakes. It will take a few weeks before your pup is reliably house trained.

Pups need lots of time and attention and straight away they need to learn what is right and what is wrong behavior. It is much easier teaching a pup to do something right in the first place than trying to correct an established behavior. Once the pup has had its second injections why not consider taking him along to one of the local doggy training classes. Here he will learn to socialize with other dogs and you will learn how to train your pup. Socialization is very important so you need to get your pup out and about meeting people and other animals. This is that part of having a pup I really enjoy as everyone wants to speak to you when you have a new pup. You will have lots of opportunities to teach the pup to sit, rather than leap all over everyone who wants to say hello to him. Its good to introduce him to other animals at this age so its great if he can meet the neighbors cat or rabbits if you don’t have any.

Its great fun having a pup, a lot of hard work but really worth every minute as you watch your pup mature into a well-balanced canine citizen! A trained dog is a happy dog!

Here are three out of the eight pups who arrived yesterday. They are cuties and we hope that they wont have long to wait for their forever families!

Gin Fizz

Gin Fizz







The Never Ending Story!

Well today started out really well. Despite the fact that Darcey and I are both travelling we managed to organize a superb reservation! I had also written tonight’s happy blog which was in draft, just ready to publish and our spirits were high when my messages bleeped and then bleeped again with really bad news!

Eight pups arrived at the refuge this afternoon! Yes eight pups of 10 weeks old who were left to roam loose in a local village! This is really devastating news and whoever is the owner of these pups should be hanging their head in shame! How on earth can we ever win this war when people just will not sterilise their dogs and then accept no responsibility for the pups? Do these irresponsible gits really want to condemn their animals to life behind refuge bars? No matter how hard we try, no matter how many hours we spend, and remember most of us are volunteers, can we make an a dent in the number of arrivals! To compound this news an eight year old German Shepherd also arrived so you can imagine how low moral is tonight among the staff and volunteers!

Just as well we did have one superb adoption!

Girly, a  three year old border collie was found loose and brought to the refuge a few weeks ago. A dainty, pretty girl she soon caught the attention of a family with four young boys and a two and a half year old border collie called Anouk. Experienced homes are what we want for our borders who are usually high energy intelligent dogs who need lots of exercise and mental stimulation. This family had already taken Anouk to dog classes and were eager to get it right with Girly. Last Wednesday afternoon the family drove 4 hours to come and meet Girly and with four boys under twelve and a dog, that is no mean feat! Introductions went well with both the children and Anouk and so after taking a night to reflect on their decision they decided to adopt Girly. We do actively encourage people to think about such a major decision, to consider how the dog will fit into their lifestyle, the new dogs training needs and the best way to integrate the dog into the whole family. If these logistics are carefully thought out then you really are setting the new addition up to succeed and that’s what we want of each and every one of our SPA dogs, a bright and happy future!

So today, one adoption, one reservation but nine arrivals, it truly is never ending!

Lucky Girly who left today.




Four Adoptions and Only One Arrival!

Out of our four adoptions today all dogs were found loose and none of them was actually identified.  When a dog arrives at the SPA and is micro chipped or tattooed we check the number to the French Data base and try to contact the owners.  Now you would think that the means that all identified dogs that arrive would be quickly reunited with their owners but not at all! Lots of people move and forget or don’t bother to update their details, sometimes the dog goes to a new owner and the change isn’t registered but sometimes people just ignore our calls as they don’t want their dog back! If your dog is chipped or tattooed please remember to change your contact details if you move house. If you have a pet with an UK chip and spend your time between here and the UK you can also register the microchip number on the French data base system. To do this just ask any vet for a form, it only costs 11 euros and is well worth it if it means you can be quickly reunited with your dog its lost.

My exciting news today is that ex chasse dog Éclair has finally found a home! He arrived at the SPA in January, just as the hunt season was ending. He wasn’t identified but had a lovely silver collar with his name engraved on it, so you would think that he had been a family pet but no one ever claimed him and its been a grueling hot summer for a dog who wants to run free but today was his lucky day and off he went with a lovely family.

Our cute pup Mabrouk was next to leave. He arrived at the SPA with his brothers and sisters when they were only 3 weeks old. We really didn’t know how they would do but with a lot of tender love and attention they all pulled through and have now all been adopted.

Jose also left today with a super couple who came to meet a couple of weeks ago. Unlike some of her kennel mates Jose has been lucky and has only had to wait a few weeks before finding a new family. In general small young dogs find homes much quicker that more mature large dogs who can sometimes be with us for a long time.

The next to leave was Trompette, a Montagne de Pyrenees cross. There has been a fair bit of interest in this lovely girl and no wonder, she is very pretty and that fact that she is going to be a very big girl hasn’t put anyone off. So off she skipped (yes, literally) with her pretty young owner, two very happy girls!

We also had a visit from a lovely English couple who reserved a dog online and drove 5 hours from the Limousine to visit him today before his departure on Friday. To find out who this lucky boy is remember to read Fridays blog!

Eclair leaves at last!


Cute Little Mabrouk


Trompette Skipped Off


Jose was last to leave!




Hot Cars Kill Dogs!

Yesterday we heard the very sad news about a dog who had died in a car whilst left in the parking beside La Cite, Carcassonne. This is devastating to hear and very upsetting as it really is avoidable!

Similar deaths occur every summer in nearly every country. It’s extremely upsetting for everyone when this type of event happens, and the suffering of the animals is terrible to contemplate.

It can be an easy mistake to make. If you think that you’re only going to be a few minutes, you may feel that it’s safe to leave your dog in a car, even on a warm day. The problem is that it’s far more dangerous to do this than most people realise. A car can heat up astonishingly rapidly, with some vehicles reaching 40°C in just twenty minutes. Dogs cannot sweat: they can only lose heat by panting, and if the ambient temperature around them is high, this means that they cannot lose any heat at all. They’ll pant furiously, but will just get hotter and hotter until they collapse. It’s a dreadful way for an animal to die, and that’s one of the reasons why there’s such an outcry whenever an incident like this is reported in the news.

On a sunny day, leaving a dog in a car is as dangerous as putting the animal into an oven and turning it on “roast”. It’s not enough to leave a window open, or to leave some water inside for the dog. It just gets too hot inside the confined space of a car. Dogs cannot be left in cars on sunny days: end of story.

This message has recently been the focus of a ‘Don’t Cook your Dogs’ campaign by Dogs Today magazine. The aim is to highlight the issue as widely as possible, to prevent more unfortunate dogs from dying. Ignorance of the risk is a common excuse, and the campaign aims to ensure that nobody in any country remains ignorant about it.

So what should you do if you see a dog locked in a hot  car? This is what I would do but its only my opinion. If the car was outside a store I would ask for an announcement to be made asking the car owner to return to the car, if the owner doesn’t appear I would call the police, but if the dog was really distressed I would take a photo or video with my phone, and break a window to get the dog out. Now common sense prevails here, but its better having to replace a window than having a dead dog!

In these last few weeks of the summer, let’s try to avoid any more hot dog crises. Please do not risk leaving your dog in the car at all, leave them at home in the cool!

Below is a table of how quickly the temperatures rise..

Hot Dog


Gadget Leaves But Lots More Are Still Waiting ( and waiting…)

It really was a bit of a mystery why Gadget ended up at the SPA, a cute pup who looked like he had recently been at the grooming parlor but in fact he was found tied to the refuge gates! Unfortunately he wasn’t identified so after the mandatory ten day wait he was up for adoption.  Being so young and cute we knew he wouldn’t have a long wait and true enough, he was reserved last week and left with his forever family this afternoon.

However some of his kennel mates haven’t been so lucky and have been waiting over two years. That is a very long time for a young dog to spend in any refuge and certainly not what most of us would want for our best friend.

Dogs come to the SPA for many reasons and believe me we have heard the lot! Many people buy pups on impulse and when the novelty runs out they no longer want the responsibility of that pup. Others claim they no longer have time for the dog, have to work longer hours or have to move to a new home where pets aren’t accepted. I am getting divorced or my wife is pregnant are excuses we hear all the time as well as my child has become allergic to the dog. Sometimes we do hear stories where the owner is very ill or has even died and in my opinion its cases like that, that the SPA should really be there for.

So what can we do to stop dogs being abandoned?

The first and most important thing is to think long and hard before getting a dog. The SPA encourages potential dog adopters to think carefully before deciding whether or not to take a dog home. Do your research and factor in whether or not you’ll be able to afford the dog, spend the necessary amount of time with them, and meet their mental and physical needs before agreeing to get one. Make sure nobody in the household is allergic before you bring it home, and be responsible and get your new pet spayed or neutered.

Secondly, train your dog. All dogs need training and guidance and many dogs are abandoned when they hit adolescence and their behavior becomes an issue. If you are experiencing behavioral problems with your pet please seek advice and try to work through them. The bond you develop with your dog will really validate all your efforts.

Thirdly, be prepared to adapt to life’s changes. If you suddenly have to work longer hours or change jobs then get up a bit earlier and walk your dog, consider a dog walker or even doggy daycare. Believe me your dog would much prefer that to being abandoned at the SPA!

Its seldom better for a dog to be abandoned than adapt to household changes and some dogs have a long wait before new homes are found. Would you want that for your best friend?

Gadget left today



Chico has been waiting more than two years




Not a.. ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoon’

Today being the first Sunday of the month the refuge was open and lots of volunteers turned up to walk the dogs.  This is fantastic because not only do the dogs which would otherwise be in their kennels get a walk but potential adopters can see the dogs out and about and playing in the parks. Its also on these open days the people who have adopted from us come along with their dog and its great to see how happy the ex SPA dogs are in their new families. To add to today’s excitement we also had a tombola stand which was run by one of our volunteers Karen and her friend.

The SPA is a charitable organisation and thus finances are paramount to how we run the organisation. Like all businesses we need to break even to survive and with ever increasing running costs we have to fund raise to make up the difference between the debits and credits. The majority of our income comes from adoption fees and you can imagine the costs of running an organisation like the  SPA. Our vet costs are enormous and of course we have staff wages, utility and food costs too. Today our car boot ladies, Belinda, Diane and Julie were out in force with a stall at the English Library Vide Grenier in Quillan. Our stalwart Fred also had a stall and altogether they brought in 280 euros which really helps towards this deficit. We are always grateful to volunteers who give up time with their families to help raise funds for our doggies and should anyone want to help us do this please, please get in touch, you would be very welcome!

Lisa and Andrew were also out this morning at the car boot sale in Quillan and in the afternoon at the refuge, promoting their new business Vet Advice 24/7. This innovative idea gives English speakers in France access to telephone advice and support should they have any queries regarding their pets well-being.  Lisa and Andrew are great supporters of the SPA and make a donation to us for every sign up that comes through the us!

So a massive thank you to everyone who gave up their Sunday to help raise funds or to walk the dogs. Without your help the doggies lives at the refuge would be much less fulfilled!

Fred at the Car Boot sale in Quillan

Car boot

 The Vet Advice 24/7 team

Vet advice

Ted Leaves but Poor Charley Is Returned…

After yesterday’s high of five adoptions today’s one somehow seems very insignificant but for Ted the 12 week old pup who was adopted it was the chance of a lifetime! Although  Ted was found lost and scared a couple of weeks ago he was very lucky that when he arrived at the SPA Lisa and Andrew, one of our best foster families were there to hand over the pup they had been fostering and who was going to his forever home. This meant that there was a foster place free at Lisa’s house and so lucky Ted didn’t have to spend any time at all the refuge.

When a pup goes into a foster home it is being carefully assessed from day one. Lisa would have checked the pup over for any fleas or ticks, had a look at its ears and eyes, its paws and noted  its general demeanor. A vets appointment will have been arranged and the pup will then start its course of vaccinations. Like all pups in our foster places the pup is very carefully introduced to other family members both human and animal and so socialization begins from day one. The pup begins toilet training and starts to learn the house rules, where he can go, what he can chew and what toys he can play with.This gives the pup a fantastic start in life and provides a solid foundation for a bright and happy future.

Many people say ‘oh I could never give a pup up, it would just be too hard’ and it is hard. If you’re fostering dogs or cats, you are likely an animal lover with a big heart. It’s so easy to get attached to a dog or cat, even after just a few days or weeks and its hard letting them go, even though you know they are going to a good place. We are very sad every time we ‘lose’ a foster baby but we know that there is now a place for another and so it continues.

We are always looking for reliable foster families and you can decide whether you want to take puppies or more mature dogs, small dogs or big ones but what you do need is time and patience. You also need to be relatively local to Carcassonne so that you can take the dog to the refuges vet for routine appointments. Many dogs who need a foster home need an extra bit of tender loving care and some, in fact most need to be house trained so you need to be prepared for the odd accident. Pups tend to be adopted quicker than older dogs who can be with you for weeks or sometimes months. We do find that when older dogs go to foster families that they are often adopted by the fosterer. This is not surprising as you do form a very special bond with a dog who has needed a little bit extra care and attention!

If you think that you would like to be a foster parent please contact us and we can arrange a time for you to come along and have a chat, it really is great fun as well as very rewarding!

Todays very sad news was the return of Charley. I was especially sad to hear this as Charley arrived at the refuge on my first day of volunteering! He then waited fourteen months for a family and here he is a year later, back waiting again.  What a shame for this gentle boy who is a high energy dog who has been cooped up in an apartment with very few walks and little attention.  Never mind, now we shall make sure he finds a very special family where he will have the life he really deserves!

Ted leaves..


 Charley is returned after a year..


Fantastic Fridays Five Adoptions!

It’s almost unbelievable but today we have had five superb adoptions!!!! Every one of them would have merited a blog to themselves but I shall start with Titou’s story as it is typical of many dogs in France.

Titou was one of a number of puppies who were being handed out at random to passers-by in the centre of Carcassonne. The person doing so has crossed paths (and swords) with the SPA since, and to be quite frank, is beyond listening to any reason whatsoever. When I suggested that he get his dog sterilised (even offering to pay for the operation from my own pocket), he said that his dog was free to do as she wished, and if she wanted to have puppies, that was her decision. Okay, in this case the dog may indeed be more intelligent than her owner, but in general it is humans who make decisions on behalf of their animals.

In any case, one of the people who just happened to be passing at the time was the Secretary of the SPA Association (not to be confused with Carole, who is an employee and works at the refuge every day). She asked for a puppy, which she then brought to the SPA. Titou was taken home by some former volunteers, who wished to adopt him, but threats to his wellbeing meant that Titou had to be rehomed urgently.

Enter Edith, foster carer extraordinaire (you can read an article by her on the page “life after the refuge”). Edith took Titou home and looked after him along with her own dog, Othello (also an ex-SPA dog), and there he has been for some two months while a new home was sought.

Finally today Titou left to live in a huge estate close to Carcassonne, with a poodle as a companion and owners who will be at home all day. Fabulous news and wonderful that this dog has never known life at the refuge. I wonder what happened to the other puppies who were given away on the same day. Inevitably some of them will end up at the SPA, more black lab crosses, untrained and uncared for. This at least cannot be said of Titou, despite the somewhat unsettled life he has had up to now.

If there is a moral to this story, it is yet again to sterilise your dogs! Only this way can we prevent more unwanted puppies being born to fill up refuges or wander the streets lost and alone.

Next to leave was Pitchou, an eight year old  who was abandoned at the beginning of July when his owners divorced. This is an all too common reason why dogs end up at the SPA and just goes to show you how little regard and respect some people have for their dogs.  I do understand that both parties are moving on to a new future but surely between two of you can accommodate a dog you have loved and shared for eight years! Poor Pitchou howled when his owners left, he was very distressed and we knew that at eight years old he may have a long wait for a new home.

The first photo that we had of Pitchou was a very sad looking boy behind his kennel bars .As soon as this was put on our facebook page we were contacted by Michele ,  who  had spotted his picture and fallen in love with his story and sad eyes.  She contacted us to say that one of her dogs  had recently passed away and if Pitchou was friendly with other dogs and cats she would love to drive over from Pau to meet him. The ‘sociable’ with other dogs bit was very important as Michelle had spent 13 years  looking  after a staffie cross who had aggression problems so definitely wanted a dog she could trust around her family and friends. To love and care for a dog with aggression problems for all of that time shows real dedication so I was really hoping this lovely family was going to come and visit Pitchou. If a prospective family has cats we can cat test a dog to make sure he is safe to live with them and luckily Pitchou ignored the cats in the cat house which is always a good sign! An appointment was made to visit but had to be cancelled when their dog Ruby became very ill with a very severe gastro bug so another one was made a week later.  When I arrived at the refuge to introduce Michele to Pitchou I was delighted to see that the whole family had come to meet him.

We brought Pitchou into one of our parks to meet his new family and he quickly charmed the two girls and dad as well as Michele. He is a very playful eight year old who was delighted to have an audience to show off his tricks with his kong; he would race after it, bring it back,  bury it, dig it up  and then throw it at you! This was soon a done deal and Pitchou was reserved. After a trip to the vet to be identified and castrated he left today to live with a playmate Ruby, two cats and rabbits.  Who would have thought this eight year old shaggy dog would have been so lucky!

After Pitchou, Adele our six month old berger cross left. Adele has only been with us since July and its clear from her size at six months that she is going to be a very big girl!

The next pup to leave was Black Jack, a black Labrador cross. He too hasn’t had too long to wait for his forever home which isn’t surprising when you see how cute he is!

Last but not least was the very special adoption of our twelve and a half year old Yorkie called Muesli. This lovely boy was found in July and we knew we were looking for a very special home for this elderly chap but today was his lucky day….happy retirement Muesli!

Titou – A bright future ahead of him!



Pitchou who is off to Pau!



Adele – A big girl for 6 months!



Black Jack – So cute!

black Jack


And last but not least Muesli!


Wine, Whisky and Dogs..They All Get Better With Age!

How often have we been told that 40 is the new 20 or that 60 is the new 40? With all of the advances in nutrition, supplementation, veterinary medicine and, of course, the human-animal bond,10 certainly has become the new 5 in the dog world.

As with its human counterpart, advances have been made so our pets can live longer, healthier lives.  Are you noticing more services and products geared at the senior pet? Supplements, additives in pet foods, mobility products, age-specific diets, safety devices, and the list goes on.

At the SPA when we have so many cute puppies and youngsters available many of our older dogs are being ignored. This is heart breaking to see as there are so many advantages in having an older pet. When you adopt an older dog there are much fewer surprises. You can see their temperament, what size they will grow to, how much exercise they will need so you can assess how they will fit into your lifestyle with much greater certainty! An older dog won’t need so much exercise but will still want to play and will happily settle down beside you whilst you watch tv or check your emails. Puppies also tend to chew and destroy things whereas older pets have already learnt what ‘NO’ means and tend to leave the furniture, carpet and shoes alone!  Whats more it only cost 80 euros to adopt a dog over 9 years old, even if they are sterilized!

All that our SPA oldies really want is a bed to call their own and your company. They certainly tend to settle in quickly, calmly and seem to know that outside is for eliminating and inside is for relaxing and you can’t say that about most puppies! When you adopt one of our oldies you will certainly have a best friend for life who will repay you with unwavering devotion and you can’t ask for more than that! Almost without exception, people who adopt older animals feel a special sense of pride and purpose in opening their heart to a hard-to-place pet. Doing a good thing really does make you feel good so go on; give that older dog the best years of its life!

APPEAL – We are in desperate need of donations of tinned dog food. We use this for doggies that are a bit fragile, old or need feeding up and who find tinned food rather than kibble a bit more palatable!

Here are a few of our older dogs who really need a home.

Tom is a 10 year old shepherd cross.



 Buggy is an eleven year old spaniel.



And little Muesli is a 12 year old terrier.


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.