On Sunday we will tell you about the adoptions that have taken place this week. This blog however concerns four dogs who have left the refuge not with new families, but to find homes via another association. This initiative is down to Dog Rescue Carcassonne and is one of which we are very proud, hence this rather long blog.
Some dogs, as we keep saying, are hidden gems, and just seem to be invisible in a refuge situation. Others just do not seem to appeal to people in our region, for whatever reason. Some have behavioural difficulties, which, despite its enormous expertise, the ScPA is unable to resolve sufficiently for an animal to be adoptable. This is where other associations can be so useful.
For some eight years DRC has had a wonderful relationship with Animal Trust, a small, private refuge in Belgium. This link is thanks to Sarah, who has become a very good friend of mine. She came on holiday to Carcassonne many years ago and got in touch with DRC about volunteering while she was here. At the time she also volunteered at Animal Trust, and when she returned to Belgium, and spoke to Eline, who runs Animal Trust to see if she could help.
At the time things at the ScPA were very different. Although euthanasia was no longer commonplace, the refuge was in pretty poor condition and was very overcrowded. Animal Trust gave a lifeline to a group of “no hope” dogs and the relationship got started in a very positive fashion.
While visiting Belgium the following year I went to visit Animal Trust and have been back several times since, as well as becoming friends with several of their volunteers and adopters. It is truly a wonderful organisation with facilities that are second to none.
DRC has overseen the transfer of dogs to Animal Trust on many occasions, and each time we are amazed at the speed at which dogs whom we are unable to home in Carcassonne find new families. Sometimes we send breeds that are seen as being “exotic” in Belgium (the hunt type dogs) and other times the care they get at Animal Trust, which has far fewer dogs than are at the ScPA, means that their behaviour improves quickly and dramatically.
I should add that it is far calmer at Animal Trust than it is at the ScPA; the kennels are fewer, they are indoors and heated, and they have a large park in which the dogs play in groups during the day, complete with a lake for swimming. Plus Animal Trust, unlike the ScPA, does not act as a pound, meaning they have no obligation to take stray dogs. This is why they can control their numbers in a way the ScPA just cannot.
This latest tranche of departures is thanks to one dog, Finou. He arrived in a terrible state in mid July, and as thanks to a bit of detective work, the ScPA found out who his owners were. Without going into many details, getting away from them was the best thing that could have happened to Finou. The ScPA did not hide him, but neither did they actively search for his owners. This meant no album on Facebook and that of course meant it was hard to find a new family for Finou. Plus he is a hunt type dog who was already nearly nine years old when he arrived. Not a good adoption prospect for this area.
So I decided to ask Eline if she might be able to find a home for him. Her answer was typical; “Of course, but there is no point just sending me one dog. Who else have you got who needs help?” That is the kind of answer we LOVE at DRC.
So together with Eline and the ScPA we looked at dogs who needed a bit of a boost and a change of scene. One thing that Animal Trust are really expert at is helping terrified dogs (in fact they are often called upon by the Belgian authorities to take dogs from dog-hoarding situations). So after Finou, terrified Kaline was top of the list. As it turned out she was offered a home by the friend of a volunteer who could not bear to think of Kaline leaving the area, but had Eline not offered her a place, Kaline would no doubt still be waiting at the ScPA.
Next up was Edge, who has been rehomed several times but who needs more work before he can settle. I have to point out that this is no reflection on the ScPA or its staff at all. Edge has made huge progress in Carcassonne, but a busy refuge is not the best place for Edge, and the calm atmosphere at Animal Trust will make it far easier to work with him.
Next were the two brothers, Mickey and Levy. They were the remaining dogs of 7 who were all left alone in a garden when their owner moved house. That was in August 2018 when they were a year old, but already very large. 18 months is a long time to be in a kennel, especially for young dogs, and despite the huge progress they have made at the refuge (thanks to staff and volunteers, particularly “sponsors” Corinne and Eva), no one was interested in either of these lads.
In fact of the seven dogs, not a single one has been homed to a French family. Mattie, the mum, went to a Brit, as did Sally and Sammy. Billy and Trudy went to Animal Trust in February this year (and both were homed in super quick time), and now the last two have left the refuge and will most likely be adopted by Belgians or maybe Dutch families. In any case, Eline finds amazing homes, and keeps in touch with her adopters for ever.
I did propose a number of other long termers to Eline, and without wishing to spoil the surprise, she has told us that any of them who has not found a home beforehand can come to Animal Trust in January. So you will just have to wait and see who the next lucky dogs are.
Choosing the dogs is phase one of the task. As the dogs are leaving from a refuge, they have to travel with a TRACES licensed transporter, and with special permits that are obtained from the French Government. Moira is the DRC expert on TRACES and has all the answers relating to these complex laws at her fingertips. I am nowhere near as knowledgable, but am able to fill in the forms, which have become easier with practice, inevitably.
We are lucky to know many wonderful transport companies; several of them do runs from Spain and Portugal to the UK and this is more Moira’s part of ship. I do the European side of things and in fact I have accompanied Christian from STIAC on a couple of his dog-delivery jaunts in the past. This means I know how well he looks after the dogs while they are travelling, but this level of care is universal in the animal transport world.
Christian confirmed that he had space for the lucky four dogs on his next transport, so next it was rabies vaccinations and paperwork all the way. Yesterday, once the dogs had been for a final visit to the vet for a health check, the “export permits” for the dogs were issued and it was all go go go. Carole at the refuge has become something of an expert in the paperwork too, and we always exchange a little cheer of joy when we see the final documents; it is not always easy to bring everything together seamlessly, but we have not missed a transport so far!
Of course the transport is not free. And this is where you guys come in. The fee paid to the drivers is thanks to YOUR donations. Not that it is a fortune, the drivers work extremely hard for relatively little remuneration, working in teams of two and not stopping other than for fuel and comfort breaks until the delivery is complete. And they take many more dogs than just ours, doing huge distances with multiple dogs on board. They do it for love as much as anything, but I have to say that it is quite addictive. It is really the final link in the chain for the dogs, many of whom have literally been saved from death in some of the overcrowded refuges in Spain and Portugal and beyond.
So it was a partly tearful and partly cheerful goodbye to the four lucky dogs who are starting their new lives in Belgium; of course they were much loved at the ScPA but dog hoarding is not the business of a refuge.
So this is the end of what might just be the longest blog ever. I could write far more about Animal Trust and how lucky we are to have this link with them. Also how it is only thanks to your donations that we are able to send dogs to new lives. Moira and I believe passionately in cooperating with other associations; sometimes everyone needs a helping hand and when that is offered with such grace and generosity, it would be foolish to turn our backs.
We will keep you posted regarding the dogs’ progress, but I have to say that regardless of how long it takes them to find their forever homes, knowing that they are in 5 star care in the meantime makes me very happy indeed.