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Life After The Refuge

Six Months On – Caillou

Hi everyone, Darcey here! Today is six months to the day since I adopted Caillou so I thought I would write a bit about my experience for the section “Life After the Refuge”, as half a year seems to be a noteworthy landmark.

Very few dogs arrive at the SPA after spending their lives in loving homes, but some have had worse experiences than others. Caillou arrived at the SPA in July last year at the age of 7 months, having known nothing but mistreatment. Apparently he was tied up and beaten with a shovel, plus he also has what the vet thinks is a burn scar on his flank.. Hardly surprising that he should have issues.

Initially he could not be approached, and at his first visit to the vet he showed so much aggression (due to fear) that the vet was sure that Caillou’s fate was to be euthanised. She didn’t realise that this is not what the SPA is about.

Instead it was a slow and steady introduction to the world. I think I was the first person to take him for a walk outside the refuge, but the wonderful staff had already started socialising Caillou on the SPA grounds. I remember taking the lead out of Marion’s hands and offering to take him out.  Yes, I was a bit nervous, because thus far Caillou had always growled at me from the back of his kennel. But this first  walk with him went fine, and I started to fall under his charm.

Dog trainer Shirley came to the SPA a few days later, and I introduced her to Caillou. She reassured me that he was a normal dog, just a terrified one.

The next step was dog school, specifically the Club Canin Carcassonne, where I took Caillou once a week for 7 months. This meant taking him out for a precious hour of freedom then putting him back in his kennel. Off the lead he was playful and not at all aggressive with other dogs, albeit a bit over-enthusiastic. On the lead he was quick to learn commands, but was not as quick to learn as other dogs who of course lived with loving families.

After several weeks of this, Caillou was finally able to share his kennel at the SPA. Gradually he was given more and more privileges, such as being let to run free with other dogs in the mornings when the SPA was shut to visitors. This is great for socialisation and helps dogs to gain confidence.

Of course there were setbacks. Once at dog school I tied Caillou up while I went to help someone with their car. When I got back he was in a total panic, snapping and snarling at everyone, like a cornered beast. When he heard me call his name he calmed down instantly and jumped into my arms. But I realised then just how damaged he was, and that despite his progress, there was a lot of work still to do. I also realised how attached he was to me.

Lots of volunteers had started walking him , but in his box he remained a barking, seemingly aggressive dog. No one who didn’t know him would offer him a home. But I did know him, and I loved him. And he loved me. So after he had been at the SPA for ten months, on May 16th I adopted him.

So six months on, what have I learned, or rather had confirmed.
Firstly you get to where you want to go  far quicker with love than anger.
Also there is nothing in the world more rewarding than having your “difficult dog” praised for his behaviour.
Also the best place for a Sunday nap is lying on the sofa with a dog curled up alongside you, as if he had never ever known any cruelty or hardship his entire life.

As I say, it hasn’t always been easy. Probably just about every adopter in the world goes through a period of thinking “Oh my God, what have I done”. So there was a bit of that. Then at about the five month point there was a crisis. Things between Caillou and my husband were degenerating,  and he asked me why, with all the perfectly well-behaved and gentle dogs at the SPA, I chose to bring home a “psycho”. Oops, time to ask for help!

Thankfully  dog trainer Roger agreed to pay an emergency visit. I knew the answer to the problem, but of course it had to come from an outsider (and a male outsider) to be acceptable. Roger’s visit lasted an hour, but what he had to say was delivered in the first 5 minutes. A week later and with very little effort, the issue was resolved.

So a very important lesson is to never be too proud to ask for help.

Caillou can now be left tied up outside the village shop while I pop in for bread. We have only been doing this for a month or so; at first he barked but he soon realised that I am coming back. It is all about small steps and not overwhelming him with too much too soon. And in the evening we walk off lead with about 15 dogs and 10 owners, and Caillou plays with all the dogs happily and has just started letting the humans pat him.

So he is still a work in progress. However compared to the semi-wild but loveable dog of six months ago, he is unrecognisable. Having three other well-socialised dogs has doubtless helped him settle in, but all of them were rescues too.  And this is the source of much pride for me and my ever-tolerant husband, who didn’t even want one dog, but is now the devoted dad of four of them!

Not all SPA dogs have problems like this, I must add. In this section “Life after the Refuge”  you can find many tales of dogs who have adapted almost seamlessly to their post-refuge lives. And as I said, I knew what I was getting into. In many ways it has been far easier than expected. This is not only because there are lots of people to help and advise, but also because Caillou loves other dogs and people, and as soon as he knows they mean him no harm, he is absolutely adorable. Time, love and patience are really all that were needed.

There are other dogs who can be put into the “difficult” category at the SPA, being helped by staff and volunteers. Hopefully each and every one of them will find the home he or she deserves. If you have the time, love and dedication to take on a complicated dog, it can be extremely rewarding,  and I wouldn’t change Caillou for the world.

Caillou when he first arrrived at the SPA and today

Jamie…

We knew that when we were ready to get a companion for our female Staffy after losing our male Staffy to cancer, it would be another rescue dog.

Luckily we came into contact with Dog Rescue Carcassonne and Moira suggested we might like to meet Jamie. We wanted an older dog who liked – or was indifferent to – cats as we have three.

We quickly fell in love with Jamie, she is such a gentle girl. She has fitted into our family – all rescued in one way or another – very well. She has a lot of energy and loves her walks, she also loves her cuddles and her food!

Adopting a dog or cat from a refuge makes sense and it frees up another place in the kennels/cattery.

Just want to say that we love Jamie to bits, she is a sweetheart!

Jamie ( right ) with Jess and Harry.

Artigo..

Artigo…Bleu de Gascogne

Three years after our last dog, a Grand Blue de Gascogne from France, passed away, we decided we wanted to take a dog again.Since me and my wife believe that it’s better to give a dog from a rescue a chance, rather than taking a puppy I started my online search for a new Blue de Gascogne.

Pretty quickly I came across a very friendly looking chap called Artigo. One problem, he was located in Carcassonne, 1250km’s away from our home in Utrecht, the Netherlands! So I emailed the Dog Rescue Carcassonne in my best French to see what the possibilities were. To my surprise, I quickly received an answer in perfect English.
It turned out that adopting Artigo was an easy and very affordable process. Within a few weeks, Artigo was delivered to our house in Utrecht by a special animal delivery van driven by a  friendly French couple.

Adopting a dog without meeting it beforehand is of course always a bit of a risk, however, because of the specific questions the staff at the Dog Rescue asked us and the footage of Artigo they provided we were confident that things would turn out to be OK.

Things turned out to be more than OK, Artigo arrived in perfect health and adapted superfast to our family life. He is now the most loyal and loveable companion we could ever ask for.My kids love him, he is perfect to take along for a jog and is an all-round heartthrob.He is the neighborhood’s favorite pet, we have a surplus of pet sitters and even at my daughter school, he steals the show.

A real family dog!…

All in all, we are very fortunate that the Dog Rescue Carcassonne entrusted us with Artigo.  We would highly recommend them and taking a rescue dog.

 

Beau..( ex Dumbo)

Hi, we were very privileged to be able to adopt Dumbo, renamed Beau,in January 2017. Having had two dogs at a time for many years, there was a void to be filled after my dog lost his fight to cancer at only six.

We knew about the great work refuges do in France, as our son lives in France, and has adopted a dog and currently fosters one, so for us adoption was the way to go.

After the necessary checks Beau arrived in Brisol UK very early, on 29th January after a long trip from France. He was initially very nervous as he was taken from the vehicle and into our home. Beau was greeted by our  Rottie Newfoundland  cross Abbie, with no incidents as she accepted him into her home. Nervously he approached me and I was able to fuss him hopefully reassuring all was well. Beau very quickly settled in, joining Abbie on the sofa making himself very much at home. He is much admired when were out as he is a very handsome boy. He loves attention from everyone and has a lovely temperament.

We have young grandchildren and they love him, for a big boy, he is very gentle and the little ones love to give him a treat as he takes it without snatching unlike Abbie who needs reminding of her manners, Beau laps up all the attention he is given from anyone.

Abbie and Beau are great friends,  they share the sofa at every opportunity and play well together.  Beau and Abbie sound like very good house dogs if someone knocks on the door but once inside people are greeted with waggy tails and much fuss. Beau being a hound  tends to bay with his bark causing much amusement to all who hear him.  Beau adores my husband, I believe it’s because in the first few days he was with him whilst I was at work, but more likely it’s because he has a affinity with all animals and all seem to love him. I am a poor second but still get love and greetings from Beau and cuddles on the sofa. Beau loves the beach, being off the lead is work in progress as he does tend to follow others and ignores the command to return finding the people or dog he’s following much more interesting. He is happy to be left with Abbie for short periods if we have to leave them at home, but gets very distressed if John has to take Abbie out without him even though I’m there. I don’t get this reaction from Beau so think it’s seperation from John issues which were working on.

We don’t regret our choice to adopt Beau, he has our hearts, is part of our family and brings us so much pleasure. As I said at the start we are privileged to have Beau and have no regrets. We hope this encourages others to.

Beau ( ex Dumbo)

Bella formerly Esquise

bella2Bella is not our first rescue dog, so we do have a bit of experience having bought Lara who was our first dog with us from England. She was from the RSPCA rescue centre in Bristol in 2001 when she was 4/5 years old. Sadly we had to have her put to sleep when she was 16 in March 2013. Her death came at a time when there were other big family bereavements, and she was another big loss to the family.

I had been periodically looking at the Carcassonne SPA website, after a recommendation from a friend, looking for another dog. In May 2015 we were about to depart on holiday to Montenegro when I saw a beautiful Labrador cross who was described as large, very playful and affectionate called Esquise. I said to my husband that if she was still available when we returned from holiday I would be paying the SPA a visit.

On returning from holiday she was still there.  I was very excited, but held off for a whole 3 days before taking a nearly 2 hour drive from our house near Grenade to the SPA. It was pouring with rain and I could barely see a yard in front of me on the drive down there. The rain had stopped in Carcassonne by the time I arrived and so I went to her kennel to see her. She jumped up and showered me with kisses through the wire fencing. She pushed and harassed the other dog she was sharing with to the back of the kennel as if to say “Hands off! This one’s mine!” I went into the office to make further enquiries and to see if I could see her out of her kennel. They brought her to the office and we were introduced. She was very affectionate and quite calm for a young dog, but the main thing that struck me was her size! She is a big girl! She is about 2 or 3 times bigger than any Labrador I’ve ever seen and at just 1 year old at the time already weighed 37kgs; it didn’t put me off at all! Her feet were nearly the same size as my hands! I took a photo on my phone and texted my husband to show him what a gorgeous girl she was. I handed over the cheque and arranged to pick her up the following Saturday. This gave me a few days to prepare for our new arrival, collecting the necessary kit, ie. Lead, bowls and bedding plus some toys together that I had put away.   I’d already decided on the name Bella, as it suited her better and was easier to pronounce than Esquise.

Bella1We collected her as arranged and my husband had to lift her into the boot of my car as she appeared unable/unwilling to jump in herself (more about that later). I have since bought a ramp for her to use as I cannot lift her. She travelled well on the way home and we got a lot of admiring glances and waves from other motorists as she was periodically looking out of the window at the passing traffic.

On arriving home, we wanted her to live in the house with us so we tried taking her inside. This was obviously unacceptable to Bella as she flatly refused by plonking her bottom on the doorstep. We resolved the matter by running up to the door three of us side by side, it was a bit of a squash but we got her in! We allowed her to investigate the whole house, but she was reluctant to come in the kitchen and took a bit of persuasion. That evening we had invited a friend and her dog for dinner. They duly arrived, when I opened the door and they saw Bella and both of them looked as if they wanted to run for the hills! The dog wet itself and hid amongst its owner’s skirt, as if to say “Help! Save me! It’s a monster!” Thankfully they are now good friends and get on very well together.

Needless to say, lots of fun has ensued with her training. At the time of her arrival, the wall we had had built to enclose the garden wasn’t quite finished, as we were having to wait for the electric gates to be delivered so we had to sort out a temporary gate until they arrived. During this time we had to keep her on a long rope (15m) because sometimes the gate couldn’t be up due to the continuing building work. She obviously enjoyed being outside and we needed to keep her safe! During one evening we were playing with her, throwing a ball for her to fetch. My husband threw the ball not realising that the rope was wrapped around my leg, of course Bella went hell for leather after the ball upending me in the process, causing a bump to the back of my head and a rather nasty deep friction burn to my calf from the rope. Looking back it must have looked very slapstick, but I was in considerable pain and was not a happy bunny. I still have a slight scar there now. She has also taken my husbands’ feet out from underneath him whilst playing causing him to face plant right in front of the neighbours, who thought it completely hilarious and pulled me over whilst walking in the forest because she was frightened when some people came up behind us.

She has escaped a couple of times, which nearly turned me grey with worry as we live on a country road where drivers speed along it in both directions. The neighbours must have had such a laugh at my expense because at one point I was out on the road in the morning in my red with white spotted dressing gown, shouting at the top of my voice and waving my arms in the air to stop the traffic. She’s also very excitable when going out for a walk, and sounds like Darth Vader which is a bit scary for passers-by. She also wants to say “hello” to everyone and they always seem to think she’s going to bite them. She also sees cyclists and Lorries, which she hates, as fair game to chase and bark at too! We are very lucky, we live in the countryside and there are lots of very good dog walking places which are traffic free.   We have also taken her with us when we’ve gone for days out to visit various tourist attractions and also when my husband plays Cricket.bella3

In January of this year she was attacked in the garden by a very large semi-feral cat. She had cornered the cat underneath the garden shed and as a consequence suffered various facial injuries as well as a deep bite on her chest. The worst injury was that she broke her front left leg. She was referred by our vet for specialist treatment in Toulouse and had to have an operation with a plate and pins to secure the break. Worst still she had to be kept on bed rest for 2 months and then was allowed only to have gentle exercise. This is no mean feat especially when this concerns a very lively, young dog who just loves to be outside in our very large garden running “hell for leather” everywhere. This was when we also discovered that she also has a dysplasia of her left hip, which accounts for her inability to jump. We will have to keep an eye on this because she is big it may be a problem for her when she gets older.

We have now trained her to come when she is called. We tried many incentives to achieve this, food, toys, treats. Anything, you name it we tried it! Eventually we very reluctantly turned to a collar that buzzes or beeps. It doesn’t hurt her, just distracts and refocuses her attention. I must say I was extremely reluctant to use it at first, but we have only had to use it a couple of times and it really does work. Now all we have to say is “No Bella!” and she behaves herself. We have also used it when we walk her to keep her under our control and out of harm’s way. I am pleased to say that our perseverance and encouragement of good behaviour has paid off and she just decided herself that it was better to do as we asked. We still don’t trust her enough to be able to let her off the lead yet. I am sure that will come in the future. Training was also helped by her having to go to a dog sitter for a couple of days whilst we attended a family funeral back in the UK. The British lady who ran the place had 5 dogs of her own and there were a number of other dogs who arrived over the course of her stay, so she learned how to behave from them. I am pleased to say that she has continued like this ever since, which is a win-win for everyone as before we had to get hold of her by her collar to bring her in.

Bella is now nearly 2 years old and has been with us for 11 months. Life with her is eventful, but full of fun. The main problems we have encountered are due to her size (now 43kg) and her lively nature. Not only does she love to be outside but she also loves to be inside, especially when it’s either hot, to take advantage of the cool stone floors, or raining as she loathes getting too wet. She’s getting used to the shower routine to have her feet washed when she’s been out in muddy the garden. She is especially cute when she listens to us because she puts her head from side to side and now she has begun to calm down a bit, she is becoming a wonderful loving and loyal companion. We are besotted!

bella4

 

Eve’s Story

eveWe lived in France for a year, Sep 2014 – Aug 2015, with our little boy and Collie X. We’d gone from being a two-dog family to one after the death of our gorgeous Sadie the previous year. We’ve always had rescue dogs, I spend quite a bit of time looking at refuge websites and we decided that when we returned to the UK we would once again be a two-dog family…enter Eve (previously known as Maggie).

We walked Eve with Alice our Collie once we got to Carcassonne. She was very easy to walk but not really interested in us as there was such a lot of barking and excitement from all the other residents. She seemed quite aloof! We thought that as she had Labrador in her she would be a good choice for a house with a four year old in it. Whatever she’s crossed with is a bit more athletically built than a typical Lab though, slim and long muscular legs. We arranged to collect her the following week, spayed and with her new passport. She travelled brilliantly in the car. During the following weeks she grew in confidence and bonded with everyone including Alice (no mean feat as Alice is now 15 years old and can be a little grumpy with other dogs). She was house-trained so no problems there.

We had two months in France before we returned to the UK, again she proved to be a great traveller for what is a very long journey. We’re an outdoor-type family, love going for long walks and running, these activities are much nicer with your dog. Eve couldn’t agree more, she LOVES going running. When she sees me put on my trainers she gets very excited and starts jumping on the spot, she’s like Zebedee!

She does get too excited when we meet other dogs and being a big, strong dog can be hard for me to control but I’m starting to take treats when we go out as a distraction and reward. After walking/running her favourite pastime is sitting looking out of the window and barking at squirrels.

She’s affectionate, great with our (now) five year old, a friend for Alice, the best running mate I could have (she makes me feel safe in secluded areas) and we couldn’t imagine being without her. She’s turned into a lovely member of the Simpson family.

 

 

Bakkie ( ex Blackie)

12782463_10153400872902286_1677673209_nHaving settled in France in January 2015 after a couple of years working in Honduras we decided that we were ready to have a dog again.  As our family was growing up we had always had animals in the home, all from puppies and kittens, and decided that we would like to find a dog from a rescue centre – probably a slightly more mature dog to hopefully avoid the house training, two plus years of chewing and with a more relaxed, considered and less manic approach to life in general!

I visited the SPA Carcassonne at the beginning of June 2015 with a vague idea that we were looking for a small/medium sized bitch, but as soon as I saw Blackie (renamed Bakkie) I fell a little bit in love with his handsome face and expressive eyebrows.  His demeanour was one of calm resignation that he would most likely be overlooked again – not surprising considering he had spent 3 of his 7 years in kennels.  We had a little chat through his fence and despite his kennel mate berserking around doing the fandango Bakkie very quietly chatted back with me in a very gentlemanly manner.  After going for a short stroll together and spending a little more time hanging out we thought we might suit each other very nicely thank you!

A couple of days later, once all the paperwork had been completed, I returned to the SPA with my husband to pick Bakkie up and bring him to his new home with us (despite my husbands surprise that he was neither small nor a bitch!).  He travelled beautifully in the car for the hours journey and on arrival was inquisitive about his new surroundings but settled in very quickly.  We have had no accidents in the house, we haven’t had anything chewed or destroyed, we have had to do very little in the way of training to lead on walks – in fact all the upsides to having a dog.  And the best part has been getting to know Bakkie better, watching him gain in confidence and rediscover his ‘joie de vivre’.

Since we have had Bakkie we have done several trips to Andorra, Spain, the Alps and each time he has behaved impeccably – he loves travelling, hotel stays, mountain walks, beach walks and, in fact, only a couple of days ago he enjoyed his first swim in the canal (I think the ducks may have been an incentive to brave the cold!).  Being slightly older he also really enjoys his down time, lazing in the sunshine in the warm and in the winter curled up on his bed in front of a fire.

An advantage of having a dog that has been in the refuge for a long time is that there won’t be any big surprises about their character – whatever their history before arriving at the refuge you can be confident in the fact that they have been gently and knowledgeably rehabilitated whilst there.  We are toying with the idea of getting Bakkie a companion and when the time is right we will most definitely be returning to the SPA.

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Monty

dingo2Monty, or Dingo as he was known was not my choice. I had contacted the refuge to offer a home to a poor little mite who had his toes cut off and was found wandering and abandoned. Fortunately this particular dog had already been re-homed which was fantastic news. However, it was suggested that I might like to take Dingo and give him a chance as he had nothing going for him, he is black, scruffy and very badly put together, the sort of dog that would never grab the attention of the viewer, but the main downside was that he was reported to be a biter. This was not good news so I asked if I could think about it as I have three other rescues and needed to think of them. I rang the following morning to turn down the offer. Moira and I then chatted for some time and eventually I said that I would give him a try, after all the only thing I had to lose was a few fingers!!!!! Dingo had a lot more at stake. We met the van that delivered him at the airport in Limoges and this scruffy ugly bundle fell out at my feet and he was twice the size that I had imagined. The small crate which we had brought with us to make the journey easier was immediately put in the boot and we set off for home. Monty has now been with us for six months and is the most loving and cuddly dog on the planet. It took him a while to stop cowering and we left him to do as he pleased and to get the measure of us all. Every morning when Peter lets him out of the kitchen he dashes up to the bedroom and dives under the covers where we have cuddles and all the dogs snuggle down till I have had my tea. The lesson here is don’t listen to others tales, God knows what he had been subject to that made him bite but he has never shown aggression to any of us and does everything that the Chihuahua tells him (big softie). I am so glad that we decided to give him a try and as we sit here on the sofa together watching TV it seems that he is happy in his new ‘forever home’ .

dingo1

 

 

Trixie

trixie2The little dog here is Trixie, she was found by the Carcassonne SPA wandering around the streets last summer. We had just lost our little 16 year old terrier and we felt Phoenix our 12 year old red setter was missing her. We live half the year in France and half in Northern Ireland so we contacted several SPAs near us and then in Carcassonne. When we first saw Trixie it was love at first sight and Phoenix tolerated her! They are best friends now and sleep together in the kitchen, but it took time. Our cat Billy was also a little anxious but now they respect each other although I dont think they will ever be best friends! We are now in Northern Ireland and Trixie loves her daily walks, there is a big garden to play in with Phoenix and we really think it has helped Phoenix. Trixie was a little sore in one hip and the vet thinks she may have been hit by a car while she was on the street but is fine now… she loves everyone and everyone loves her, she is so affectionate, a wonderful friend, very athletic and full of energy. We reckon she is about a year and a half and has just lost her grey streak of puppy hair. She still sometimes pees when she is excited but this is becoming rare. I cannot imagine our home without her. for only a few hours when it’s not possible to take him with us. But, he is very calm when he is alone at home!

trixie1

 

 

 

Todd

Todd Life after the refugeHello SPA & DRC-followers,

As promised, we are sending you our “life after the refuge” story about our big love Todd.

Todd has been living for more than 3 years at the DRC before he left for Animal Trust in Melle, Belgium, where he has been living for 7 months.

I met him a few days after his arrival at Animal Trust in October 2014. He became my favorite walking buddy and I walked with him every weekend. After a few months, he also joined our family on some trips to the sea and other places to walk.

When Eline and Kevin told us (beginning of may 2015) that Todd’s chances to be adopted were very low, and that he probably would return to the SPA, because of his negative behavior towards other people, our heart really broke…. We talked about adopting him at home. Both of us, Jan & me and the three boys, decided that we would adopt Todd.

After preparing our house to his arrival, Todd arrived at this new and final home on 29.05.2015.

Although we always were convinced that we would never have a dog (we are real cat freaks, we have 11 cats), Todd certainly made the difference…. We are very glad that Todd has chosen us to be his friends.

After 8 months, we can confirm that we didn’t regret the adoption of Todd for a minute!

He has changed a lot during those months living at our house, although we don’t have any experience having and educating a dog.

He loves his different daily walks. He almost joins us everywhere, which he loves very much. He looks sooooooo sad when he has to stay at home for only a few hours when it’s not possible to take him with us. But, he is very calm when he is alone at home!

In December, we had our fist holiday together with Todd. We rented a holiday house in the Netherlands, at the sea side, Todd’s favorite place! It just was a great holiday for all of us.

He doesn’t like the taste of sea water, but every time he tries it again. He is running around on the beach and jumping like a puppy, so nice to see. He even sometimes goes into the water!

During the last weeks, he is getting more and more social towards other dogs. We didn’t really expect him ever to do so… He even has already been playing with some other dogs!

The last months, weeks, he also started to understand the concept of playing!! He likes playing with a tennis ball and even already understands that he has to bring back the ball to us to throw it again.

Brushing Todd still is a project to continue, but he is taking big steps. We already even (sometimes) are able to brush at his back, side, tail,…!!! Only 2/3 brushes at 1 time before growling, but this really is a very big step for him!! We are so very proud of our boy !!!

We have the experience that Todd is a very smart dog, he learns very fast and his memory is amazing! Probably his large memory capacity also is the reason he still remembers negative things out of his life before the refuge.

Although we are trying to learn Todd things, we all accept him as he is, he loves all the five of us and we love him a lot!!!!!

  Todd Life after the refuge