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Life After The Refuge

Life of Brian

Today the refuge is shut, so we are happy to share yet another tale from our section devoted to Life after the Refuge. Tonight’s guest blogger is Kim, who, with husband Arthur, adopted Gino a week or so ago. All is going well, as you can see below.

Brian (fomerly Gino)

Well, where do I begin. My name is Brian. I was adopted from the SPA in Carcassonne on Friday 9th February 2018, so only a week or so ago and I already have my paws well and truly settled under the table.

My original name was Gino, but my new feeding lady had to change it because every time she called me she would start singing the Geno song from the 1980s, it was driving her madder than she already is, though that isn’t difficult, it doesn’t take much for her to be a bit batty.

I have a new sister called Roxy, she’s lovely most of the time, we have had a few spats but it soon calmed down, especially when the feeding lady said she wouldn’t give us a treat, blimey, that was a shock to hear, no treats! but I love my bits of apple and stuff she sneaks to me.

Ain’t I cute? And look at my sexy bum!

She whispers in my ears that I am a lovely boy and she will love me forever, not just me Roxy as well, she thinks we’re the bees knees (I didn’t know bees had knees)

I get fed twice a day, which is brilliant, feeding lady mixes grated carrot and chopped apple in with my biscuits, AND, I get sardines or yogurt in it as well, Roxy only gets fed once a day but that’s because she’s smaller than I am and fatter but don’t tell her that. Oh oh oh, we get to go for 2 or 3 walks every day, unless it’s raining, then the mad lady only get to take us once if she’s really lucky, I don’t like the rain much and my new bezza mate hates it, so we get to stay warm and very farty in the house, it’s brilliant.

Here I am, all warm and farty

The weather up here is wayyyy colder than it is in Carcassonne, I get to wear a new coat every day but sometimes the sun shines and it’s lovely and warm so I go on more walks in the forest and by a canal somewhere oooh I nearly forgot, Roxy likes rolling in poo nearly as much as me, the thing I don’t understand is why the feeding lady goes a bit weirdly batty, all I can hear is ‘NONONONONONONO’ this is when I decide I can only understand French, it’s great being a bilingual dog, I can get away with selective hearing.

In the snow with my friend Roxy. She’s okay….

There’s only a few things I don’t like very much, mad feeding lady cleans my ears out twice every day and puts squidgy stuff in them, not only that she cleans one of my eyes and puts stuff in that as well, she tells me it’s going to stop my ears itching and my eye will feel better, oh the price we dogs have to pay just to keep you humans happy!

So, a week of living with feeding lady, Roxy and beardy bloke, I think I’ll stay, I’ll let you all know how things go but I reckon I’m gonna be happy here. Sorry, I have to go, I was sure I heard something that sounds like food, I need to rest my head on anyone’s knee to help them feel sorry for me, maybe if I breathe in I’ll look like a little waif! that might work, Bye for now.

Life is GOOD!

Lots of love Brian

Once upon a time..

Once upon a time, there were two little Border Terriers, Gimli and Hector , who moved from their home in London to their new home in SW France. They were so happy when they arrived to find that their humans had bought them a lovely little farm, with lots of lands to run around, explore and have adventures! They settled in very quickly and soon Hector was regularly bringing mice in from the barns, happy days .

Tragically, after only 3 years in their new found paradise, poor Gimli had to be put to sleep, a chronic spinal problem, leaving an utterly devastated Hector. For over a month he pined and only left the house to do his business, leaving his humans even sadder. They could take it no more, so started to research adopting a puppy. A litter of Griffons needed homing from the SPA near Bergerac and so it came to pass that Porthos came to cheer Hector up and bring the sparkle back into his life! As soon as they met, they became real buddies and they played and they played!

About 18 months after Porthos arrived, there was a terrible problem in the garden with foxes coming in and out in broad daylight, trying to steal the chickens. Both dogs were very good at guarding the chickens and after about 3 weeks of constant raids by the fox, both dogs took chase one afternoon and disappeared! After a week of searching and agonising, Porthos just trotted up the garden one afternoon! He was definitely worse for wear, but home in one piece. Hector had gone on the chasse of his life ……

There is a happy ending to this tale, but you’ll have to wait a bit, and you may need a box of tissues! Porthos continued to live happily enough with his humans, except to say that he had started fitting occasionally. The vets did tests but said that as he was so young he would probably grow out of them. He did n’t. One night he passed away in my husband’s arms, unable to control or stop the massive and fatal fit that just kept going on and on. Absolutely heartbreaking. And then there were none, no dogs at all, and the house was still. But we still hear them, don’t we?

The humans were too heartbroken and needed time to grieve. But as the months passed, the void needed filling, so enter SPA Carcassonne ! It was time to give an older dog a new start and the story of Shadow, with his little face looking at us out of the website, had us sold! His papers say he is a Pyrenean Berger X , so he’s a medium-sized dog, and the vet said he should weight about 20kg . When we adopted him, he was just over 30kg !!! Lots of short walks and a controlled feeding plan slowly got his weight down, improved his fitness and therefore his joie de vivre! He wasn’t always the easiest at the beginning, as he was the best thief I have ever known, and once he had something in his mouth he would make a terrible noise until left to eat it at leisure – whatever disgusting object it was! He must have the most amazing constitution! Anyway, we love him dearly now and so much so, it was decided to get him a pal.


SPA Carcassonne came good again with a super young Griffon who we have named Dreyfus ! He was only just over 2yrs when we adopted him. I was always sure he was a lovely boy, but when he first came to live with us , he was incredibly timid. More of men than women. The saving grace was that he really wanted to stay close to home, to us. So when people came to the house, we would make sure that he was free to hide or come and say hello as he wished, and over time this did the trick! A good ignoring by guests was always the best way for him to find the confidence to say hello. He is an absolutely adorable chap and loving constant attention from us now, we are never alone !!!!


Ah, that happy ending, I hear you say! Not just yet! Wait for it ………

One rainy day in May 2017 , we went up to the village for a coffee. But en route was noticed a scruffy, fat little dog in the rain, by the side of the road. I told my husband to stop the car, which he did, I opened my door and called “Hector” !!!! Within 5 seconds he was on my lap going crazy! It was our Hector! Still wearing our collar, although a bit tight as he was so fat! So, 2 years and 7 months later, we found him !!!


A Chien Perdu notice appeared the next day, so I managed to find the lady who had kindly taken him in. It transpires that an elderly man had found him and taken him in, and kept him for 2 years as a lap dog and companion until he passed away. The family didn’t want the dog, so Videane offered to look after him for a couple of weeks until a more permanent owner could be found. That’ll be 7 months then! She is a really lovely lady and was delighted to get “Dog” as she called him, back to his rightful owners. She pops in regularly to say hello, and he is always very pleased to see her.

So, there you have your happy ending ! We now have 3 dogs !! They all get on very well, although Hector is top dog! The really lovely thing about our two adoptees is that they haven’t got a bad bone in them, they are never aggressive and get on with every dog they meet out and about. It’s so nice never having to worry.

So, there ends the tale of the three dogs who at this moment are laying in front of the fire, blissfully unaware of what I am writing about them. Occasionally a twitching paw and a little squeak gives away a dream, and I’m happy that they are safe and warm. It’s a dog’s life and I’m glad that their Once upon a time has ended with a Happy ever after 😍

Shadow, Hector and Dreyfus!



When we went on holiday to see our friends in Carcassonne in June 2015, we weren’t on the look out for a dog. We went to the SPA with my friend who volunteers, to do some dog walking – and we met Faro. A little black, rough haired doggie who was terrified of his own shadow and even more terrified of men… but beautifully well behaved on the lead, he just kept looking up at me with those wide eyes. We were smitten.

When we got home, we couldn’t stop thinking about him hiding in the back of his kennel, and three weeks later had reserved him and arranged travel back to Carcassonne to fetch him.

In my ignorance, I just thought he would love being in a warm loving home on a fleecy blanket with lots of yummy food… but no… to him the SPA Kennel was safety from whatever he had endured in a previous life. He barely moved from the sofa for some time and we had to build his trust and confidence very slowly. Television was super scary and squeaky balls had to be put away. But he always loved being with other dogs and our fantastic dog walker quickly became a third trusted person in his life.

It took some time but I can honestly say it is the best thing we have ever done – Faro has changed our lives and we love him unconditionally. His trust and loyalty in us is amazing and he is now a lively and loving dog who loves nothing more than a big run and then to curl up with his head on your lap (and he now loves a squeaky ball too!!). He still has his nervous moments and doesn’t 100% trust everyone but his progress is incredible and you wouldn’t recognise him as the same dog. He has even been to France on holiday with us last year and took a visit back to the SPA.

The team at the SPA and DRC do an incredible job and their advice and support was fantastic. The best piece of advice was to use a harness and double lead – I can’t imagine what he would have done if he had pulled out of his collar in those very early nervous days. I thoroughly recommend adopting a rescue dog and giving them a new life – we would do it all over again.

Faro…enjoying life like all dogs should!


It’s been 22 months now since that gorgeous sunny day in February 2016, when we made the 4-hour drive down to Carcassonne with our 11 year-old Border Collie, to meet our newest family member for the first time. Just 2 months old, Jazz (Tania) melted all our hearts and we were back again shortly afterwards to adopt and bring her home with us to Charente-Maritime. A mischievous bundle of energy, she loved exploring her new garden and getting to know us as well as her new big sister! With lots of summer visitors to our gîte she is never short of playmates and adores a game of chase on the field, rural and coastal walks, not to mention all the extra fuss and cuddles.

Her legs seemed to grow daily in the early days and it wasn’t long before we began to realise that she was, in fact a border collie crossed with another breed, quite possibly a lurcher, but certainly a sight hound, given her sheer speed and determination to chase rather than herd. Not a problem at all, although as long-time collie owners we knew we would have to change tack on the training front. Recall was going to be a bigger challenge than we expected, but we persevered and she is now much better.

Fast-forward to late summer and we noticed a protrusion when she needed to wee. A prolapse, we thought, so we headed off smartly to our local vet. A thorough examination and an x-ray later, we discovered that we are the proud (if somewhat non-plussed) owners of a dog in a million: Jazz is a hermaphrodite with elements of both male and female organs.  Our vet was amazed and explained that they did not have the expertise to carry out the required procedures to neuter her. Not an issue as we were headed to the UK for an extended visit, so a trip to our old veterinary clinic was duly booked.

Jazz became something of a celebrity as our UK vet had to seek advice worldwide in order to decide on the best course of action to neuter her, so rare is the condition. Her womb was removed along with testes that were found in place of her ovaries! Bless her, she was a little star as she recuperated from her operation although walkies were severely restricted for a few weeks. Repeat visits as she healed ensured she has a special place in the hearts of the vets and nurses back in the UK and they still ask after her. Pleased to report that she is back to her best and an integral part of the clan.

Variety is the spice of life they say, so after another summer of fun and frolics in the Charentais sun we are now temporarily relocated in NE England for the winter, where the beaches can rival anything the French Atlantic Coast has to offer. Daily walks along the sands, chasing a ball and playing with scores of other four-legged friends have become the norm and both dogs are delighted with their new surroundings, whatever the weather. It will be a joy to return to warmer weather, the fields and the peace of rural France in the spring, but for now Jazz and the rest of the family are looking forward to the festive season in NE England. It is, after all, the most wonderful Tyne of the year!

Jazz….like most border collies, a fast mover!


We have had Faro since 24th July 2016 after seeing him on the Griffon rescue site and falling in  love.   At first, he was very nervous about everything even other dogs.  Gradually at his own pace, he has come out of his shell, some would say too far out, he is quite vocal about letting you know what he wants.

Although he walks nicely on the lead he really doesn’t like anyone walking behind him even now.  As we do not know his history we have wondered why this was.  Recently he was at the vet’s with a suspected blockage in his bowel, he was given a scan and they found he had thirteen shotgun pellets in his bottom, so I guess this is the reason. (His bowel is fine now).

When we first had him he gobbled his food while watching our other dogs eat theirs, terrified they would take his, but now is much more relaxed.

This is the first Griffon Bleu I have owned and I don’t know if they are all as affectionate as Faro, he would let you cuddle him twenty-four hours if you had the time.  I have had several different breeds of dogs over the years but I have never known a dog look at me with so much love in his eyes. Obviously, he is a failed hunting dog, so he is a nose on legs, but enjoys his walks especially on the beach where he loves to lay down on the water’s edge.  He is a special little character and I wouldn’t be without him, it has been a long road for him but it has been well worth it.

Faro …enjoying life in the UK.


Yoshi is doing really well, he has grown quite a bit he now 50 kilo`s and really well muscled he is like small tank.

Because of his size and weight, he also has an undercut to bottom jaw I am now convinced that he is actually a cane corso. He is very good natured and gets on with other dogs, he has had his first trip to the UK last Xmas and met a lot different other dogs, unfortunately I couldn’t let him off the lead as my house is on the edge of a built up area, he does get very exited meeting other dogs and can be quite a handful jumping around and wanting to play. He is extremely playful dog, but he is also very cuddly he likes to get on my lap sometimes after breakfast and sometimes of an evening and goes to sleep.

He now has a girlfriend, another rescue dog from Spain. She has been with me since March and has settled in well, and is good playmate for Yoshi, play fighting and chasing around the garden, they both love toys and share them most of the time.

I`ve added some photos as you will see he is much bigger now than when you last saw him.


Yoshi. ( left )

Paddington, Texas and Gino…

After travelling around Europe for a few years in our motorhome with our Husky ‘Beau’ we settled on a place in the forest about 7km from Quillan. We are off grid and surrounded by beauty and open space. Unfortunately our dog Beau was killed by a vehicle in May this year. We were devastated by our loss and never contemplated another dog at that time.  Beau was an outside dog and we had failed to realise how much destructive wildlife he had actually kept of our homestead! We don’t like the idea of fences of any kind but the boar and deer soon made their presence felt!

After much consideration, we decided to visit the SPA at Carcassonne and see about perhaps adopting a rescue dog. Diane had spotted a dog on the website who was called Paddington! We visited the SPA and walked him out. We both felt that he was a dog we would get on with and after sleeping on it we decided to see if we could live together. After dealing with the process of adoption which was made very smooth and easy by all the staff at SPA we adopted Paddington.

It took ‘Paddington’ now renamed Hachi about a day to realise he liked us and wanted to stay!! He is the most brilliant dog. After some weeks we decided that we could cope with a companion for Hachi and as Hachi was such a good dog we returned to the SPA. And had a wander around seeing a few potential pals for Hachi. We spoke to our friend and contact at the SPA Moira to say that we were interested in a very sorry looking  Bull terrier, having some experience with the breed but as there were still some issues with his health we were prepared to wait!

Moira mentioned a possible home to home adoption of a very handsome husky cross looking for a new home due to a change of circumstances. We met the owners and Texas came home with us that day, and soon settled into his new home. A few weeks later Gino the EBT was ready for adoption! Well to cut a long story short, we are now 3 dogs richer, all with their own quirks and personalities but our lives are immensely enriched thanks to the excellent work done by the SPA.

Paddington, Texas and Gino..

Martha..( ex Joyce)

We rehomed “Joyce” who had been in the pound for quite some time and had been put in there with her sister due to their fighting.   Her sister had been rehomed quite soon after being in the pound but Joyce had been waiting some months to be rehomed.
“Joyce” arrived after a very stressful weekend not only for her, but for us, as her transport broke down and we weren’t really sure when she would be arriving.   We received a phone call when the transport arrived at Dover,and she eventually arrived about 3 hours later at 10pm on a Sunday evening, which was about 15 hours after she should have arrived.
“Joyce’s” first meeting with Maxwell our Weimarner was not good, she bit his ear quite badly.   As she had been travelling for a long period of time, she was very stressed and hyper and was not ready to go bed so my husband had to take her for a walk at 1am.
We decided to name her Martha and didn’t know if she would understand this, or us, being as she came from France and didn’t know if she understood french, spanish or English.
She didn’t seem to like other dogs, and attacked Maxwell quite a few times, as well as my sisters dog.   Maxwell became quite scared of her.     So not only did we have to deal with Martha but also help Maxwell over come his fear of her.
When I walked her, I had to constantly reassure her and scoured the internet for training tips on how to help her overcome her reaction to other dogs.
Luckily I was in contact with the owner of Martha’s sister, now named Lily, so we could compare notes and support each other, as this really helped in getting to understand Martha’s behaviour.
I would say that it took about 6 weeks for Martha’s behaviour to change, and to become de-stressed, and I would say that I think she felt quite threatened and scared at first.
It was difficult in the beginning as there was very little history about how her, and her sister had been treated, what training they had had, if any.   Martha didn’t seem to know many commands, and didn’t seem to know how to play with toys at all, which was quite sad.   She also didn’t know how to play with other dogs and still doesn’t completely, as when they start to chase her she becomes that frightened dog again and has to be called away just incase she attacks them.
The only thing she seemed to know how to do was sit, and give her paw which she did constantly for attention.   She barges Maxwell out of the way as she wants the attention, and she had to learn that she was not top dog.
My 13 year old daughter has been a great help in teaching her how to play, and she now plays tug with a teddy.   It is so lovely to see her play and be happy.   She is still quite scared of some toys and also the hairdryer and hoover, but every day she gets braver.
I have a shadow, constantly following me around the house and wanting attention, and if I go out, she would cry constantly even if my family were still at home.    Mind you the greeting I get when I get back is so overwhelming, its like Ive been gone for months rather than an hour or so.
However,  I can honestly say that the hard work, training and love is so worthwhile to see the change in her.   Martha now licks Maxwell’s ears and they even share beds.
Training is ongoing and it is so rewarding to see her learn, and she loves to “talk” as Dalmations do in her growly language.
I would definitely rehome a dog again, as it is so nice to give a dog a home rather than give up on them at the first hurdle.   You just need, patience, understanding, love and time.

Martha and Maxwell..friends at last!

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


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.