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Life After The Refuge


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!






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




Adopting a tripawd dog

 A few months ago I received a call from SPA Carcassonne. They had taken in a tiny Podenca girl who had a very bad injury to one of her back legs as a result of being shot – accidentally or on purpose we will never know … Little girl couldn’t tell us what happened!
As a result of her ” accident” she had to have her leg amputated , which, although traumatic meant that this wee lass would be a tripawd but would survive!
She recovered very well and thrived under the supervision of the vet and being hand fed chicken !
After much discussion it was decided she would come to live with my gang of Galgas and Podencos as a foster in order to build her confidence and find her a forever home !
We arranged to collect her from a meeting point halfway between Carcassonne and Poitiers on 18th June last year.
What I saw when she arrived shocked and surprised me …. She was so tiny… 5.5kgs.
She looked terrified as I picked her up and cuddled her …I knew then she would never be adopted by anyone other than me!
We decided to call her Daisy and she flourished like a flower does when fed and watered. The first few weeks were busy making sure she didn’t get injured by my ruffians, I needn’t have worried , they were all aware she was delicate and respected she needed special attention and also hand feeding her … Did she milk that one !!!!
Posing like a diva waiting for me to make sure she ate.
One morning I heard a very pathetic yelp and discovered Daisy had a voice .. That voice has got louder and is now a full blown Podenco bark.
Daisy progressed extremely well – house training was slow but she soon realized that indoors was not acceptable.
She came with us to visit friends to socialize her in preparation for re-homing ?
We took her on walks with our gang which tired her quite quickly but she gained a lot of strength and built up muscle in her back leg.
On a walk one day we took the plunge and allowed her freedom to run off lead with the other dogs … Quelle surprise!! She ran as fast , if not faster than a couple of my Galgas and enjoyed exploring the fields … Typical Podenco , nose to the ground sniffing everything in sight… But she has excellent recall …
She amazes us with her energy levels and we laugh so much every day at her antics…she takes a running flying leap to get into sofas and beds, forgets she’s missing a leg and dashes in when called and goes sliding across the tiles because she’s taken a corner too quickly!
You may have guessed .. She became a fully fledged member of our family … We just could not imagine letting her go… She has made us laugh everyday .. She’s a delight to have around.. Noisy, funny cheeky Daisy …
7 months on she now weighs 8 kg… Loves her food … So comical watching her trying to balance on her one leg to reach her dinner as it’s being prepared.
She is best friends with my little male Podenco Ocaso and has lots of play fighting with Mona my Galga , who till Daisy arrived was the baby!
Adopt a tripawd – yes- they don’t know they are different and special ..Thank you so much SPA Carcassonne for letting Daisy come into our lives !!!




New Owner



Life after the refugeSo you bring your new boy home, excited to show him off, introduce to the rest of the family. Walk him round the village so everyone can meet him and give him a little cuddle. Oh how wonderful our life is going to be. EXCEPT your boy doesn’t walk well on a lead, pulls like a train in every direction (except the one you want) and then has an epileptic fit on the end of his lead if he encounters another dog on his walk. That didn’t exactly go to plan. So you bring your new boy home and take him into the garden to play with the array of toys you spent hours drooling over in the pet shop. You hummed and hawed whether to buy the jumbo tug rope or the squeaky hamburger or the large ball. But your boy is so special so you buy them all. EXCEPT your boy doesn’t play with toys. No matter which one you try and tempt him with, he simply isn’t interested. That didn’t exactly go to plan. So you bring your new boy home and show him his great new bed. Willow basket with a lovely plump cushion inside. It cost a fortune but you only need one and it is for life. And your boy is worth it. EXCEPT your boy won’t go in his bed, preferring the sofa or the cosy armchair in the corner. And if he does go into his bed he simply chews the bedding and the bed! That didn’t exactly go to plan. So you bring your new boy home confident that he is the perfect dog for you. You need to go out but can’t take him with you so you leave him at home with an array of treats and toys to keep him occupied. You make sure that you are gone for the very shortest of times as after all this is the first time you’re leaving him behind. EXCEPT when you get back, no matter how short a time you were away the house is in total chaos. The bin is spilt over with its contents strew everywhere. Flower pots knocked over leaving the lounge looking more like a garden than a home. Your favourite boots now resemble sandals where they have been chewed to bits. And any food left out (even in its packaging) has been removed from the kitchen and has been either eaten or shredded. To add insult to injury none of the treats have been eaten nor the toys destroyed. That too didn’t exactly go to plan So being the new owner may not always be the ideal that you had in your mind. Very seldom will you bring home your dog and get it all 100% right from the off. There is a period of adjustment from the time your boy leaves the Refuge to the time he understands that you are now his forever home, that could be weeks, months or even longer. It all depends the age of the dog, how long he has been in the Refuge and of course, most importantly, his previous history. Be realistic about setting goals otherwise you risk being quickly disappointed and eventually disillusioned. So if you’re teaching your boy to sit and he almost does it – praise him. Don’t insist on doing it time and time again as he’ll only lose interest and you’ll feel as though you’ve failed. Also don’t try and do every thing at once like trying to teach your dog the basic commands, plus how to fetch a ball, etc. Its pressure for the both of you. You need to get your priorities sorted. If living out in the countryside what’s more important walking to heel on the lead or immediate and consistent recall when walked off the lead? If you have to leave your dog alone on a regular basis what’s more important teaching him to sit and stay or learn how to be on his own without destroying his home? And praise your boy every time he gets it right. Not only does he feel good but you too feel good about seeing his progress. But the single most important thing to do is to enjoy being with your dog – remember this is after all why you chose this special boy in the first place. His cute nose, his shiny eyes or just the way he smiles and wags his tail at you!
New owner2




Echo’s first year – progress report

Echo - Life after the refuge

It’s almost a year now since I adopted Echo and I thought I would let you have an update. Echo (also known as Doggy-Poo) has turned out to be an easy-going, well-behaved hound. “Hound” gives the clue to one problem area: recall. Though he makes no effort to escape, Echo is an opportunist and, once free to run, that’s what he does. He has (so far), always come back, sometimes after 10 minutes sometimes after four hours. Moira and DRC’s consultant trainer, Sharon, gave advice and reassurance. However, the problem remains that I have a hound with unreliable recall, who needs to run and a garden too small to meet that need. Echo’s fearfulness of strangers, crowds, noise and dominant male dogs is less severe than it used to be and building his confidence in other contexts (e.g. play and exercise), is helping to make him less fearful generally Echo recently visited a dog behaviourist, who concluded that he is a dog who needs to run long distances at high speed (I already knew that) and, if he has other dogs to run with, he will tend to stay with them rather than disappear over the horizon (I didn’t know that). He thought I shouldn’t treat this as a major problem and advocated a degree of risk-taking. Unfortunately, I can’t adopt another dog or two as lures. However, the more I allow Echo to run off lead, the better his recall is becoming and the more he chooses to stay closer to me, rather than running off out of sight and coming back when he feels ready to. This flies in the face of the usual recommendations not to allow a dog off lead until it has a solid recall. However, the alternative is to keep him a miserable prisoner until he’s too old to run. His recall on a 10 metre line has been close to 100% for ages, it just disappears when the line is unclipped. I now let him run freely somewhere fairly safe, like at the sports ground or on an open mountain top, but far enough from home so he’s not over-confident about finding his own way home after a 1 to 4 hour escapade. I try to do this most days and Echo is getting the idea that I allow him to run and meet other dogs, give him treats when he returns and then let him carry on running. Then, when I finally put him back on the lead, we go home and he gets his meal. We also do a circuit by the river, where he can scamper up and down the rocks and drink river water. I really enjoy watching him stretch out to race and his speed suggests there’s some whippet in the mix. I still worry when I watch a happy dog racing away from me, but it’s lovely to see a little black speck appear on the horizon and resolve itself into a happy dog racing back to me. Unfortunately, when he knows the walk is coming to an end, Echo disappears to chase cats in the nearby streets. I now know where his favourite cat lives, so I can go and collect him. Another achievement has been demonstrating that even a seven-year-old hound can learn to play. At first, he hadn’t a clue about playing with toys. He gets some of his meals in food-dispensing toys, to stop him eating too fast, and has developed new skills in manipulating, swiping and throwing them around using his paws and snout. He now loves playing with fluffy, squeaky toys and is even learning to retrieve a squeaky ball, though that only interests him in the garden. Perhaps he will eventually run to fetch a ball or frisbee elsewhere too. Santa Claus brought Echo an activity game, where he has to slide covers, open covers using levers etc. to get the hidden treats. This is now a favourite. He is gradually accumulating quite a lot of toys. Echo used to pull like a tractor on the lead, making alarming choking noises and might, in the past, have damaged his throat by pulling on a collar, so I started using a training harness and double-ended lead instead. Having two points of attachment confused him over which way to lean and so he had to balance himself. I also stopped or turned around each time he pulled. Now he trots nicely beside me on the lead. This did take quite a lot of time and effort to achieve. Particularly when adopting a mixed-breed, adult dog, you have to be prepared to find out about them gradually and not have too many pre-conceived ideas about the exact character of dog you want, but be prepared to accept the dog you adopted and put some effort into training and behaviour shaping, while being ready for things to change unexpectedly (e.g. Echo has now found his voice and barks and bays more than he used to, though not excessively). Some things were essential to me, like getting a dog that was house-trained and didn’t pull too hard on the lead (I have arthritis, so wanted a dog with max. 20 kg pulling power). The recall problem is manageable because, though I only have a small garden, I’m semi-retired and work from home and have suitable places for Echo to run fairly close by. If he had chewed and damaged furniture etc. that would have meant containment in non-vulnerable areas and training. I’m sure Echo would have been happier had he been adopted by someone with a large, enclosed garden/park and a couple of other dogs to play with. Fortunately, he isn’t capable of thinking about that and accepts life as it is. He seems happy and I am too. Yes, I’ve sometimes regretted not having got a golden retriever or a labrador, rather than a hound, but that only lasted until Echo returned from his latest escapade.






toffeeToffee here (although you guys used to call me Farage). Well I arrived in the UK back in October 2014 so I thought it was time I updated you all on what I’m doing. I settled into my new home really quickly, I have lots of other doggies here to show me the ropes and play with. To start with I was a bit a shy but soon found my feet and my spot in front of the fire!! I’ve been to school and I’ve learnt lots of new things, Mum says I am a really good boy and it makes me really proud and waggy when she tells me so. My brothers and sisters all go to school too and they do this silly thing where they run round lots jumping over jumps and they have a walkway and A Frame that they run over and they weave through the poles and things but I don’t see the point of all that nonsense, so when Mum let me try I did the A Frame and the walk way bit just to prove I could but when we got to the jumping bit I laid down and crossed my paws in front of it so after they all stopped laughing she said OK if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to do agility. She also wanted me to try flyball at school, I know she said it was just for fun but I think it is stupid, I can’t see the point of running all that way just for a ball. I mean who needs a ball that badly, even when my school teacher put a sausage on the flyball box especially for my turn I didn’t run, I couldn’t be bothered if I sit and look cute I will get a sausage anyway so RESULT I don’t have to do that either he he, let them nutty collies run round I say (although when it suits me, If I want to play with them I can run around as well as they can). My big brother Harlequin (you remember him, he lived with you too) doesn’t like that agility stuff either but he is loopy about chasing the ball and he likes all the other school stuff so he does that instead. What I really like to do is to go to the local village fetes and things with my Mum & Grandma – I’m Grandma’s favourite so she spoils me rotten, when she comes to see me she brings me mini toad-in-the-holes they are my favourite treats I really like them. On Sunday Mum took me and Harlequin on a sponsored 10 mile walk with my Grandma. We was very good, because it was hot Mum walked us through the ford so we could splash about (I didn’t really care but Quinn loves to play in the water) and we didn’t even chase the ducks that everyone was feeding from the bridge so we got more brownie points with Grandma. I had my very own T-Shirt for the walk I was the only doggy there that looked so smart matching all the people, so I had lots of pictures taken I’m quite a poser!! And I got an ice-cream for my effort I quite liked that too. Anyway I better go because it will soon be teatime and I don’t want to miss that – I will write again soon folks – thank you all for helping me find my forever home I’m having lots of fun here, I have attached some pictures so you can see me. Loads of Love Toffee XX





Pepper (Flavie)

pepperWhen we lost our darling Tessa, a calm, never any trouble, flat coated retriever of 9 years old, we thought we’d just see how we all were for a while, including Tally, another flat coat and just 2 years old.

We realised very soon that we were spoiling her rotten and that she was suffering from quite severe loneliness without Tessa so I started talking to Moira at SPA Carcassonne about a rescue dog.

At first a Golden Retriever caught our eye but was snapped up so Moira asked one of the volunteers Carole which dog she would place with us, knowing our backgrounds with dogs etc. and Carole said ‘Oh, Flavie would be perfect for them’.

So, off we went to meet Flavie, who is now renamed Pepper and who we have had for 3 months.

Lucky for her, she hadn’t been at the SPA for very long, only a month, so was raring to come to a new home and showed no signs of being nervous about it at all.

Once here, she soon met some of our friends’ dogs and got on with all of them, racing round our large garden, playing games with them and never seeming to get tired, even when they said ‘enough is enough, thank you!’

She is a cross between a gazelle and a saluki to us, very long, bambi like legs and she can outrun most dogs that we know. She loves her walks in the countryside where there are streams to splash in, she has been camping with us to a lake which she really enjoyed plus we’re taking her to Spain for our annual camping holiday on a campsite which allows dogs and has a huge stretch of beach to run about on with Tally.

Taking on a rescue dog isn’t always completely plain sailing. Pepper had a pretty poorly tummy and an ear infection for a bit but the vet has sorted those now (plus help from Moira and Darcey on email!). she also chewed through 3 leads so we now have chain ones; she still ‘mouths’ at us when very excited which is fine but she has a strong jaw and she is also quite a barker at passing neighbours and the postman – something we’re not used to with the flat coats we’ve had. We’re working on these bits though and I’m confident that, in time, we’ll have it all sorted.

We certainly wouldn’t be without her – she’s a fantastic addition to our family and she and Tally are like sisters now! She also gets on really well with Boris, our cat, something that was checked before we took her on.

Moira and Darcey were absolute stars in being very patient with me and my elongated emails on occasion and for us to finally meet Pepper and take her home. The dogs at the SPA are very lucky to have them but of course they (the dogs!) would all very much like to be in forever homes.

If it were down to me I’d have more but, for now, two is what we have and I think Pepper is certainly very happy with her new home and her new life!

Nikki & Dave Harland . June 2015




Shadow’s Story


Shadow is a truly sweet soul who has obviously had a few trials in his life along the way ending up in a refuge again at the age of 7yrs . He was very quiet when he first arrived and we didn’t hear him bark for about a month . He was always just there , no real greeting or confirmation that he knew we existed . Christmas was a bit bewildering! Why were these people giving him squeeky toys , teddy and tennis balls ! What was he meant to do with them , he hadn’t a clue ! The wrapping paper was delicious !! Saucisson on the other hand !! He had stolen one whole saucisson & a baguette by christmas ! Now I have to point out that this was quite a feat , as he was unbelievably unfit & very very fat . His first walks consisted of going down the drive and back , then we progressed to walking to the first bend in the road , about 200m . Not only was he completely puffed on our return , but he was very stiff in his joints . We decided to give him a month of Corteflex , which did the job . He was less stiff and more able to continue with his fitness programme . He has managed to steal 2 more saucisson , but I blame us for turning our backs on him ! He knows the routine , people turn up for an apéro , out comes the saucisson , then we walk the people to their cars and voila , saucisson gone without a trace !! He has however done us proud by losing over 5k in 7months . He is truly obsessed with food , and once in his grasp you can just forget it !! Shadow is an absolute poppet with all other dogs , irrespective of age & size . He has also been a diamond with our neighbours children , a 6yr old and twin 3yr olds ! He likes to chase the chickens when he’s feeling sporty , but it’s only a game ! He now greets us like a puppy whenever we come home and occasionally has been know to give us a cuddle ! He barks at any cars that arrive and defends his home with pride – if I didn’t know him , I don’t think I’d not take him seriously !! As sweet as he is , he’s been an education for us . Before Shadow we owned 3 weimaraners , a Retreiver , 2 Border Terriers and a Griffon . But taking on a rescue dog is a whole new ball game . I think we have had to be more patient with him than any of the others because he’s not a puppy , he has had problems , but therefore the reward we get when things start to come good is immense ! We have no regrets and I am now sure Shadow knows that this is his Forever home , chickens and all ! The pictures are November & now – I hope you can see a difference !
Nikki & Dave Harland . June 2015




The Journey by Zelda


Zelda1“Let’s go back to February 28th 2015….a story from Zelda”
Two dogs that thought they had a home for life were abandoned at the SPA today. First was two-year old Zelda, who was adopted from us (as Zizouille) about a year ago. She is on the “no longer wanted” pile. BUT My new Mum, Jane found this picture of me, and you can see that now I have a different life altogether!! She had decided to volunteer at the SPA Carcassonne, and ventured into the “concrete jungle” initially December 2014. To return shortly after in March on a permanent basis…there was strict instruction from John to find a new member to the family but not a small dog! Well, an open brief and where to start, there was so many to choose from all barking for attention and affection but she kept returning to my home which I shared with a great dog Tazer. Initially I was very frightened and wouldn’t approach anybody, but with some support from Tazer and a treat…we became friends and went out for a walk together. Jane returned on several occasions as a new volunteer and although there were several new dogs, always sat with me and I enjoyed the cuddles that she gave me behind the bars…little did I realise that she had decided…I was going home. Jane shortened her last return to the UK and I was adopted on April 11th…ten days after my 2nd birthday….approximately 6 weeks at the SPA is unusual. We both started our journey together walking the vineyards near Brezilhac, and I soon found new friends as you can see from the pictures…socialisation is hard for me, and I am afraid of people, children, flags, loud noises and shoppings bags to name but a few, but in eight weeks we have made great improvements. I am very lucky as we have a small open garden where I can play with my various toys, and I am particularly good at football…OK I’ve destroyed a few and have thrown a few tennis balls down steep banks which both my new Dad and I have managed to retrieve…we have been to Mirepoix/Limoux markets as my Mum loves to source local fruit/veg and I generally always get a treat when she stops for coffee. Many people have approached me on these days out and I have even had photographs taken….today has been an adventure Toulouse airport….who know’s where we will be going next, such an adventure!!
“A day in the life of a volunteer” Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I set off for the afternoon to the SPA Carcassonne….with so many dogs to walk I have to choose those that have not been walked recently…I was surprised it could be up to a week! I personally have a soft spot for the big dogs in their single boxes, and have built up my muscles in my right arm!! (thanks to Gus…lovely chap).They are all so very different when they are given the opportunity to get out… for anyone considering “adopting” please do not pass by those that look over excited, or retire to the back of their homes..just give them a second look. There are two tips I would give any new volunteer make sure you bring water as some days it has been over 30 degrees, and even though we don’t walk on those days…Cindy, Moira and myself washed three puppies for the first time it is thirsty work. Secondly, pair up with a friend, and enjoy the walks together this allows those dogs that are homed in pairs to go for a walk together, and it is great to see the difference. When you have the time get the brush out…with the warmer weather some of the dogs are losing their winter coats and is great to see how they appreciate the cuddles and warmth that you can provide…it always gives me great satisfaction to see the “older dogs” adopted and see them off with their new owners. Anyway back tomorrow with my daughter to show her the ropes and despite the weather, a walk and a smile costs nothing.




My Search & Rescue – A Risk Assessment

search1After the birth of our second daughter and reducing my working hours to part-time, my partner and I felt the time was right to finally add a canine member to our family. I had grown up with spaniels (English Springers and a Brittany Spaniel), and Paul grew up with various breeds, from terriers to poodles. We already had 2 cats (Fonzi, a Burmese, and Cleo, an Egyptian Mau X Bengal). But because we had both worked full-time we did not think it was fair to have a dog we could not commit the time to. My experience of dogs was such that I knew it’s not just about taking care of their physical needs but also their emotional needs.

We did not want to buy from a breeder over here: A : because it’s so expensive, B: because we liked the thought of being able to help a dog who had been given a rubbish deal in life, and finally C: I fell in love with Garf at first sight. After trawling through pages and pages on google of UK dog rescue centres, and unsuccessfully trying to find a spaniel or a hound that was good with kids, and was still young enough for the kids to grow up with, I accidently stumbled across the SPA Carcassonne page. I could not believe all the lovely looking dogs looking for a new home. Garf took my eye straight away, as he was obviously a Brittany Spaniel and so beautiful. I was also keen on an older Brittany spaniel, however we felt Garf maybe too lively for him to handle. As luck would have it my mum decided she wanted the older Brittany (Eclat – who we call ‘Clay’).

After a year of having Garf in our lives, and feeling he was suitably settled and happy, we decided to give him a pal. When a Brittany spaniel puppy appeared on the SPA website we thought she would be ideal as being a puppy she would be more likely to be accepted by Garf. The idea being she would accept his position as leader and be his subordinate. Hmmmmm, enter Pip, she had other ideas. She is a very lovely, but bossy little sister for Garf, just as well he is now a chilled out sort of dude! We purchased a dog crate after about 2 weeks of Pip’s arrival, it has been a brilliant buy. She sleeps in it and it also means Garf isn’t harassed at night by her.

I suppose in sum a we did a risk assessment before we decided to adopt from the SPA Carcassonne, the risks were:

  • Distance, the dogs were in South France (we are in Scotland) – we did not view them before we adopted them;
  • Relying on SPA to test the dogs with kids;
  • Patchy historical / medical info
  • Assumption that a rescue dog will have more issues and be more work;
  • Having to wait longer to get the dogs due to distance/transportation;
  • What if something goes wrong afterwards? E.g the dog is aggressive with the kids?

Why we still went ahead with it regardless:


  • The satisfaction of helping a dog in need;
  • The Calibre of dogs available;
  • Good communication with staff at the SPA throughout the process, very helpful and reassuring – and I liked that Moira was Scottish! We trusted them.
  • The SPA sorted vaccinations, passports, transport, and this with cost of the dog was very low compared to theUK.
  • Finding a Brittany Spaniel rescue is a rare thing.


search2For these reasons we did it a second time with Pip. It’s actually funny, because she has been more work than Garf, for us the Rescue dog was ‘easier’ than the puppy. I guess all dogs have their own pros and cons regardless of where you get them from. A pure breed dog can have a blow-by-blow account of its medical and family history, but they are not always the most healthy and they maybe expensive to buy. A rescue may be more of a mystery, but I think this makes them quirky and interesting. Here is a low down of our dogs:


Exhibit A : Garfield

AKA: ‘Gorgeous Garf’

Brittany Spaniel X Setter, 2.5 years of age at time of rescue.

Issues: Hyper, sensitive tummy, pulling on lead, Poor recall.

Needs: Plenty of walks, to run off the lead, cuddles, Sensitive dog food, PATIENCE.

Pros: Handsome, Intelligent, Already house trained, not destructive, Sporting (helps me stay healthy), Handsome, great with the kids,

Makes me proud he is ours, Handsome, cuddly, A dog as great as him in the UK would cost hundreds as a puppy, and there was no rescues of

his calibre in the whole of the UK – I looked!

 Exhibit B: Pip

AKA: ‘The Enforcer’

Brittany Spaniel X ?, 6 months of age at time of rescue.

Issues : Not toilet trained, chews: toys, books, socks, etc. Can open the pedal bin in the kitchen – likes to empty it, bosses Gorgeous

Garf about – bit jealous when he gets cuddles, doesn’t seem too keen on learning basic commands.

Needs: Food if you want her to perform basic commands (it’s weird that she suddenly knows them when you have chicken in your

hand!), cuddles, a patient big brother (cue Garf!), exercise, not to be overfed.

Pros: She is great with the kids, cuddly, loves people, friendly with other dogs, keeps Garf entertained, good on the lead, excellent recall, loyal.

My mum adopted Clay, as mentioned earlier, he was around 9 years of age when she got him. We initially thought we may only have him for 1 or 2 years as he seemed like he had a rough time in life, appearing weathered. He literally had no issues behaviourally. He and mum ‘clicked’ straight away, he is calm and loving. He is super with the kids, and would make an ideal Therapet. He had to get a lot of teeth out when mum first got him, and has a touch of arthritis, but he is happy and has such a glossy coat now. He is mum’s ‘wingman’ and goes with her when she is out and about in the car and such like.

I guess we have been lucky that I stumbled across the SPA website that day, we have ended up with such lovely additions to the family. We took the ‘risk’ and it paid off, I would only ever choose a rescue dog from now on. It doesn’t make sense to pay hundreds of pounds for a puppy when there is such an abundance of great rescue puppys/dogs needing a better deal. There are risks involved in any form of dog ownership, the most important thing would be to research it fully before you make a decision and make sure you know what to expect, be prepared and be patient!   If a dog can trust and love a human again and give us a second chance, then it’s probably not too much to ask for the same in return.

Wishing all rescuers the best of luck in their adventures,

The Emslie-Fyfe family, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.