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Life After The Refuge

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.




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’ .





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