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Life After The Refuge


Artigo…Bleu de Gascogne

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

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

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

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

A real family dog!…

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


Beau..( ex Dumbo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beau ( ex Dumbo)

Bella formerly Esquise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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