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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.


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