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Melba and Petit’s Incredible Journey!

Many of you will know that Melba, the beautiful Braque Allemand, was reserved by my son and eventually arrived chez moi last Thursday! Because I had 5 other foster pets I didn’t think it was fair to bring Melba here until I could give her all of my attention but at last she was there, her first step towards a happy future!

Melba arrived at the SPA as a pup and really did have the ‘cute’ factor so was adopted from us fairly quickly. She was then abandoned, a boisterous adolescent who had received no training, little attention and had been left to her own devices! We all know the havoc that a bored, unexercised and ignored pup can cause but I knew that Melba was a clever, keen girl.

Anyone who knows me well also knows my dogs Zac and Phoebe. Zac is a Labrador cross Collie who I have had from a pup and gets on with anyone and everything. Phoebe is a Boxer cross who I have had since she was 2 and is a fantastic people dog but needs careful introductions to other dogs. If things are done at Phoebes pace then there are no problems but she likes to dictate that pace!  After picking up Melba from the refuge I had my hubby meet us with my dogs and off we went for our first walk together. I breathed a sigh of relief when Madame Pheobe gave Melba a sniff and then ignored her; this really was the doggy equivalent of the thumbs up!  When we got back to the house Melba had a good sniff around and hoping she would settle I popped her in her cage.  She howled and after 10 minutes I gave up and let her out. She quickly jumped up on the sofa and went to sleep…hmm…should I let her settle or what?  By this time it was dinner time so the lure of food and a glass of wine was much too much for me so I let her sleep.

At bedtime I was a bit wary about putting her back in her cage but she quickly settled and slept until morning. Next day we packed up a picnic and the 3 dogs, then headed up to the Pyrenees for a long walk to tire them out before their big journey to Scotland. This certainly worked and after 3-4  hours walking on the hills we had very tired dogs!

Next day was hectic with an early morning walk and then a very special pick up in Limoux, a lovely little Pincher cross called Petit who was also travelling with us. Petit had been fostered by our volunteer Di, who had gone out of her way to accommodate this young chap, even although this is her busiest time of year. When Petit arrived at Dis a few weeks ago he was scared, not house trained and very wary of men but the Petit I picked up was confident, clean in the house and for all the journey and fine with my hubby. This was all down to Di’s hard work socializing and training him so a massive thank you to her. It’s so hard to hand over a foster pet especially when you know that they have a 16 hour journey ahead of them with people and animals they have never met and Di would be the first to admit there were a few tears!

Petit made the animal count in my car up to 6 so we decided to travel at night. We left France about 4pm and had a very relaxed drive through France. 3am we were walking along the promenade in Calais with all the dogs and the smell and sight of rabbits around the beach huts certainly perked them all up! The animal checks at Eurotunnel went painlessly and we arrived in Folkestone at 7am where Ellen the new mum for Petit and Kevin my son who adopting two kittens were waiting to meet us. Ellen had brought along Zelda, her staffie cross whippet to meet Petit and both were delighted with the new arrival!

Off we set again through the UK with only 10 hours drive in front of us until we reached home!  That was a journey of 27 hours for Melba who arrived a bit bewildered but ready to begin her new life roaming the Scottish hills. A walk in the woods, a splash in river and lots of new smells really perked Melba up and Stuart and Juliette were absolutely delighted with her. We shall definitely have regular updates of Melbas progress. This will be their first dog and I am very proud how they have thought long and hard about the dog they wanted, have planned training classes and also considered how Melba will fit into their lifestyle.

For rescue dogs like Melba and Petit, to travel so far to a new life certainly is an incredible journey!

Melba in the Pyrenees

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Ellen giving Petit his first cuddle.

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Go Team Freedom!

Some people arrive at the refuge knowing exactly what kind of dog they want, in terms of age, breed and sex. Others just wander round and see where their heart goes. A third type of person knows what they want a dog for. One such person is Isa, and today’s blog is about her and the dog she adopted from the SPA Carcassonne, Canelle (formerly Brindle).

Isa is an athlete. She competes at a high level on the track, and wanted to move into a sport called Canicross, which some of you may know. Basically a huge elastic waist belt attaches you to your dog, and you race round tracks or cross country together. So Isa had a very clear idea of what she wanted in a dog. But it had to be love, too, not just a tool. I have been to several canicross events (as a spectator, I hasten to add), and you see lots of huskies and other pulling type dogs. But Isa is drawn to a different type of dog completely.

After much deliberation, Isa adopted a dog from us in February this year and immediately enrolled in classes at the Club Canin, Carcassonne (with whom we have an ongoing and successful partnership). Pretty soon Canelle was ready to join Isa on the track. She was a natural. Isa was over the moon, and in her second ever competition they were on the podium! And guess what? Isa donated her prize (of dog food) to the SPA!

At this very moment Isa and Canelle are taking part in the Trophy of the Mountains. This is a huge canicross competition, with participants from 18 different nations. There are ten different stages to run over the course of nine days; I heard from Isa this morning from somewhere in the region Rhone Alpes, where she and Canelle are just about to enter into the top ten senior female category.

Before entering the competition Isa wrote to ask if we would mind if Canelle’s official race name could include the words “SPA Carcassonne”. Of course we were only too delighted to agree. Isa describes Canelle as a real warrior, she is massively proud of her dog, who just 5 months ago was in a kennel at the refuge. She says that together they are Team Freedom!

It is wonderful for us too, to see an owner and dog so in tune with each other. We are proud of them both!

Go Team Freedom!

 Isa and Canelle at the start line (with Canelle obediently posing for the camera!)

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And in full flight during the Trophy of the Mountains

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One out one in.

As far as adoptions is concerned, today wasn’t exactly stunning. However lots of dog walking took place and the one adoption, that of the puppy, Sumo, did raise morale. His space  was quickly taken by a gorgeous female setter, who was found in a nearby village (how many times have we heard that?!) We have named her Katya, as for some reason there seems to be a bit of a Russian theme going on (Nastasya arrived yesterday, and we have Nureyev, who has been with us for 6 months now)

Sumo has gone to a lovely family, and he will have a great time with them, I am sure. They all came along to choose their new companion, and what a fabulous photo!

In other news, we put out an appeal on Facebook yesterday for bamboo screening. We intend to use this to provide some well-needed shade for the cat house and also some of the dog kennels. If we have enough we would like to make an exercise area for those puppies who are living in the infirmary (ie before they are fully vaccinated). And perhaps even screen off the parks so the dogs can play without exciting all the other dogs in the kennels opposite.

In any case, the first donation of screening arrived today and work will start as soon as possible.

If you have anything similar lying around, it would be wonderful if you could bring it along! It will make such a difference to the cats and dogs.

Lovely Katya
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Sumo leaves with his new family

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And some soon-to-be-shade arrives! 

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Four Dog Friday – The Sequel!

Does that sound like a good film title for a follow up to last week’s blog, Four dog Friday? What a coincidence! This is a weekly routine I could get quite used to!

Yes, four dogs left us today. I am happy for all of them, but for two in particular. As puppies, Clyde and Frolo would always find it easier to be adopted than the older dogs, even if it took longer than they would have liked. Both of them have been with us for four weeks, which is a long time in the life of a puppy. But now they can play to their heart’s content and get all the love and attention that puppies need.

Clyde leaves

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So does Frolo

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However It is the adoptions of the two adults that has really cheered me up. Firstly it was the turn of Gaia, a lovely golden coloured shepherd cross, who arrived identified but whose registered owner had given her away and did not have the name of the new owner. (Grrr!).  Gaia has been with us since the end of May, sharing her kennel with a pal and making the most of her new situation. I am so glad she was picked today. She was quite discrete and sometimes dogs like her get overlooked. Perhaps it was the pink stripe down the middle of her nose that sealed the deal; that is certainly what I fell for!

Goodbye Gaia

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Then for me the adoption of the day. Maybe even of the week. Who remembers Hera, also known as the Bullet Dog? Her owner brought her in as she was no longer wanted. When we asked for a donation to help pay for her upkeep (she was not identified, vaccinated or sterilised), he told us that the bullet with which he was planning on shooting her cost a euro, so that is all he was prepared to pay. Well, yah boo sucks to you, Monsieur! Hera has a lovely new home as of today!

Loads more tummy rubs are awaiting Hera

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As ever it was not all good news. Three new dogs arrived, so today has not made much of a dent in the numbers. But you have to look at the dogs as individuals not as an overall mass, and four dogs are happier tonight than they were this morning, for sure!

Amazing teamwork takes Polly to freedom!

It has been a busy day or so. As well as all the usual comings (numerous) and goings (far too few) of the refuge, there have been other activities.

Thanks to some super-human organisational skills and fabulous networking, Polly, a lab cross who has been at the refuge for almost exactly a year (date of arrival 14th August 2012) is now on her way to her new owner. They are a British couple who live in Alsace, and who found Polly thanks to Doglinks. So Polly had to make her way to them, a journey of some 975 kms. Of course, there are professionals or semi-professionals who can be employed to deliver dogs, but sometimes goodwill is the best (and cheapest) way.

Yesterday morning, and via Facebook, the sister of the owner one of our former residents, Napoleon, offered to do the bulk of the journey (Valence to Sarreguemine). So now we had to find Carcassonne-Valence. A SPA volunteer, Martine, offered to go as far as Montpelier, but after that we were stuck. Then out of the blue, Muriel, a girl whom I had met for lunch at the home of a great friend and SPA supporter, Sharon, contacted me. She could do Montpelier to Valence. This whole mess was given to the indefatigable Carole to sort out. And she did it! Phone numbers were exchanged, meeting points were set up and within an hour Polly was on her way!

Polly will spend a couple of nights at various houses en route, but we know all the people involved and we are receiving photos at each step of the way. We do not let our dogs leave with just anyone!
Oh, I mustn’t forget the donation sent by Didi, who follows us by internet and wanted to help offset the transport costs.

What an amazing example of team work!  I think Carole still has some hair left, but I have a feeling I owe her a drink or two!

In other SPA news, two dogs who were brought in to the SPA two days ago were collected by their owner, which was good news. The female, who turned out to be the mother, was identified and now so is the son! Turns out they had been wandering around lost for a week, but the owner had not thought to contact the SPA. They were very tired and dehydrated when they arrived and so I repeat again my plea for people to put down water for stray animals in places where they may gather.

Oh, and after some technical problems, our twitter feed is back up and running. Thanks Veronique, who is tweeting bilingually. So you can improve your French and keep up to date at the same time!

https://twitter.com/SPACarcassonne

Polly behind bars
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Out of her kennel…

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And on her first overnight stop

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Young and Full of Fun !

 

When we look at the ages of the dogs abandoned at the SPA it comes as no surprise to see that a large proportion of the dogs are adolescents. We certainly see a lot of unruly young dogs aged between 6 and 18 months who have had no training and have become too much for their owners to handle. A cute puppy jumping up at you can be amusing, but it’s much less funny when the dog jumping up is a fully grown Newfoundland! All of these undesirable behaviors are so easily avoided if an dog is trained and socialised correctly but its surprising how many people seem to think that pups will train themselves!

This is also one of the main reasons we prefer our puppies to go into a foster home rather than stay at the refuge. In a foster home the pup is very carefully socialized and training begins right away which really sets the pup up for a positive future. When all of foster places are full we have no option but to look after the pups as best we can and they often go and live in the cat house.  This may seem surprising but it allows pups access to an outside run as well as ensuring that they will be able to go to homes with resident cats. They soon become quite proficient at negotiating the cat flaps and most can make it through without any problems. I have only seen one pup struggle and that was of course a chubby Labrador!  Two more pups arrived today and we will soon be unable to accept anymore.  The only way to prevent this recurring problem is to sterilize your pets!

For the other youngsters who arrive and have never been adequately socialized or had any training, all they need is a new start. These issues are all very easy to overcome and with a bit of patience and understanding you will be amazed at how quickly these dogs learn and become superb family pets. We do try our best to teach these youngsters lead skills and to get them socialized as much as possible and its very rewarding to see a dog who pulled like a tractor, trotting alongside you to heel. Don’t forget if you get a dog from us and encounter any behavioral problems we are more than happy to give advice. We are really lucky to have 2 dog trainers who are staff members and also volunteer, so you are never alone!

Here are some of our youngsters looking for a home.

Hood a lovely Dalmatian cross.

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Griffo – a cross Griffon

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Nero – a handsome Labrador.

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The Scottish Connection

It’s a bit of a mystery how, but we have been having lots of enquiries from Scotland about some of our fantastic European breeds of dogs!  We have a beautiful Braque Allemand leaving on Saturday, a Ariegeois going to Barra in September and two Brittany Spaniels going to live in Gourdon near Aberdeen. Then to top it off today a lovely couple from outside Edinburgh arrived and reserved a Bleu de Gascogne! This lucky girl will be going to a very experienced doggy home as her new mum shows and trains dogs!

This is fantastic news for these dogs and especially exciting for me as the Braque Allemand is going to my sons so will be my very first ‘grand doggy’!  She will be leaving on Saturday with myself and  5 other animals …we never miss out on a free travel space!

Through our web and social media sites more and more Brits are spotting dogs which are rarely available in UK  rescues and even although the logistics of getting a dog to them may take a lot of effort,  the positive feed back we have got from previously  UK homed dogs really validates all our efforts.  Lots of people ask us why we bother taking dogs to the UK when there are already lots of dogs needing homes over there. The only answer I have is, if something motivates a person to make any dogs life better be it here or in the UK then why not? Of course most of the criticizers don’t actually do anything to help but I guess that is true in every walk of life!

If anyone is driving to the UK or indeed has friends or family who are driving and wouldn’t mind a furry passenger we would love to hear from you as we now have three dogs waiting to go anytime from the end of August .  I can promise you that the feel good factor you will have from helping a rescue animal towards a bright and happy future is well worth the effort!

Here are some of our European Breeds still looking for a home.

Cherokee – a Basset Fauve de Bretagne.

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Bench – a Berger Pyrénées

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Éclair – a Griffon cross.

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Day of mixed news

Three lovely adoptions today. Firstly was that of Frank, one of the puppies who have been staying with Andrew and Lisa. Betty is still looking for a home, but although she will miss her brother, she still has 3 playmates, and hopefully someone will fall for her charms very soon.

 Frank with his proud new dad
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Secondly beautiful Belle left us. This young golden retriever was brought to the refuge when her Irish owner died. She had been well looked after and was very upset to find herself at the SPA, but no one from the family wanted to take her on, so there was no alternative. Belle responded to commands in English, so it is only fitting that she should be adopted by and English gentleman who travelled a long way to collect her. He had just lost his golden retriever at age 16 and a half, and we hope Belle lives as long and as happily a life as Molly did and if she visits even half the European countries that Molly did, she will be one of our most travelled dogs. I am looking forward to seeing pictures of her in exotic locations!

Safe travels Belle

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Then it was the turn of Loubar, another puppy and one who is going to be a very big boy when he is adult. Again we see the benefit of having so many highly motivated volunteers, as Loubar’s new owner is a friend of a volunteer, and she, too, came a long way to collect him. Oh, the power of Facebook!

Loubar left too
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Actually there was a fourth  adoption, but this took place yesterday and was from Animal Trust, in Belgium. http://www.animaltrust.be/. This is the privately run refuge that took five dogs from Carcassonne in April. The fourth of these dogs, Jojo, left with his new family tomorrow. He was a favourite with one of the young Animal Trust volunteers, Amber, who sponsored him and also took him to in-house training classes.

Jojo leaves Animal Trust
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Sadly as ever it was not all good news. Four more dogs were brought to the refuge and at least six more have been reported as having been found in local villages and will arrive at the refuge in the next day or so.  Experience tells us that many of their owners will have just left them to wander while they are off enjoying the sun somewhere. Expecting any animal to fend for itself in this heat is simply inhumane, so thank you to everyone who is putting out water for stray animals. An old bucket of water placed next to where lost animals are likely to be drawn (dustbins etc) can really save their lives.

 

Do you ever need English-speaking vet advice? If so, read on!

Well, despite it being the first Sunday of the month, we decided not to open our doors today. We are simply not having enough visitors in this hot weather to justify asking the volunteers, many of whom work full time, to give up their Sunday. The dogs don’t enjoy the heat too much either, so they are best off alone in the shade of their kennels than pushing themselves against the bars of their cages in a desperate attempt to get noticed.

So rather than write about dogs, today I am going to write about a new service that may be of interest to some of you. In fact it should be of interest to anyone who has cats or dogs or other domestic pets.

I have spoken on a number of occasions about Lisa and Andrew. They have taken SPA puppies to foster (in fact they currently have two, Frank and Betty at their home) They also support the SPA with their catering van at many of our events, and are great friends of the refuge. Lisa is particularly useful as she is a veterinary nurse.

She and Andrew have just launched a business to help pet owners in France. This service is not usually available to individuals, but Andrew has negotiated a special deal for Brits living in France.

The aim of the service is to provide English speakers in France access to high quality veterinary advice when it is most needed. A dedicated telephone line puts you in touch with a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons registered veterinary nurse.  This can avoid a costly (and often unnecessary) trip to a French vet, and is particularly useful to people who struggle with the language.

The service costs just €65 for a full year’s membership, or € 4.50 if paid by direct debit (a 16% saving). As I know from experience, a single out of hours emergency visit to the vet can cost this much, and being an over-protective mum, I have made several visits for my four dogs only to be told that everything is normal.

Best of all, for every person who subscribes via a referral from the SPA, Andrew will make a donation to the SPA.

The website is http://www.vetadvice247.com Have a look for yourself. And if you subscribe, please don’t forget to say you found them thanks to the SPA.

Here is Andrew with their lab, Mr Bumble and the two foster pups, Frank and Betty.

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Urgent appeal reaps immediate results

Sometimes things happen that just help to restore your faith in humankind. Today three puppies were adopted, but tonight’s blog concerns one of these adoptions in particular.

I have told you about our wonderful fostering system, and how these  families help puppies on their way to a better life. Some puppies are already badly traumatised by the time they reach us, and it is heart-breaking to think what these dogs must have been through at so young an age. One such pup is Aby, who arrived at the SPA on July 10th. She was just three months old at the time, but had clearly been beaten and was scared of her own shadow.

Direct action came in the form of Carole, the SPA secretary, who took Aby home to live with her 3 dogs, 4 (I think) cats, husband and two children, one of whom is four years old and the other is a babe in arms. Since then Aby has progressed enormously, as was expected. However the family are just a week away from leaving for a week’s holiday, and were desperate that Aby be homed beforehand, as opposed to coming to the refuge.

An appeal was put out on Facebook this morning, and a family who just happened to be in Carcassonne from their home in Marseille came to meet Aby. They had already adopted a dog from the SPA, and she came along to see what her new pal was like. It was love at first sight, and after a short walk to see how Aby behaved when out of the refuge, off she went!

Sometimes it is just a question of timing, but Aby has been so lucky, finding a family with children and another dog to play with. She trotted off happily, leaving a tearful but happy Carole in her wake.

The other lucky pups were Belle and Idefix, but don’t despair, we have plenty more pups, as well as adult dogs of all shapes and sizes!

Aby with her new mum and dad

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