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Discrimination both animal and human

As many of you will have noticed, the blogger alternates on an informal and irregular basis between Moira and me, depending on our commitments. During my recent absence I was in the UK, where amongst other things, I visited my closest friend, who is a military officer. She has been the proud and loving owner of two terriers for about 16 months now, but talking to her made me a little bit angry, so I thought I would share her experience with you.

When Debbie looked into getting a dog, she was very keen to rescue. She knows me well and agrees wholeheartedly with my views on bad breeders and the immorality of making money from selling puppies (here I exclude good breeders, again). However when she contacted the various rescue organisations in the UK, she was  instantly rejected on the grounds that she was a single person in the military, and therefore would undoubtedly dump the dog at the first hint of inconvenience.

There are several points to make here. Firstly Debbie is a very senior officer and although she could be posted abroad, she has done more than her fair share of war zones recently, and is now in a position to pick and choose where she goes. Also people making such rules just have no idea about how close the military “family” is. Living on a “patch” (a group of military houses), there is always someone to walk and feed dogs if a meeting goes on too long. Hardly anyone even locks their doors, so access is never a problem.

Debbie did get her dogs, brother and sister lakeland/ border terrier crosses called Rosie and Hatchi. And they have the life of riley. But instead of being able to rescue her dogs, she was obliged to pay for them. And although they came from a working farm at the age of 10 weeks (and yes, she saw both mum and dad), her paying for the pups may encourage the owners to breed again, just as buying from a puppy farm or pet shop just encourages the breeding of more unwanted dogs. I emphasise here that although there are good breeders out there, this was very much a back yard breeder, not a responsible one.

It is true that soldiers can be sent abroad with relatively little notice, but this does not mean that they will abandon their dogs. I am sure the people that rejected Debbie as a suitable adopter did so on the basis of experience, but not everybody should be tarred with the same brush. I spent 20 years in the MOD and neither I nor my husband (who was “in” for 32 years) ever abandoned a dog.

My experience at the SPA has showed me that what looks like the perfect home can often prove not to be, and military families are no more or less likely to abandon their animals than civilians. It is a form of discrimination and should be stopped.

At the SPA we ask the obvious questions about back up plans etc, but we do not have any kind of blanket ban on letting military personnel adopt. If we single out a particular category (or indeed nationality) of people as unsuitable adopters, then we are no better than the ridiculous laws that classify some dogs as being “dangerous” because they are of a certain breed.

All discrimination is wrong. Be it against people or animals.

Rosie and Hatchi,  just after a game of swing-ball 😉







And a poster to try and discourage adopting from backyard breeders.



A terrible couple of days

Well, I promised a catch up on refuge news today, but in a way I wish I hadn’t. Nine dogs arrived yesterday. This is a complete disaster, and just shows that however hard we work, however optimistic we are, something always happens to burst out bubble.

Two dogs were identified and left immediately, but that left seven more, including three abandoned dogs plus a mum and her pup. It is all incredibly depressing and the good news is far too little to compensate. One of the abandoned dogs was adopted very recently from us as a puppy. Who remembers Catherine? Well, she is now six months old now, and is back at the refuge. We know that she is good with other dogs, because yesterday night she was in a kennel alone, and this morning she had joined Niagara and Dusty in theirs! All three are getting along fine, so we thought we would just leave them!

Good news: Wasabi was adopted yesterday. This young dog arrived at the end of November last year, and he is  black so we knew it would be hard to find him a home. He nearly left to the UK a couple of months ago, but there was a question concerning an old fracture in one of his back legs, so he was left behind. His turn finally arrived, though, and he left the SPA yesterday for his new life.

And one of yesterday’s dogs (Blandine, who we don’t even have a photo of) was adopted today by a friend of the former owner. So that was another bright spot in what has been a pretty awful couple of days, especially as another dog arrived today. Furthermore a dog who was adopted two years ago as a tiny puppy, is now on the list to be abandoned as being unmanageable. Hmmm. Wonder whose fault that is. Plus a golden retriever of 9 years old, who has been passed between family members for the past two and a half years. He would have been much easier to home at 6 and a half….

In other news the AGM did not go well, with us running out of time and hence unable to conclude proceedings. But on the positive side we have seven new members of the CA, including my fellow blogger, Moira, and six other very active and committed volunteers, which bodes well for the refuge.

One of yesterday’s many arrivals, Catherine, adopted as a puppy, now 6 months old.










Aïda and Bambino, who also arrived yesterday










Another of yesterday’s arrivals, poodle cross Filou













Yukotan who arrived today










But lucky Wasabi has been ADOPTED!


SPA Annual General Meeting!

This blog is being posted early tonight, because I have to leave for the SPA Annual General Meeting. I mentioned this to a couple of dog walkers yesterday, and they knew nothing about it, so I thought it might be a good idea to explain to you all how the SPA functions.

The SPA Carcassonne is a non-profit making Association according to law no. 1901. We have charitable status, but are independent financially. We are not part of the Paris SPA group, as I have explained in a previous blog. Rather we are part of the Confederation of SPAs, which is based in Lyon. http://www.lesspadefrance.org/

The SPA Carcassonne invites all its supporters to become members of the Association. To be an active member costs 26 euros per year. That is a minimum, clearly 😉 . You can also become a non-active member for 16 euros and 85 euros will make you a benefactor. Membership entitles you to vote at meetings and after one year, you will be eligible to join the Conseil d’Admininstration (CA) or Committee, which elects the “Bureau” (Board) and is where all the decisions are made.

At tonight’s meeting we will be reviewing what happened at the SPA in 2013, but also looking forward to 2014 (easy as we are almost halfway through it!). We will discuss refuge policies, manning, fundraising, and most importantly the AGM will elect new members to the CA.

Many people are members without living in Carcassonne, and they are invited to vote by proxy. My parents are both members (no pressure from me there!) and pass on their votes as they are in the UK. Geography is no barrier to taking an active interest in the SPA.

It is in everyone’s interests to have the refuge well run. Active, intelligent and motivated people in the CA ensure that the right decisions are made. The CA decides how money is spent; it makes decisions on things such as sterilisation, adoption fees and much more.

Joining before the end of 2014 will mean you are invited to next year’s AGM. But why wait to the end of the year? Act now and you are less likely to forget! If you make a donation of 26 euros (either as a gift or from fundraising), and unless you state otherwise, we would like you to become a member. Membership makes us strong and all opinions are welcome. Together we have made the SPA a better place and can continue to do so!

One example of the decisions made by the AGM is to extend the cat house (which will benefit both dogs and cats). Here is a photo taken yesterday, which shows the progress that has been made so far!

Refuge news will have to wait till tomorrow!

Join us! 







Building work continues


None out, one in, but a sense of optimism!

Today was a day of dog walking and cat testing. No dogs left and only one dog arrived. She is absolutely beautiful  and although initially a bit nervous, soon responded when she was given her first cuddle.

A couple of dogs were reserved, and although I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder, all I will say is that there is a trip to the UK in the offing at the end of June. So if you are following this blog from there and think that you have found the dog of your dreams but are worried about the logistics, this could be the time for you to book a spot. Remember that we need three weeks’ notice because of the Rabies vaccination requirements.

I was very pleased to take Stivell out for a walk today. This young spaniel arrived in the middle of March in an appalling state, skeletal and with horrid scars from where he had been muzzled constantly since being a puppy. Just look at him now, just 2 months later. Although all dogs (and cats) want is a home, there are often worse places to be than at a refuge.

And we have news of one dog who waited a very long time to have the perfect home, but I am sure he agrees it was worth it. Gun was adopted a week or so ago, after having waited almost exactly two years at the SPA. He had been adopted as a tiny puppy and was abandoned when he was an unruly adolescent. One of the volunteers who adored him and who walked him often at the refuge went to see him on Monday. She found a beloved pet, who spends every minute of every day with his owners; he even goes shopping with them.

We want more happy stories like this! And tonight’s closing news (for which you will have to wait as it is very much thanks to Moira’s efforts) makes me think that everything is possible!

Today’s arrival, Fabergé. Because she is fabulous!













And I promised you a picture of yesterday’s arrival, whom we have named Cola












Here is Stivell when he arrived in March









And today The scars on his nose will remain for ever, sadly.










And look at Gun! Home at last!


Woody is homed and Gryphon’s ex-owners come to call.

I very much regret mentioning cats on the blog yesterday.  I won’t be doing it again. It is not our fault that the law is the way it is, and if we took in all the wild cats that people told us about, the refuge would soon be full of unadoptable cats and we would have no room for those that are easily homed. Yes, it is lovely to think that we could spend our time socialising the wild cats and their kittens to make them homeable. Anyone who thinks that is possible is welcome to try and do it. We have neither the time nor the resources to do so. Please do not think that we don’t care about the cats, wild or otherwise; there are just limits as to what we can achieve.

Subject closed as far as this blog is concerned.

Onto the real subject area of this blog: DOGS!

News from the UK; Woody has been adopted, which is wonderful for this boy who arrived at the refuge all skin and bone and absolutely terrified. Six months at the refuge and he was happy, sociable and ready for a new home. Except no one here looked at him twice. Thanks to a pointer rescue organisation he now has the home he deserves.

And news from the SPA: Remember lovely Oscar (renamed Gryphon) who was homed nearly 2 weeks ago, having arrived (unidentified) at the refuge on April 22nd? Well today his former owners came to see if he was with us. Who waits over a month to look for their dog? In any case, he now has a wonderful new home, and so it is too late for them to reclaim him. We never divulge details of new owners, so Gryphon is safe.

I think of the times when my dog was missing (I used to have a very excitable and Houdini-esque beagle). I hardly slept a wink when he was AWOL, which was a frequent occurrence. I just can’t imagine not doing anything for a month! However, the fact that he was a family pet does explain why Gryphon was (and is) so well behaved.

Other than that, we had one dog brought in this morning, a black and tan female shepherd cross (I will post a picture tomorrow) and an EXCELLENT reservation. So watch this space.

Woody is rehomed via a pointer rescue association in the UK. Thanks to Linda who put us in touch with them!
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Gryphon- his former owners looked for him too late- He was homed 11 days ago.


Peabody leaves and a word about kittens.

If we had wings we would have been able to fly instead of walk the dogs today, it was incredibly windy. The dogs seemed to enjoy it, though, plenty of fresh air. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a good job that Babette has left the refuge, though, as with her huge ears she could well have taken off.

On the subject of Babette, both she and lovely Ako are already reserved by families in the UK, just a week after they arrived. That is excellent news for them, and we are hoping that their fellow “immigrants” will be homed soon, too.

One little chap did leave us today. A tiny terrified looking pinscher arrived last week, and was still identified in the name of the place from where he had been adopted. We thought initially that this was a breeder, but in fact it turned out to be a privately run refuge near Beziers. As soon as we contacted them, they made arrangements to come and collect their dog. Not only that, they arrived bearing gifts, in the form of some bedding and some high quality organic dog treats. Like 20 boxes of them! How lovely!

So little Peabody (not his real name, sadly) went back to Beziers for rehoming. So why was this dog still in the name of the refuge and not that of his new owners, who had adopted him two years ago? Because their cheque had bounced! We follow exactly the same principal; we do not change the details if payment has not been made. Hopefully next time Peabody will find a home that wants him enough to pay for the privilege, because yes, having a dog IS a privilege!

We also had a reservation today, but you know my policy on that….patience please! More good news awaits!

A brief note, regarding cats. I know this is DOG rescue Carcassonne, but as we have cats at the SPA too, I thought maybe I would pass this message on here in the hope that it would reach the maximum number of people. It is kitten season and the first few have already arrived at the refuge from unwanted litters. Please note that the SPA is not responsible for wild cats, nor their kittens. They are protected by law, but it is up to the Mairies to deal with the problem, which they usually do via associations. So if you see wild kittens near you, your first port of call should be the local Mairie, who will give you the name of an association who should carry out a campaign of sterilisation of the adult cats and of the kittens as they reach maturity. This is the only way to stop the cycle.

Thanks for your understanding. It is not that we don’t love cats (and especially kittens), but it is not part of our role.

Peabody leaves











Stray kittens are sweet, but please contact your local mayor.

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The Heat Is On – Part One!

With temperatures already in the mid-twenties we thought that we would look at how to keep your dog safe and cool in two parts, in the home and in the car! Keeping your dog safe in the heat is crucial, so here are some ways to help your dog cool off in the heat of summer.

Remember that dogs cannot cool themselves by sweating like humans. They might sweat a small amount through their pads, but the main way a dog cools off is by panting. Unfortunately, panting is not enough when it is extremely hot and humid.

It is essential that you keep fresh, cool water available to your dog at all times. In hot weather, this is even more crucial. Make sure you keep the water dish in a shady location and change the water frequently. A doggy ice lolly made from chicken stock keeps the busy and cool!

Your dog might enjoy a little sunbathing, but she ultimately needs a cool, shady spot to relax. Prolonged sun exposure often leads to heat exhaustion. Sunscreen is available for dogs and useful for fair of thin coated dogs but the best thing is to make sure that there is shade available or keep them indoors.

If your dog loves water and you don’t have a pool then a large tub or kiddie pool (moulded plastic, not inflatable) might be a great addition to your garden. Many dogs enjoy playing and lounging in the cool water but try to keep the pool in a shady spot and change the water frequently. Lots of dogs appreciate a dip in the river or lake and I have to admit that I have often been very envious of my two when they plunge into the village lavoir at the end of a walk!

When its hot try to exercise early in the morning or in the evening when its coolest and be very careful of hot pavements or sand on the beach if you are out and about. Shorter but more frequent walks are best and carry a portable water bottle and bowl on walks.

My dogs prefer to lie on the tiles when it’s hot, however, a cooling dog bed can offer the comfort and softness of a typical dog bed with the coolness your dog craves. Cooling dog beds often use a gel-like material or simply water to keep the bed feeling cool. These beds are especially great for senior dogs as an alternative for hard floors. Another cheap trick is a covered frozen hot water bottle or a cool wet towel to lie on.

So, if you have tips on keeping your dogs cool, we would love to hear from you!

Fun in the sun

dog in paddling pool


Make some doggy lollys!

ice lolly



Another Fundraising Sunday!

Today the fundraisers were out in force at our Book and Cake sale at Club Canin in Carcassonne.  Logistics for this started weeks ago when posters were made, lists were written and notices placed in all of the online sites, so it was nice to see it all come together at last.

One of the most popular donations to the SPA is books and we had hundreds of both French and English books. Our cake stall was magnificent, once again thanks to Anna and other volunteers who had all been very busy. We had a super ‘guess the weight of the cake’ competition which was won by Lisa, one of our fosterers. The bric a brac stand was very popular as was the plant stall.  Jan was there with her fabulous painted tiles as was Belinda with her greeting cards.

The fundraising events are not only useful for raising monies but also for raising awareness of the SPA. They are also an excellent opportunity for people to come along and say hello, talk about their dogs or bring along their ex SPA dog to show us how well they are doing. We love seeing ex SPA dogs at these events and today we saw Rookie, Blanca, Amedeus, Doggy, Othello and Desi, on top of that my doggy also joined in the fun as Benedictes two!

The amount raised was a whopping 280 euros which was fantastic considering that we seem to have ended up with more books than we started with!

So once again a huge thank you to everyone who came along to help or donated, you can rest assured your donations will go a long way to help make life a little bit easier for the animals in our care!

Here are the ex SPA dogs who visited today:




Othello and Desi

Othello and desi




Amedeus and Blanca

Amadeus blanca





In Praise Of The Brown Mutt!

I am sure that you have all heard our stories about how difficult it is find adopters for our black dogs well today’s blog is all about the second most difficult category to adopt out and that is the nondescript brown mutt.

Like all refuges in France we lots of dogs of indiscriminate breed whom are usually some kind of shepherd cross and are brown or brown and black. These dogs seem to be invisible to most people as the walk around the kennels and are frequently passed over. This a real shame as we are inundated with happy ever after stories from owners who have adopted one from us, singing their praises!

There are so many advantages of a ‘ mixed breed dog’ and when you adopt one you certainly have a totally unique companion. You have the breed traits of at least two breeds and that certainly keeps things interesting. I have two mutts, one a Labrador x Collie and one a Labrador x Boxer.

Most veterinarians agree that mixed breed dogs are healthier, and live longer lives than purebred dogs. While breeders may disagree, it is no secret that specific breeds come with genetic medical problems–German Shepard Dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, and the number one killer of Great Danes is bloat. According to veterinarians, any genetic problems that a breed suffers from may not always to be handed down to it’s puppies when the genetic material from another breed of dog is introduced. This sounds very positive to me!

Two of our brown shepherd crosses left today!

First to leave was  Lisbon, one of our cutest and calmest brown mutts was adopted. The family came to the refuge last week and explained that they wanted a gentle,calm,young dog who wouldn’t chase their guinea pig who roamed free in their house. They had a look around the kennels and chose a few dogs but very sensibly asked our advice and accepted that these dogs would not be suitable to live with a loose, small furry pet. We then suggested Lisbon and brought him out. It was love at first sight and they were overwhelmed at his calm gentle nature. It was a done deal and today off he went to his forever family.

Next to leave was Tayson. This is fantastic news for this gentle giant as this is his third stay at the refuge. Lets hope that its forth time lucky and we only see him again if he comes to visit!

Lisbon – Looking Very Proud Of Himself!


 Tayson – A Home At Last


Diesel – Still Waiting


Hoch – Still waiting! 



Itchy and Scratchy!

We are fast approaching the season in France where the vets are inundated with scratching pets who inevitably have fleas or an allergy to flea bites so tonight I thought that I would relate my horrific experience which will ensure that everyone who reads it certainly wont forget to treat their dogs or cats!

Ticks and fleas are the most common ectoparasities in dogs and cats and fleas will happily jump from one host to another. The life of a flea is fascinating and one that I now know all about!

Last year, my dogs were treated monthly with advantix and I never thought much about fleas. In May five, three week old kittens  arrived at the SPA and I was delighted to offer my services as a foster mum. When they arrived we flea treated and then again four weeks later. It was holiday time and my neighbour who has several cats asked me to feed them whilst she was away. This was no problem but I did notice that I was bitten quite badly each time I did this so did suspect they had fleas.

Soon it was July, and very hot and humid when another two dogs came to the house, both were travelling with me to the UK in August so,animal wise we had a full house! Right up until we left, none of the animals were scratching, nor was I bitten in my house and we shut up the house and off set for the UK.

A week later a builder who was going into the house to do some work called to say there were fleas everywhere, so much so that he couldn’t work! You can imagine my horror! I didnt really believe him so got our volunteer Rebecca to pop around and check and yes, there had been no exaggeration, there were in fact fleas everywhere!

Our priority was to get rid of the fleas and get the builder into work so we called out the French equivalent of Rentokil. It was August, when lots of companies are short staffed due to holidays so a same day call out was not cheap!  This was however very, very effective and after 48 hours the builder was back in and no fleas were apparent.

All the animals involved were vet treated for fleas, my car and also the builders van also had to be treated.  So how did this happen? We will never know. Maybe the kittens were so young that the treatment hadn’t been effective and fleas from when I was feeding the neighbours cats hitched a ride, maybe one of the extra doggy visitors had them or maybe shutting up the house when it was hot and humid didnt help, we will never know but one thing is sure, I still have nightmare about these fleas and am still paranoid that they reappear. Please, please treat your animals.

The choice of treatment applications is vast .You can buy various spot on treatments or tablets from you vet and there are flea and tick collars widely available as well as  shampoos and  pump action sprays. Most kill adult fleas and contain an insect – growth repellent which prevents any fleas from reproducing.  Sprays and flea bombs are available to treat the home too.

One thing is sure, prevention is much cheaper than paying the consequences of a full blown infestation and is certainly worth every penny!



Cat Flea – Yuk!

Cat flea