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Latest News

Arrival of new puppy and Eeyore offers to help!

Today saw the arrival of a little puppy, about six weeks old and hence very much in need of a foster family. Many of you know that we like to use foster families for elderly dogs (like Voice, who arrived injured and at the age of ten), but we also like to protect our young pups from refuge life. Partly because they are more susceptible to diseases and so are at risk before they have their vaccinations, but also because when they arrive at a young age, they are often in need of “canine guidance” in order that they can develop into mentally stable and well-adjusted adult dogs.

Many are the tales of dogs who have been taken from their mothers at too early an age (sometimes as young as 2 weeks) and whereas this CAN work, it is usually the case that after about a year, psychological and emotional problems become apparent. Dogs need to be with their mums for a minimum amount of time both for nutritional reasons (nothing beats mother’s milk!) but also in order to learn doggy manners.  Unscupulous breeders are often to blame for this state of affairs, but also people who can’t be bothered to have their bitches spayed, and then just leave the pups to fend for themselves or give them away free on the internet (which is ILLEGAL unless they are idientified).

Sadly foster families are few and far between. We used to have several people upon whom we could call in our hour of need, but for various reasons they are no longer available. One common reason is that people fall in love with the dog they are fostering, and all of a sudden their home is full. This is what happened to me, and with four dogs of my own and a fifth as a temporary guest (two months and counting), I just can’t help out. Other volunteers just move on, or don’t have time to take a pup.

Carole has Jexie at her house (the puppy who arrived earlier this week) so when the new girl arrived, there was no option but to post an urgent appeal on Facebook, where we have a group for foster families. Luckily Lisa saw the appeal and immediately came forward. Another volunteer took the little one to the vet for her first visit, then drove her closer to where Lisa and Andrew live. Teamwork!!

Lisa and Andrew have four other dogs, so the new arrival, a little spaniel as yet to be named, will get plenty of doggy companionship. Thanks so much to everyone involved in giving this little girl the best possible start. Bearing in mind she has been lost or abandoned at such a young age, things can only get better!

Just another day at the refuge!

Regarding yesterday’s appeal for compost and plants, we are delighted to be taking delivery of some 10 month old donkey poo, which will be excellent. Many thanks to the adopters of Newfoundland, Grizzli (renamed Oki). Don’t worry, after this amount of time it does not smell! The idea is to make the SPA more attractive to visitors, not less 😉 !As for plants, we hope to fill flower beds but also large flower pots, so anything at all is welcome.

New arrival- Lisa and Andrew will decide on her name!
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Relatives of Eeyore help the SPA.

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Abby visits and slave labour is alive and well!

Believe it or not we had yet another quiet day at the SPA. A beautiful chocolate labrador, Pitoche, found his owners (he was identified) and we had two new arrivals, but by our standards this was a quiet day; especially as I don’t think a single person came to adopt.

Of course many people have gone away on holiday, but by the same token some people have come to Carcassonne to see the sights. One family came to see us, bringing with them the puppy (now fully grown) whom they adopted from us last summer when they visited the city from their home in Marseille! Initially Abby was terrified, as she must have thought she was being abandoned, but once she realised that her owners were just chatting (as well as donating two huge bags of dog food), she relaxed and said hello to us all. She was particularly pleased to see Carole, who was her foster mum and who had turned Abby  from a traumatised and terrified creature to a trustworthy family pet.

It was lovely to see this young dog but I am ashamed to say that we took advantage of their daughter in our spring makeover efforts. I am not sure when child labour was abolished in France, but it had a long tradition in Britain. At least we didn’t have any chimneys that needed to be swept!

Next Thursday is May 1st, which is international labour day and hence (illogically) a bank holiday. We are thinking of having a working day at the refuge, though. We will not be open as such, but we plan to do some planting, (we still need plants and compost) and also some more painting and other chores. If anyone would like to help out, please get in touch. Personally I would like to find someone who isn’t afraid of heights to paint the top bits of the building. I chickened out on about the 5th rung of the ladder!

Pitoche- Reclaimed
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Abby says hello

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Child labour in action!

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Mob handed

As you know, we are great ones for publicity and so- called “outreach”. Offer us a chance to be somewhere to promote the refuge and we jump at the chance. Hence our stand at the Easter Market, hence the event at Puivert and hence all the hard work put in by our “vide-grenierists”.

There is an event coming up soon that is a bit different, but we are hoping that it will help further the cause! Rosa, who translates this blog when Helene is away, has a friend who is an event organiser. Thanks to her, on Saturday May 3rd we are hoping to be out in force at the Carcassonne Market (Place Carnot) with a “Flashmob”. For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, a seemingly random group of people suddenly start singing/ dancing and generally creating a buzz, which attracts passers-by and (hopefully) grows in size. Rosa and Marine have decided to benefit from the hugely popular song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and we will have a SPA version!

We are hoping to have a small stall at the market with publicity materials for the refuge (approval of the new Mayor is awaited).You are all invited along, of course, either to join in or just to watch. And guess what? Animal costumes are encouraged! What could be better?! If you want to join in the dancing, here is a link to the website where you can learn the choreography, and it also has ideas for costumes! Go on, you know you want to!!!

http://ateliermrecreations.wix.com/flasmobspa

At the SPA we had news of Fetide/ Laika, who was adopted a week or so ago and it was very much a case of third time lucky. Funny how dogs know when they are in the right place, as her new owner tells us that she IS housetrained and is the perfect dog. I think clever Laika pulled a fast one deliberately so she could come back to the SPA and wait a bit longer for a home that she wanted to be in!

The little pup who arrived yesterday is in foster with Carole (thanks!), and has been named Jexie.

Other than that, no news. One dog arrived but is identified and his owners are coming to collect him tomorrow. Touch wood, but even though adoptions are slow, so are arrivals. All we need to do now is get the rest of the dogs adopted and we can all relax!

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Flashmob!

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Yesterday’s arrival, Jexie
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Business as usual

However “unlucky” we thought we had been with the weather over the weekend, I am sure we all woke up this morning counting our blessings. It has been raining hard all night, and it is hard to imagine anyone at all visiting what was essentially an outdoor market.

Just glad we are not taking the tents down today!

At the SPA today it was business as usual, of course, despite the rain. I always dread when the SPA reopens after a long weekend, as we often have hoards new arrivals. However things were not too bad today, with just three “newbies” since we shut on Saturday. One of them left straightaway, as although she was not identified, her owner was actively looking for her and so after a quick visit to the vet for micro-chipping, off she went.

The second arrival is Misty, who has yet to see the vet, but who has already had plenty of cuddles. She is irresistible. A playful but affectionate dog with good basic education must surely have someone looking for her!

The other arrival was that of a female puppy who was supposedly found. How often do you find a lone puppy by the side of the road? Me, never. Found free on the internet more like. But hey ho, what can you do?  Better that this lovely little lass finds a home while she is small and sweet. Puppies are not always the easy option, however, so think long and hard before deciding to adopt one in preference to a more mature, calmer dog.

On the subject of which, we have some good news. Dominique has decided to adopt Voice. She took him home to foster when he was abandoned by his owner who left to live in Morocco. A refuge is no place for a dog of ten years old (although sadly we have several of this age, and older ones too). Moreover Voice arrived with injuries after being attacked by local dogs in Quillan, and Dominique felt he deserved more than to be put in a kennel for however long it took to find him a home. However he has fitted in so well with her existing pack ( two biggish males and several cats), that it seemed a shame to disrupt the formula.

I am very pleased for this old boy, who deserved much better than the life he had been doomed to live once his owner decided she no longer wanted him. So all’s well that ends well, It is just sad that Voice had to suffer before finding his way to us. He is already very settled with Dominique, as you can see.

New arrival – Misty
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New arrival- yet to be named!

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Voice- ADOPTED by his foster family

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Easter Market day three!

The excitement of the weekend is over and how did we do? The three days passed quickly and although yesterday was a bit quieter, mostly due to the weather, today the sun shone again, albeit perhaps not quite a brightly as on day one.

And the result? Apart from the numerous contacts we made and lovely dogs (and people) who came to see us, we made a huge 764 euros, all of which will go to the SPA and will be well spent. Bear in mind that this weekend was run purely on volunteer power; the SPA had no financial outlay at all. We were even offered our tent for free, thanks to Valerie Lafon and the other event organisers.

The main mover and shaker behind the SPA’s efforts was Ve Ro, who together with Val, has been busy planning and creating for several weeks. Others helped, of course, but as with the Puivert team, I would rather not name names for fear of forgetting someone. You know who you are and I hope you know how much your time and good humour was appreciated.

Again we had plenty of visitors, both canine and human to the stand. Old friends came to say hello and again it was a tower of Babel.  Spanish was prevalent, but some Portuguese and Italian thrown in, too. We got by, with smiles and gestures. Luckily some words, like “cupcake” are international!

We had an English Honeymooning couple (they got married on Saturday), we had handsome Spaniards, plus as were closing up someone gave us 10 euros for a tennis ball. Really it was just people being happy and lovely and most of all generous to a cause that is close to so many people’s hearts.

An enormous thank you to everyone.  I am sure we will all sleep well tonight. Job well done, guys!

Ve Ro and Audrey with handsome Spanish men 😀

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Melanie in the SPA hat
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A happy honeymooning couple with a jar of cupcakes!

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A visit from old friend Doggy

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This lovely girl was adopted from the SPA nine years ago!

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Prospers Sad Return.

Many of you will all remember Darcys blog, just over a month ago about the wonderful adoption of Prosper. Prosper arrived at the refuge in June last year, with horrific injuries to his neck. He had to have over 20 stitches to repair the damage caused by a negligent owner using a prong collar.  The physical injuries healed and Prosper soon settled into kennel life, happily sharing his kennel with both male and female dogs. In March a lovely couple came to see Prosper as they were looking for a companion for their older dog Benji and we were jubilant when introductions went well and they adopted him.

 

When a dog arrives at the SPA, they have a vet check, are vaccinated and are assessed. We carefully monitor their reaction with humans,(males, females and children) and we then begin socialising them with other dogs. We are very aware that some dogs need personal space and cant share with others but this was not the problem with Prosper. He was one of the few dogs who seemed happy to share with male and females alike.

 

When Prosper arrived home with Benji the first few days passed without major problems. This is not unusual, we often find that due to high adrenalin levels new owners experience a ‘honeymoon’ period where behaviour is acceptable and all seems to be well. As adrenalin levels begin to drop problems sometimes become apparent. How these problems are dealt with is crucial to keeping a dog in its new home and we always encourage new owners to ask our advice at the first sign of trouble.

 

Although we have a lot of expertise at the SPA and can talk people through most problems, dog to dog aggression is always a very difficult one to deal with and  Prosper had began attacking poor Benji in the house. Out with the house problems were easily coped with but despite Chris and Jim following our advice to the letter they escalated and  quite understandably they could not have 14 year old Benji being attacked everytime he moved! The fact that Prosper had a very high prey and will chase everything that moves, he didn’t like the car and had a bit of separation anxiey were all little problems were being dealt with under our guidance and were improving daily. Slowly he learnt to tolerate small car journies and could be left for short period alone.

 

This is a perfect example of how dogs behave differently according to circumstances. Prosper had been a real gent with dogs in the refuge but was clearly very jealous of another smaller, established family dog. This isn’t Chis and Jims fault or the refuges fault, in fact we all worked very hard together trying our very best to get Prosper through this stage but it was not to be and with a very heavy heart Chris and Jim brought him back yesterday. This return was planned and they waited patiently until we had a space for Prosper.

 

So how could it all go so wrong? How is it that  a dog who seems sociable in the refuge is unable to live alongside another dog in the home.?  There are without doubt lots of contributing factors, lack of proper socialisation and how Prosper was brought up but lets also nor forget the horrific experience Prosper had with the prong collar.

 

Prong and in fact choke collars are designed to cause pain and discomfort. They are outdated, training tools which are seldom used correctly, even  by dog trainers. If you punish a dog for doing something inappropriate such as pulling on a leash and do not teach them how you would like then to behave such as walking nicely on a loose leash then its not rock science that you will soon loose that dogs repect. When pain is associated with pulling, especially when they see another dog, it quickly becomes a trigger point for aggression. So the dog sees another dog, thinks wow, let me go and say hello, the handler yarks it on the neck using an inappropriate collar causing sudden pain and so very quickly the dog begins to associate other dogs with excruiating neck pain which is often a cause of aggressive reactive behaviour. Shame on all trainers who have encouraged this and I would love to put a prong or indeed a choke collar on them, give it a yark and see how positive they feel about it!

 

We owe it to our dogs to communicate clearly what we want them to do and in doing so respect is earnt. If you hurt a dog, in anyway, albeit in the name of training you don’t deserve its respect, its as simple as that!

 

So what kind of home are we looking for, for Prosper? Well, he may need to be the only dog but at the moment we are not ruling out the possibility of him living with a calm, confident and probably bigger dog who loves to play as we do know he loves to play with dogs outside on his walks.We would love a family who would harness his high prey drive into agility,flyball or even obedience training. What we have learnt, is that Prosper is a very loving loyal boy, he is housetrained and doesnt steal. There are so many positives for this boy that we just know that there is a perfect family out there for him!

 

Lets try very hard to find Prosper the perfect family and make sure that his stay in the refuge is a short one!

 

Prospers injuries from a prong collar!

Prospers neck

 

Hes now very handsome!

Prosper

 

 

 

Easter Market gets off to a great start.

Today was day one of the Easter market and I have to say an enormous thank you to everyone who helped out on the stall. It was a long day, especially for our organiser, Ve Ro, Val and the others who were there to set things up at 7am!

I arrived at a more civilised hour, along with many others. As time went on the stall got gradually busier, especially after we set up an “outstation” to direct people to our tent. We also had two lovely dogs to attract people’s attention. Our stall looked fabulous, really colourful and interesting and with all the goodies on offer, plenty of people came along.

We are lucky to have volunteer Isabelle who is a fluent Spanish speaker, too. I would say that about half the visitors were Catalan.

Thanks to Anna for her incredible cupcakes, which sold like…well…hot cakes! Belinda and Jan came along with cards and painted tiles, but I have to say that the dog and cat toys and accessories were the hit of the day.

I loved watching dogs try on new harnesses and coats. Lots of canine visitors came to say hello, and my dog Nero did his best to be adopted by just about everyone!

Audrey, new owner of Phoenix, came to say hello, and we had news of lots of ex- SPA dogs and cats.
We shared our tent with Veronique who makes hats out of recycled paper and other materials, and several of us had hats made.

It was great fun, and so nice to spend some time with the volunteers away from the SPA.

At the SPA itself today, two dogs were reclaimed; Xena, whose owners came all the way from Paris to collect her (she was identified) and also Chiquet who has been with us for four months. A young female beauceron arrived and sadly Prosper was returned. But I really don’t want to dwell on anything negative today, I will leave that tale to Moira, who will be blogging tomorrow.

The SPA stand in all it’s glory
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Tiffany has a new hat!

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A satisfied customer leaves with a new lead and harness

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Back at the refuge

Chiquet- RECLAIMED

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Xena – RECLAIMED

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Zizouille – New arrival

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Why we volunteer…..

The SPA was very quiet again today, so I thought I would talk about a subject close to my heart, that of volunteering.

When I first arrived to volunteer at the SPA Carcassonne some four and a half years ago, euthanasia due to lack of space was commonplace.  It was nobody’s fault, certainly not the fault of the employees or the direction. There were virtually no volunteers at the time, nor was their presence encouraged, as the more volunteers there were, the more risk there was that the euthanasia would become a matter of public knowledge. After all no one likes threatening phone calls from people who think the refuge walls are made of elastic.

But it was a vicious circle. No volunteers meant no one to walk the dogs, no one to really get to know them (because with the number of dogs versus the number of employees there was little time for niceties), and crucially, no one to publicise them. There was no Facebook site, and not much of an internet presence at all. To be honest, it was a pretty miserable place. Gradually I weedled my way in (under the pretext of adopting another dog, which I eventually did, plus 2 more since) and more volunteers, English, French and other nationalities too came along thanks to word of mouth and pleas on various news forums.

All the volunteers (and here I include the employees, many of whom give up their free time too) work incredibly hard to help our dogs and cats. We make posters, we take the trouble to get to know the animals, we walk them, heal them when they are sick and above all, we love them.  The better we know the animals the better able we are to find them the RIGHT home, not just any old home.

As for lack of space, this is a situation that many refuges come up against. Too many irresponsible people let their dogs have puppies. Ultimately neutering is the key. The dog population needs to be brought down to manageable levels. Lack of space is out of our control, but it has been over three years since a dog has been put down for this reason at the SPA Carcassonne.

Sometimes we squeak at the seams, but we get through. We send dogs to reliable associations abroad where we can follow their progress, we deliver dogs all over France using volunteer power. What we do NOT do is threaten to put them in secret. You will notice that each and every one of our dogs has an album on Facebook. With this we try to find his real owner but it also acts as a record of his progress and development up to adoption and beyond.  When a dog is put to sleep, like Rantanplan recently, we are open and upfront about why, and we pay homage on our Facebook page.

This all takes work and dedication. It is why we need to have a strong team to attend events such as this weekend’s market at La Cité. We want more and more people to know about us and the work that we do. And preferably adopt from us rather than getting an animal from a breeder or from the internet.

It is a passion for each and every one of us. We do not seek glory (although compliments are always appreciated)! We do it for the dogs and cats in our care.

So please, if you can spare five minutes this weekend, come and say hi to us; some of us will be at La Cité, others at the refuge. Perhaps we will inspire you to join us, and remember, if dog walking and cat grooming are not for you, then perhaps you can join the painters and gardeners! Everyone is welcome

Just some of the goodies that the volunteers have been busy making and baking for this weekend at La Cité,
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No arrivals and no departures, but a busy day nonetheless!

No dogs arrived at the refuge and none left either. In fact visitors were thin on the ground. Maybe everyone is busy gardening. On the subject of which, yesterday Steve and  Eric (who did some English language training and has now got the “SPA bug”) finished painting the long wall opposite a row of kennels. And instead of scrappy weeds, we now have a flower bed. Wouldn’t it be nice if this could be filled with aromatic plants? If any of you are visiting a garden centre and “accidentally” buy too many plants, we would help put any extras to good use!

We would like anything that doesn’t take too much care; water is no problem, but hardy plants would be best. At present we have a couple of lavenders and rosemary bushes, but there is scope for much more, if you have any thoughts. Compost will be needed too.

Plenty is going on behind the scenes too!

Many of you will know that this weekend is the Easter Market in and around La Cité, and the SPA will have a stand there, as we did for the Christmas Market. The activities run from 10 am till 7pm from Saturday to Monday, and there will be lots to do. As far as the SPA is concerned, Ve Ro and her team are busy making sure there are enough people to cover all the time slots. Three days is quite a commitment, after all, and there are lots of logistics to sort out.

Meanwhile Anna is busy making cupcakes which will be used to raise funds. She has got dog-themed ribbon and everything! Don’t know about you, but in this heat, baking hundreds of cupcakes would not be my activity of choice. Eating them is another thing, though!

Please come along to visit the market and support us, and why not bring your dog along to say hello!

The SPA wall. Looking nice but in need of plants!
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Cupcakes- Looking nice but in need of being eaten!

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Luther Is Loving Life…

When Darcey messaged me to say that she has an extra passenger for my UK trip I had a real feeling of deja vu as it was exactly this time last year that Munro travelled with us to meet his new family.

I was even more delighted when she said that it was Luxor, a griffin cross who was going to Fauve Rescue. Somehow it just seems to be that when Fauve rescue spot one of our dogs. we are travelling and can offer the doggy a lift. First to go was Gwen, a Fauve who was taken to Calais by my son, I then drove then Yessa to Poor Paws  until Fauve rescue could collect her, then Munro and now Luxor was  going  to join the ever increasing number of SPA Carcassonne dogs in the UK. Luxor is the 6th dog to leave for the UK this year and we have 5 more leaving next month!

On Friday after doing the boring last minute chores, I set off to the refuge to pick up Luxor. I was excited as I really liked this hairy ball of mischief and was really looking forward to have him spend the night at the house before an early morning departure. I knew that Luxor would need a good walk and this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce him to my dogs Zac and Phoebe.

It was quite humbling to see how delighted he was to get a walk, a gallop around the garden and then a tasty chicken dinner.  Unsurprisingly, he then flopped down on his bed for a snooze. It was then an early night in preparation for the next days long journey.

At 4am the alarm clock went off and we loaded the dogs into the car and set off for Donington. Safety is paramount whist transporting rescue dogs and Luxor, like all our dogs travelled in a cage and with a collar, harness and double ended lead. A scared dog can panic and bolt very easily so we take no chances.  He quickly settled in his cage and with lots of comfort breaks and walks enroute, we arrived at Calais with enough time to give the dogs a well-deserved romp on the beach. Eurotunnel checks went well, as did the tunnel journey but as we drove out of Folkestone we hit a 3 hour delay on the M20! Nothing was moving and exits were blocked until Ashford where we decided that despite being very late, enough was enough and took the dogs for a walk along the river and for fish and chips!

So it was a very late handover in Donington for Phil and Anita but nonetheless they were very excited about meeting this bouncy, happy  boy. Introductions with their three dogs Harvey, Yessa and Gwen went well and  Luxor jumped into the van with the others like he had known them all of his life!

A new name for a new life seemed appropriate and so Luxor was renamed Luther. He is settling down well into family life. What an enormous change for this young boy who had spent most of his life in a kennel. An enormous thank you to Anita, Phil and their wonderful doggies for giving him such lovely welcome and a superb life!

At the refuge today two dogs found their owners thanks to being identified. Rox a little terrier cross and another whos paws hardly had time to touch the ground before his owners arrived to pick him up!

Luther – making himself at home..

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Three hours from Folkestone – Ashford…but Luther coped well!

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Munro – one year on, doesnt he look great!

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