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Latest News

Gadget Leaves But Lots More Are Still Waiting ( and waiting…)

It really was a bit of a mystery why Gadget ended up at the SPA, a cute pup who looked like he had recently been at the grooming parlor but in fact he was found tied to the refuge gates! Unfortunately he wasn’t identified so after the mandatory ten day wait he was up for adoption.  Being so young and cute we knew he wouldn’t have a long wait and true enough, he was reserved last week and left with his forever family this afternoon.

However some of his kennel mates haven’t been so lucky and have been waiting over two years. That is a very long time for a young dog to spend in any refuge and certainly not what most of us would want for our best friend.

Dogs come to the SPA for many reasons and believe me we have heard the lot! Many people buy pups on impulse and when the novelty runs out they no longer want the responsibility of that pup. Others claim they no longer have time for the dog, have to work longer hours or have to move to a new home where pets aren’t accepted. I am getting divorced or my wife is pregnant are excuses we hear all the time as well as my child has become allergic to the dog. Sometimes we do hear stories where the owner is very ill or has even died and in my opinion its cases like that, that the SPA should really be there for.

So what can we do to stop dogs being abandoned?

The first and most important thing is to think long and hard before getting a dog. The SPA encourages potential dog adopters to think carefully before deciding whether or not to take a dog home. Do your research and factor in whether or not you’ll be able to afford the dog, spend the necessary amount of time with them, and meet their mental and physical needs before agreeing to get one. Make sure nobody in the household is allergic before you bring it home, and be responsible and get your new pet spayed or neutered.

Secondly, train your dog. All dogs need training and guidance and many dogs are abandoned when they hit adolescence and their behavior becomes an issue. If you are experiencing behavioral problems with your pet please seek advice and try to work through them. The bond you develop with your dog will really validate all your efforts.

Thirdly, be prepared to adapt to life’s changes. If you suddenly have to work longer hours or change jobs then get up a bit earlier and walk your dog, consider a dog walker or even doggy daycare. Believe me your dog would much prefer that to being abandoned at the SPA!

Its seldom better for a dog to be abandoned than adapt to household changes and some dogs have a long wait before new homes are found. Would you want that for your best friend?

Gadget left today



Chico has been waiting more than two years




Not a.. ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoon’

Today being the first Sunday of the month the refuge was open and lots of volunteers turned up to walk the dogs.  This is fantastic because not only do the dogs which would otherwise be in their kennels get a walk but potential adopters can see the dogs out and about and playing in the parks. Its also on these open days the people who have adopted from us come along with their dog and its great to see how happy the ex SPA dogs are in their new families. To add to today’s excitement we also had a tombola stand which was run by one of our volunteers Karen and her friend.

The SPA is a charitable organisation and thus finances are paramount to how we run the organisation. Like all businesses we need to break even to survive and with ever increasing running costs we have to fund raise to make up the difference between the debits and credits. The majority of our income comes from adoption fees and you can imagine the costs of running an organisation like the  SPA. Our vet costs are enormous and of course we have staff wages, utility and food costs too. Today our car boot ladies, Belinda, Diane and Julie were out in force with a stall at the English Library Vide Grenier in Quillan. Our stalwart Fred also had a stall and altogether they brought in 280 euros which really helps towards this deficit. We are always grateful to volunteers who give up time with their families to help raise funds for our doggies and should anyone want to help us do this please, please get in touch, you would be very welcome!

Lisa and Andrew were also out this morning at the car boot sale in Quillan and in the afternoon at the refuge, promoting their new business Vet Advice 24/7. This innovative idea gives English speakers in France access to telephone advice and support should they have any queries regarding their pets well-being.  Lisa and Andrew are great supporters of the SPA and make a donation to us for every sign up that comes through the us!

So a massive thank you to everyone who gave up their Sunday to help raise funds or to walk the dogs. Without your help the doggies lives at the refuge would be much less fulfilled!

Fred at the Car Boot sale in Quillan

Car boot

 The Vet Advice 24/7 team

Vet advice

Ted Leaves but Poor Charley Is Returned…

After yesterday’s high of five adoptions today’s one somehow seems very insignificant but for Ted the 12 week old pup who was adopted it was the chance of a lifetime! Although  Ted was found lost and scared a couple of weeks ago he was very lucky that when he arrived at the SPA Lisa and Andrew, one of our best foster families were there to hand over the pup they had been fostering and who was going to his forever home. This meant that there was a foster place free at Lisa’s house and so lucky Ted didn’t have to spend any time at all the refuge.

When a pup goes into a foster home it is being carefully assessed from day one. Lisa would have checked the pup over for any fleas or ticks, had a look at its ears and eyes, its paws and noted  its general demeanor. A vets appointment will have been arranged and the pup will then start its course of vaccinations. Like all pups in our foster places the pup is very carefully introduced to other family members both human and animal and so socialization begins from day one. The pup begins toilet training and starts to learn the house rules, where he can go, what he can chew and what toys he can play with.This gives the pup a fantastic start in life and provides a solid foundation for a bright and happy future.

Many people say ‘oh I could never give a pup up, it would just be too hard’ and it is hard. If you’re fostering dogs or cats, you are likely an animal lover with a big heart. It’s so easy to get attached to a dog or cat, even after just a few days or weeks and its hard letting them go, even though you know they are going to a good place. We are very sad every time we ‘lose’ a foster baby but we know that there is now a place for another and so it continues.

We are always looking for reliable foster families and you can decide whether you want to take puppies or more mature dogs, small dogs or big ones but what you do need is time and patience. You also need to be relatively local to Carcassonne so that you can take the dog to the refuges vet for routine appointments. Many dogs who need a foster home need an extra bit of tender loving care and some, in fact most need to be house trained so you need to be prepared for the odd accident. Pups tend to be adopted quicker than older dogs who can be with you for weeks or sometimes months. We do find that when older dogs go to foster families that they are often adopted by the fosterer. This is not surprising as you do form a very special bond with a dog who has needed a little bit extra care and attention!

If you think that you would like to be a foster parent please contact us and we can arrange a time for you to come along and have a chat, it really is great fun as well as very rewarding!

Todays very sad news was the return of Charley. I was especially sad to hear this as Charley arrived at the refuge on my first day of volunteering! He then waited fourteen months for a family and here he is a year later, back waiting again.  What a shame for this gentle boy who is a high energy dog who has been cooped up in an apartment with very few walks and little attention.  Never mind, now we shall make sure he finds a very special family where he will have the life he really deserves!

Ted leaves..


 Charley is returned after a year..


Fantastic Fridays Five Adoptions!

It’s almost unbelievable but today we have had five superb adoptions!!!! Every one of them would have merited a blog to themselves but I shall start with Titou’s story as it is typical of many dogs in France.

Titou was one of a number of puppies who were being handed out at random to passers-by in the centre of Carcassonne. The person doing so has crossed paths (and swords) with the SPA since, and to be quite frank, is beyond listening to any reason whatsoever. When I suggested that he get his dog sterilised (even offering to pay for the operation from my own pocket), he said that his dog was free to do as she wished, and if she wanted to have puppies, that was her decision. Okay, in this case the dog may indeed be more intelligent than her owner, but in general it is humans who make decisions on behalf of their animals.

In any case, one of the people who just happened to be passing at the time was the Secretary of the SPA Association (not to be confused with Carole, who is an employee and works at the refuge every day). She asked for a puppy, which she then brought to the SPA. Titou was taken home by some former volunteers, who wished to adopt him, but threats to his wellbeing meant that Titou had to be rehomed urgently.

Enter Edith, foster carer extraordinaire (you can read an article by her on the page “life after the refuge”). Edith took Titou home and looked after him along with her own dog, Othello (also an ex-SPA dog), and there he has been for some two months while a new home was sought.

Finally today Titou left to live in a huge estate close to Carcassonne, with a poodle as a companion and owners who will be at home all day. Fabulous news and wonderful that this dog has never known life at the refuge. I wonder what happened to the other puppies who were given away on the same day. Inevitably some of them will end up at the SPA, more black lab crosses, untrained and uncared for. This at least cannot be said of Titou, despite the somewhat unsettled life he has had up to now.

If there is a moral to this story, it is yet again to sterilise your dogs! Only this way can we prevent more unwanted puppies being born to fill up refuges or wander the streets lost and alone.

Next to leave was Pitchou, an eight year old  who was abandoned at the beginning of July when his owners divorced. This is an all too common reason why dogs end up at the SPA and just goes to show you how little regard and respect some people have for their dogs.  I do understand that both parties are moving on to a new future but surely between two of you can accommodate a dog you have loved and shared for eight years! Poor Pitchou howled when his owners left, he was very distressed and we knew that at eight years old he may have a long wait for a new home.

The first photo that we had of Pitchou was a very sad looking boy behind his kennel bars .As soon as this was put on our facebook page we were contacted by Michele ,  who  had spotted his picture and fallen in love with his story and sad eyes.  She contacted us to say that one of her dogs  had recently passed away and if Pitchou was friendly with other dogs and cats she would love to drive over from Pau to meet him. The ‘sociable’ with other dogs bit was very important as Michelle had spent 13 years  looking  after a staffie cross who had aggression problems so definitely wanted a dog she could trust around her family and friends. To love and care for a dog with aggression problems for all of that time shows real dedication so I was really hoping this lovely family was going to come and visit Pitchou. If a prospective family has cats we can cat test a dog to make sure he is safe to live with them and luckily Pitchou ignored the cats in the cat house which is always a good sign! An appointment was made to visit but had to be cancelled when their dog Ruby became very ill with a very severe gastro bug so another one was made a week later.  When I arrived at the refuge to introduce Michele to Pitchou I was delighted to see that the whole family had come to meet him.

We brought Pitchou into one of our parks to meet his new family and he quickly charmed the two girls and dad as well as Michele. He is a very playful eight year old who was delighted to have an audience to show off his tricks with his kong; he would race after it, bring it back,  bury it, dig it up  and then throw it at you! This was soon a done deal and Pitchou was reserved. After a trip to the vet to be identified and castrated he left today to live with a playmate Ruby, two cats and rabbits.  Who would have thought this eight year old shaggy dog would have been so lucky!

After Pitchou, Adele our six month old berger cross left. Adele has only been with us since July and its clear from her size at six months that she is going to be a very big girl!

The next pup to leave was Black Jack, a black Labrador cross. He too hasn’t had too long to wait for his forever home which isn’t surprising when you see how cute he is!

Last but not least was the very special adoption of our twelve and a half year old Yorkie called Muesli. This lovely boy was found in July and we knew we were looking for a very special home for this elderly chap but today was his lucky day….happy retirement Muesli!

Titou – A bright future ahead of him!



Pitchou who is off to Pau!



Adele – A big girl for 6 months!



Black Jack – So cute!

black Jack


And last but not least Muesli!


Some sad news…

A sad blog from me tonight. Although there was some good news to sweeten the pill.

Yesterday  morning we said goodbye to little Mirza. She went to the vet prior to leaving for her new home on Monday. She was due to be sterilised and at the same time the vet was going to remove the tumours on her stomach and clean her teeth. When he opened up this tiny girl, he found more cancer than dog inside, and a decision was made to not wake her up from the anaesthetic. I cannot tell you how upset this made me and all the employees and volunteers at the SPA. Mirza had only been with us for 20 days, but was an enormous presence, constantly demanding (and getting) attention.

We knew she was not well when she arrived. The tumours were palpable.  But Mirza was just so lively that no one expected her to leave us so soon. The fact that she had a wonderful home awaiting her makes it even worse. I am consoling myself with the fact that Mirza lived in the infirmary, she never spent time in a kennel, and for the most part she had other dogs with her. When she was alone she accompanied the employees to the tea room and was always being cuddled.

Terribly sad news for the woman who was adopting Mirza, and as we were unable to contact her yesterday, we did not want to announce the news.

We were all still a bit raw from the news today, so the three adoptions this afternoon helped cheer us a up a bit. Tramp and Patmol, two black (or in Patmol’s case mostly black) left, as did lovely Garance, a chocolate coloured border collie cross.

Let’s hope there is more good news tomorrow. It will take us a while to fully recover from losing Mirza. The refuge was so quiet today…..

A cheeky grin from lovely Mirza







What a sweetheart. We miss you.








But on the plus side, Patmol leaves









Tramp finds a home too










So does Garance



A Partnership that works!

A couple of reservations at the refuge today, but you know my golden rule, so you will just have to wait and see who which dogs have found new homes !

I thought it might be useful to tell you a bit about the Club Canin, Carcassonne, with whom the SPA has a fruitful and on-going partnership. Both Carole, the SPA secretary, and Melissa, one of the employees, are trainers there. Melissa trains puppies on Wednesday mornings and Carole takes a class for adult dogs on Tuesday evenings. However there are many other classes available, including agility, general obedience and education.

Thanks to the Club President, Rene, every dog adopted from the SPA has the right to two free lessons at the Club. Many people take advantage of this offer, and most see the benefits and stay on afterwards.

A typical class with Carole will start with a walk so that the dogs can meet each other (off the lead, if possible, and it is mostly possible, as even “runners” often prefer to stay with the pack). We then do some general socialisation training such as forming a line and getting the dogs to weave in and out of the other dogs. We then teach the dogs different positions, sit and stay, and the all-important recall. We often go behind a small shed, leaving our dogs to wait for us. This builds up their trust that we will return. Exercises depend very much on the ability of the dogs and the mix on the evening, and the classes suit all abilities and vary from week to week.

I go with my dog, Bella whom I adopted from the SPA some 3 years ago. She had been badly beaten and the first time I took her to the Club, she bit Carole. Oops! Admittedly at the time she didn’t know Carole, but it was a bit embarrassing, to say the least. However it is thanks to Bella that I met Carole and a few weeks later, after a bit of coaxing, Carole became a SPA volunteer and eventually an employee.

I particularly enjoy the courses, as it is great seeing ex- SPA dogs. Last night I saw Handsome, who is now called Dyson. And I have seen numerous other old friends there, learning good dog behaviour and, most important in my opinion, being socialised. For many new owners it is the first time they have let their new dogs off the lead. The Club territory is vast, and is completely enclosed. There are several parks with agility courses set up, and in winter flood lights are available. There are even two indoor halls in case it rains.

These halls have also been used for SPA fundraising events. A very successful Spring Market was held last year, and we are tentatively planning a Doggy Olympics in October, as well as a book sale, complete with our own dedicated catering van, run by Lisa and Andrew!  Watch this space.

Ultimately we and the Club have the same goal; healthy and happy dogs. Well-educated dogs are less likely to be abandoned at the refuge and new owners can discuss any behavioural problems they may have and work through these with qualified trainers. Other Clubs are available, naturally, but for me the SPA and the CCC make a fabulous partnership.

The Club is located on the Route de Bram at the Stade Gilbert Benausse. Visit their site (which consists of photos and documents that you can download) at http://ccc.quarante-deux.me/ or just pop in!  The Club is open most of the day!


Three different kinds of Lucky!

So who do you think is luckier? Chaussette, who was adopted yesterday, after over a year at the refuge, or Bali, who spent the minimal possible time at the refuge and left today after just ten days? Ten days is the so-called “pound time”, ie the period of grace we give to the owners of a dog to come and reclaim him or her.

This pound time does not apply to dogs who have been abandoned, of course, as their owners have legally signed their dogs over to us when they brought them to us. In my opinion Bali was actually an abandoned dog, but the people who brought her in denied that she was theirs, and as she was not micro-chipped, we had no proof to the contrary.

In any case, Bali was lucky enough to catch the eye of James and Elizabeth, who are friends of Lisa and Andrew (they of Vet Advice 24/7 and puppy fostering fame). They needed the permission of their friend Sue who owns the gite complex where they live, but that was given quickly and off Bali went, fresh from being sterilised. She is now going to live at Lampiod Creek in Saissac with another friend and we are sure she is going to be very happy!

The third type of “Lucky” refers the dogs who are called by that name, but who so frequently end up in the refuge. We already had eight dogs on the list of soon-to-be-abandoned dogs (yes we have a waiting list), which was really depressing. Another dog called “Lucky” was added to the list today, and once she arrives I am going to ensure that her name is changed. We already have one Lucky who has been at the refuge for 18 months. I don’t think he feels very lucky right now and neither will this little sheltie cross once she arrives in early October.

A really lucky dog, Bali, with James and Sue








Another Lucky, at the refuge for 18 months and counting.









And yet another Lucky, on the waiting list to be abandoned.




The Lady and the Sock!

One of the things that I like most about the SPA is that you just never know what is going to happen. When people arrive to see the dogs, in general we ask them to take a tour of the refuge and see where their heart goes. Thanks to Dominique, one of volunteers, each box has a laminated boards with information as to who is within, so visitors can see a dog’s age and other details, such as behaviour with other dogs, cats etc.

Sometimes people come in with a fixed idea and only want to see dogs of a certain size. Others already have a particular dog in mind, having seen him or her on the internet, and only want to see that dog, fearing that a tour of the refuge could be distressing.

In any case, everyone has different tastes when it comes to dogs, and so when people return to the office to ask for more details about a particular dog we just never know what to expect.

It is easy to predict that the puppies will go quickly, and today it was Lady’s turn to find a home. No surprises there! But then came the big surprise of the day. This news will please many of our volunteer dog walkers, and has delighted the employees too.

I am happy to announce that after one year and three days in the refuge, Chaussette has found a home! He is now three years old and one third of his life has been spent with us. I am so happy for him. He is a wonderful dog, with a gentle nature and is good on the lead. But like so many dogs of no particular breed, he has been overlooked for so long. At last he caught someone’s eye, and now his life can really begin. Thanks to everyone who helped him on his way by regular walks and thanks to Ronan, our Marine Parachutist who was Chaussette’s sponsor. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you read this and know that your boy has finally found a home! News like this really raises morale!

There were also several other reservations made today, but being just slightly superstitious I won’t announce anything until the dogs leave. But I am very excited so watch this space!

Lady leaves








And Chaussette finds a home after over a year at the refuge!

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The adoption process at the SPA Carcassonne

Although there is a page on this site entitled “Adoption Guidelines”, this is primarily concerned with what to consider before taking on a new pet. I thought it might be useful to actually explain the process at the SPA, as this is a question that people often ask.

The most important thing is obviously to find a dog that is right for you, and of course this is a matter on which we are happy to advise, but ultimately has to be your decision. Some people do their initial research on the internet, either on this site, or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SPA.CARCASSONNE), where numerous pictures of each dog can be seen. Other people just come to the refuge and see where their heart goes or to check that a dog is compatible with existing family members.

Once you have selected you pet, we will tell you whether or not he or she is ready to leave. This is not just a question of the 10 days “pound time” for all dogs other than those who have been officially abandoned by their owners.

If you have chosen a female and she has not already been sterilised, then, together with you, we will arrange a date for the operation to take place. In general we like the dog to leave the same day, so that she can recover in her new home (space inside the infirmary is limited, to say the least). If you have chosen a female who is already sterilised or want a boy and do not require him to be castrated*, then it is just a question of getting the dog micro-chipped. This can usually be done immediately. Our vet is close by and someone will either take the dog and get him identified and bring him back to the refuge while the adoption contract is being completed, or sometimes we phone ahead to the vet and get the chip number and fill in the contract and you take your new dog to the vets (accompanied by a member of staff or a volunteer), and you leave directly from there.

The vets is just a five minute drive away, so which of these is done depends on how busy the refuge is and how soon the vet can implant the chip.

Another group (usually those far from Carcassonne) is happy to take a dog “sight unseen”, relying on us for character references.  In these cases, we get the dog ready to leave and either a pick-up date is arranged or a human chain is organised to deliver the dog a bit closer to his new home. This system, called “co-voiturage” is not simple and is the cause of more effort and lost sleep than almost everything else we do! But if the home is right, then it can be done!

In all three cases we ask for proof of address and id, which for “remote adoptions” can be done by scanning and emailing the relevant documents. We are flexible on this though and if we “know” you or you come to us via a trusted route, such as Doglinks, this is not always required.

I hope this helps you understand the process a bit better. A good home is what we want for each and every one of our animals and we like things to be as straightforward as possible. We do not insist on home visits, as our manpower budget does not allow for it, but we love to receive news of our dogs post-adoption. And with 2 dog educators on the full time staff and several other experts amongst the volunteers, any behaviour-related queries are welcome, too!

If you would like an English speaker to be present to help you at the refuge, just let us know in advance (a couple of days is usually adequate notice). And yes, we can organise Rabies jabs and passports too, if you would like! Some dogs, as you are no doubt aware, leave us to go straight to the UK, so we are becoming quite adept at the whole process!

*We do not insist on the boys being “done” before they leave but are happy to oblige if you wish.

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A (snow) flurry of activity!

Today’s news follows on quite nicely from yesterday’s blog about naming dogs. And there you were thinking it was all completely random!

I am happy to report that today two of our adolescents were adopted. These are dogs that are particularly difficult to home, as they are in that inbetween age; too old to still be cute puppies, but without the maturity and calmness of many of our adult dogs.

The first dog to leave was Handsome. This wasn’t his name when he arrived at the refuge; he used to be called Tyson. We know this, because he belonged to the SPA neighbours. Strangely enough their son is also called Tyson, so I guess they really liked the name. In any case, we had at least two or maybe three Tysons at the refuge at the time, and as this boy was born in an H year, we called him Handsome. Who says irony is dead?

Today a couple who already had visited the refuge and had been hesitating between him and a pedigree Staffordshire made up their minds. Handsome requires none of the permits that owning a so-called dangerous dog demands. Shame for Connor, but great news for Handsome, of course, who has been waiting with us since the end of January.

The second dog to leave was lovely Snow. He arrived at the beginning of July and was chipped and already called Snow, although he was clearly not born in an “S” year. That would make him ancient, and he is just a youngster, born in October 2012. His adoption depended on how well he got on with the couple’s flatcoat, and it was love at first sight.

We did have an arrival, who has been called Trompette. We have no idea why, she just seemed to respond to this when Carole tried it out on her. She is only 10 weeks old and already weighs 9kg, so she is going to be enormous! The vet thinks she is a Pyrenean Mountain cross, so expect 50kg of dog in due course!

So long, Handsome!











Snow leaves the refuge






Trompette arrives. Big dog in waiting!