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Latest News

Identification issues (again) and MORE bad news

A puppy made a brief appearance at the refuge today, but the fact that he arrived complete with collar and lead gave us a pretty good clue that he had an owner, and that chances were he had just escaped on a walk. However (sigh) he was not identified. His owner did come to collect him, but as ever the excuses as to WHY he was not identified were feeble.

People quite often post pictures of their dogs onto our Facebook page and ask for our help in finding them. We are happy to help; that is what we are there for. However, when the dogs are not identified, I always secretly hope that they will pass through our hands, just so we know that they will be micro-chipped (obligatory before pets can be reclaimed). If dogs are found without coming to the SPA, who knows whether or not they will ever be identified? Despite the fact that this is THE LAW.  When an animal is found without coming to the SPA, we have no control over whether identification takes place. If we are told the good news on Facebook (that the dog has been found), we often request that they now get their animal micro-chipped and the answer is invariably “I am planning on having it done”. But who knows?

Anyway, today’s pup, Kay IS now identified.

The other arrival was that of a magnificent border collie, who has been named Ako. He is not good with male dogs, but perhaps his owner is looking for him. He is not identified, of course…..

We received some sad news this morning, that of the death of lovely Alfie, the fabulous gentle Neapolitan Mastiff. He was never part of the SPA “family”, but he paid us a visit during one of our Christmas open days. At that time he was in need of a new home and was kindly being looked after by friends of the refuge, after his real owners decided to kill him rather than take him back to the UK. Thanks to Doglinks, Alfie found a home with a loving couple, Linda and Richard, and although they only had him for six weeks, he probably had more love in that time than in the rest of his life put together. Alfie was ten years old, which is an enormous age for a dog of this size. But love and good care often arrive too late to compensate for years of neglect. Sometimes I am ashamed of my fellow countrymen, but also proud, as all those involved in his rescue were also countrymen (and women) of mine! I have to add that lots of French people offered Alfie a home too, it was just easier logistically for him to go to Linda and Richard.

Information as to the whereabouts of Jim’s dogs and cats is gradually emerging, by the way. Everyone is safe right now and we are urging the mayor of the village to keep us informed and not do anything irreversible! We are all watching!

Kay- RECLAIMED (and now micro-chipped)











New arrival Ako- Not identified












And Alfie goes over the Rainbow Bridge


Dog Owners Of The Future – Our Children

Last week we blogged about therapy pets in an old folks home but this week’s blog looks at the education of our future dog owners! These are our children and it is of utmost importance that they are taught how to respect all animals from as early an age as possible.  Children need to learn how to be safe when around dogs, whether the dog is the family pet or a loose dog in the park. They need to learn how to recognise and assess different situations in which they may find themselves either in the home environment or when they are out and about.  This knowledge should then hopefully minimise the risk of dog bites, of which most actually occur in the home.

Wanda  from The Association Vivre a  Plein Temps in conjunction with the SPA Carcassonne  are planning school talks and on Friday we went along to the school in La Force where we had great fun talking to the children about how to stay safe around dogs as well as responsible dog ownership.  Several of these children said that they had been bitten by dogs and most of the time it was their family dog!

We began by asking the children who had dogs and what breeds they were and followed that with a question about what jobs some dogs did. The first reply to that question was not as I expected, it wasn’t a guide dog, but ‘chien de chasse’. This was a real reminder that we were indeed in rural France!

We discussed at length the warning signs that a dog might give before biting and how a dog’s body language tells us how it is feeling. I have to say that I was very impressed at how quickly and accurately the children interpreted the dogs body language in the doggy posters we took along.  These children were very quick learners and already very dog savvy !

Next we discussed the SPA and responsible dog ownership. The children were very shocked when we told them that nearly 700 dogs arrived last year. We talked about what to think about before getting a dog and the importance of looking after and educating a dog. I was very surprised when one young chap asked for the SPA’s phone number and address and I have to say, had that been my son, I would have been very, very proud of him!

With the aid of display boards we talked about the dangers of animals in different situations such as off leash around traffic and then the best bit of all; we went into the playground to do some practical demonstrations!

Here the children learnt to always ask before before touching a dog, how to stay tall and still should a loose dog approach you and how to curl up like a ball protecting your head and neck should a dog attack you. The children practiced all of these moves around Wanda’s immaculately behaved dog Dalba and saw for themselves how differently a dog reacts to a calm still child rather than one running around squealing.

We finished off by answering questions and emphasising the importance of staying safe around dogs.  Congratulations to the children from La Force school, they were wonderful , caring and knowledgeable children and if they are an example of our future dog owners then our dogs will be  in safe hands!

Wanda and her lovely dog Dalba.


Saying hello to Dalba



Freedom for Freddy!

Some good news at last! Today, after being in foster care with Isabelle, one of our volunteers, for 5 weeks, Leia was adopted. This in itself is great news, but even better, she is going to live with friends of Isabelle’s family, so they will have lots of news and will see each other regularly.

Fostering pups (or kittens or even adult dogs or cats) is no easy business. I for one cannot do it, as proved by the “accidental” arrival of dog number four in my house. But for people who are robust enough emotionally, it is a fabulous way to help the refuge, especially for vulnerable animals (those who do not yet have their two vaccinations, or are frail or elderly). One downside of course is that although the dog is safe and warm, he is not “on show” to people who come to the refuge on spec (although of course “viewings” can be made by appointment, including at the fosterers or potential adopters home, which can be useful for people with busy lives or who don’t want to visit the refuge)

In any case, Leia has a new home and many thanks to Isabelle and her family for looking after her.

But the big, nay HUGE news of the day was the adoption of Freddy. He has been at the refuge since October 2012, and has been very popular with volunteers and employees alike. Dog walkers have loved him, as he does not pull on the lead, so is a pleasure to take out. The couple who adopted him today came looking for a small, calm dog, and whereas Freddy isn’t quite as small as they (or the woman, at least) was hoping for, Freddy ticked the calm box very nicely. Now all he has to do is learn to get used to other dogs (they don’t have any, but it is much nicer to have a dog who is happy to see other dogs when out on walks). Dog Training school will help here, and I am looking forward to seeing Freddy and his new owners there on Tuesday night.

In other refuge new a dog who was signalled as being lost via our Facebook page was brought in, and thanks to this we were able to contact her owners, as the details were not up to date in Paris. Thanks Facebook!

We are still working on Jim’s animals, don’t worry, they haven’t been forgotten. But we have no more news as of now, as the people we need to speak to are busy enjoying their weekend. As I hope are all of you!










Freddy – ADOPTED after 16 months

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Kenpeh leaves, but five new dogs arrive. None identified, of course.

On Wednesday when I went to say farewell to Vienna, another lady was at the refuge, and by coincidence she knew Vienna’s new owners. She had just lost her dog and said life was just unbearable, so she wanted another canine companion. She did a tour of the refuge but as luck would have it, the two dogs she liked (Galileo and Kiko) are both due to go to the UK in a week or so.

However from her choices I gleaned something important. She likes her dogs hairy! Not everybody does, as they think of the dusting (whatever that is!). She also said that Kiko was a bit small for her taste. So…..

Who remembers Kenpeh, who was abandoned just before Christmas, when his owner went on holiday to Martinique and didn’t want to pay for kennelling? Kenpeh arrived as a nervous dog, wary of people and apparently accustomed to being hit. At least he flinched each time he saw a raised hand. He quickly got over this, once he realised that no one at the SPA would ever hurt him. And sure enough, Kenpeh ticked all the right boxes, including being good with cats.

Today he left for his new home. Much better for him than where he was before.

Other than that the news was almost all bad, with five new dogs arriving. Andy, the poodle who arrived in such a terrible state last night found his owners, but he won’t leave till tomorrow so we can have a chat to them about his condition. Or maybe they just wanted a free grooming.

We are all working furiously to try and sort out Jim’s animals, and the situation is clear as mud. So many different authorities are involved that it is hard to get a true picture of what is going on. We remain determined and resolute that homes will be found, as long as we are allowed to act.

Like many other people who are working on this issue, I am exhausted, so I will sign off now and wish you all a Happy Valentines Day from everyone at the SPA.

Maybe tomorrow will bring better news. I keep saying that, don’t I? The good days just never seem to come.

Kenpeh – ADOPTED (and happy that his owner went to Martinique)









Happy Valentines Day from us all!


Dyson leaves, but the mood stays bleak.

Before the refuge had even opened this morning we had had an adoption! As you know, we open at 2pm, but at 8am Dyson, our magnificent Border collie/ Pyrenean Mountain Dog cross left for his new home just outside Geneva. This beautiful boy had been abandoned in mid-January, very much to his owner’s regret. And I am not surprised. Good with other dogs, fine with cats, fine with children. The perfect dog. But BIG!

So when our sister site, Doglinks, sent us details of a lady who was interested in Galileo (the Briard cross who is leaving for the UK in a couple of weeks), we suggested alternatives of a similar size and hairiness. Dyson ticked all the boxes and this morning he started the journey to his new life.

We had our first arrival also before the refuge opened, too. A puppy, arrived, but Carole was on hand to put photos on Facebook, and Tina’s owner came to collect her at 14H00. A quick trip to the vet for micro-chipping was required, of course, so that is one more dog who is now “legal”. I have to ask yet again why it takes a trip to the SPA for people to get their dog micro-chipped? And you can bet your bottom dollar that many of these dogs would never be identified had they not passed via our door. IT IS THE LAW!

And just before we shut a small male poodle arrived, in a terrible state. He has been spruced up (see the before and after pictures below) and I am sure he will appeal to someone out there!

Bad news just piles up right now. This site is dedicated to dogs, but this morning we lost Max, a cat who was much loved and has been fighting typhus for several days. The employees have been working incredibly hard to save his life and also to stop the illness spreading. They succeeded in the latter, but sadly Max succumbed this morning, accompanied by many tears. Bye-bye, Champion!

Two dogs left today, so why am I feeling so low? The aftermath of Jim’s death has affected many of us, and the revelation that he was buried in an unmarked grave this morning is just shocking. I am sure that the spirits of all the dogs and cats were present, even if none of his friends had been told.

His dogs and cats are in desperate need of rehoming or they risk being put to sleep. Please consider helping out any way you can, even if it is just by spreading the word.










Tina – RECLAIMED (and now micro-chipped)











Andy arrives like this









But turns out to look like this: (good work, guys!)













And tearful farewells to Max, the champion


One out, one in and some bad news.

I have spent much of the day on the phone talking to friends old and new, including many people who up to now have been known to me only by name. We are all uniting in trying to help in the aftermath of a very sad event.

Yesterday an English gentleman called Jim passed away. He was only 71, and had devoted his entire life to animal rescue. He was particularly fond of Dobermans and has rescued over a hundred during his lifetime. In addition Jim adored cats, and it was he who recently adopted seven cats from the SPA who were never going to be homed from the refuge as they were too nervous of people or had just been overlooked for years.

Jim’s death has left 10 dogs and many more cats homeless. We of course are busy planning how we can return our cats to the refuge, and I am desperately sorry for all of them. When I last spoke to Jim, less than a week ago, he had Socks, the feisty Siamese, on his lap and the other timid cats were just starting to come out of their shells.

This is nothing but a tragedy. Thanks to everyone for pulling together. Let’s try and honour Jim’s memory by making sure all his beloved animals end up safe. Our thoughts are also with his wife, who has lost her carer. Sylvia has advanced Alzheimer’s, and is now permanently hospitalised.

It is easy to criticise; what was an elderly gentleman with a sick wife doing with all those animals? But Jim had a heart as big as the moon. He had spent his whole life rescuing dogs and cats and it is a hard habit to break, as many of us know. I am sure St Peter had no trouble letting him through the Pearly Gates.

On a MUCH happier note, one of my favourite dogs found a home today. I know I have lots of favourites, but so would you if you knew our dogs! In any case, today it was the turn of lovely Vienna. She was brought in with her sister, Farrah, just after Christmas. Farrah, being lighter in colour, was adopted very quickly, but Vienna, has had a bit longer to wait. She had a final walk with her beloved pal Chips today and off she went to her new life.

A small female was brought in having been found in the village of Pezens. We have named her Pixie. If no one comes to reclaim her she will be up for adoption in ten days. I have a feeling she will leave us quickly!

Vienna says a final goodbye to Chips before heading off!









Pixie arrives


Forms, walks, and some sad news.

In contrast to yesterday the weather was glorious today. Sadly, Moira and I had already agreed that, regardless of the weather, we would spend as long as it took today to fill in the paperwork required for the five dogs who are leaving for the UK later on this month. There are quite a few forms to fill in, both for the transporter and for the association itself.

The appeal is going quite well, with some large donations and also several small ones, which of course add up. As one of the people who donated via our Paypal account said, if everyone gives just 5 or 10 euros, the amount will be reached easily. So come on, guys, how about looking down the back of the sofa for old coins, or giving us what you would have spent on that extra coffee or glass of wine? Our account name is spacarcassonne@yahoo.fr or there is a link on this site.

With two of us working on it, we finished the forms in time to take several dogs out for walks, and we were not alone. We had two new volunteers to help us, plus the beautifully named Anoushka, who has been with us for a month or so now. Our two newbies are used to big dogs, so some dogs were walked who only usually get out when “Team Sport” is around.

Two other refuge supporters came to ask for written authorisation to carry out a collection at Leclerc in Limoux tomorrow. Bit last minute, I know, but we are nothing if not quick to react. So for all you Limouxins, why not pop along to Leclerc tomorrow and show them some support!

Unusually (but blessed relief) no dogs arrived, but none left either. There was a reservation though, of a dog who is still in the pound, no less. So his (or her) stay at the refuge will be as short as it can possibly be.

Finally some sad news. One of our volunteers lost her beloved dog this morning. So today’s photo is of Zaia, who was 11 years old today, coincidentally. She will be sorely missed by Dominique, and although she did not come from the SPA, she was a rescue dog and has had a life of love that most dogs can only dream of.

Our thoughts are with you, Dominique.

Beautiful Zaia, who went over the Rainbow Bridge this morning. 

The arrival of Rocco and Clara

What a horrid day it has been weather wise. I can’t help but think of how miserable the dogs must be on days like this, huddling together trying to keep warm. I look at my four all asleep by the fire, and it makes me so sorry for all the dogs who at the SPA.

However many more are not lucky enough to even be at the SPA and have to cope on their own. So when we welcomed two new dogs today, after my initial frustration at their arrival, I realised that at least these two small young dogs are going to be well looked after now that they are with us. And please don’t criticise me for not paying the same attention to the cats; although they would like (and deserve) homes too, they are indoors in a heated house, with free access to the outside. The dogs are in unheated concrete kennels.

Our two new arrivals are called Rocco and Clara; Both are small and are wire haired and are young. Unwanted puppies, perhaps? In any case they were found at the gate this morning. Presumaby abandoned. Very cute and on their way to a better life before too long, we hope!

Not the best start to the week; let’s hope things improve during the week, starting with the weather, please!

So to cheer us all up, here is a picture of lovely Kobe (ex Cacao). He is four months old today and weighs in at am impressive 10kg. What a change from the tiny scrap of a pup who was found in the rubbish tip and whose two siblings (of three) were so weak that they died even after reaching the safety of the SPA. Go Kobe!

New arrival -Rocco











And his sister, Clara













But to cheer us up, here is Kobe! Safe and warm and LOVED


Therapy Pets

Last week we posted a picture of Sake, one of our ex SPA dogs, working as a therapy dog in an old folks home on our facebook page and we were surprised at some of the comments, so tonight’s blog is to explain the role of a therapy dog and also the benefits to both the dog and to humans.

A therapy dog is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, hospices and to people with learning difficulties.

Its well known that interaction with a gentle, friendly pet has both physical and mental health benefits. It lowers blood pressure and releases endorphins which have a calming effect and reduce pain. Petting a friendly dog or cat lifts moral, reduces boredom, lowers anxiety and increases communication.

On Monday I went along both to help and to see for myself and I have to say I was really impressed! When we arrived we did a quick tour of the dayroom to say hello. You could see the expression changing on patients faces, they smiled and were very interested in their special visitor! I bet lots of these old folk had owned a pet at one time and were remembering happy times!

We then went into a treatment room where we worked with a group of 5 elderly people. Most of these patients had varying degrees of mobility problems so we began with letting them pet the dog and brush him. This encouraged them to talk and to move their arms and hands.  They all smiled when it was their turn, it was truly amazing to see a little smile appear on a previously blank expression!  The patients who were mobile then had a little walk with Sake. To keep everyone nice and safe we used two leashes, the patient  held one leash encouraging them to grip and pull whilst we held the other leash. Of course the patients confined to a wheelchair didn’t miss out on this fun and also had a walk, again they held the leash as we pushed them along. Next was a game of hoops where the patients put a collar like hoop on the dogs neck and then took it off. Again this was encouraging gripping, stretching and movement.  The highlight of the day for Sake was when the patients used their bare feet to gently massage him. Gosh he really loved that, as did the patients!

Not all doggies could be or would want to be a therapy dog. They must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle , calm and most of all enjoy human contact.  They also need to know certain commands such as come, stay, sit, down, no, off and ok.

So what does the dog get out of this? Well some dogs love to interact and be petted by humans. They thrive on the attention and interactions and seeing Sake’s happy demeanour and waggy tail I would say he certainly enjoyed his visit as much as the patients did.

A year ago Sake was abandoned at the SPA and now he has a fantastic life which he shares with several other dogs, horses ,donkeys and a lama. The lama has also visited the old people’s home, now that I would have loved to see!  We are very proud of him!

Who wouldnt love this?

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Two lovely adult dogs are adopted!

Well, as you may have noticed, we have had a bit of a run on puppies recently. Today it was the turn of a couple of our adult dogs to leave the refuge.

First was fabulous Igloo. A family came to see him on Thursday and planned to return today to check that this magnificent dog got on well with their own dog. In fact they could not wait, so compatibility was tested yesterday, and today Igloo left for his new home. He will have lots of space, as he is going to live in a domaine. Lucky boy!

Then it was time to say goodbye to one of our favourites. You may remember Patrouille who was brought in 2 weeks ago by one of our volunteers, Isa. She had searched everywhere for the owners of this lovely dog, but with no luck. So reluctantly she brought Patrouille to the SPA, along with her four puppies, the Vampire Diaries litter.

No one likes bringing dogs to the refuge, especially when we are full. But this really was the best thing for Patrouille. She was identified, but her owners had denied all knowledge of her when Isa had spoken to them. When we contacted them, they made it pretty obvious that they wouldn’t be coming to get their dog. And I for one was delighted. Instead of producing litter after litter, this lovely dog has gone to a fabulous home where she can get all the love and affection she is desperate for.

A third dog left, little Fox, who was identified and had been waiting for his owners since his arrival earlier this week.

So three out and (hush) no arrivals today…..










Patrouille  – ADOPTED thanks to Isa.