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A Friday Miracle

I have been volunteering at the SPA for over four years now, and I thought I had seen and heard just about everything. But today I truly feel stunned and amazed. And very happy.

On 26th February the SPA welcomed four dogs whose owner had died. All of them were small and varied in age from 2 to 12 years. All but one of them is identified in the name of the recently deceased owner. So as is customary, we sent a letter to the owner of the fourth dog to the address on the database in Paris.

And guess what? The owners came to collect Charly today. They live in the Herault and their dog had disappeared from their garden there almost eight years ago. Yes, you read that right. EIGHT YEARS! They just couldn’t believe the news (or their luck) and after several phone calls back and forth (checking tattoo numbers, exchanging photos and descriptions), they hastened to Carcassonne to collect Charly. I am not usually at the SPA on a Friday, but I couldn’t resist, and it was one of the most wonderful things I have seen there: Charly recognised them!!!

I guess we will never ever know how Charly came to be living with the woman in Carcassonne. He is 10 years old and has been missing since he was two and a half! I cannot imagine the emotions of either Charly or his owners. I think of all those people who are still looking for their dogs years after they went missing, and those who have given up hope and are no longer looking. And how they would feel if a letter arrived to tell them that their long-lost friend was at a refuge.

I was a bit teary, to be honest. But I was not the only one!

Yet again the benefits of identification are clear! Even if it took eight years for Charly to be found. In fact usually a vet will check a dog’s identification on the first visit. And Charly had been well-looked after, there is no doubt. He has even been castrated during his “missing years”. We have no idea why his tattoo was not checked, but the main thing is that Charly is back at home and is, as we speak, getting reacquainted with his family. This includes a young master (who was a toddler when Charley disappeared) and two doggy friends, one of whom Charly knows from before!

The couple have promised to send us photos and I for one cannot wait!

If you find a dog, please give his owners a chance to find him. Ask a vet to check to see if he is chipped or tattooed, even if you would like to keep him for yourself. Imagine how YOU would feel if your dog was lost and you had no news of him.

Other refuge news can wait till tomorrow; today is Charly’s day!

Charly. Nine days at the SPA, but missing for eight years before that!

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Internet brings love!

We live in a modern era. There are so many ways to meet a life partner. Some of us meet our match at work, in a social situation, avenues that have been open for decades. Internet dating is a relatively modern phenomenon, but can be just as successful in helping bring people together.

Today an internet romance came to fruition when the two parties met. On one side we had a human, Gabriella, who was obviously the more active in terms of her choice. On the other side we had a dog, Calysta, who was busy being adored from afar. We knew that providing the chemistry was right, it would be Calysta’s ticket to freedom.

Calysta, you may remember, was found on a well-known dog walking route, and although she had clearly had an owner, they did not make any efforts to find their dog (who, guess what, was not identified). Gabriella had seen her on the website and was sure this was the girl for her! So today Calysta found her new home and we wish her and Gabriella every happiness.

Another lucky girl was Clara, whose brother Rocco left us last week. Again she had been spotted online, and although her new owners had come to meet her, she was unable to leave her kennel to meet their dog, as she was recovering from a nasty tummy bug. So rather than taking any risks, she had been reserved pending a compatibility test. No problems there, by all accounts, so Clara now has a jack russell as her new buddy!

And there was a third lucky girl. Beautiful Cora, a seven year old Anglo, was brought to the refuge having been found wandering many miles from her home. She was tattooed, and her owner came to collect her immediately. I am pleased for her, and sad for the gentleman who brought her in, as he had planned to adopt her. And if I could get away with it, I would be tempted too! As it was, I had to be satisfied with a lovely cuddle.

Loads of volunteers showed up to walk dogs, and with one exception they were all girls. So it was a real ladies day at the SPA!

Calysta (now renamed Karla, which means “free and strong” in Danish) – ADOPTED








Clara  and her new family







And beautiful Cora – Reclaimed


The wheel of fortune…..

Today a lady drove all the way from Arachon, a round trip of some seven hours, to collect her two dogs from the SPA. There is a lesson here. This lady lived in a nearby village until very recently. When she moved away to nurse her ailing father, she gave away her dogs “free to a good home”. Having spoken to her, it appears that the first of the dogs, Bonnet Red, arrived at the SPA the very day he was given away, and his friend, Chispa, was found in the external boxes on Monday.

The dogs were not identified, (incidentally it is illegal to give away or sell unidentified dogs), so we had no way of contacting the original owner. And no way of knowing that she wanted her dogs. But her daughter saw the dogs on the SPA Facebook page, and an emergency trip to Carcassonne was made!

When she arrived to collect them, she found a third dog, who had supposedly been rehomed earlier. All three have now left and are identified.

How many times do we have to say it, Free to a good home is a bit of a lottery for the dog. These dogs  were lucky that their original came to collect them, but there are doubtless many more “rehomed” dogs in refuges throughout France, with their original owners unaware of their plight.

In other refuge news, we had two new arrivals, another puppy (a black male shepherd cross) and lovely Ginger, who is bound to have an owner, but will they reclaim her before someone else snaps her up? The clock is ticking and Ginger is not identified….

The Free to a Good Home Lottery








Ginger arrives


A metaphorical pigeon arrives….

Okay, money is exchanging hands and beers are being bought to settle bets. Last night Moira told us that of the five dogs who left for the UK, the first to be reserved is ….(wait for it)… HOOD! Yes, just one week after he arrived, this fabulous dog has found his new family! So that answers the question as to who will be the first to leave.

I was going to see if we should take bets on who would be next, but it appears that as soon as one of the SPA Carcassonne dogs is available for adoption (following castration and evaluation of behaviour) he is reserved. I say this because today Galileo was put up for adoption and he, too, was reserved immediately!

So NOW will you believe us when we say that the SPA Carcassonne has the best dogs in the world?!

Despite some nasty-looking clouds, the rain held off this afternoon, and volunteers tried to walk the dogs who had not been walked this weekend. We welcomed a newbie, Sylvie, to our team, as well, and she soon found her feet thanks to Anoushka who showed her the ropes.

Of the five dogs who arrived (sigh), four were identified. The owners of Tommy  had already contacted us on Facebook to tell us he was missing, which is always a good sign. The two spaniels should leave tomorrow. Not sure about the border collie. He is clean and appears to be well cared for until you feel how thin he is.

The non-identified dogs, a puppy, has been named “Pigeon”, for reasons that will be obvious if you are familiar with the French expression “to treat someone like a pigeon”. The people who abandoned this puppy seriously thought we would believe their bizarre tale about how they found him. We were not born yesterday. I just hope the novelty of the other Christmas presents they got last a bit longer.

The refuge is very full……..

Tommy- RECLAIMED (thanks to his microchip)

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And 4 month old Pigeon arrives

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Two happy goodbyes; one sad farewell.

Well, last night’s blog has provoked much discussion, as expected, along with a fair few anecdotes. The only thing I would like to add is that whereas castration/ sterilisation will not necessarily change a dog’s behaviour,  it will DEFINITELY stop it having puppies, and fewer puppies means fewer adult dogs in refuges.

As you know, yesterday was the SPA regular Sunday open day. And whereas there were no adoptions, there were lots and lots of walks. I lost count of how many dogs got out in the lovely sunshine, so thanks to everyone who came along and thanks to Di for (wo)manning the cake stall. We were spoilt.

Someone else who was spoilt yesterday was the old man of the SPA, whom we had named Hordage (which means literally “past his expiration date”). He had been brought in just over 6 weeks ago as a complete bag of bones after yet another case of mistreatment. We did our best for him, feeding him the best quality food (thanks Nath) and letting him sleep in the warmth of the infirmary. Despite initial hopes that he would recover, we soon realised that it was not fair to make him struggle on. He could no longer hold himself upright and would fall several times per day. Yesterday he spent a couple of hours in the sunshine being patted and fed cakes, and this morning we said our final goodbyes.  Hordage was spoken to with gentle words and held lovingly as he went over the rainbow bridge, because that is how we do things at the SPA Carcassonne. We will miss him and it was a sad way to start the week.

On a positive note, the lovely boxer who was at the gate yesterday morning found his owner (thanks to the photos put on Facebook) and he is now identified. Hercule (aka Houdini) , who is a regular visitor, was collected yet again by his ever patient but despairing owners.

Less positively, just after the staff left the refuge for lunch, a small female dog was abandoned in the outside box. Such courageous people; they couldn’t even bring their dog in and tell us a bit about her so that we could find her a suitable home. Chispa is quite distinctive looking, a dachshund sized spaniel, and so if you know who her owners are, please let us know, as we would like to contact them.

Chispa is not the only new arrival. As Facebook pictures make clear, after a week of mostly good news and several adoptions, the refuge is full again!




















Chispa – Found at the gate. Two other dogs arrived aswell








And Hordage went over the Rainbow Bridge. Run free, old man!

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A Vets Plea….

This status update appeared on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and I thought it would be an interesting thing to re-post. Thanks to Helene and Rosa for the translation, which will appear on Facebook when this link is shared.

“I’m a vet. Some details changed or omitted for anonymity purposes and because I’ll get flamed for this.

Today a man brought his dog in to me. The dog was a large, boisterous adolescent puppy. He hurtled into the room, bouncing up to me excitedly, wagging his tail all the time and nudging at my hand with his muzzle. His big squishy paws crashed against my chest each time he paused to greet me, as he bounded around the room investigating all the smells. He was an unusual cross, very striking to look at and obviously a bright and energetic dog. He was adorable.
The history went like this:
The dog had been bought as a tiny puppy by a couple who were told it was a “designer” cross between two specific small breeds. Now, if the people who bought this puppy had had the slightest inkling about what they were doing it would have been immediately obvious to them that this was most certainly not a cross between two small breeds. But anyway, they didn’t have a clue so they bought the cute little puppy from this dubious source (probably at a cost of several hundred pounds) and took it back to their family home, complete with toddler.
The dog grew a bit and it became clear that it was actually going to be really big. It was bouncy, energetic and destructive. It kept racing around and knocking over their small child. So they rehomed it to a family member.
The family member also had children but they were slightly bigger children. The family member really wanted to do the right thing, so they tried to “discipline” the dog. The dog began to show occasional signs of aggression and was completely hyperactive in the home, destructive and unmanageable. I was not surprised to hear this, since it was obvious to me from this dog’s heritage that it was the sort of dog which had significant needs in terms of exercise and stimulation. In an attempt to magically resolve the issues the family member had the dog neutered. Which unsurprisingly made no difference.
Today the dog was brought in to be put to sleep. It had growled very aggressively when a child had put its face near his, and between this and an imminent change in circumstances the family member felt unable to manage the dog any more. He had tried local and national rescue organisations, all of which were full. He had nobody to care for the dog overnight tonight. He was not able to take the dog home, partly because of safety concerns and partly because the decision had been taken together as a family that it was the right thing to do.
So I put this healthy, affectionate, vibrant dog to sleep while it munched on treats and the third owner in its short life cried into his fur. Then when it was just me and the body of this poor puppy I had a good old cry myself.
I know there will be people who think I was right to put down a dog who has shown any signs of aggression under any circumstances. I disagree.
I know there will be people who think I was wrong to put down a dog when I could have taken it and found it a new home. I disagree.
I also know that there will be many many people who have no idea that this is happening all the time in this country because of irresponsible ignorant greedy people, selling dogs to irresponsible ignorant feckless people, who then pass them on to naive and thoughtless “rescuers” who eventually get to the end of their tether and bring them to me for euthanasia. All the time.
These are the dogs who bite children in the home due to a total lack of knowledge, reasonable expectations and effort to socialise them adequately.
These are the dogs whose owners can afford four figure sums to buy the latest random mongrel “breed” with a stupid made-up name, but cannot afford fifty quid to get it vaccinated, far less any money at all to treat even minor illnesses.
These are the dogs who clog up rescue centres all over the country, waiting along with thousands and thousands of others for the home with no children, no other pets and eight-foot fences, with an owner who has experience of managing behavioural problems, works from home, has stainless steel furniture and can write blank cheques to pay for the inherited illnesses the dog suffers from. Homes which don’t actually exist.
These are the dogs who I have to put down because I know that it is more responsible of me to painlessly take their life than to condemn them to wait with the rest of the enormous population of “difficult” dogs sitting in rescue kennels all over the country.
Please, please, I implore you. Get advice before you take on a dog – from a vet, a qualified positive behaviourist, the Kennel Club, the Blue Cross, the Dog’s Trust, the RSPCA – the information is there for the taking, there is no excuse. Go to a decent breeder, who has a waiting list, or a rescue centre which really grills you thoroughly before matching you with a pet. Find out how to bring your puppies up properly so if you do find your circumstances change then at least they are rehomable. Make sure you can afford to pay for the unexpected. Make sure your expectations are fair.
Please, because I can’t keep having to do this.”


Please make sure your expectations are realistic and train your dog!
Vet examining dog

Pocket Picked Today!

Well today the weather was nice, lots of dogs were walked and there was one adoption!

Today tiny Pocket, a ten month old Cavalier Kings Charles was adopted! When Pocket arrived we were sure that this tiny cute girl would soon be reclaimed.  Of course Pocket wasn’t identified so all we could do was hope that her owners would call to say that she was missing. Days and weeks past but no one seemed to be looking for the gorgeous little girl.

One of our volunteers took pity on her and fostered her so she did not have to face the trauma of a kennel and this meant we could get an accurate picture of how Pocket behaved around other dogs, cats and children. She was great with all of them but unsurprisingly enough seemed to think that her bed was the sofa so we suspect that Pocket has definitely been a lap dog! Like all of our females, Pocket was sterilised before she left thus ensuring that she can never be used for breeding.

Many of our volunteers at the SPA are also foster families for pups, kittens or for dogs who arrive needing a little bit more tender loving care than life in a kennel can offer.  These foster families provide an extremely valuable role which helps us assess the dogs’ reaction to a home environment and lets us know which areas the dog may need a little help with. It’s not unusual for dogs who come into rescue to need a little help with toilet training, socialization or recall and being with a fosterer who will help with any issues, gives these dog a much better chance at a successful adoption. All of our foster families are very experienced and most have well balanced dogs and cats of their own which provides a perfect environment for a needy dog. Lots of our foster families have children who are very dog ‘savvy’ which provides fantastic socialization for our dogs. The foster family can give us a real insight into the personality of the dog which makes it far easier to find the perfect forever home.

Today was also a very special anniversary for 14 year old Rookie who was adopted by Jane two years ago!  Jane said today “it’s an honour having an oldie SPA dog to live out the rest of his life with me” its so very true and  I really wish more people would have this attitude!

Pocket adopted!



Rookie who was adopted two years ago today!



Three Adoptions, Despite The Weather!

Despite the horrid weather today we had three adoptions!

Paterson, a handsome Shepherd cross was spotted on our website by a young family and after taking him out for a walk and ensuring that he got on ok with their children, they reserved him and after a visit to the vets this week for a couple of snips he left today. He was literally jumping with joy when he saw his new family again, I am betting that there is going to be fun and games tonight in that household!

Rocco , a fifteen month old Jack Russell cross arrived at the SPA with his sister Clara at the start of February. Like most of the tiny cute dogs he hasn’t had long to wait and left today with his new family.

Last but not least to leave was our 20 month old Beauceron cross Djamon. When he arrived in October he was a bit of a timid but after lots of socialisation in the office he quickly regained his confidence and off he went today!

Like all young dogs these boys will need some training. We cannot stress enough the importance of training your dog. If you want a dog who you can let of leash and take anywhere you need to be willing to put the time and effort into training it. All dogs, rescue or not need to be shown what is acceptable behaviour and what is not and the best way to do this is to take them along to your local doggy school.

When families with young children adopt from the SPA they are always given the same advice: Supervise your dogs and children while they are together. This advice is also given from vets and trainers everywhere yet there still hundreds of dog bites each year, with over half of these injuries to children ages 5-9!

The bites are usually not a result of negligent parents leaving Fido to care for the baby while mum does household chores, oblivious to the needs of her children. In fact often the parents are standing watching both child and dog when the child was bitten. We are beginning to realise that the problem is often not lack of supervision. The problem is no one has taught parents what they should be watching for! And complicating matters further, lots of parents get confused by the good intentions of the child and fail to see when a dog is exhibiting signs of stress.

So here are some things to watch out for:-

• Watch for loose canine body language. Good dog body language is loose, relaxed, and wiggly. Look for curves in your dog’s body when he is around a child. Stiffening and freezing in a dog are not good. If you see your dog tighten his body, or if he moves from panting to holding his breath (he stops panting), you should intervene. These are early signs that your dog is not comfortable.

• Watch for inappropriate human behaviour. Intervene if your child climbs on or attempts to ride on your dog. Intervene if your child pulls the ears, yanks the tail, lifts the jowls or otherwise pokes and prods the dog. Don’t marvel that your dog has the patience of Job if he is willing to tolerate these antics. Be thankful your dog has good bite inhibition and intervene before it’s too late.

• Watch for avoidance behaviours. If your dog moves away from a child, intervene to prevent the child from following the dog. A dog that chooses to move away is making a great choice. He’s saying, “I don’t really want to be bothered, so I’ll go away.” However, when you fail to support his great choice and allow your child to continue to follow him, it’s likely the dog’s next choice will be, “Since I can’t get away, I’ll growl or snap at this kid to get the child to move away.” Please don’t cause your dog to make that choice.

• Listen for growling. Growling is an early warning sign of aggression. Heed it. If growling doesn’t work, the dog may escalate to snapping or biting. Growling is a clue that you should intervene between the dog and the child.
To all of our doggie owners, particularly those who also have children, please watch out for warning signs and keep both your children and dogs safe!

Paterson has a family!



Rocco leaves too!


Last but not least is Djamon.










Happy Ever After For Kaiser

Most of you will remember our excitement a month or so ago when our long timer Kaiser was adopted and will also remember our devastation when he was returned a week later because he chased their cat. Of course we had explained that he wasn’t good with cats but the family were confident that they could cope with this even although they did have a kitten.  So you can imagine our frustration when he was returned a week later!

Maybe this was meant to be because he was no sooner back when a super couple came to meet Kaiser and reserved him on the spot. They understood that he didn’t like cats but as they don’t either it was a match made in heaven. They have spent time enclosing their garden and today Kaiser has left the refuge forever!

This calm sociable boy was a favourite with lots of the volunteers and despite his size was a dream to take for a walk. He happily shared his kennel with many dogs and seemed resigned when they were adopted whilst he remained behind bars but his patience has paid off and he at last has his well-deserved happy ever after.

There were two more adoptions to follow, Sacripan and Star.We were never quite sure what breed Sacripan was, maybe a bit of border collie with a bit of spaniel in there too but one thing that we are sure of is that he is a handsome, friendly boy with the most amazing big paws!  Star is a 6 month old Shepherd cross who arrived at the refuge on Christmas eve with his ‘brother’ Trek. He is lucky not to be spending his adolescence in kennels and I hope that Trek will be adopted soon as well.

For all you lovers of small dogs, 4 of yesterday’s 7 arrivals are small and very, very cute. The owner of these poor dogs has died and with no family who can care for them they were brought to the SPA.  Neige and Colette are youngsters whilst Tim and Charly are 10 and 11 respectively. For small breed dogs this is not old and they are all in great condition so I am sure will be snapped up very quickly. This is just as well as these poor dogs must be confused and bewildered to find themselves at the SPA after having a loving owner to care for them.

Our lovely volunteer Anne Marie has returned to France after a year in the UK and today was her first day back at the refuge. In-between the showers she managed to walk Chiquet, Swiffer and Mabrouk so I hope that she isn’t too tired  tonight!

Kaiser leaves at last!



Sacripan adopted!



Star Adopted too!



Neige is 2 and needs a new home


Colette is only 5 and needs a home



Charly is 10 and needs a home



And Tim is 11


A Home For Willy….After 22 months!

After yesterday’s  sad news of Blanca’s return , today we have wonderful news. Willy our handsome nine year old Shepherd cross has found his forever family after 22 months at the refuge and Foxy who has only been with us a few weeks also left!

Willy was abandoned at the refuge in April 2012 and apart from the fact that he didn’t like other males was a really lovely boy. He was a gentle giant who had great obedience skills and was fine with children so it’s a bit of a mystery why he wasn’t snapped up before now.

Sometimes it’s just meant to be and I am betting that tonight he has already forgotten the SPA and is luxuriating in his new home with his new family.  I am sure that he is thinking that the 22 months wait was well worth it!

It really is news like this that perks up employees and volunteers alike and gives us the inspiration to keep going.

Two years in the refuge is far too long for any dog but we have 8 other dogs available for adoption who have been there longer than Willy. It makes you wonder why no one is choosing to adopt these dogs. They are all lovely dogs who would love a fresh start with a new family, so why are they being passed over?

When you adopt a rescue dog, especially one who has been with us for a while, you will know exactly what you are getting. We know all of our dogs little foibles, we can tell you whether they get on with all dogs or just some, how much exercise they will need, what training they will need and if they can live with children or cats. So before you leave with the dog you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. We are always honest about our dogs and encourage all of our adopters to consider what they expect from a dog before adoption.

Willy had just left when three year old Foxy was adopted by a super couple who are well know to the SPA. They adopted Buster a handsome black and tan Labrador cross nearly two years ago. Foxy was one of the lucky few dogs who only have weeks rather than years to wait for a home, I wish that they could all be so lucky!

Willy adopted after 22 months!


Foxy, off to live with Buster


Disco – 26 months and still waiting!




Carlo -24 months and still waiting!



Chico – 25 months and still waiting!