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Dogs and kids (again!)

I am sure many of you will have heard the terrible news of the four year old girl who was mauled to death by a recently adopted rescue dog in England earlier this week. Naturally there have been numerous discussions on various websites, and many people have sent us emails to ask us our opinion.

Well, firstly this was a horrific event and the family does have our sympathy. BUT….

We are really concerned that all refuge dogs will be tarred with the same brush. We don’t know the full story and probably never will, but there are some golden rules that we follow at the SPA.

We always ask if the family has any children. We know for a fact that some of our dogs are NOT good with children, and we tell people this quite clearly.

For the dogs who are abandoned, we ask their former owners to fill out a form to provide us as much information as possible. This includes if the dog has lived with children, and if so, was this trouble free. Puppies do “mouth”, and this should not be considered biting. It is perfectly normal puppy play, but should be discouraged as when the dog gets bigger, so do its teeth. Please don’t confuse it with aggression, though! We have had several puppies brought back as they “bite”. No they don’t, you just haven’t trained them!

For the majority of dogs we do not know how they are with children, as they have been found straying and we don’t know their history. However a couple of our employees and several of our volunteers have children of various ages, and so quite often we can “test” dogs. But as with the famous “cat test” it is easier to see if a dog is NOT all right with children than if he is.

For the dogs who are lucky enough to spend time with foster families before adoption things are much clearer.

However as a general rule, remember the following:
When you welcome any animal into your family, no matter where that dog came from, you take on a great responsibility. When you choose a dog, please think carefully about your lifestyle and how the dog will fit into your family. Of course rescue centres have the responsibility to tell you the truth about a dog and advise you accordingly. But once the decision is made it’s your responsibility, not the breeders, the refuge’s, the seller’s, it’s yours! Whether the dog is a pup, a rescue or a dog you got free from leboncoin (boo, hiss), from the minute these paws are over your doorstep it’s up to you to teach both the dog and your children to live in harmony. This can take work and a lot of time and effort. If you aren’t prepared for this you really should think long and hard before bringing a dog into your household because otherwise you are putting your children at risk. Children must be taught how to act safely around dogs and must be supervised at all time.

Please don’t give up on refuge dogs because of one tragic case.

Meanwhile back at the refuge, as expected, Obelix found his owners (a big thank you again to Martine for keeping him safe and warm at her house). Mozart was adopted too, just after I had finished writing all about him for the urgent appeal. I am happy really, honest!

Dougal, one of the Magic Roundabout puppies left too, and lovely Prue has been adopted after nearly 6 months at the refuge. She didn’t want to leave, which was quite upsetting for the staff, but at the same time it shows that she can’t have been too unhappy at the SPA. Oh, and Guessy, a young French bulldog left too. We hadn’t even bothered putting photos of her on our page; dogs of this breed are rehomed without any problems at all!

So all in all not too bad, despite the arrival of yet another pup and the return of Molly after 2 weeks. But we have great plans for her, so all should be well.

Fifteen year old Obelix is reunited with his owner!








Mozart leaves! He was just about to be my urgent appeal!








Prue leaves; I hope she won’t miss us too much!








And foster mum supreme, Lisa, says goodbye to Dougal
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The sun shines again. A bit.

After a couple of pretty miserable days the sun shone again today, both literally and metaphorically. Several volunteers came to walk the dogs and the husky who was brought in yesterday found his home.

Then came the excellent news that the owners of the 15 year old English setter had been found. This old boy arrived on Monday in fabulous condition and with a tattoo, which would usually enable us to locate his owner. However after 15 years the tattoo had become illegible, and so we had to rely on Facebook  and good will to do the work. Over 2000 people shared the picture of the dog, who incidentally was lucky enough to be taken home to the house of Martine, one of volunteers. No one wants to see a dog of that age in a kennel in the rain.

Anyway today all the work paid off and his owners were found. Thanks to the ever tenacious Carole and also to Facebook follower, Catherine, for solving the mystery. The owners live in Toulouse so won’t be able to come to collect their dog till tomorrow, but I think it will be quite a reunion!

In other news yesterday saw the completion of the Anatolian Exodus, with Titan leaving for his new home, near to Marseilles.

And today we said goodbye to Jimmy. He arrived on October 11th and when the employees and volunteers saw him, they said “English”.  It is true that we seem to be drawn to this kind of dog (small, bit griffony, wire furred). So I was not very surprised when the woman who arrived to adopt him today turned out to be a fellow countrywoman! Jimmy is going to keep his name and has a lovely friend, Lola to play with. The photo only shows Jimmy, not his new mum, Nicky, as she had not expected to pose, and was “not looking her best”. She looked fine to me, but in any case she follows the site and blog and has promised to send photos of Jimmy once he has settled in.

So today wasn’t too bad, although six dogs have arrived in the past two days, which is not ideal. Still, onwards and upwards.

Oh, and Baby Eddy did a nice solid poo. I took a photo. Don’t worry, I won’t put it on the blog, but it did make me very happy. I am a woman of simple pleasures!

Swing find his mum












Jimmy leaves



A Poem For The SPA Carcassonne..by Michele

Today has not been a fantastic day at the SPA and just when Darcey and I were feeling a bit glum we received a poem written by Pitchou’s mum Michele which really cheered us up. So thank you Michele and I hope all our followers enjoy it as much as we did…

SPA Carcassonne..by Michele

In a big walled city in the South of France,

Dogs and cats sit and wait their chance.

All shapes and sizes to come and see

If you’re looking for a bit of furry company.


Boys and girls,some are young,some old,

Some small and timid ,others big and bold

Long hair and short hair,tricoloured or plain

They all want a home to get out of the rain.


They all have a story,most we’ll never know

Just what made their owners say ‘it’s time for you to go’

A life in the kennels is better than none

But why be in prison when you could be out in the sun.


Walks in the country a bed and some feed

A kind gentle owner,a walk on a lead

They don’t hold a grudge against humans at all

They just want their freedom to play with a ball.


Winter is coming and when you’re snug and warm

Think of them in the kennel all cold and forlorn,

So come find a ‘mutt’ or a pedigree

You can choose your new friend for a reasonable fee.


So open your door and open your heart

And give a furry friend a brand new start !

Here’s Pitchou who  inspired Michele to write the poem!

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No news but good news!

Well, unsurprisingly given the horrendous weather, there were very few visitors to the refuge today. Equally there were no dog walks taking place, although one hardy volunteer, Rob (a Brit; we are used to rain) did show up to offer his services. You may find it strange that we do not walk our dogs when it is cold and wet. Many people argue that we should, that they walk their own animals, so why should refuge dogs not be allowed out.

The reason is that your dog can go inside to get warm afterwards, SPA dogs can’t. It takes them ages to dry off and they just curl up, wet and miserable in their kennels. Far better to leave them warm and dry. After all, the rain cannot last forever, can it???

The employees and I took the opportunity to have a bit of a clear out of the office, which we don’t always have time to do. There were no new arrivals but two dogs did find their homes. Neither dog had actually entered the refuge yet, but two people came in to tell us about dogs they had found, and in both cases we were able to match them up with dogs who had been reported missing.

The other really good bit of news (apart from the lovely Florentines that were brought in by one of our supporters, Jane), concerns a dog that has come to be known as Baby Eddy. He arrived at the refuge on October 22nd having been found straying, and immediately fell very ill. He was rushed to the vet where he spent five days under transfusion. Tests for parvovirus were negative, but the symptoms were very similar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_parvovirus). Things were not looking good.

The vet phoned us on Wednesday last week to tell us that Baby Eddy was probably not going to make it, as he was not eating and his veins were collapsing due to the transfusions. No, no, no, we said. On instructions from Carole I raced to the vet to try to tempt Baby Eddy with some raw burger meat and BINGO! Mika joined me there and took Baby Eddy back to the refuge where he could have more company (the vets, quite rightly had him in isolation, but the loneliness was making him lose the will to live)

For a while it was touch and go. Baby eddy has been living in the infirmary, where transfusions and injections continued for 4 more days. This was supplemented by more burger meat, and chicken and ham slices (thanks to Moira and Simone). Then all of a sudden Baby Eddy turned a corner. Today he was eating normal (though sensitive digestion) dog food and leaping everywhere to get cuddles.

I cannot believe the sense of relief we are all feeling. It has been pretty much round the clock care and worry.  Needless to say he lost a lot of weight, but his appetite is now excellent and he is getting better in leaps and bounds. It is going to be very difficult to put him into an outside kennel, which we will have to do as soon as he is fully recovered.

We are going to be looking for a very special home for this little dog who has undergone so much. If only I had room for one more……

Baby Eddy on Friday, feeling very sorry for himself










Baby Eddy today, bright as a button!






Mangy Mutts!

Well, after the relative joy of the past few days, today has been far less uplifting.

Last week a puppy arrived suffering from terrible mange; it was so severe that we did not even post a picture of him on Facebook. We prefer to reveal him to the public only once he has recovered enough to not scare children. He will be a beautiful looking dog once he has been treated. He is not the only one, though; we have had 10 dogs brought in with mange in less than a month.

And today yet another pup has arrived with this condition. So I thought I would write a bit about this disease. Carole has already put a picture on the SPA Facebook page to alert our followers as to what to look out for, but for non-French speakers or non-Facebookers, here is an English explanation.

Mange (la gale in French) is a skin disease caused by tiny parasitic mites. The mites live on or in the dog’s skin, causing discomfort and coat abnormalities. It can affect both wild and domestic mammals. Most forms of mange are highly contagious and affected dogs become extremely itchy and suffer patchy hair loss from scratching, biting and licking. It is usually most noticeable on the ears, which can become bald at the tips, although this can be due to other diseases, too.

Mange is a non-seasonal and can affect dogs of all breeds and ages. Young dogs with weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable, as are stray dogs, as they too will have weakened defences. Mange can also be passed to humans.

So how do we deal with mange at the SPA? Well, clearly it is important to isolate the dog in order to stop the disease from spreading. The dog then receives a course of anti-parasitic drops and regular baths. Six weeks or so later and all is well!

So if you see notices on the boxes asking you not to touch the dogs within, it is often because they are undergoing treatment. Yes, it is lovely to say hello to a dog and give him a biscuit, but if you then touch the rest of the dogs in the refuge, an epidemic can break out.

Of course you may be a dog owner who is now in a panic and are worrying about how to protect your best friend against this parasite. Well if you follow these four steps, all should be well.

  • Ensure that your dog has a healthy diet.
  • Control all parasites regularly, such as fleas and worms.
  • Stay current on all vaccinations. (The annual vaccination does not protect against mange, but it certainly helps with overall health).
  • Stay alert for any signs of the disease and see a vet immediately.

Finally if you see a dog with this condition, please don’t shy away or refuse to help him; he needs you! Just be sure to wash your hands as well as any bedding you may have used to transport the dog. The lovely people who brought us three of the Anatolian shepherd pups did just this. And look how beautifully they all turned out!

A dog with mange and the mite responsible



I Would Drive 500 Miles..and I Would Drive 500 More

Yesterday Darcey told you about all the dogs who left the refuge and we are still smiling! It was fantastic to think that last night eleven of our dogs ( eight adopted and 3 into foster homes) were in loving families instead of in concrete kennels. That’s what we want for all of our dogs and we will do whatever it takes to find the right family for them. Our superb website helps so much and we know how lucky we are to have a volunteer IT consultant!

Its not often that I open an email from a dog savvy couple, with an enormous enclosed garden and who have lots of experience of rescue dogs asking if we can recommend two of our dogs for them! Andrew and Marie recently lost two of their three older doggies but were ready to adopt again.Their main remit was that the dogs were not too much for Sheba, their old lady, and were good with cats.

So we made our recommendations and between us we came up with a short list! A week or so ago they traveled over here from near Biarritz with Sheba and after trying several combinations of dogs decided that they loved the dynamics of Lemon (now Buddy) and Shakira. These two daft youngsters raced around playing with each other but were very respectful to Sheba who joined in the fun for a bit and then let them get on with it. Clever dogs, little did they know it was their chance of a lifetime! Andrew and Maria reserved the two dogs who were then sterilized on Thursday ready for yesterday’s departure.

When a couple make the effort to drive all the way to Carcassonne with an elderly dog in tow and then have to wait until the dogs of their choice are sterilized we certainly don’t mind delivering the dogs . So yesterday morning I arrived at the refuge at 11am to pick them up. In the mornings the refuge is closed to the public and only a few staff members are around.  I marveled at how quiet and peaceful it was and even managed to sneak into the infirmary for a cuddle with baby Eddy a poorly pup, and fed him some chicken. I also watched our impressive Rotties play in the park, really I could have quite happily pottered around all morning but I knew that Andrew and Maria would be anxiously awaiting Lemon and Shakiras arrival. I loaded them into the car and off we set for a lovely drive over to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

It was great to receive an update this morning telling us that Lemon and Sharkira have settled down really well. Life for these two will be long walks, playing in the garden and a warm comfy bed at night. That’s what we want for all of our dogs and we don’t care where we have to drive our dogs to achieve that.  Yesterday wasn’t a 500 mile drive but it often is much longer, distance is no object and we would do it every week to secure such a future for our dogs!

Today, being the first Sunday of the month meant that we were open. Lots of volunteers turned up to walk the dogs as well as Team Sport! Team Sport consists of our soldier/volunteer Ronan and his friends who run or jog with the dogs in the countryside around the SPA. This really tires out some of our high energy dogs so we will have nice tired dogs tonight!

To add to this weekends great news our handsome boy Shadow was adopted today! Three year old Shadow arrived just over a month ago so hasn’t had long to wait for his forever family. A golden Labrador with a gentle nature who is going to make a great family pet!

Lemon (now Buddy) and Shakira



Shadow with his new family


Le grand depart

Hold onto your hats everyone! No fewer than eight dogs left the refuge today! Been quite a while since we had a day like this!

Lemon (now Buddy) and Shakira left for their new home this morning. A big thanks to Moira for driving them half way, I will let her tell you all about it tomorrow. Then this afternoon saw the continuation of the Anatolian Exodus, with two of the three remaining Anatolian Shepherd puppies, Gargamelle and Gaia, leaving for pastures new. Titan will leave us on Wednesday. 

We then said goodbye to one of my favourites, Spirit, who was found in a terrible state and taken to the refuge in Castelnaudary, from where we collected her towards the end of September. Finally a loving family and some stability for this lovely girl, who has been moved from pillar to post for most of her life. Next to go was Cherry, who has a lovely new black labrador for a brother. Flurry left just before closing time, another dog who had been homed and then brought back due to a divorce. This time her luck seems to have well and truly changed.

Moka also left. This is the border pup who had been in foster care with volunteer Val for two months. He has gone to live with friends of the owners of two other SPA borders, Sake and Lolipop (remember them?). Like them Moka will take part in a programme of educating school children to love and respect animals. This is only possible because Moka is such a well-balanced dog, and he (and we) have Val to thank for that. If there were a gold medal for fostering, we would be handing one out to Val. I am sure she is a bit tearful at saying goodbye to her baby, but that leaves room for a new temporary member of the family.

Fostering is not for everyone. I failed dismally. The only time I fostered I fell in love and refused to let the dog go. It takes a special kind of person.

On the subject of fosters, Moise, the old border collie, has gone to live with another border-loving family. He is very lucky as he is old and arthritic, so a winter at the SPA would not suit him one bit. He will have to undergo an operation in the coming weeks for a tumour on his unmentionables, but at least he will be in the warm to recover.

Coraline left for a foster family too. She will spend 2 weeks with Isabelle, one of our volunteers before moving to her “permanent” family. And foster mum extraordinaire, Edith, took Frizzy home to try and build up her confidence and get her ready for a new life.

So if you add those to the eight adoptees, the refuge has eleven fewer dogs tonight. Or at least it would have had three dogs not arrived. But tonight I am still smiling!

The SPA is open tomorrow as it is the first Sunday of the month. Let’s hope I am still smiling this time tomorrow!

Darcey is happy


Introducing a new dog to an oldie!

Today the refuge was shut for All Saints Day and apart from the arrival of one dog, dumped in the external boxes (how brave of you!), nothing happened. So even though today isn’t Sunday, we have a Sunday-type blog!

This week we received an update on Habbie (Noosa) who was recently adopted into a family with an older dog, Biba. Biba was used to having all the love and attention to herself, and her owners were quite nervous about bringing a new, young dog home. Would Biba be upset and feel usurped? As this week’s email and photos show, all their fears were unfounded. Biba has found a new lease of life and the two dogs play happily together.

Introducing two or more unfamiliar dogs is tricky no matter what their ages, but the task is even more complicated when one dog is a hyper puppy and the other is an aging pooch used to being the top dog. However when introductions are done correctly the outcome can be really amazing!

So how do you set up these introductions for a successful outcome? Please remember that dogs, given a choice, do not  raise puppies when they are advanced in age. They want to raise their “kids” when they still have the energy to keep up with them. It’s not that the puppies are “obnoxious” to them – it’s just that they have another state of mind and.in order to be around the older dogs the puppy has to learn social skills.

It is sensible to introduce your old and new dogs on neutral territory. This reduces the risk that your existing dog will see your new puppy as an intruder in his space. Watch both dogs for signs of discomfort and aggressive posture. If the hair on your dog’s back stands up, if he bears his teeth or if he stares for a prolonged period, separate the dogs and try the introduction again on another day. Feed older and younger dogs separately. This keeps your puppy’s nose out of your older dog’s bowl and prevents jealous fights over food. Eating together should be one of the last things your dogs learn to do..Remove objects from the environment your dogs can’t or won’t share or that might start fights. Make sure both your older pooch and your new puppy have their own food and water bowls, beds, toys, leashes and other supplies.

It is very important to offer your older dog at least as much love and attention as you did before the new puppy moved in. Having two or more dogs should not mean that each dog is loved less. Allow your older dog to warn your puppy with a snarl or growl. This is natural behaviour and is designed to set limits for the puppy. Make sure your older dog has a safe place away from the boisterous puppy. Just like small children can tire adults, puppies can quickly get on the nerves of older dogs. Let your older dog have a break in a safe place the new puppy is not allowed.

Remember that a young dog will have different exercise needs to an older dog so structure your walks accordingly. It’s nice to reward all your pets for behaving nicely but when you offer love, praise and treats you are settling both dogs up for a happy future together!

Habbie ( Noose) and Biba are perfect examples of how well youngsters and older dogs can get on. Hopefully their success story will inspire more families with older dog to give a home to a youngster and don’t forget, should you ever run into any problems with a SPA dog, just lift the phone and call us. We have two dog trainers on staff and are more than happy to help! And if your French isn’t up to it, just send a message to this website and we will happily give advice.

Habbie (Noosa) and Biba

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And the bubble bursts!

Usually the departure of three dogs would be cause for celebration. And of course we are delighted for today’s lucky adoptees. But bearing in mind that six new dogs arrived, the champagne corks will have to stay in for now.

Two of today’s adoptions were the start of what I am calling the Anatolian Exodus. Yes, two of the Anatolian shepherds, who arrived in such appalling condition in early October left the SPA today. One of them, Gargantua, is going all the way to Haute Savoie, his new owner having made a 12 hour round trip to collect him. Another, Giga (now Ruby) is staying closer to home, but with a family who already knows the breed well and are also known to the SPA. In fact years ago, when I was a new volunteer, they adopted a dog called Rocky (now Roxy) and it was wonderful to hear news of him  and his adventures.
The third departure was that of another puppy, one of the Egyptian Deities, Apis. He leaves five of his siblings behind. So if you like the look of him, don’t despair, there are plenty more waiting for homes.

In terms of new arrivals, one of them was identified and reclaimed immediately. Four of the others have albums on Facebook, but the fifth, a puppy, is in such a terrible state (yes, at 8 weeks) that he may not survive.

The two littlies, a York and a teeny tiny cross breed may be reclaimed, or at least being small, should be adopted soon. One of the others, lovely Diesel who was found in Esparaza, will probably have a long wait and as for Djamon, he is a beautiful beauceron whose owner phoned us up to book a slot to abandon his dog then decided to throw the dog out instead. There is a reason we ask people to wait their turn. It is so we can insure that there is a space available. How many times do we have to say “The refuge is full” before people stop treating us like a dustbin for their unwanted dogs and cats?

Today’s departures did not free a single box, as all three puppies were sharing their boxes with their siblings. The big new arrivals take up far more space. Oh, for a world where people sterilise their dogs and love them forever!

Everything was going so well this week; my bubble has burst.

Gargantua leaves for the Haute Savoie










Giga (now Ruby) leaves too










Apis is adopted












But Djamon arrives, two weeks early, but his owner didn’t care enough to bring him in as arranged










Chiffon’s prospects are much better, he is small and young


“Sam” lost and found!

For the third day in a row I have a smile on my face. This time it is for quite a selfish reason!

In a previous blog I mentioned how hard it is for volunteers to bring dogs in, knowing as we do how overcrowded the refuge is, so I was feeling very guilty about a little dog that I brought in myself. Okay he was small, but he was adding to the numbers and that is the last thing we need at the moment.

Nearly two weeks ago I spotted a small jack russell type dog wandering round looking lost at the refuge gates. Several other volunteers saw him too, but we were unable to catch him. Then as I left the refuge just over a week ago I saw him again. It was a couple of days after Team Sport had been at the SPA, and I was glad none of them were there to see me as I sprinted at the speed of a slug after the little dog. But success was my reward and Sam, as I named him (cos I first saw him on a samedi) arrived at the refuge.

It wasn’t until yesterday that photos of him were put on Facebook, but the result was immediate. “Sam’s” mum came to collect him today, having seen him on the SPA Facebook page. He is now identified and so if he does go walkabout again, we will be able to reunite him with his owner straightaway. With any luck he will have learned his lesson and that is the last we will see of him!

Good week so far; hope tomorrow won’t bring me down to earth with a bump.

Sam leaves after 8 days at the refuge. Found by his owner thanks to Facebook!