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Latest News

Ins and outs, ups and downs

Well, I think a record has been broken, but not a good one. I am not referring to the number of dogs who have arrived this year (over 40 so far, by the way), but the amount of time between a dog reaching his new home and being brought back. Laika (aka Fetide) was sterilised and left with a friend of her new owners on January 10th to convalesce post-operation. She joined her new family on Saturday, but by Sunday they had already contacted us to say that they were bringing this six year old setter back as she was not good with their cats.

The foster mum is a good friend of the refuge, so I will try not to be too critical, especially as her friend is an experienced rescuer. However I do wonder what is going through the head of this dog, who spent over two weeks in one home, then was moved to another 200 km away and then brought back to the refuge immediately afterwards. Perhaps I am a bit over-sensitive, but I for one feel sorry for her.

Laika should have no problem finding a home, as she is pretty and extremely affectionate, but if you have cats then she is not for you.

There are ways of integrating a new dog into a home with existing animals and we are happy to give advice on this should problems be experienced. There is no overnight solution, though, and time and patience (and a suitably flexible working lifestyle) are required.

In other refuge news, Adam and Eve were reclaimed by their owner and Albertine, was adopted. I am overjoyed for this lovely girl who was left alone in Quillan when her young owner moved back to her parent’s house in Lyon, leaving her dog behind.

In not such good news, lovely Fuji who arrived on Saturday went to see the vets, and he is 11 years old. This makes him, along with Tom, the oldest dog in the refuge, and getting them both a home has to be a priority, especially as the weather has just turned colder.

Fetide/ Laika is back









Albertine- ADOPTED













Adam and Eve – RECLAIMED
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And poor Fuji is 11 years old and needs a home!





Mother’s Milk Part 2

It is generally accepted that puppies need the discipline of their mothers and siblings in order to grow up to be well adjusted adult dogs.

Experts say that the best time in a puppy’s life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age. Some puppies arrive at the SPA very young, and this is why, where possible, they are looked after by foster families (preferably those who already have a dog or dogs to act as tutor). If they stay at the SPA, they are kept with their siblings. If you have a puppy from eight weeks (which is the youngest age at which we allow pups to leave the SPA), be prepared for more work than you would for an adult dog. That is where puppy school comes in, of course, and regular attendance can ward off many future problems, as can having an older, settled dog already in residence.

As an administrator of the SPA Facebook page I quite often see requests from people who want to wean a new-born puppy themselves, using a bottle and artificial milk. They think this will create a strong bond between them and the dog. No No NO! You are asking for a whole world of trouble. Maybe not initially, but studies show that many of the social and behavioural problems seen in adult dogs have their roots in too-early separation from the litter. Such dogs are frequently nervous, more prone to barking and biting and have a more difficult time with socialisation and training. And we know what happens when dogs start to misbehave in adult life….They are brought back to the SPA!

Males and females are not mixed at the SPA, unless one of the couple is neutered, so I am not sure where people think the new-born pups are coming from in any case! And no, we do not breed puppies to “sell”. Quite enough arrive as it is, thank you very much; why do you think all our adult females leave sterilised and that we insist that our female pups are sterilised at the age of six months?

One example of a skill taught by the mum is bite inhibition. This is where puppies are shown how hard they can bite without hurting the animal or person being bitten. If they are removed from their family too young, they are often teething. As with human babies, puppies’ mouths hurt and so they want to bite. If your hand or toes (or those of your children) are in the way, they will be bitten. And if your puppy has not learned any better, that bite will hurt. That is when problems arise.

New owners may think they have an aggressive puppy, whereas all they have is a baby needing the discipline they would have received from their mum or siblings had they not been taken away too early. Experienced owners can usually handle this quite well; however, new owners don’t know how to deal with it, and treat it as bad behaviour, often using “negative” disciplinary methods. Unfortunately, the negative corrections only make the problem worse and it becomes a vicious circle.

Now of course patience and dog training school can help you overcome these problems, and “club canins” are all over France. Please try to find one that uses positive reward-based training, not choke chains and punishment. But why go looking for problems by deliberately taking a puppy that has not had the basic skills taught to it by its mother?
Of course the problems of puppy trafficking are well known, and if you buy a puppy from anyone other than a reputable breeder, you have no idea where the pup comes from and what age he was when he was taken from his mum. Many puppies are brought to France from Eastern European and other countries’ puppy farms, where breeding mums are kept in appalling conditions. Don’t be fooled by the fact that you are buying the dog from a well-known shop. Gardening and DIY shops have no business selling puppies, in my opinion, and they are quite often unaware or indifferent to the origins of the pups. Go to a reputable breeder only, where you can see the mum with her pups!

Or better still, adopt a pup or adult dog from the SPA and be prepared to take him to puppy or adult dog school if necessary. At least you will not be putting money into the hands of dog traffickers, and you will be saving a life

PS If you are reading this in the UK (and I know we have followers there!) I am informed that many vets run puppy socialisation classes, as opposed to training per se. The pups get to play whilst the vet nurses explain what is healthy play, when to interrupt and why, and how to deal with mouthing etc . Once this socialisation has taken place the pups then go on to puppy class. However vets all agree that in terms of socialisation, nothing beats the firm but fair paw of a mother’s love!

These dogs are not at the SPA, but who can resist a beagle?!

Yet more arrivals…..

Believe it or not another five dogs arrived today, and although three of them were reclaimed, I am starting to feel really down. That makes thirty-eight dogs in this year.

Of course things have not been helped by the fact that the central database in Paris is down, so even if a dog is identified, there is no way of tracing its owners. No warning was given for this “maintenance work”, and all we know is that the site will be up and running on Monday. This reinforces my belief that it is a good idea to give your dog a collar with his phone number on it.

I was walking a dog today and I saw several dogs straying in the fields around the refuge. Now anyone who has visited us knows that the refuge has some interesting neighbours, and it is possible that these dogs belong to them. But it is also possible that at least some of them have been thrown out in the hope that they will magically make their way to the refuge. I am posting a photo here of a lovely looking girl who looks to be well looked after. Is anyone looking for her, perhaps?

Otherwise we had one (pre-planned) abandon, a 4 and a half year old Pyrenean Mountain Dog/ border collie cross who is okay with other dogs, children and cats. His owner doesn’t have time to look after him any more. The other arrival was that of a young dog who has an inverted eyelid. He may just be lost, or his owners may have panicked at the thought of paying a vets bill to have this cured. If by chance you are reading this, please come and collect your dog. The treatment costs nothing and this little boy deserves better than to be dumped for such a minor reason. Mind you, if that is the reason he has been dumped, maybe what he deserves is a better owner…..

This lovely looking girl is just hanging around in the fields. Does anyone know her?









Magnificent Dyson. Okay with other dogs, cats and children. 










Little Chino – minor treatment needed.


More arrivals, but two dogs leave….

This blog will be far more pedestrian after all the excitement of yesterday, but I will try to bring you up to date with the latest comings and goings.

Yesterday the owner of the little dog Galapagos, presumed brother of Ibiza, showed up to collect him. She was aware that identification is obligatory and said that she would get it done. Only it doesn’t work that way; no dog can leave us without identification, so one of the employees took Galapagos off to the vet and he left there with his owner. Better later than never.

The two other arrivals of yesterday are still waiting for their (perhaps) former owners, but otherwise should have no trouble finding new homes, as they are both small and youngish. Of the five (yes FIVE) arrivals of today, two have already been reclaimed and a third is identified but we have been unable to contact his owners as yet.

That is 33 dogs in so far this year, and it is only the 17th of January. This does not bode well for the year.

However, there is usually something positive to report. Yesterday saw the adoption of little Oslo (I could not understand why this little cutie had not left sooner), and today we said goodbye to little Sputnik. So that is two more in the warm.

Also yesterday Melanie worked her magic on Dingo, who came in looking like Bob Marley’s spare wig, after being left behind to fend for himself when his owners moved house. This tiny little chap should find a home without too much trouble, especially now we can see which end is which!










Sputnik – ADOPTED











Dingo Before and After
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The wait is finally over!

Well, for those of you who are not on Facebook or read this blog on my site first, the wait for the big announcement is finally over. Today, saw the adoption of Ugo and Uta. Yes, you did read that right. After almost two and a half years at the SPA, this brother and sister finally found a new home.

Their story is shocking, but also typical in many ways. They were brought into the refuge in August 2011 by their owners, who had adopted the two dogs from the SPA as puppies and were now moving to an apartment. However, these two dogs had spent their whole lives together and had not been socialised with other dogs. Nor are they good with cats. A future blog will deal with the issue of socialisation, but all I will say for now is that abandoning any dog due to a house move is just inexplicable to me. Abandoning a dog that is not socialised is worse, as obviously it is more difficult to find him a new home. And to abandon TWO such dogs makes our task of finding a new owner almost impossible. Hence why these two magnificent dogs have spent so long behind bars.

I would like to think that their former owners feel at least some shame, but I suspect they haven’t given their dogs a moment’s thought since abandoning them, probably in the same way they have forgotten  the excess furniture that they disposed of at the same time.

An event was created on Facebook in an attempt to find Ugo and Uta a home and this was shared with literally thousands of people. Funnily enough it was not thanks to this that they have been rehomed, rather it was by direct contact with the refuge. A couple of weeks ago a woman came to ask about dogs  in need, and this was followed by numerous emails. Yes, here was someone who genuinely wanted to save a life (or two). Once the preliminaries had been done, there was just one final question that should have been asked sooner; did the lady have any cats. We all held our breath as we waited for the answer. PHEW! And BINGO!

This was the point at which we informed the other volunteers. It was only fair to give everyone a chance to say goodbye. Ugo and Uta’s arrival at the SPA predates that of most of our volunteers, after all! Tears were shed, and Sylvanie and Martine decided to come and wash the dogs so that they would be at their best for their new mum who came to collect them today.

Thank you to everyone who looked after these two dogs while they have been at the SPA, employees and volunteers alike. Their story is sad and shows certain humans in a very poor light. But it also shows that we must never give up. I think we were all convinced that these dogs would die behind bars.

The biggest thanks go to their new mum.  We wish there were more people like you in this world. We will pass on news and photos, of course! Goodbye Ugo and Uta, please come and visit us!

I will mention other refuge news tomorrow. This is a stand alone story!

Ugo and Uta with their new Mum, Diana, and her friend Terry. 

Three arrivals, none identified :(

Sadly there is no news from the refuge; nothing good at least. Three dogs arrived, none of whom is identified so unless their owners are looking for them, they are likely to remain with us. I will try to take photos tomorrow to add to our Facebook page, (www.facebook.com/SPA.CARCASSONNE) but for now I will just tell you that one of them is definitely the brother of a dog who was adopted from us in November.

Who remembers little Ibiza, who lived in the cat house and was snapped up as soon as she was seen? Well today’s arrival is an exact carbon copy, but male! This is good news and bad news. Good because small dogs (especially French bulldog crosses) are easy to home. Bad news because there is clearly someone out there not paying too much attention as to what happens with their unwanted pups.

Like his now safely-homed sister, this boy was born in August 2013, and sadly it looks like the novelty of puppy ownership has worn off for someone. Of course, it is possible that he is lost, but as mentioned above, he is not identified, so how much do his “owners” love him? Identification is obligatory, remember?  We are calling him Galapagos. No idea why, but the smaller the dog, the bigger the name!

And as for the person who has his mum, please please get your dog sterilised.

There was a reservation today, so it was not all bad news, and in any case, tomorrow’s blog should help raise everyone’s spirits!

This is not Galapagos, it is Ibiza, but no one would know! 
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Freedom for Farrah!

Today it was raining. Or more exactly today it was raining some of the time. In fact it was as we Brits say, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes! Some lucky dogs were walked but, you guessed it, the walkers were hardy Brits!

No dogs arrived and one lucky girl, Farrah, was adopted. This little dog arrived just before the New Year along with her sister, and it was clear from the word go that Farrah would find a home very quickly. Her adopter contacted us via Facebook about saving a dog who would otherwise probably never find a home. However once she had seen Farrah she was hooked.  It is a shame for the other dogs for whom this could have been a lifeline, but the heart goes where the heart goes, as they say. And whereas several volunteers were disappointed that the adopters desire to “ save a dog” crumbled at the sight of a dog whom we could have homed fifty times over, we are not there to force people’s hand, and we just have to accept the wishes of the adopter.

Farrah was sterilised today and has now gone off to her new home. Her sister Vienna is still waiting, but it shouldn’t be too long before she is in the warm, too. She has the same character as her sister, just as affectionate and calm.

Come and meet her, she will steal your heart, in the same way that her sister stole her new owner’s heart!

A sleepy post-sterilisation Farrah






And her sister Vienna who is waiting for a home.

Kobi Day at last!

Well, a new week has started and some great news from the refuge already with the departure of the second of our two rubbish tip survivors, Cacoa (now Kobi). Like his brother, Praliné, Cocoa was one of the two stronger pups, but even so we wanted to make sure he was fit and well before his new family adopted him. I know they were initially disappointed not to be able to take him home immediately (it really was love at first sight), but they saw the wisdom of leaving him with us until we and the vet were happy that he was okay.

Kobi’s new owners are none other than the parents of Rosa, our volunteer and some-time translator for this blog when it is on Facebook. So we will have lots of news of his progress, and in fact the first picture has already arrived! I think Rosa will spend more time at her parents’ house now, rather than in Toulouse where she lives!

On the subject of puppies, several people have asked questions about new-born pups and added comments to yesterday’s blog concerning the psychological development of puppies who have not spent adequate time with their mothers. This will be the subject of a future blog, but for now I will just say that yes, you are right. Dogs should spend a minimum of time with their mums in order to ensure that they are  well-balanced in later life. Watch this space, as they say.

In other refuge news, one of Saturday’s arrivals, Octo, found his owners today. His real name is Puma. And yet another puppy arrived, this one is ten weeks old. Another Christmas reject, perhaps? Pictures of him will arrive in due course, all I can say for now is that it is a boy and that he will be of small size when adult!

Other than that we have had a reservation that is almost unbelievable, and although I am bursting to tell you all, I won’t do so until the deal is done. Thursday is going to be a BIG DAY, that’s all I will say!

Yet another reason to keep following this blog!

Kobi at home with Rosa




The Breast Start For Pups..

This week saw the arrival of yet more young pups. They certainly do have the ‘ awww’   factor but the fact of the matter is that the future is very uncertain for young pups taken away from their mums too early.

Most decent breeders will make sure that the ‘mum to be’ is in tip top health and fully vaccinated well before mating even takes place. This ensures that the necessary antibodies are passed to the pups . Antibodies are passed in two ways, first of all to the pups through the placenta and secondly to the pups in the colostrum,the specialized milk produced by the mum for the first one to two days after giving birth. Colostrum provides the puppy with protective antibodies, and it is extremely high in calories, protein and vitamins. Therefore, it is critical that a puppy nurses within the first 12 to 24 hours to obtain the important benefits of colostrum. This is called passive immunity.

Antibodies received from mum generally circulate in the pups system for several weeks so pups born to mums which haven’t been vaccinated or pups who don’t receive colostrum are at a distinct disadvantage and are at risk from any infections they come into contact with.  After the short period of colostrum production, the pups caloric, protein, fat, vitamin, mineral and water requirements are matched perfectly by the nutritional content of mum’s milk.

Pups taken away from their mum after birth that haven’t had their mums colostrum have few defences against infection and are at high risk from any infection. Apart from the antibodies and perfect nutritional content of mum’s milk it is also delivered at the correct temperature, at the correct speed to pups in the correct feeding position. WOW…try replicating that with a bottle of milk replacer!

It’s for all of the above reasons that we sigh instead of ‘awww’ when young pups arrive at the refuge.  The window of risk for pups, between about three weeks and when they can be vaccinated ( active immunity) is often when they are abandoned. The refuge is a very dangerous place for pups with compromised immune systems and they are at severe risk from infections such as parvovirus or even distemper. All we can do is isolate them to protect them from infection and bottle feed them until they can be weaned and then vaccinated.

Please, please sterilise your dogs and don’t produce unwanted pups. Unless pups are nurtured as nature intended, with their mums, they are at risk and none of us would want that for the dogs of the future!

Pups need to be with their mum, like my pup Zac ( on the left). He stayed with his mum until he was 8 weeks old!



Three in but two out!

Today could have been better, but I guess the same could be said of just about every day.

The bad news first. Kaiser was brought back. Sometimes people mean well, but have to accept when they have taken on too much. Five children and two large dogs plus 2 cats is quite a big family already, without adding a third big dog to the mix. Still, as with all adoptions and fosters, we know a lot more about the dog now than we did before, so it is never all bad news. Kaiser went off to share his box with Panini, and didn’t seem too perturbed to be back. Next time lucky, big fellah!

One dog was found and another one was abandoned (pre-planned), so that is three dogs in in total. But two dogs were adopted.

First to leave was Sherman, and here it really was a case of love at first sight. By Internet, no less. A photo of Sherman caught the attention of a lovely lady, who just knew he was the dog for her.  She came along to meet him and was even more sure. A week  later and Sherman, this beautiful dog of nearly nine years old was off to a new home. As the photo shows, he is going to be well-loved!

Next to leave was Giseh. She may well change her name, but we are not sure to what. She has gone to be a companion to Castro. He is the blind,old griffon bleu de Gascogne who was adopted from the SPA not so long ago when he was called Ray.

The weather was good so plenty of dogs were walked and a couple of new volunteers joined the team.  So although things could have been better, they could have been a  lot worse, too!

Octo arrives. We think he is about eight years old, hence the name







Blanco arrives








Sherman leaves. Feel the love!









And Giseh leaves with Castro (aka Ray)