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Fantastic Fridays Five Adoptions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titou – A bright future ahead of him!



Pitchou who is off to Pau!



Adele – A big girl for 6 months!



Black Jack – So cute!

black Jack


And last but not least Muesli!


Some sad news…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cheeky grin from lovely Mirza







What a sweetheart. We miss you.








But on the plus side, Patmol leaves









Tramp finds a home too










So does Garance



A Partnership that works!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three different kinds of Lucky!

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

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

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

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

A really lucky dog, Bali, with James and Sue








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









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




The Lady and the Sock!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady leaves








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

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The adoption process at the SPA Carcassonne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A (snow) flurry of activity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So long, Handsome!











Snow leaves the refuge






Trompette arrives. Big dog in waiting!




What’s in a Name?

People quite often ask how we choose names for our dogs. Well, it is a carefully managed system which is extremely complicated. Err, actually there is no logic to it whatsoever!  It is just whatever springs to mind!

Pedigree (“LOF” in French) dogs’ names usually start with the letter from their year of birth. Puppies born this year will generally be called by names starting with the letter “I”. Some people follow this practice for non-pedigrees. So yesterday’s sad arrival, Hoch, was born last year, for example.

At the SPA when a litter of pups arrives we often stick to a theme. So we had a “Planets” litter earlier this year, and also chocolate bars (we still get news from Twix and some of his chocolaty siblings!). And Mabrouk and Lady are two puppies at the refuge who are left from the “Celebrity” litter.

Dogs who are abandoned at the refuge or arrive already identified tend to keep their names, unless there is a good reason why not. Occasionally a dog has clearly been mistreated and we wish to give it a fresh start, so we change its name. Sometimes  if a dog is not reclaimed we rebaptise him or her. One such case is an identified dog, Gaspard, who arrived last week. But we already have a Gaspard, so whilst we are keeping this name for the time being (in case his owners are looking for him on the Internet), once it is obvious that he is available for adoption, we will change his name to Inuit, which suits a husky cross much better, in our opinion. It also avoids confusion when volunteers say they are taking Gaspard for a walk! One dog could end up getting his legs walked off and the other could be very neglected!

Sometimes a dog arrives and just “looks like a Harry” or whatever. Sometimes it is a unanimous decision, sometimes whoever puts the photos on our Facebook page (and five of us share this task) makes the decision.  Sometimes I suggest a name and all the French native speakers laugh their heads off, as it may sound rude in French. However we have a dog called Pollux, (this week’s urgent appeal) and I doubt that any English adopters would keep this name!

Personally I don’t like very macho sounding names on dogs that risk being viewed as aggressive. I don’t like names like Tyson and last year we even had a Rottweiler called Danger. I think this just reinforces stereotypes. But of course as with naming children, it is a matter of personal preference. Unless you believe in nominative determinism, that is!

And finally, of course everyone is free to rename any dog they adopt from us. An entire life is changing, so a dog will get used to a new name very quickly! Kindness and regularity of routine are far more important to a dog than what he or she is called!

Much more an Inuit than a Gaspard!


Dog rehabilitation works wonders!

One of the aspects of the SPA’s work of which we are justifiably proud is our dedication to the rehabilitation of dogs. I am not just referring to their physical rehabilitation, such as we saw recently with Hoffen, the beautiful Pyrenean Mountain dog, or one of today’s adoptions, Ficel, who arrived in a skeletal state and was covered in cuts and grazes.

I am referring also to the mental and psychological rehabilitation that we give to dogs such as another of today’s adoptees, Manon. Although she had an owner prior to being abandoned at the SPA, this young dog had seen absolutely nothing of the world and was scared of her own shadow.

Putting her in a box with a more confident dog helped her to regain confidence, and regular walks and playtime in the parks did the rest. Of course the fact that Manon is a stunning looking dog also helped her on her way, and today she left with her new family.

We are also lucky enough to have the help of Melissa Martyn, is a dog behaviourist who  drives a long way every week or so to visit our dogs and assess their needs in terms of socialisation and training.

All these strands, volunteers walking and socialising, employees showing nothing but love when the dogs are cleaned and fed, and regular, good quality food means that we can and do work miracles!

So two excellent adoptions today; one from the malnourished category and one from the formerly  timid category!

We did have one very sad new arrival, however. I am sure that many of you will have read of the terrible car accident that took place some two weeks ago, when a teenage driver lost control of his car close to Carcassonne, killing himself and 4 of his friends and leaving a fifth in a coma. Well today one of the bereaved mothers came to abandon her son’s dog. She cannot bear to see this constant reminder of her loss. Our sympathies are with her and the other bereaved parents, and we hope that young Hoch is soon out of the refuge, as it wasn’t his fault either

Ellie (ex Ficel)









Manon, she knows how to charm!










Poor Hoch, his young master is dead and he has been abandoned as a result.



One name, two SPAs.

Several people have recently congratulated us on our upcoming good fortune, as beneficiaries of a charity concert organised by Brian May. When I initially saw the headline, carried in several papers, of  this rock legend’s plans  to hold a fundraising event for the French SPAs my heart soared.

However a couple of minutes later I realised that, like so many people, including no doubt many of you, Brian May is unaware that there are two SPA groups in France.

Firstly is the Paris group, who get government funding and are generally pretty well off. Then there is the Lyon group, of which we, at Carcassonne, are part.  This is seldom made clear, and a search on the internet generally throws up the Paris group. This is the reason why, several years ago, I was accused on an online forum (of bored wives, mostly) of being a charlatan who was stealing money under the pretence of running a refuge. I posted on the forum the link to the Lyon SPA group and this diffused what was essentially libel. Luckily for them I am always too busy trying to rehome dogs to take legal action, unless it is on behalf of the SPA and concerns the mistreatment of animals.

In any case, here is the website that shows you the Lyon group of SPAs, and you can see that Carcassonne is on there:

Why are we not part of the Paris group, if they have much more funding, you may ask? Well the reason is fairly simple. As part of the Lyon group we are completely independent. We decide what to feed our dogs (Royal Canin, in case you are interested, nothing but the best). We decide which dogs and cats to put down (none, other than in extremis, and I do not just mean overcrowding or high medical costs) and we decide whom to employ and when to open. The Paris SPAs have none of these freedoms.

The Lyon Confederation provides us with our charitable status and it is this means we do not pay excessive taxes on the (too rare) occasions when we are left money in someone’s will.

You can help us by becoming a member (“adherent” in French) of the SPA Carcassonne. This costs 26 euros per year and gives you the right to attend and vote in our Annual General Meetings, where the governing body, or Conseil d’Administration (CA) is elected. They decide on SPA policy and also vote for the Bureau, who run the refuge on a daily basis.

And by the way, there is nothing to stop anyone becoming a member of the Conseil d’Administration. Nationality is no barrier, you just have to have been an adherent for one year and be supported by two members of the CA. Everyone is approved. The more active, motivated people we have the better!

Just pop in to the SPA and say that you would like to become an adherent. Or send a cheque (made out to SPA Carcassonne) and  write on the back “carte svp”. You can give more than 26 euros, if you like! Your money goes into the general SPA fund (so it is the same as any other donation), but you get a say in SPA affairs. If you can’t attend the meetings, you can fill in a proxy voting form, too! We have adherents all over France and overseas as well.

Our address is
SPA Carcassonne
BP 600
11000 Carcassonne

Why not join us! And remember, we can give receipts against donations which can be offset against French income tax!