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One dog Friday

Sometimes we look at numbers, and our occasional Four or Five Dog Fridays have been a cause of much celebration. However in my bleaker moments (and there are plenty, believe me), I tell myself that each dog homed is a dog happy. So the adoption of one single dog is still cause for celebration. How does the saying go? Saving one dog will not change the world, but for that dog the world will change.

Today was the turn of Katya. She arrived not long ago, on August 10th, to be precise, and immediately won hearts. She is very small and lively and completely adorable. Sharing her box with a much bigger dog, Katya risked not being seen,  but she was very clever at ducking between Balthazar’s huge paws to make sure she got her share of attention.

Today she left for her new home, fresh from being sterilised. I am delighted for her! We wish her well in her new life with her new family.

Meanwhile we have news and even a photo of Gafarot, who is gaining confidence by the day thanks to his foster family. It is a case of lots of reassurance and patience for this little chap. If only we knew what has happened to him. I wish I could get my hands on the people who had him before he arrived at the SPA.

Grrr!

Katya finds a home

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Gaffa starts to come out of his shell ( a little bit, at least!)

Jaffa (4)

Adoption refused!

The SPA was very quiet today in terms of visitors, but not in terms of volunteers, so plenty of dogs were either walked or spent time in the parks. I even got out on a couple of walks myself, which is not always possible.

One lucky dog was found by his owner thanks to his microchip, but other than that there was no movement either in or out. No arrivals is clearly good, but as I spent time playing with some of the dogs in the parks, I wondered why there are so many unwanted dogs.

I guess the answer is that there are thousands of unwanted puppies, and that is what unwanted dogs once were. This was illustrated by the “almost” adoption of the day. Rex, our beautiful six year old German Shepherd who belongs (or rather belonged) to a homeless person. He could have been lucky today. He got on well with the family’s female dog, but when the question was asked as to whether or not she is sterilised, it all went wrong.

These people had actually come to the SPA to look for breeding stock. Adoption refused. A huge shame for Rex. But It is not by accident that we sterilise all our females before they leave. We are the ones who get dumped with all the puppies, after all. And as for people who claim to have found “good homes” for their litters, how do you know it is a good home? Unless you keep track of the animal all its life, how do you know that he or she hasn’t ended up in a refuge? Or worse? And that goes for kittens too.

I am constantly being contacted by people with unwanted litters and being told that “accidents happen”. Not with unsterilised animals they don’t!

Do I sound cross? That is probably because I am cross. Were we wrong to refuse the adoption of Rex? Not in my opinion we weren’t. Think about the consequences of having a litter and think about all the dogs and cats who are already in refuges. Then ask yourself whether the money you make (and there is usually money involved) is worth all the suffering. If your answer is yes, then you need to look deep inside your heart and reconsider.

 Rex Stays
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And this is why!

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Pollux finds a home!

The headline I never thought I would write! While Moira was blogging, she mentioned that despite both of us being on the road, we had managed to organise a super reservation. We are loath to announce reservations before the dogs actually leave, so what she did not mention was that the reservation was that of Pollux!

A firm favourite with employees and volunteers alike, Pollux’s extended stay at the refuge has been something of a mystery. I can only put it down to his jumping at the bars of his cage, which puts some people off. But out of his cage he is a completely different dog. Calm and discreet, but playful at the same time. When Sandra clipped his fur a few weeks ago, Pollux stayed still for over two hours, even when we got rather close to his nether regions. There is trust for you! And he is dream to take on walks.

In any case, today was the day. Pollux’s new mum and dad came to collect him (they had reserved him sight unseen) and were enchanted by what they saw. It really was love at first sight, and he is going to be a very happy dog. A few tears were shed by the volunteers as we said goodbye, but we will have news and photos!

Apart from that, the couple who came to the refuge with a view to fostering Gafarot took him home with them for “rehabilitation”. They have a very outgoing springer spaniel who will give timid little Gafarot some much needed confidence. He is going to be called Gaffa, which is slang for “boss” in the some British workplaces. We are looking forward to news of his progress.

Rox also found a home, as did Fido (minus his “family jewels”). So all in all not too bad a day at the SPA!

Pollux leaves at last
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Rox finds a home

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And Fido leaves us too.
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Limbo leaves, Gafarot returns.

Today we said goodbye to little Limbo a teckel cross who had been at the SPA for about eight weeks. That is the GOOD news of the day.

I hadn’t mentioned up to now the return of Gafarot, mostly because I couldn’t believe that it was true. But sure enough, two days after his adoption last Thursday, this tiny boy of three years old was brought back to the refuge on Saturday, as he was “still nervous”. A bit of patience would be nice, people! This dog is almost catatonic with fear, but shows no aggression whatsoever. He is fine with cats and other dogs and really just needs a place to be where he can gather his thoughts and regain his confidence, after which I am sure he will be fine. Instead he has been cast out a mere 48 hours after being adopted as not being playful enough. It is heart-breaking to see this sort of callous treatment of an animal. This little dog deserves so much better.  Someone is coming tomorrow with a view to fostering this little boy, and I have my fingers well and truly crossed!
Yesterday also saw the arrival of two beautiful chasse type dogs, Firstly there is Woody, who has been roaming the streets of Salsigne for a couple of weeks before finally being brought to the refuge in a terrified state (although he is feeling much better already; amazing what difference some food and a gentle voice can make). Then there is Lemon, a fabulous setter, also young and also found roaming.

The arrival of these two dogs means one of two things to me; either they are lost dogs and their owners will come and collect them (but bearing in mind this requires them to pay for a microchip, they may not be reclaimed), or they are failed hunt dogs  (the chasse has just opened) and they will not be reclaimed.

You would think that two beautiful specimens such as these would be reclaimed, but people never cease to amaze me. The owner of the (unidentified) briard cross, Galileo, was delighted that his dog had been found, in fact it was he that phoned the SPA to look for his dog. As soon as we told him that he would have to pay for the dog to be micro-chipped (as is the law), he threw a tantrum and told us to keep the F***ing dog.  Thanks a bunch! We will, he is beautiful and if you don’t think he is worth the cost of a microchip, more fool you!

I also went to see Spirit, who seems much happier already and is sharing her kennel. She will be just fine. I am so glad she is back with us and is safe!

And I have to say thank you to Patsy, who is on holiday but who came by taxi to do some dog walking. She follows the blog from her home in UK and came to Carcassonne specially to give us a hand. Things like that make me happy!

Limbo leaves
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Gafarot returns
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Woody is probably abandoned
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As is Lemon
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And Galileo is quite simply not worth the cost of a micro-chip!
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Low Spirits.

Today I am officially angry and upset.

We received word this morning that one of our dogs, Spirit, was in the refuge at Pexiora. She had been adopted from us in December last year and heaven alone knows what has happened to her since.

Our first priority was to get the dog back with us. There is an agreement that dogs return to the refuge from which they were adopted. This is not always adhered to, as in the case of our Tom, whom the SPA Toulouse refuses to come and reclaim, as they say he is too old to rehome. In any case we wouldn’t give him back to them now, as we love him too much! But it must be said that in general the system works well. So an emergency was declared and someone rushed off to collect Spirit and bring her back to the SPA Carcassonne, where we know she will be safe and fed. Thanks to the people who offered to go and get her, by the way!

Spirit left us as a young dog of 20 months and is now two and a half years old. Much harder to home and much less trusting of people. Who knows how many owners she has had since she was adopted from us and what has happened to her.

Our next move will be to try and prosecute the woman who adopted Spirit from us. The contract clearly states that a dog must be returned to us, and not rehomed without our permission. Spirit left us as a lovely young dog, full of joy. The picture taken of her at the refuge in Pexiora speaks for itself.

Of course the day was not all misery, with the adoption of Shadow, not to mention news of the departures of Guapo, the lovely beagle, which took place on Saturday. But for me the day has been overshadowed by the plight of Spirit.

If you do not want a dog, and are not willing to commit at least 12 years to a young dog and perhaps more to a smaller breed, then just don’t bother. Spirit could have found a better home without all this suffering first.

I want to name and shame the adopter, but it may prejudice any legal action we take. So for now I am just fuming away quietly and sticking pins into a voodoo doll which represents anyone who abandons or mistreats animals.

Spirit when she was with us. Behind bars but happy.
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Spirit today. Things can only get better. 

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A dog who never saw the SPA!

It is Sunday and by now you should all know the drill. The refuge is shut to the public, so Sunday’s blog is usually either a catch up or something that may be of interest to you. Today though, I want to tell you a happy story!

In June I was contacted by Carol, a great supporter of the SPA who has also adopted a dog from us. She and her husband, Chris, were very concerned about a dog that appeared to have been abandoned in their village and wanted some advice as to what they should do.

A number of email exchanges took place. Where was the dog, did the village have an agreement with our SPA or with another one, what could be done to help him etc etc. The dog was known within the village and even had a name, Tilou, but the owners had apparently left, and had not taken the dog with them. No comment!

Stray dogs are the responsibility of the Mairie, but they were too busy doing nothing to intervene. A group of villagers were looking after Tilou, led by Carol and her husband Chris. This situation could not go on indefinitely, however, as Tilou is old and not in the best of health. Carol was determined not to bring him to the SPA, especially in summer, when we are full to the brim.

Then earlier this week I got a message from Carol saying that the absentee owner had found out that she and Chris were looking after Tilou, so he kindly sent his lead, collar and vaccination records (well out of date, of course) to them in the post! How thoughtful!

Long story short (it is Sunday, after all, and we all have other things to do): Carol and Chris took Tilou to their vet where he was given a good going over (in fact he had to be anaesthetised so his ears could be cleaned out, they were so infected!). But now he is on top form, despite his age. He and Chris (who manages woodland for a living) are inseparable and Tilou is a very happy, and very lucky dog!

A future blog will explain how the SPA system works and the responsibilities of the Mairies, as clearly not everybody is able to adopt the dogs they find wandering. But for now I say a big thank you to Carol and Chris and we wish Tilou a long and happy life with them!

Beautiful Tilou, a lucky, lucky dog!
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And here he is with Chris, friends for life!

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Habbie’s Happy To Have a Home..

Habbie is an eleven month old chocolate pedigree Labrador who arrived at the refuge early August. She was bought from a breeder and its strange that the owners paid so much money for her but were so quick to abandon her when they recently moved house. She’s a typical young Labrador, bouncy, full of fun and in need of some training but today was her lucky day as she was adopted by a lovely young couple with a four year boy and who have a large enclosed garden so there is sure to be lots of fun for Habbie.

One other youngster wasn’t so lucky. We were absolutely horrified to find a young spaniel type dog tied to the refuge gates mid-afternoon! What kind of person would abandon their dog like this without having the guts to drive in and ensure the dog was handed over safely, then just drive off? A coward, and I really hope karma bites them in the butt!

When we look at the ages of the dogs abandoned at the SPA it comes as no surprise to see that a large proportion of the dogs are adolescents. We see a lot of unruly young dogs aged between 6 and 18 months who have had no training and have become too much for their owners to handle. A cute puppy jumping up at you can be amusing, but it’s much less funny when the dog jumping up is a fully grown Newfoundland! All of these undesirable behaviors are avoidable if a dog is trained and socialized correctly but its surprising how many people seem to think that pups will train themselves!

For the youngsters who arrive and have never been adequately socialized or had any training, all they need is a new start. All their issues are very easy overcome and with a bit of patience and understanding you will be amazed at how quickly these dogs learn and become superb family pets. We do try our best to teach these youngsters lead skills and to get them socialised as much as possible and its very rewarding to see a dog who pulled like a tractor, trotting alongside you to heel. Don’t forget if you get a dog from us and encounter any behavioral problems we are more than happy to give advice. We are really lucky to have 2 dog trainers who are staff members as well as  volunteers so you are never alone!

So go on, why not give one of our adolescents a fresh start in life!

Habbie, adopted today.

Habbie

But Flurry needs a home..

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And so does Shakira..

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Cologne’s Chasse Days Are Over!

September means the start of the hunting season in France, or la chasse, and it can be quite a shock to see a group of hunters heading past your house.

Each Sunday you will see the countryside dotted with vans and cars and will hear the distinctive howl of hounds as they flush out or chase the game. You are sure to cross a group of hunters heading off into the woods with guns slung over their shoulders so if you are out walking its wise to wear bright clothing.  I would strongly advise keeping your dogs on the leash, one in case they are ‘accidentally’ shot and two because the hunt dogs have on many occasion swarmed my dogs and some dogs could find this very intimidating. You would think that the hunters would have trained dogs so could simply call their dogs away, not a chance! Most chasse dogs are hunting by instinct alone and have had no or little training!

So it is no great surprise that when the dogs are following their instinct, lots get themselves lost and that is why we at the SPA dread this season. We will soon be inundated with hunt dogs, who have only known life in kennels and are fearful of humans and often other dogs! We still have dogs waiting on homes that arrived about this time last year and a year is far too long to spend at the SPA! All chasse dogs should be identified but very few are, as this legislation, like lots of legislation regarding the chasse in France is not enforced. This unfortunately makes it very easy for the hunters to abandon dogs who aren’t good hunters, who are too old or are hurt and need vet treatment. The SPA of course is expected bear the brunt of their irresponsibility!

Cologne is one dog who will never have to hunt again. She arrived at the SPA in March this year, at the end of the hunting season, abandoned with her sister Bonn. Bonn was quickly adopted and today at last Cologne is leaving for a life where she doesn’t have to work for her dinner.  Instead of life in a kennel or shed , regular food and home comforts await her as well as lovely playmate for company.  This will be bliss for Cologne who was underweight and bedraggled when she arrived, I wish all of our chasse dogs could be so lucky!

Cologne – Adopted Today

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Molly who is still waiting!

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Gaspard still needs a home!

Gaspard

Three Dog Thursday!

The sun was shining, and the volunteers were out in force! Loads of dogs were walked today, we had some newbies along, who were getting to grips with how things work, and plenty of old hands returning after the summer holidays, when other commitments can get in the way.

Bench finally got the bath he has been needing so badly and went to dry off in the park with his girlfriend, Occitane (don’t worry, there is no monkey business, as Bench has been castrated)

Three adoptions took place. The first was another of the Cocktail litter, little Mojito. I was asked to get him from his box, and I was expecting it to be relatively easy. However I had to phone for reinforcements. Getting a timid puppy out of a box when two very lively ones are determined that THEY are the one being adopted is no mean feat!

Next to go was Gafarot, so called due to the state of him when he arrived; covered in burrs and grass seeds. The staff gave him a haircut which got rid of the worst of it, and his lovely new family will soon sort out the rest.

Finally we said goodbye to Choco, which was very much a case of the dog adopting his family! Funnily enough his sponsor is a girl of 15, whose family found him and brought him in to us in May. She has been walking him when she has time ever since, and the family who adopted him today have a girl of about the same age. Maybe this is why he chose them. The key question was would he be good with cats. Fingers crossed as he went into the cathouse, then big cheers as he passed with flying colours. As we all know, this is not a cast  iron guarantee of future behaviour (in the style of “please remember share prices can go down as well as up”), but there was certainly no aggression there.

So all in all a good day. Especially as there was also a reservation which I am too superstitious about to announce until the dog has left, but as it is only tomorrow, you don’t have long to wait!

Mojito leaves
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A non-burry Gafarot finds a new home
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And it was goodbye to Choco too!

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Chips with everything!

Yesterday as well as the adoption of Driver (now Cooper), no fewer than three dogs found their owners thanks to their micro-chips. So today I thought I would explain a bit about the identification of dogs in France. The rules here are very different to those in the UK. Many of you will be aware of this, as you travel regularly with your dogs, but repetition is the mother of learning!

For a start, in France, identification is a legal obligation for all dogs born after 6th January 1999 (and let’s face it, that is most dogs, as 14 is quite elderly!) In addition it is illegal to sell or even give away unidentified dogs, and in theory this is punishable by a pretty hefty fine, so people giving away puppies “free to a good home” are in fact breaking the law.

The most common form of identification is the microchip, which is usually implanted in a dog’s shoulder, and can be read by a special gadget. So if you find a dog, any vet or a SPA will be able to see if he is identified. If he is, the theory is as follows:

All microchips are registered with the SCC (Societe Centrale Canine) in Paris, also known as I-CAD. When a dog is found, the chip number can be matched with this database, and lo and behold, the dog’s owner’s name and address is revealed. Again, very much in theory, the vet or the SPA calls the person who immediately rushes to collect their dog. Et voila!

Things are seldom that simple, however. People move house and forget to update their details at the SCC. This means that we at the SPA have no way of contacting people, although we move heaven and earth to do so. This is thanks to the Internet, Yellow Pages, and various volunteers with lots of time and patience.

If we are still unable to track down the owners of a dog, then after 10 days he is available for adoption. At this time, the dog officially becomes the property of the SPA, and the details of the dog’s new owners will never ever be told to the old owners, should they subsequently show up.

If a dog arrives at the SPA with no microchip, then we still try to find his owners, but obviously it is more tricky! If they come along and can prove that the dog is theirs (vaccination records or photographs or just immediate recognition by the dog!), we chip the dog in their name, which is a legal requirement before the dog can leave the SPA and for which they pay the vet directly, and off they go However if no one comes to claim the dog within 10 days, the dog is up for grabs and again we will chip the dog in the name of the refuge and then this will be changed at the SCC in Paris once the dog is adopted. This usually takes a couple of months, but can be longer, depending on the backlog in Paris. The backlog used to be our fault, but the hyper-efficient Carole has it down to a fine art, now!

In the interim, if a SPA dog is found, it is us who will be contacted, but we know who has adopted our dogs, so we will call the new owners directly so that they can be reunited with their missing mutt!

Some dogs (particularly hunt dogs) are tattooed, and this has both positive and negative sides. If a dog is found with a tattoo in its ear, you know for sure that he has (or had) an owner; Which is great. A vet or an SPA can access the owners via the Paris database. On the negative side, any dog wishing to travel out of France requires a passport, and passports are only issued to dogs with microchips.

I have four dogs, the girls are tattooed (because I had it done the same time as they were being sterilised) and the boys are both micro-chipped. But each of them has a collar with an identification disc on it. This way, anyone finding them can call me straight away, without the need to go to someone with access to the database!

I would recommend a collar with a phone number on it to everyone, even if your dogs are like mine and never stray. Simple but effective!

I haven’t mentioned cats, as this is DOG rescue Carcassonne, but the same rules apply. It is still illegal to give away unidentified kittens for free. For cats, however, identification has only been obligatory since Jan 1st 2012, so there are plenty of unidentified moggies around. At the SPA most of our cats are tattooed, as this is done while they are being sterilised or castrated. And in the case of cats, in my opinion a tattoo is preferable, as people are sadly far less likely to take a lost-looking cat to the vet to see if it is identified!

I hope this information is useful and that it helps reunite you with your lost pets in the future. If you have a chipped dog or cat, make sure your details are up to date in Paris (your vet can help) and for those of you who travel, you can have two numbers on the paperwork, so even if you are at your “other home”, you can be contacted by phone!

Patapouffe reclaimed thanks to his micro-chip yesterday
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Filoune reclaimed thanks to her micro-chip yesterday
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Basile reclaimed thanks to his micro-chip yesterday

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