Rain, rain and more rain!

It feels as if it’s been raining for months here. My nearest refuge don’t walk their dogs when it’s raining because the risk of illness is higher if the dogs get too wet. That makes a lot of sense, as the dogs can’t easily warm up in their pens, but it meant I couldn’t visit there this week.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way though, so I turned in the other direction and went to a different refuge who let the dogs out for a walk in all weathers. They have more protection from the weather at this one, so getting wet isn’t such an issue for the dogs. As it turned out, we only had a couple of heavy showers so most of the dogs didn’t get too wet, and neither did we!

I went with a lady who has been volunteering there for about ten years. Each week she spends an afternoon walking as many of the dogs as she can, so if you’re in our area and need a workout, I recommend Vera as a walking buddy!

There were a few of us there on the same day including two English ladies there for their first visit being introduced by a couple of our other LAARFers and a couple of students doing their stage (work experience). There was also a chap there who helped Vera when she first started volunteering, so who knows how long he has been doing it. He was on his own, and apparently he lives locally and is there almost every afternoon doing the same thing. His wife doesn’t like dogs, so it’s his way of having some doggy contact. What a lovely man, and what lucky dogs.

The students were out with a dog and a bowl each. If I’d had the time, I would have stopped and taken a photo, as the bowls were to collect a stool sample from the dogs. I would have loved to see the look on their faces whilst they were doing that, both the dogs and the attached teenager!

So, who did we walk? I barely caught any names, there were so many. I can’t even remember how many we walked, but it felt as if it was most of them!

One of the last pair really pulled on my heartstrings. They were a couple of smallish dogs, so a nice pair to finish the day with. One of them was very dominant and he was fine. My little poppet was very sad. Vera said she hadn’t been able to get him out for a walk last time she tried, so she was really pleased that he came out without a problem.

We got him about 50 metres outside the gates and he just stopped, so I stopped, went back to him, gave him a treat and he was fine again…for about 50 meters. He stopped again, so I went back to him and gave him a cuddle, and on he went…for about 50 meters. By this time, I was actually thinking about what I was doing. Effectively I was rewarding him every time he stopped, so the third time it happened, I just stopped too, didn’t respond to him at all, and after a minute, he was ready to move on again. He was also much better on the return leg, which is reassuring, There was no problem getting him back to his kennel. 

This little fella may take some time to find a home. He really needs someone to work with him every day to build his confidence. How can they do that when the refuge staff only have enough time to feed and clean out the dogs? Volunteers can’t commit to go every day, and I’m no expert, but it’s probably not the best thing for him to focus on a single relationship anyway. He needs to be eager when someone new looks into his eyes. We are lucky that, at this refuge, LAARF should soon have enough volunteers for each day of the week. If one of us spends time with him each day, we could make a huge difference to his confidence and his chances of finding a loving, happy home.

If we multiply that around the country, think how many dogs we are helping just through giving a few hours of our time when we can.

On a slightly different note, anyone want a beagle? I only got one decent photo at the refuge and this is the lucky dog. I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl! I’ve also seen a beagle puppy at another refuge in our area, so if you’re in department 16 or 17 and would be interested in a beagle, please get in touch.

 

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In fact, if you’re looking for a particular dog or cat, let us know. We are getting to know all sorts of dogs and cats and would be over the moon if you want to rescue one of the shelter dogs and cats we are meeting on our adventures.

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Free to a good home

People’s circumstances change all the time, life does that to us all. No matter how much you plan, you can never really be in control of your life. Do you have a “What to do if I get run over by a bus” file? I don’t, but it’s on my To Do list, along with writing a will!

What I do have is a three year old dog, the one in the banner in fact. She was free to a good home when she was a puppy, and once you hold a puppy, it’s difficult to put it down again. She’s been with us for nearly three years now. I love her to pieces and I occasionally worry about what would happen to her if anything happened to us. She’s not bilingual but she sits for anything, has good recall and doesn’t wander. I would be inconsolable if she fell in to the wrong hands, but I don’t have a plan for her either.

I often read “Free to a good home” ads for dogs and cats. People get desperate to rehome their pet, or they need to find homes for puppies and kittens, and often don’t consider the risk of doing this. I can’t explain those risks any better than this cartoon portrays today’s message.

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People don’t value what they don’t pay for. Please think about what could happen to your pet if your circumstances change. We’re working on our plan for Daisy, and our Will, now!

If you do need to rehome your pet, please ask for the help of an association who can help minimise the risk that your beloved pet will end up in a very bad place.

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Volunteering for the first time with LAARF

If you are in France and are interested in joining us, please read the following, which was originally posted in AngloInfo Dordogne this weekend.

“I’d been thinking about volunteering at the SPA for some time but felt worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope with seeing all those poor homeless dogs – would I get too upset and would my limited French be a problem? When LAARF suggested the Woofer Walk at Limoges it was my opportunity to give it a try.  I went with 2 friends which made it easier but arriving outside and hearing the barking my anxieties returned with a vengeance.  We were encouraged to walk round the circle of cages to meet some of the residents.  By the time I was half way round I was weeping – they were all so keen to lick my hand and say hello – the sheer numbers and the noise was overwhelming.  As I was pulling myself together I met Leanne from Twilight and we had a chat – she was there to pick up a little blind girl and a beautiful 3 legged chap.  I always feel humbled by the work of twilight so I gave myself a stiff talking to and got on with it. Thinking about it sensibly I soon realised that the dogs were actually very well fed (some of them a bit porky!), mostly healthy looking and the pens are dry, quite roomy, mostly clean, light and facing out towards each other and the grass.  Many of them are in pens with their friends and I guess that for many of them their lives here are better than where they’ve come from.  I took a couple of them out with Linda who is a British volunteer who has been volunteering there for some time.  Immediately it felt worthwhile.  The dogs are so keen to get out, rather than wanting a cuddle they nearly rip your arm off heading for the gate!!

Since that first time I’ve returned twice on a Tuesday afternoon and plan to continue weekly whenever possible.  I still feel emotional and needless to say I’ve fallen in love. Paul, my husband, has given me strict instructions not to bring anyone home although the temptation to pop one in the boot of my car is almost irresistible.  I already have 2 girls, including one from Phoenix, and we don’t have the space for another so I have to be strong!

I have no doubt that it is very worthwhile.  Although the SPA clearly do great things they simply haven’t got the time to exercise the dogs and if it weren’t for the volunteers they wouldn’t get out of their cages.  While some of them are being walked others can get out and run freely in the enclosed green spaces and their enjoyment is evident

For anyone considering volunteering I would urge you to give it a try – on Tuesday afternoons at Limoges there are several of us Brits to welcome you and the French volunteers are helpful and encouraging.  It’s guaranteed that you’ll get upset and that you’ll go home smelling like a compost heap but you’ll also feel that your time has been really well spent. ”

Limoges is a great example of how we can help the refuges. Please do get in touch with us if you’d like to go along here or elsewhere around the country so we can partner you with someone who can show you the ropes. You can email us at info@laarf.com or join our Facebook group LAARF – SPA Volunteer Network

This is one of the many dogs looking for a forever home. We can’t find them all a new home unfortunately, but we can make a diference to their lives. Please consider going to your local refuge to give them a cuddle or take them for a walk.

Angouleme 2

Visit number 2 – still not ready to be let loose alone

Today is a blob, rather than a blog, entry.

We went to the refuge for the second time today. Of course, this time we thought we knew everything we needed to know, but we still have so much to learn. Luckily for us, our French speaking mentor was once again on hand to guide us, together with an English lady to help with translation where needed 🙂

It was when we wanted to get started that we realised we still needed guidance. There were dogs coming and going from all directions. I was listening to instructions with my first dog ready to go, but didn’t have her fully under control. Luckily, she’s good with other dogs, so just ignored another dog passing by. That could have been nasty.

The rain held off for long enough for us to walk a few of the dogs, but not nearly enough of them, nor long enough for us to say hello to our favourites from last week. Between seven of us, we walked at least 15 dogs who wouldn’t otherwise have got out for some exercise today. My partner in crime from last week lost one of hers while she was out, but she assures me that was because his ride arrived to take him to the vets.

We even got some of the big ones walked today, thanks to a new LAARFer, who came with us for the first time with her husband and son.

The first two we took out got a really good walk as we got lost, despite the walk having arrows to follow. Last week, we were told the dogs knew the route, so I blame them. They obviously knew they had a couple of amateurs at the other end of their leads, and had hatched a plan. They’ll dream sweetly tonight!

My second woofer was the subject of this blob. She is quite a rotund girl. We couldn’t get her kennel mate to come out, she was just too nervous. So I took my rather overweight companion for a walk on my own. I could do with losing a few pounds, and she certainly can, so I’ve made a pact to get her out for a walk as often as I can. She’s a beautiful, friendly, happy girl who must have a slow metabalism or she’s being ignored because she’s the quiet, fat girl. We had a lovely, gentle walk, another girl who is very good on the lead. I’ll be checking my scales in the morning. It’s a shame I can’t weigh her to monitor her progress too!

Once we knew we wouldn’t be able to walk any more dogs today, my husband and I wandered around the cages, just having a quick chat with some of the dogs we hadn’t already seen and giving each of them a treat. Sadly, the treats ran out before we ran out of dogs, so we came away. There’s nothing quite like looking in to those dog’s eyes, getting a wet nose kiss and a little wag of their tails. It’s heartbreaking but we are so pleased to be doing a small thing to brighten their, and our, day. Sleep well sweet doggies. See you again soon xx

Here’s another walker doing the same as us today at a different refuge. If you are interested in joining us in walking dogs, cuddling cats or generally helping out, please get in touch.

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Only 1 in 10 dogs gets to stay in one home for life

At some point I promise to stop posting every day, but at the moment I am finding so many heartwarming or distressing things to share. I won’t be sharing any distressing photos and will try to keep the sadness to a minimum.

I’m sure most of you who are reading this at this stage in our LAARF journey already know how hard the lives of abandoned animals can be, but for those that join us, and may not understand the extent of the problem abandoned pets face, I want to share some of the things that really force me to stop and think .

This is a sad one. The first paragraph is just a snippet from the following quote. It is from a vet in the UK who posted this on his facebook page:

“we complain about puppy farmers and backyard breeders being the source of so many abandoned and put to sleep dogs, when actually all too often it is the result of gullible and niaive folk not educating themselves about the kind of dog which would fit in with their lifestyle, and not getting their puppy from a reputable source. Then the dog ends up being passed from pillar to post and if it is lucky will eventually find a home. However by this point the dog will probably have a bundle of issues to address. Only 1 in 10 dogs gets to stay in one home for life….These are the dogs who I have to put down because I know that it is more responsible of me to painlessly take their life than to condemn them to wait with the rest of the enormous population of “difficult” dogs sitting in rescue kennels all over the country. Please, please, I implore you. Get advice before you take on a dog – from a vet, a qualified positive behaviourist, the Kennel Club, the Blue Cross, the Dog’s Trust, the RSPCA – the information is there for the taking, there is no excuse. Go to a decent breeder, who has a waiting list, or a rescue centre which really grills you thoroughly before matching you with a pet. Find out how to bring your puppies up properly so if you do find your circumstances change then at least they are rehomable”

For those that wish to read the entire post:

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

If you got through that, thank you for reading. This story could so easily be Horace’s, who we met at the SPA in Saintes last week. He is huge, full of bouncy life, beautiful and so gentle once he’s on a lead. He’ll make the right person a wonderful pet.

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Gift an animal lover something unique

I wasn’t going to post today, but someone posted this on Angloinfo this morning and it was too good not to pass on to you.

“For Christmas I gave my husband a gift certificate to become volunteers at the ASPA in Manosque, and last Friday we went for the first time. What a fantastic experience!

We were welcomed by Ann, one of the main people there, and she handed us two quite big dogs but so sweet, and we walked them for about half an hour. Good thing we are not looking to adopt at this point or else I would have taken them with me right away! We were then given 2 smaller dogs to walk, also for about half an hour, also very very sweet.

We will do this every time we go to Manosque, about once every 3 weeks or so, because these sweet dogs, some in the kennel for several years, not only need the exercise but also appreciate this bit of attention.

The refuge is very well taken care of, we were very impressed! There are more volunteers but on that day we were the only ones walking dogs so can you imagine all the ones you were not getting any exercise or time outside their cages? Breaks your heart!

I can only recommend to anyone who thinks the world is cruel and unfair, to visit a shelter and simply take the dogs on a walk. There is no commitment, it’s drop-in, and the folks there are always very appreciative of everyone who is willing to help.”

What a lovely gift to give someone. Lots of people don’t realise you can go along to most refuges and walk their dogs or cuddle and groom their cats. Some refuges do ask for a fee when you volunteer. Limoges, as an example, charge 20€ a year, but many do not charge.

If you have an animal lover in your life, why not give them something like the Gift Certificate this lady gave her husband? Helping these dogs in such a small way means so much to them and look at the smiles on the faces of some of our LAARF members:

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Keeping Faith

This is Robbie! He’s one of the lucky ones, rescued from Bergerac SPA by Suzy last summer. All they know about him is that he was found running for his life in front of a train, after being abandoned on a railway line. Here he is with his first ever Christmas present! He is not quite sure what to do with it, but no way is he letting it go!

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Suzy wrote this lovely poem for us. Tissues at the ready:

Keeping Faith