What LAARF does to you…

I have met some truly wonderful people since we started volunteering with LAARF, both virtually and in the flesh. I am constantly amazed by their willingness to give up their time just in return for the wag of a tail or a purr from a furry friend that has been abandonned to life behind bars in a refuge.

One of our volunteers is on a mission at a refuge near Bergerac. The facilities mean that not many dogs can be walked at any one time, but Sally is there twice a week working to squeeze the maximum numbers of volunteers in and the maximum number of dogs out. Then, when I come online to facebook, there she is, raising the profile of that refuge, their dogs and voluntering generally…and this is what Sally has done in her spare time (you may need to click in to the image to be able to read it!)

A Day at a Spa _ just what every girl longs for

At the Angouleme refuge, the facilities are much better. We are lucky to have a really good walking area and a good number of English speaking volunteers. Most of them are friends of Jocelyn, who has been introducing new volunteers there in droves. The dogs now get out and walked far more often than before and I’m not sure Jocelyn ever goes home. She seems to be there each time I go!

The final person to mention today is Emma, who also volunteers at Angouleme and is normally there twice a week. Another lovely lady who is raising awareness of the plight of the refuge dogs, she has been working with Jocelyn this week to get some killer shots of the dogs at the refuge, in preparation for an event next weekend.

Here’s an example of their achievements (the first is the photo previously being used for Arnold, this gorgeous smiley boy.

Arnold beforeBlog 300314


I’m sure if you asked any of these ladies, and the other volunteers, who turn up week after week, getting dirty and smelly, having their arms practically pulled out of their sockets by over-excited dogs, why they do it, they will say, why wouldn’t I? It really is the best feeling if you are an animal lover. You’re doing a great job girls and boys.


Once I was a lonely dog

once i was a lonely dog

Once I was a lonely dog,
Just looking for a home.
I had no place to go,.
No one to call my own.
I wandered up and down the streets,
in rain in heat and snow.
I ate what ever I could find,
I was always on the go..
My skin would itch, my feet were sore,
My body ached with pain.
And no one stopped to give a pat
Or to gently say my name.
I never saw a loving glance,
I was always on the run.
For people thought that hurting me
was really lots of fun.
And then one day I heard a voice
So gentle, kind and sweet,
And arms so soft reached down to me
And took me off my feet.
“No one again will hurt you”
Was whispered in my ear.
“You’ll have a home to call your own
where you will know no fear.”
“You will be dry, you will be warm,
you’ll have enough to eat
And rest assured that when you sleep,
your dreams will all be sweet.”
I was afraid I must admit,
I’ve lived so long in fear.
I can’t remember when I let
A human come so near.
And as she tended to my wounds
And bathed and brushed my fur
She told me ’bout the rescue group
And what it meant to her.
She said, “We are a circle,
A line that never ends.
And in the center there is you
protected by new friends.”
“And all around you are
the ones that check the pounds,
And those that share their home
after you’ve been found.”
“And all the other folk
are searching near and far.
To find the perfect home for you,
where you can be a star.”
She said, “There is a family,
that’s waiting patiently,
and pretty soon we’ll find them,
just you wait and see.”
“And then they’ll join our circle
they’ll help to make it grow,
so there’ll be room for more like you,
who have no place to go.”
I waited very patiently,
The days they came and went.
Today’s the day I thought,
my family will be sent.
Then just when I began to think
It wasn’t meant to be,
there were people standing there
just gazing down at me.
I knew them in a heart beat,
I could tell they felt it too.
They said, “We have been waiting
for a special dog like you.”
Now every night I say a prayer
to all the gods that be.
“Thank you for the life I live
and all you’ve given me.
But most of all protect the dogs
in the pound and on the street.
And send a Rescue Person
to lift them off their feet.”
~Arlene Pace (September 18, 1998)

If you are interested in helping homeless dogs and cats, please join us at http://www.LAARF.com

Les Amis des Animaux volunteer in Tarbes

I’m sure as we get to know more refuges around France, we will come across more and more amazing people giving their time and, in some cases, everything they own to help the animals they care for.

I understand there is a lady like that at Tarbes but I’ll let the guys there tell you about her when they can. 

As I alluded to yesterday, the volunteers at Tarbes are getting their hands dirty at the refuge. This passage is from their second visit there last week:


“So week two; at least we now have some idea what to expect. 

At the end of the day last week Lesley, Jenny and Val had gone into the final Kennel and could not believe how bad it was.  We were just leaving so did not have time to look, so this week that is where we started.  More by accident than design we split into groups, Cats, Dog  walkers, groomers and the cleaners.
 Sonia and Allan who have a houseful of cats of their own spent their time in the cattery.  Jenny and Val did dog walking, all from this far kennel.  What characters we are finding out about, one I have named “Buster”, he was one of the first to be walked and liked it so much he figured he should go every time so kept trying to Bust out, hence Buster.  One lovely old black Lab got out and I went after him, he growled when I tried to put him on the lead but was happy as anything to go back to his kennel by himself.  Because he had run off I discovered he has a limp, not walking but running, such a sweet old boy, now what shall I call him?  Then there is a beautiful Vizla and last week I saw a German Short Haired Pointer, Pedigree dogs in Kennels…………, what happened there?  Expensive animals to buy, I know I bought a short haired pointer over here and beautiful as she was I could not cope with her but I found her a good home locally with a hunter, which is where she should have gone in the first place, he loved her to bits.
My friend Susie came with us this week, so she, Lesley and I were in THAT far kennel and it was bad, drains were blocked, the smell was well BAD.  Thankfully although some dogs had access they had the sense to stay away and kept to their good area, except of course when we went in because they were interested in us and what we were doing.  Thankfully Lesly had brought along a load of disinfectant, she had been there last week and knew how dire it was.  Susie and I had cleared one drain when Lesley arrived so she got down to scrubbing out and disinfecting individual kennels.  Susie and I were going to help with dog walking but then realised Lesley would be alone and camaraderie is part of volunteering, no matter how bad the situation if there is more than one of you then you can make each other smile.  We found one drain that was so blocked that Lesley said “what we need are extending brushes”, “I have those” I replied, “So why didn’t you bring them” said Lesley, hands on hips in Les Dawson mode,  We all giggled and I promised to bring them next week.
We have all been coming up with different ideas so it was decided to have a Brainstorming session which is happening this Sunday, really looking forward to it, starting to get things really moving forward.  We all sent our ideas to Lesley, who will chair the meeting, many of my ideas came from LAARF, simple things like putting numbers on the kennels, then the “Monday” volunteers can tell the others what they have done by kennel number.  The simple ideas are always the best.”

 So you can see there is real work to be done at some of the refuges and in most cases no money to do it with.

The smallest thing can make the biggest difference to the lives of these animals and the people caring for them. If you’ve thought about getting involved, now’s the time to do it.

Les Amis des Animaux at Tarbes North SPA

In my area being a volunteer at a refuge means walking dogs and cuddling cats. In some areas, they don’t appear to need any help (I find a closed door policy a bit worrying), but there are a number of refuges that need a lot more help.  One such refuge is Tarbes North. I don’t know much about it at all, but I know they have a secret weapon and that is the support of an association called Les Amis des Animaux. They are quite a new group, but they have some great ideas and have already started fundraising to get each of the animals in the refuge neutered.

They are also building a group of volunteers there who are getting down and dirty with the dogs and cats, really dirty (that’s not a reference to either the volunteer or the dog in this photo)!

Tarbes 1.1

This is from Sholu, president of Les Amis des Animaux. Tomorrow I’ll link to a blog from one of the volunteers so you can read about what they’re up to.

“Do you remember the first Monday in March?  Well, we and all the volunteers who came to the SPA Bigorre in Tarbes certainly do!  The weather was cold but bearable when we first arrived, but about half-way through the afternoon there was what can only be described as a mini-typhoon accompanied by hail.  Plastic containers were flying about, doors slamming, animals whining and hiding in fear – quite a scene.  A baptism by fire!

Thanks to a notice put out  by Cafe-Matin on request of the association Les Amis des Animaux , a group of 6 volunteers  were waiting for us at the Intermarche in north Tarbes the first Monday in March. Cafe-Matin members Sonia, Allan, Margaret, Jenny, Val  and Catherine met with  Lesley and Sholu from AdA, who led  them to the shelter, hidden away in a little-known hinterland in the northern borders of Tarbes.

This was the first time we all met, and we didn’t know if the shocking state of the shelter, the absence of staff to clean the cages, the noise of overexcited dogs would put our volunteers off.  Not at all, without batting an eyelid everyone mucked into muck raking, replacing the bedding for the dogs and doing some grooming with the cats.  We all survived the mini-typhoon and the group were back the following week – this time in sunshine!

A big, big thank you to all the volunteers making up a strong and thriving Monday group.  We do, however, still need more for a Friday group, to ensure the proper socialisation of the dogs and care of the cats.  Interested?  You will be supported by a member of the AdA association and as soon as there is a group of volunteers, you won’t need to go every week.  Not sure?  We are happy to answer any questions. Please write to Sholu Pande, President, Amis des Animaux, amisdesanimaux65@gmail.com”

Adventures at Limoges SPA

We now have a good number of English speakers volunteering at Limoges and Angouleme SPAs and a smattering of volunteers elsewhere but more are always welcome so please get in touch if you’d like to join us. The refuges are full to bursting at this time of year, so if you or anyone you know is looking for a pet, please rescue one. You not only save that animal’s life, but that of the one you make room for at the refuge.

Today, I am posting from the Furry Tales blog, which originally appears on Angloinfo Dordogne on Thursday. Thankyou Puss In Boots!

This is Donti (at least we think that’s her name but the writing on her card on her cage is difficult to read).  She is about 3 years old and is absolutely gorgeous – she has thick fur like a big cuddly teddy and is such an affectionate soul.  She is described as a Bassett/ Bretonne cross but to me she looks more like a golden Cocker cross.  I walked her for the first time last week and fell in love – once she gets to the grass she rolls over on her back and scoots around just enjoying being away from the concrete.  She hates being caged and cries when I put her back after her walk.  I walked her again this week and I’m convinced that she would make a very loveable family pet.  If there’s anyone out there with a vacancy in front of their fire please go and visit cage 68 at Limoges SPA!


I have been volunteering at Limoges for a couple of months now and my feelings about the experience have changed a bit since I wrote about it in January.  You never really get used to the smell or the noise of the dogs all vying for attention but as it becomes more familiar the impact is less severe.  The main change for me though is that the dogs start to become individuals.  As you get to know them and maybe walk the same ones over time they become separate personalities and inevitably you start to have your favourites and become emotionally attached.  Although all furries are special there are those that just get to you in some way. When I see people looking at the dogs intending to re-home one I always want to guide them to my favourites.  This week, a favourite of all the volunteers, a little black chap called Toupie was missing from his cage and we were all delighted to find that he had been adopted.   Toupie had a deformed front leg but it certainly didn’t stop him galloping around.  Also we are so pleased that Falco, the BBD who was my Furry of the month in February, has gone to live with a British family.

As I’ve become more confident in my role there I’m happier to make my own decisions as to which ones to walk.  Although it’s tempting to take your favourites it’s so important to make sure they all get their turn.  This week many of the dogs hadn’t been out of their cages for almost a week!  Not surprisingly they were desperate to get out and getting their leads and harnesses on was even more of a challenge than usual – often a 2 person job!  There were 4 of us British volunteers and 4 or 5 French and so we were able to get something like 35 – 40 dogs out of their cages during the afternoon.  Some of us walk the dogs in pairs if they’re caged together whilst those that don’t get on too well with others have to be walked alone – we always think that if they were not on a lead there would be much less tension between them.  Many of the dogs are big and very strong – rather than us taking them for a walk they drag us up the path and today I’m aching in places where I didn’t know I had muscles.  Despite the dogs being so full of energy and presumably many of them with bad experiences of humans, I’m always surprised by how good natured, friendly and amenable they are.  I always take a bag of snacks which helps and at the end of the day I usually go around the cages giving away the remaining pieces of smacko and saying hello to some of those that aren’t allowed out for walks yet.  It’s at this point that I often feel close to tears but I have to tell myself that I’ve given up just a few hours but made a bit of a difference to a few of them.

Staff have said that at this time of the year there tends to be an influx of dogs and that this coincides with the end of the hunting season and also presumably when Christmas puppies have grown up.  The hunting dogs make me very sad – there are so many and they must be very hard to re-home.  Is there no way hunters can be stopped from abandoning their dogs in this way?

I’m going to be away for a few weeks now and so won’t be able to go.  When I go back in April I know that I’ll be checking on who is still there and who were the lucky ones.  I will be paying particular attention to cage number 68!

The long term plan. Any suggestions?

Call me naive if you wish, but I really think it’s possible to change the world. I know it’s not that easy, but it only takes a little thought and a lot of will, courage and determination. Of course we can’t change the world for everyone or everything, but we can change it for someone or something.

We’re doing a tiny thing, but I often wonder where our efforts are best placed to further help the plight of the abandonned animals in France, bearing in mind that the government pigeonhole animals in the same category as furniture! I’m beginning to realise there is no single thing to focus on, nor will we ever completely solve the problem.

What we can do is our best, however small that is. There are lots of awful people who do unspeakable things to animals, there are normal people, many of whom are unaware that these unspeakable things are going on, there are people who know these things go on and who think they can’t solve the problem so they carry on doing nothing and then there are those of us who want to do something to start moving the balance just a little more in favour of the animals.

I thought I had found the answer to the overcrowding in animal refuges. It seemed to me that the answer was to reduce the number of pets being bred, by encouraging people who own a pet to have them neutered. Far too often, we see adverts for puppies that have come along as the result of an accident. If you’ve ever come across a dog trying to get to a bitch on heat, you’ll know it’s not easy to stop them finding a way to spread their love. I saw a petition recently, yes another one, calling for neutering of companion animals to become law. That’s a step in the right direction. It may not stop those people who feel laws are not there for them to follow, but it will help in cases where accidents happen to responsible pet owners.

This plays a huge part, but it’s not the only answer.

Many people who want a pet don’t have a preference as to where they come from but wouldn’t think to look for their pet in a shelter. By promoting animals in refuges, it should be possible to shift the balance from buying from a pet shop to rescuing from a shelter. I don’t have the statistic for France, but in the US, 23 million people get a pet each year, and of that number, 17 million don’t mind where they come from, that’s 74% of people who it is possible to guide towards rescuing rather than buying. If we halve  that statistic twice in France and find a way to educate the general public about how wonderful these refuge animals are, we have a chance of making a real difference.

A little education and the love of a rescue animal goes a long way.

spay, neuter adopt