Think you don’t have time to make a difference? Think again…

So many of the dogs and cats that come in to the refuges are scared, perhaps not just because of what they have come from, but because they have been dumped in a strange and noisy place with nothing and noone that is familiar to them.

Although they do their best, some of the refuges don’t have enough staff or volunteers to do more than feed, clean up and cuddle the dogs and cats, so the animals’ interaction with people can be limited to just a few minutes a day. Even where it appears that there are a good number of volunteers, some of the bigger, stronger dogs do not get their fair share of attention because they can be difficult to handle. (We need more men!)

Someone complained they could never get hold of anyone at a refuge to ask about a dog, which is a fair point. They had this response which really made me think about what the staff and volunteers are dealing with, the things we don’t see:

“Our refuge is run by the lady who established it. Until recently she has had very little help. She still has no-one to help some days with feeding and cleaning. We don’t do walking – yet – as not enough hands on deck. She’s just back from her well earned month’s rest with her family in Spain. I am imagining a day in her life ………… up at 6am to feed x no. of dogs in her home (every room but a bedroom and the lounge), garage and courtyard … then clean – maybe … having been got up in the middle of the night by the gendarmes due to an incident involving a dog biting, required to make expert statement and take dog…. off to refuge 9am to find someone on doorstep with abandoned dog needing vet visit …. hasty visit to vets (meanwhile x no. dogs inside actual refuge awaiting food and agitated because they can hear people outside …. back from vet – dog kept in …. fight broke out in one run due to agititation – injured dog in kennels ….. volunteer fails to arrive as child ill so off school – desperately tries to feed x no dogs – cleaning will have to wait … off for 2nd visit of day to vet with injured dog … back to refuge – some pens cleaned and watered but dogs requiring medication take priority … unscheduled visitor arrives – wants to ‘see’ dogs in refuge spends ages ahhing and oohing – leaves without a dog ….pompiers call – dog abandoned on main road …. another unscheduled visitor “desolée s’il vous plait revenir demain matin” …. off to get abandoned dog … foster family in trouble and want to return a dog ….. must clean remaining pens as have inspection tomorrow ….have I eaten today? ….. oh was that the phone…………………………………….. If only we had the resources for someone to answer the phone! Actually, what am I saying, if only we had a phone – ‘the’ phone is her own mobile and landline.”

I still get upset when I read that. A few hours of our time can make a huge difference to the animals and to the running of a refuge. In the instance above, probably life changing.

The reason for today’s post is that one of our volunteers posted about this dog on our facebook page:


“Working with a terrified grey ghost weimaraner yesterday at Bergerac SPA, and the tutelage of Sally, really brought home to me the difference we volunteers can make for these unfortunate dogs. Misty as I now call him was so scared he wouldnt even stand up in his pen. I had to lift and carry him out into the yard where he still lay cowering on the ground. But after only 10 mins of TLC his confidence began to grow and he started to take a few tentative steps and take an interest in his surroundings. At once you could see what a magnificent dog Misty is and how with a little bit more encouragement he will make a wonderful pet and companion. Its only 2hrs a week I volunteer, could you spare the time and see such wonderful transformations. If so there is a friendly team waiting to support you on this amazing journey of making a difference.”

She made a massive difference to this dog’s day, and probably to his chances of finding a new home. We all know about him now, and so do you. Do you know anyone who has room for one (or more) of our recycled dogs and cats? Do you have a few hours to spend walking or cuddling some of them? We need you. They need you more!


SPA Refuge Animalier Bortois-Correze

Each refuge is different and I always assume the smaller ones have more time to give the animals in their charge more love and attention. It’s not always the case though and there is always room for more volunteers to help improve the lives of the dogs and cats.

Thank-you Sue for this piece about the refuge where she volunteers:

Refuge Animalier Bortois is a small refuge situated near the outskirts of Bort-les-Orgues (border of Correze and Cantal). It’s on the nicely named industrial estate Le Ruisseau Perdu, bordering the Dordogne river, and currently houses eleven dogs, numerous cats and two kittens. Three delightful elderly dogs are considered to be permanent residents, but the others are available for adoption.

We’ve been walking the dogs here once a week for 2-3 years, since my husband Alan was introduced by a friend. The dogs are usually kept in pairs and there is a patch of ground behind their runs that serves as a small exercise area. There is usually one employee, who is taken on for up to two years under some form of employment scheme that I don’t know the ins and outs of. Currently we have the exceptionally wonderful young man Dimitri, who works way above and beyond what is required to ensure that the dogs are well looked after and that their surrounding environment is also in good order.

Although the refuge is on the industrial estate, it borders woodland with a quiet path that runs parallel to the river, so this is where we usually conduct our walks. It’s a lovely shady path in summer but in places rocky and a bit tricky, so you need to be steady on your feet, especially when attached to a very enthusiastic four-footed friend! In bad weather and winter the path tends to become muddy and slippery, so there’s the option of a shorter wooded path and a wander around the estate.

Sue Borg

At the moment there is one other English volunteer walker who comes sporadically around work commitments, and three lovely French ladies. We’re always met with warmth and smiles from people and dogs alike, a very rewarding experience. Alan and I struggle along with our gradually improving French, since it’s very rare to find English spoken locally, but that hasn’t been a problem at all. In fact it’s easier now – Dimitri does like to try out a bit of English and a more recent member of the committee speaks very good English.

Compared to some refuges that I read or hear about I think this one is very lucky to be small and not bursting at the seams. But there is plenty of room for improvement if more volunteers could be found. Sometimes the dogs are lucky enough to each get out for a walk once a week, but that’s very little for some of the young and very energetic ones, and there’s no time for the play or grooming that I see mentioned in some refuges. In the summer months a group of handicapped people walk the dogs once a week – such a wonderful idea with benefits to both sides.

So, if you’re a dog lover living anywhere near Bort-les-Orgues why not look us up and come for a visit. Alan and I would be delighted to introduce you.

One of the dogs at is four year old Caline. She’s an elegant, playful, attentive, affectionate girl who would make a great addition to a family.

Caline Bort les Orgues

The refuge has a facebook page:

Arnold finds his home and now we need to find one for Djack

This is Arnold, or Barmy Arnie as he has been renamed around these parts! He’s been mentioned a couple of times before as he was a firm favourite at the Mornac refuge.

Arnold 2

We fostered Arnie at the beginning of July. I went to see if I could foster a different dog but someone asked me to check on him and I found a super-skinny scrap tucked away in the last box all on his own as he was struggling to cope with refuge life.

I couldn’t walk away and leave him, so he came home with me.

Initially he didn’t like the car much so the first challenge was getting him in, but he settled down quickly and was no trouble on the journey home and after a couple of trips started to jump in readily.

It quickly became apparent he hasn’t had much comfort in his life. He was scared of the TV and continues to get a bit freaked out by electrical things like the food mixer so we worked on desensitising those things. It also meant he didn’t jump all over the furniture, and only occasionally chewed something he shouldn’t. We are down to our last cushion now, but all shoes remain in one piece!

Over the first couple of days we took things really slowly, but he relaxed in to life with us easily and the only thing we remained wary of was his relationship with our grumpy old cat, who is a tad deaf and wouldn’t hear Arnie coming if he chose to attack. His interest in her remained high, but we have since found the two of them lying in the same room, the cat dozing nonchalantly, whilst Arnie watched intently. I’m pleased to report no incidents and we’ve now concluded he just wants to be friends with everything and everyone.

Arnie is an absolute joy. He loves life, craves attention, loves to play and can barely contain himself when it’s time for a walk. He’s a very special dog who just needed to be loved for him to blossom. He has been de-balled this week and went off to a wonderful home on Thursday with his new dad who has the time to train him and who is planning excursions for the two of them. I think they’ll both be very happy.

…and now we have another firm favourite. This little fella is Djack. He’s currently at Bergerac SPA, sounds very similar to my Arnold and our volunteers there have fallen in love with him.

477-Djack-3 Bergerac

Djack is an unusually reserved and calm three yr old Breton Spaniel, obedient, affectionate and having a very hard time in a shared box with some rather “excitable” companions. He just moves to the back of the box and watches from a distance, unhappy and longing to have some peace and quiet. A joy to walk and hug, he would make a great companion. Can we find a home for this boy who will repay your love in spades?

The Friends of The Cats of Grenord

Thankyou to Malcolm, Lesley and Lynva for today’s entry and for what you have done here…

The Friends of The Cats of Grenord are a group of like-minded people who want the best for the cats in our village.  As with a lot of villages in France we have a problem with feral and abandoned cats, but rather than just talk about it we wanted to do something positive.

We have been raising money towards the sterilisation and neutering of the cats to keep the population down.  Our location is Grenord near Chabanais Area Code 16150.

How did all this start? It began with a lady in our village – Lynva – who had stray cats congregating in the area of her garden.  A French neighbour had been, and still is, feeding these cats, so being the cat lover she is, she put the odd plate of food out for them when the neighbour was not there.  One day a young female brought her kittens to feed and one of the older cats took offence to the kittens, all of whom were really hungry, muscling in on the food.  The older cat promptly clouted one of the kittens around the ear, knocking the kitten straight down the well in the garden!!  Lynva watched in horror as this happened but with help Lynva rescued this kitten. How this was done is another story, but to cut a long story short this involved local Pompiers, Gendarmes, secours en montagne, les ambulanciers et un médecin, and 2hrs later the kitten was safe and sound.  The kitten – we are pleased to say – was re-homed, and is now a beautiful, healthy cat with a family he loves and who loves him.

It made us all realise just how many cats there were in the village who were neither loved or cared for, who may have had owners in the past but had now been left behind, who were extremely hungry and were multiplying by the week. They were living and breeding in the attics and barns of houses in our village, causing problems with some of the owners.

Lynva and the French neighbour were now feeding most of the cats and with this came the need to care for the sick ones with trips to the local vets.  Some of these have now become Lynvas’ own cats who visited the vet as soon as they were old enough for the op!

My wife and I looked after the cats while Lynva visited the UK, and during that time we got to know the cats better.  Cat numbers were getting unmanageable and rumours filtered though to us that the authorities had been contacted and that they would come to the village, round the cats up and take them away for disposal.

How could genuine animal lovers standby and let this happen?  Time for positive action!!  We decided that the best way forward was to try and raise funds to get them sterilised/neutered.  Our friends, John and Sylvia, asked us if we would like to attend a Spring Fayre, which, though them, we were invited to attend by the Laminitis Society.  It was a marvellous event and because of friends and neighbours generosity with donated items to sell, we managed to raise some funds to start getting the cats to the vets.

At the spring fare we met Fiona who put us in contact with an association which deals with vets in the Charente who sterilise/neuter cats at a cheaper rate.  Lynva herself has also contributed greatly, not only with her own funds, but by giving five of the Vagabond cats a home.  We have spayed and had treated for fleas, tics and worms, 17 cats to date and these vary from young cats up to our oldest cat Gummy who has very few teeth and is over 10 years old.  All our cats are beautiful, healthy, well fed and, fingers crossed, others will be visiting the vets shortly!!

Cats of Grenford