Working like a dog

The last of my summer holiday days today. Well, I say holiday… Meeting this morning followed by a very busy afternoon at the refuge. Another one of tears and smiles. When term starts, I’ll be back to Mondays and Fridays for a few hours again. 

When I downloaded all my photos, I realised it had been both a remarkable and an unremarkable four hours this afternoon. First up were photos for a little male miniature pinscher who has come in from the pound. 


This is the ‘short back and sides’ photos they need for their files. One portrait. One body shot. pinscher

This morning, Dogs Today magazine asked me if I could send them some comments on dog aggression so all the while, I’m getting numbers of chien mordeurs and trying to work out at any one time which dogs are classed as dangerous. I’ve been bitten once, by Charley, a rat terrier. He lay down, I went to pick him up. He didn’t like it and he told me so. Even when there have been quite significant dog fights, there are few bites. I’d said that given the circumstances many of our dogs have faced, the fact that they have never bitten their tormentors probably makes rescue dogs a safer bet than most. You simply couldn’t push most other dogs to the limits that some of the dogs here have faced. It wouldn’t be ethical. This is why I love rescue dogs all the more. If you’ve not been mistreated, you’ve probably been neglected, manners-wise, and yet even the dogs who are completely bonkers are not really likely to bite. The bites come when dogs are afraid, more often than not. Apart from Charley, the other dog who has had a snap is Pam. She’s a griffon cross I got on photo yesterday. 


She was utterly terrified when she arrived here – worse than most. But she is making great strides. Got her out on a lead yesterday and she actually wanted to come to be put on the lead, though she still ran away back to her kennel every time her instincts got the better of her. Two months on and she can be put on a lead. Slow progress, but amazing progress. 

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Two ladies helping me out with photos of the pinscher at reception. It’s only 2pm and there’s a lady in reception adopting a kitten with her two boys. 

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 Belle sits by the gate watching the world go by. 2pm and it’s fairly quiet. 

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 This little pudding is Aglae. She was adopted, overfed by her owners (pretty much as cruel as underfeeding her if you ask me) and she’s in reception waiting for a home. She’s a shy, wary little thing and she usually waddles off to hide under a desk. Today she sat on the reception chair and I missed a great photo opportunity!

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Outside, Wolf gets both a grooming and a petting. This big shepherd cross has been at the refuge for four years and is a real sweetheart. But he’s big bad old Wolf in the eyes of the public and nobody has yet come forward to adopt this beautiful dog. He’s male. He’s big. He’s old. Three things that stand against his success in the adoption world. 

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He does enjoy his grooming session though, as you can see. Not so much big bad Wolf after all. Just a big sweetheart who deserves a chance. 

Right behind me, though, I’ve turned my back on four dogs who are being brought in. I don’t know the story. It seems to me the guy who dropped them off knew them all very well, but the dogs are terrified. They have never been on a lead or had a collar on. It’s totally disheartening. These four dogs are old, scruffy-looking sad things who go into one of the free open enclosures just until indoor enclosures can be sorted out for them and they have calmed down enough to be processed. We move some of the dogs who are in the outdoor enclosures back inside – the outdoor spaces, called ‘parcs’ are for them to run about, play, feel the grass under their feet. But these dogs have their time outside cut short. And the refuge have received a phone call about a pot-bellied pig loose in Mornac. One of the staff goes to pick up the pig, and as she leaves, two more dogs are dropped off. These two are old – 10 and 11. Their owner had died and the dogs are homeless. They’re less scared than the four brought in before, but it’s still all new and scary. 




Neither the golden retriever nor the Belgian shepherd have been groomed in some time. Both have dreadlocks and matted fur. That’ll be job number one. Sort out their fur. 

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Then we have the seventh arrival of the afternoon. A female pot-bellied pig. There’s a rabbit in the vet room at the moment and this just completes the menagerie. Nobody quite knows what the rules are regarding pot-bellied pigs. This is the first one in through the pound. There’s discussion about registration and the pound director goes off to investigate registration for pigs. 

refuge life 8Poor Miss Piggy is surrounded by 150 dogs, most of whom are hunting breeds. Talk about a lamb in among the wolves. No wonder she looks worried. 

Back at reception, the six new arrivals have disappeared and there’s a moment of calm. 

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A little spaniel pup takes a nap as things settle down. 

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Round the back of the cattery, everything is quiet. Ulla and Dali are in the first parc on the right, then Benji is in the second. He is a huge cane corso, and sadly the chances of homing him are low. He’s never had any basic training and needs three people to help walk him. The little pen at the bottom houses Lilou and a little Dachshund who arrived last week. As you can see from all the washing, a lot of work has already happened before it even got to midday – the main bit of the day’s work in fact. With four hundred animals, there’s a lot of cleaning. 

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Some of the cats live outdoors and this little one takes a minute round in the quiet to sit and take stock of it all. 

refuge life 13The new-build cattery is a wonderful place. It was mainly funded by private donations and also through the local town halls, communities and a huge charity called 30 Millions d’Amis. 


Almost 100 kittens at the moment. It’s depressing how many there are. They are cute though. Most of them are napping. 

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Then back round the front, a family have turned up to find a dog. Little, small, female. Not so many of those on the books. They see a couple but nothing to take their fancy. A woman who adopted a dog the day before brings the dog back. He’s no good, she says. Her two year old is terrified. Sadly, a return we could see happening. She came yesterday and asked to see Seith, a bull terrier cross. He’s a bouncy, high-energy dog and she works from 9-7 with a two hour lunch break. Poor Seith would have destroyed the house out of boredom. She was talked out of taking Seith, but took another dog. And the other dog stays with her less than 24 hours. What can you do? You advise they take an older, smaller dog with less energy, but they are determined and then they can’t cope. Hello is returned and reunited with his stablemate. He seems to be none the worse for his 24 hours in the real world. 


Gisele and I reunite the two, check they still get on okay. They’re fine. Hello benefits from a photo shoot and hopefully someone else will find a space in their lives for him instead. The president of the refuge returns the lady’s cheque and the brief adoption of Hello is over. 

When we get back with Hello and Eloy, I can see my afternoon rendez-vous have arrived. Two people who’ve come a good 100km to see Malicia and hopefully to adopt her. She’s a sweet three-year-old female Breton spaniel who arrived 3 months ago and it’s a surprise she has taken so long to rehome. She’s adorable. 




I think back to the Dogs Today article about whether rescue dogs are innately aggressive. Malicia seems to be the conclusion to my argument. A very sweet little dog indeed. And yes, her adopters are charmed, they sign the paperwork and load Malicia up for her long journey home. She’s going to a home with another female and as always, I have butterflies until I get a confirmation email saying everything is fine. Hard to put those butterflies to rest when people come and adopt a dog one day and return it the next. I’m pretty sure Malicia’s adoptants are keepers, though. 

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She is the spaniel they have been looking for. 

Max, her stablemate, goes back to his enclosure all on his own. I manage to get a sneaky photo of Paulo at the gates – a dog who has been on my list for weeks. Another big bad oldie like Wolf, sadly for Paulo. Because he looks like a big, bad dog doesn’t he? Five years at the refuge for Paulo though, sadly. pauloIt’s 5pm and there’s still an hour til closing time. The family who came in looking for a young, small female have finally settled on Jana, a dog I photographed yesterday. She was lovely – a little bouncy, but attentive and focused. I hope she won’t scare the little girl of the family too much and that they give her the exercise she needs. The family looked at Hippie and decided she was too energetic, then chose Jana instead. You never can steer people to the oldies who are completely bomb-proof. I’d give them a Ralf any day. 


But good luck to Jana and Malicia. As I left, the refuge was still busy and there’s the small business of packing up four dogs who are off to Germany to be picked up by the families who have adopted them there. This is all the ‘on site’ work today – but there is a team of dedicated ladies who run a blog and website advertising dogs in French refuges for adoption in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. They are massively successful, especially at rehoming hunting dogs – a near-impossible task in France. Victor, Cooky, Fino and Gladys are off to sprechen some deutsch. I hope my gorgeous photo of Victor helped melt a fraulein’s heart. 


These rescue dogs… so aggressive! 

I left at 5pm – my own doggies desperately in need of a little time with me. By the time we’d eaten and played and walked, it was way past 9pm. Some days are just like that!






3 thoughts on “Working like a dog

  1. That little pinscher looks so lovely! For 13 years we had a dog from a shelter called Margot. We would say she was a doberdor (doberman labrador cross). She looked like that pinsher but much more stockyer). She was the most obedient and loving dog. She was not perfect. She was a bit too much of a guard dog and a real hunter – not for her to run after a squirrel for fun, she was deadly serious about catching them. We miss her still (she died in 95).

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