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My family and other animals ..Adopting a refuge dog - what I didn't know..

So we moved to the country a couple of years back .. with this came a large garden and suddenly I found myself wanting lots of animals .. now you didn't know me when I was young but I wasn't a huge animal fan ..

In the 80s I had Harry the hamster but he used to bite me and was basically quite boring in the day so I sold him for a fiver (5gbp). My sister got to look after the class gerbil which went OK until he died of a heart attack :-( and then we won fish in the local fair which was great until we had to clean the tanks which quite frankly I found disgusting and so used to do this with washing up gloves on!

One day when visiting the property of a super rich sheik with my Dad who was doing the legal work

for him .. I said oh I love your horses "Take one " he said generously, "My gift to you" .. well after recovering from the shock my Dad said no way so we settled on a couple of rabbits (he must have been breeding them, there were hundreds) ..which were pretty wild but we enjoyed them for many years until my cousin forgot to close their pen and they escaped into the fox lined gardens around gulp !

I was really quite scared of dogs having been bitten by an Alsatian when quite small so after the rabbits left the animal journey stopped.

So roll forward 25 years to life with kids and an Enid Blytonesque feeling here in the "arriere pays". I was keen to not pass on this dog fearing, rubber glove wearing approach to animals I had and bravely started down the animal route again.. we have had Flapjack and BooBoo the rabbits, both male who unfortunately wouldn't happily share their hutch and run so we had to invest in separate duplex accommodation for them! More recently Smudge a very confident floppy ear rabbit who thinks he is part cat .. has until recently (read on!) had the run of the house, roof and rabbit run.

We have also had Coco the cat and her babies and then a dog.

In true Tom and Gerry style the cat brought in the mice, the dog chased the cat and Coco really didn't

found all of us fairly intolerable! When our adorable Coco decided to her time on earth was at an end we didn't continue down the cat route. I still miss seeing her stalk through our much too long grass but I don't miss finding chewed up lizards and having to catch the live mice she released in our house!

We did think about adopting but were too scared, what about their history? would they attack our then 11 year old and then 9 year old? we went for a puppy which with hindsight was probably not the best decision ..We followed all the online guidelines or so we thought and picked "our perfect puppy" , a Labrador , which basically wasn't the typical Andrex puppy but more the stereotypical naughty lab - part kangaroo, very french and with a huge play gene.

The kangaroo part can be seen when she first greets you she literally jumps in happiness not up on you bu all fours take off from the ground...

The French part can be seen in her absolute need to greet everyone who comes to our house with a huge backside swinging wag, a simple wag of a tail will not do. Once she has said hello, she will leave you alone but she has to say bonjour, you have been warned. Oh and she also loves French bread.

This need for to play and play and play means that going to the kennels is like a trip to the Maldives for you and me - her dream ..she literally howls with pleasure from 5 minutes away and jumps out of the car and steams in through their door. So we recommend DOG MEDITERRANEE

It's also like her boot camp as she comes back slender and toned up after 24/7 solid play.

So while it was sooo cute having a puppy wasn't all ups ..there is toilet training .. several shoes lost to chewing, many balls punctured, toys destroyed, cushions to the bin .. the list is really very long ..including frequently the neighbors balls which didn't go down too well oh and a sock cost us over 1500€ in vet bills to get removed ..yes you read that right!

We had to do a lot of education and training with Dawn from Dogs d'Azur. and let's be honest the training was really training us the humans how to be with the dog!..Anyway we did it , like her owners she isn't perfect and she won't win crufts but we made great inroads and we love her and she is very good in the house and doesn't eat socks anymore so we save thousands every week.

Roll forward 4 years... a local dog kept popping by to play in our garden which was great but unreliable, we decided to have a look around for a 2nd dog. Yes we are mad but it was looking a bit empty in the garden without Coco so we got to or rather I got to looking .. the kids were on-board but the main dog walker, Mr BB wasn't so keen ...after about 6 months of .."walk one, walk two makes little difference discussions" he suddenly came around to the idea..Well we didn't question it but deepened our search


I have many lovely friends who dedicate much of their time to all things animal and in particular helping them find a new home .. My good friend Dawn does woofer of the week on Riviera Radio on Wednesdays ..

Tana Cooper hosts a Maddie Monday for dogs that need re-homing on my facebook group Cote d'Azur Living and there are a plethora of Refuges and Associations ( in particular a shout goes out to Les Chats du Mercantour ) looking for foster homes and adoption families that fill my news feed too many to name here but go to the FB page Riviera Animals Adoption & Fostering for any questions .. it is an amazing supportive and well informed group.

The Ados in AdoLand pledged some money they made in Entrepreneur week to the Jean Duflos Foyer refuge in Antibes so I got to see 1st hand how these poor dogs live if they aren't lucky enough to find a home -that isn't taking away from there great job and essential service they do .. but it just doesn't compare to a house with a garden and long country walks and that stays with you.

The point being that unwanted , abandoned dogs were high up in my visibility..

For some reason "Roxy" came to my attention up in the St Vallier Refuge for Old Dogs (Sos Foyers Chiens Ages) ..possibly because his Rust coloured coat looked so fabulous now it was Autumn ..and just the ying and yang of the two dogs together .. so up I went to meet him.

Fast and cunning as a fox, he apparently spent some time surviving in a forest (hence his carnivorous attention to rabbits and squirrels - watch out Smudge!) and yet so gentle and loving and just so thankful to be loved he is a great match for Little Miss Loves to play...we assume he had to scavenge to survive, we know he had been shot at by hunters so he must have been there a while and so leaving bread on a kitchen work space isn't an option right now but he is so intelligent and eager to please we are confident that he too will become a faithful, obedient and playful member of our troop.

He wasn't tagged or castrated so one can maybe assume was never vaccinated either the Refuge did all this. After a play date with the Lab .. we decided to foster with the intention if it all went well on adopting.

It has been a very rewarding experience .. yes with ups and downs .. one lost baguette , one sprint for the forest after something furry without a backward glance but so much love it was such a simple decision to adopt and so Jasper is now part of our clan.

The fact he was abandoned and unloved and that as long as you are not tiny and covered in fur , he is going to be your best friend and really wants to please.

His journey to us has been quite traumatic, we think ..given that he literally cowers at the sight of the tiny flame on a lighter as you light a candle and that a fly swat sends him running from the room at a heck of a pace .. draw your own conclusions..

It has been a pleasure to train and love him over the last couple of months and quite frankly why the owner before didn't do this is beyond us but as they say there is nought so queer as folk.

So I do wish we had used the refuge route the first time around only because we could have saved another dog (we wouldn't give up our naughty Lab though!) . A dog that wasn't psychotic as I had perhaps imagined , one that might not have eaten socks and didn't need toilet training ... and there are a lot of people with well behaved dogs, well trained who are giving them up to move abroad!! :-(

It's getting cold outside now and so these foyers and refuges which are literally bursting at the seams but are outdoors, cannot cope with the huge amount of people who are turning their unwanted animals out on the streets because they are say going on holiday and can't be bothered to pay the kennel bills (happens loads apparently) ..or are moving abroad and so don't plan on taking their "family member" with them ..OK well I'm not here to judge - every case is different but these refuges need your money, they need your animal food and fleece blanket and towel donations and more than anything they need you to choose them when going for a dog or cat.

Make a difference - and make a dog happy ;-)

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