Re­tire­ment home for dogs

Living France - - Lifestyle - twi­lightchiens.com.

We ar­rived in France in 2002 after two years spent in Greece. We both suf­fered from ill health and we felt liv­ing in a warmer cli­mate with a more re­laxed pace of life would do us good. Greece wasn’t quite right for us so we tried France in­stead, mainly be­cause it was af­ford­able and we could be closer to fam­ily.

“When we left the UK we had three Golden Retriev­ers, and shortly after ar­riv­ing in France we were down to our last one, so we vis­ited some refuges to try to find her a com­pan­ion. We were hor­ri­fied to find that in many in­stances, there was no place for old dogs in them – they were of­ten put down be­fore they even got there or were in very poor con­di­tion. So we took one home, and then a lit­tle while later, took on an­other. Then we had a call from the orig­i­nal refuge ask­ing if we could take an­other old boy. Be­fore we knew it we were get­ting calls from re­tire­ment homes and hos­pi­tals when peo­ple came in with old dogs they couldn’t keep with them, and mairies when old dogs were found aban­doned or their own­ers had died.

“By 2010 we had around 30 dogs and it was becoming ex­pen­sive to keep them. We had a lot of sup­port­ers and wanted to keep it all above board so we set up as a char­ity, which was sur­pris­ingly easy to do. All you need to do is fill in a form at the pré­fec­ture and have an ac­coun­tant.”

The cou­ple gen­er­ally have around 30 dogs at any one time, all of which live in their house. Stays range from as lit­tle as eight days and they’ve had their cur­rent long­est res­i­dent for three years. While some dogs are re­homed, Leeanne says that they gen­er­ally re­gard them­selves as a hos­pice for dogs.

“Of course it is up­set­ting that most of the dogs die. But, take the ex­am­ple of Tim who we had re­cently, who ar­rived mal­nour­ished and mal­treated. He was only with us for two weeks but dur­ing that time he was clean and fed, re­ceived vet­eri­nary care and was loved – doesn’t ev­ery liv­ing be­ing de­serve that?”

The dogs get Leeanne and Michael up at around 6:30am. After the dogs are fed and var­i­ous medicines ad­min­is­tered, the cou­ple spend around three hours clean­ing the house, chang­ing nap­pies on sev­eral dogs and dress­ing sores. “Many are in­con­ti­nent, some are just lazy,” says Leeanne, “so clean­ing takes up a lot of our time. For­tu­nately the en­tire house is tiled!”

The af­ter­noon is spent on ad­min and walk­ing the dogs that are able, and there may also be vis­its to the vet. The cou­ple work closely with a trusted vet and will eu­thanise an an­i­mal only when they feel they have no qual­ity of life.

The char­ity raises around €30,000 through sim­ple fundrais­ers by their sup­port­ers and the money is spent on food and vets’ bills. They are also grate­ful to re­ceive do­na­tions such as old bed­ding. “We’re lucky to have a lot of sup­port­ers and vol­un­teers,” Leanne says. “If I have any re­grets, it’s only that we didn’t start do­ing this sooner so we could help more dogs.”

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