Be it helping raise funds for the homeless, supporting a children's home or organising a musical evening for an animal charity, there is usually something you can do.
Here Rowan Gwillim, who runs the Dog Rescue Carcassonne website, tells her story of volunteering for her local SPA animal sanctuary, and provides some tips on how you can offer a helping hand:
Craig McGinty: How did you find yourself in France?
Rowan Gwillim I worked for the Ministry of Defence for 20 years then left voluntarily when my husband retired from the Royal Marines.
We had visited Carcassonne regularly and decided to move here. As well as volunteering for the SPA I still work part time, so life is very busy.
RG: My beautiful beagle, Bravo, was killed on a road and his body was taken to the SPA. When I went to collect him I asked if they needed any help, et voilà.
CM: What do people need to provide if they want to adopt a dog?
RG:Adoption costs 110 euros for a microchipped and vaccinated dog. Proof of home address and some form of ID are required.
CM: How can people help the SPA if they can't adopt a dog?
RG: Oh, there are loads of ways people can help. Coming along and join the volunteer's group to walk, groom or play with the dogs, or caress the
We are currently building kennels, so anyone with any building skills, or materials, would be welcome. Collars and leads make great donations, and being completely independent, we are not part of the well-funded Paris group of SPAs, money is always in short supply. We are able to provide receipts against wealth tax and are a registered charity.
CM: Is there a dog that has really touched your heart? What was its story?
RG: Oh, there are so many. One that I will never forget though is Gryff. I adored him from the first time I saw him, but I couldn't get anyone to notice him. And with four dogs of my own, there is no more room at the inn.
Every time I walked him he just clung to me and I knew that he had so much love to give. He had longish fur and was starting to look a bit scruffy, so another volunteer and I gave him a very poor grooming, in fact that's another way people could help, if anyone has any experience in a poodle parlour, please get in touch.
We then posted him on as many websites as we could. Nothing. Then one day an English couple walked in out of the blue and asked to see Gryff.
I remember saying 'Yes' a bit like a footballer who had just scored a goal, which is not like me at all, but I just had a feeling. It was love at first sight and shortly after Gryff was adopted.
He has now been renamed and I saw him this summer. He is in fabulous shape and is both loved and loving. His owners adore him and when I am feeling a bit low, I think of him and smile.
The other type of story that always get to me are those when a dog is brought in having been mistreatment or starving and we build him or her up to strength and gradually restore their faith in humanity.
Sadly there are many such cases, and the 'before and after' photos tell their own
story. We try and keep in touch with as many adopters as possible, either
via my website Dog Rescue Carcassonne or via the SPA Facebook page.
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