Print Posted By Lost in France on 21 Sep 2005 in Real France - French Life

Kennels in Normandy, France

When and where did it all start? Well, I think Angie and me (John) must have been drunk at the time. We where at our local pub celebrating the sale of a small farm we owned, we sold because we where denied planning permission for a project we wanted to undertake. I think it was Angie's fault, I seem to remember her saying, "John you have been into dogs all your life; we both like France why not build a boarding kennels there". That was it, done. I spent the next 3 months researching and looking for a suitable property, and after all that research I still got it wrong.

I was sold a property by an English women with the assurance that because of it's location planning permission would be a mere formality; nothing could have been further from the truth and after 6 months I put the place on the market (18 months later it was sold at a loss of £8,000.00) and bought our present property. It consists of 2 attached houses, both in need of renovation (I have finished one which we rent as a gite, still some vacancies for this year) and a barn that will convert into 5 en suite chamber d'hote, and 12 acres. Planning permission was ongoing; I will come back to that in a mo.

In the mean while I'm in negotiations with the French veterinary service. In order to get a licence to operate the kennels I have to prove I am a capable person, in practise this meant I had to take an examination in French or prove that I had been involved professionally with dogs and cats for at least 3 years in England.

{loadposition contentad}Taking the exam was not an option, at the time my command of the French language just about extended to ordering a beer, after two trips back to England I manage to get a testimonial from my local vet, and rubber stamped by him and counter rubber stamped by the local government veterinary service, and in red ink the same colour the French use, the French love rubber stamps. Armed with this valuable document I hastened back to France and within two weeks I was given a licence to look after 49 dogs.

Off they went again and guess what, they came back marked " dossier incomplet", off I went to the architect who informed me that the planners required me to install a toilet for the handicapped, I told him I did not intend to take handicapped dogs, that went down like a lead parachute! He then told me that on top of the £500.00 I had already paid he would have to charge me a further fee of 50 quid. Bearing in mind that I thought that I have paid for the services of a professional and that he should have known the regulations before submitting the plans, I protested, and suddenly his mastery of the English language left him. So armed with the new plans, and 50 quid poorer, off again to the planning office only to find that everyone was on holiday and the next meeting would not take place for 3 months. I finally received my, Permis de Construire, about 16 months after my first application.

Now you may think all that was a problem; but in came the excavator man to do the earth work and trenches for the footings, ready for some friends to come and help me with the building construction. I turned my back for about an hour, to do another job and when I returned to the construction site I was amazed at the speed of work, there in front of me was an Olympic sized swimming pool!!! Now that is a problem. And that is where I am at the moment, I am having a rendezvous with the digger-man on Sunday, he will have to correct this massive error. Will keep you all posted.

On a more hopeful note I have my first client an English setter for one month, living with me and 5 other dogs in the house, not bad eh?
What I have not mentioned so far is that Angie is still working in England (she visits every week or two) while all this is going on; so poor girl is getting all my pent-up frustration at week-ends and on the 'phone, not to mention working to pay for the renovation of the gite. And battling backwards and forwards to England to bring me life saving supplies, great vats of paints and truckles cheddar cheese and cases of Heinz Beans and firkins of that life saving nectar that is Bass.

Eventually the idea is that Angie runs the kennels, with whatever help she needs from me, and I will renovate all the letting rooms. It is essential that all parties concerned are totally, totally committed to this type of project. All in all, so far, it has taken us 2 years and it will probably take another year before we start taking enough money to live.

The design I used for the 2 kennel blocks I am building are modelled on Single Barrack Block in "Essential Kennel Design" by David Key. A very useful publication with lots of info and ideas, for both amateur and professional. All walls and floors are going to be treated with products supplied by Renotex, wonderful products that will withstand all that the weather, and the dogs can throw at them.

I think it is going to cost, for one block of 11 kennels, about £20,000 but that includes the cost of a 100 metre rough road, laying water and electricity to the site, these are costs that will not be incurred when I build the second block of kennels.

I have had a lot of interest from local English people, because although dogs can go backwards and forwards to England now; it is fiddly and quite expensive. As to interest from the locals all I can say at this stage is that it is a cautious interest. Here in France animal welfare is not a great priority, and when people go on holiday it is known that some dogs are "turned out" for the duration.

If I can be of help to anyone thinking of treading a similar path you can get me through our web site

Finally this is not a path to undertake lightly you will need fortitude and resolve and the ability to negotiate and see your way through and around problems. But it can be done, there is one final thing to consider, at the end of the day will I get customers?
Against All The Odds
On Monday the 26th. Of July we opened
After problem after problem on Monday, after two years five months and twelve days; from the outset, we opened with no great fan-fair just four, paying, dogs and a bottle of pink champagne. We still have lots of work to do; the entire landscaping and gardening still to do. We have to put a roof over the runs area before the winter, and because the architect included on the plans non-standard size windows, I have to make six of them, but at least we are open.

We are very busy spreading the whole of Normandy with flyers, I think maybe so far about 8000, on windscreens, through doors, in shops, in bars and most of all at dog shows. What is most encouraging is that we are getting bookings from the French, one local young lady has booked in three Huskies and two German Sheppard dogs, while she goes into hospital to have a baby to join her other two children, what a handful!! Another hospital case, an elderly lady in for an operation, has booked in two Heinz 57 and a hamster, no charge for the hamster, I hope my cat likes it.

The French authorities have an uncanny way of know what's going on, I think they have spies everywhere. Twenty-four hours after taking in our first dog two of the officials of the local "State Veterinary Service" turned up for a spot inspection. Impressed or what? I don't think they have seen the like before. Although just a simple barrack design (as in Essential Kennel Design) it is nicely laid out with proper drains, well sealed floors and walls and good cage work, supplied by Croft in England. They said they would like to use the kennels as an example for other kennel owners. Good what? About an hour after the Vets left a rep. For Royal Canin turned up, did a real good deal with them, again very impressed, he took a lot of advertising with him. So all looking promising.
What a Wonderful Place
I have been living in rural France for nearly three and a half years, and what a wonderful place to live. Quiet roads, very little crime, no noise, nice bars and cafes, good food and fine wines, lovely people but terrible beer. And the wild life is incredible.

Despite the fact that most men in rural France are hunters, and seem to shoot anything that moves, wild life is all around me. Through my 12 acres runs a little stream, it is a water sanctuary, water boatman, dragonflies, beautiful shimmering blue damselflies skipping from yellow Iris to yellow Iris. In the stream there are eels, fresh water crayfish and little stickleback like fish. On the bank, if one is quite, one can see an otter or two who seem to be quite oblivious to the cows grazing nearby.

Last winter my front garden (grass patch) was visited by pheasants and regularly by a pair of partridge strutting passed my window. One day, despite all my dogs, a big, nearly black, dog fox sat no more than four yards from my house; not a care in the world. I had three stags visit one of my fields and they stayed, calmly eating for hours. So no stress here.

This year since spring there has been a profusion of wild animals, lots of swallows, of course. Colourful 'charms of goldfinches', two pairs are nesting in trees nearby. On the bank of a cornfield a vixen plays with her three cubs as I stand about 30 yards from her. I have a feral cat who visits me every day for food, he now allows me to touch him and he has made friends with my cat and it is a pleasure to see them playing together. I have never seen so many different species of butterflies, I have bought a book in an attempt to recognise them.

Yesterday I picked three giant puff balls, big round mushrooms, I took them to the local bar and the owner made omelettes with them for all his customers, really nice. I have decided to make my small place into a nature reserve and I have posted signs to that effect, not gone down to well with the local hunting fraternity, but not my problem.

Last week I was driving my van and in the near distance I saw a hare sat at the side of the road, I slowed to a stop to take a look at the big boy, he just sat and looked at me then slowly turned and ambled off, I wished him luck and a long life and just as I got out the last of these mental words he turn and looked back at me as if to say thank you. What a wonderful place .

What do you think?

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