Chow Chows caught in farmhouse blaze


TWO Chow Chows have died in a fire which destroyed their owner’s house in France.

Seven Chows were saved from the blaze at Valerie Potter’s (Kiyat) farmhouse in Campagne-Lez-Boulonnais – at least one of them by a neighbour who repeatedly climbed a 6ft wrought iron fence in a bid to lift more to safety.

He tried to grab the two who died – a nine- and ten-year-old – but they panicked, turned and ran back into the house.

As the fire took hold, Miss Potter, 76, who moved from Sheffield to France 24 years ago, managed to get all her dogs outside.

“My old fellow who’s 14 was rescued by someone from the village who climbed the fence,” she said. “I don’t even know who he was but I want to thank him – he was a hero. He just put my old dog under his arm and climbed up – it must have been some weight for him. And he kept climbing back in trying to save dogs.

“As the fire raged, panic set in for two of them, who just turned and ran back into the flames.”

Miss Potter’s eldest Chow, who was saved by the villager, was already suffering from a lung infection, and is now recovering from smoke inhalation and a burnt muzzle.

“I think he’s getting a bit better,” she said. “As I’m talking to you he’s sitting by me with his head on my knee.

“None of the other dogs were hurt – they’re just traumatised and very upset. I’ve got a number of small burns caused by tiles on the roof exploding – little marks and scratches.”

Miss Potter’s former home has been reduced to a burnt-out shell with no roof and debris spread everywhere. She and her dogs are now living in an old milking parlour.

“It’s not glamorous or particularly pleasant but I’m just grateful we’ve got a roof over our heads and I can stay with my dogs,” she said. “My neighbours have been marvellous and have helped me get electricity, hot water, and I now have a sink and a shower and loo too. They’ve also provided me with some charity shop clothes as I’ve lost absolutely everything.

“People say I’m being brave but it’s not a matter of choice.”

Miss Potter believes the fire may have been caused by cigarette ash dropping on a pile of papers in the living room.

“The site where my house used to be is pretty horrific,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s happening with us rebuilding as I don’t know if I need planning permission or not.”

When DOG WORLD’s breed correspondent Sheila Jakeman heard what had happened she and fellow Chowist Paul Westley sprung into action.

“Valerie obviously needed many things to keep her and her dogs going until she could sort herself out, so we got a cheap deal on the Eurostar and took over a car load of food, Vetbed, bedding, clothing and other essentials to help her out,” Mrs Jakeman said.


“Valerie was relieved to see us and effusive in her thanks. It’s dreadful that it’s happened at all but at least the better weather is on its way, and we hope the rebuild can start in the near future.

“This has been dreadful for Valerie – I would have been devastated but she’s coping as well as possible under the circumstances.” 

Miss Potter thanked the villagers, Mrs Jakeman and Mr Westley for their help, and added that she needed new leads, Kaolin powder and Bob Grass skin cure, none of which she can find in France.

“I wondered if anyone might be able to help me,” she said. “I need heavy, round, plaited leather leads, about an inch in diameter. Someone gave me some collars but my Chows need good strong leads.

“If they could let me know I’d be grateful – and also where I can get Kaolin powder and Bob Grass skin cure which I can’t find here at all.”

Miss Potter asked people to contact her through Mrs Jakeman.