Category Archives: Chris Dignam

Chris Dignam, Penny Dignam, Book Launch, Found a Penny, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Books, Penny Book, Greyhound Book.

New Book by Chris Dignam – “Found a Penny; The Memoirs of a Crafty Dog”

21st September 2019 saw the launch of Chris Dignam’s latest book. This time it’s the true story of Penny, greyhound and Crafty Dog of the title, in her very own words. She has worked with Chris to dictate her life-story, from being born in Ireland, to her successful racing career in England, then the sudden change in her fortunes; abandoned in a field in Mid-Wales and left to fate. Fortunately, Mr Jones and his collie found this starving, cold ex-athlete and handed her over to Greyhound Rescue Wales.

Chris Dignam, Penny Dignam, Book Launch, Found a Penny, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Books, Penny Book, Greyhound Book.
Penny & Chris at the Book Launch

This is where Penny’s life really began as she found a home with Chris and his wife Armelle. She found this all very strange, what with stairs, beds, and, best of all, smoked salmon! A hound with a gourmet’s palate, she takes part in an incredible fund-raising event for the rescue charity, travels across Europe in the motorhome to aid international relations (even attending the service at the Menin Gate), and helps publicise the plight of ex-racers. She talks of her mental demons, as even her life has its dark side, but hers is a positive story.

Penny also describes how she helps out at Chris and Armelle’s Craft business, and becomes known as The Crafty Dog. It’s a lovely journey, with its ups and downs but you will emerge at the end with a big smile on your face.

The books are available by clicking here.

Galgos del Sol, Suncatcher, Galgos

Helping the Galgos – Spanish Greyhounds – With Galgos del Sol

Crafty Dog Suncatchers Helping Auction for Charity

Galgos del Sol, Suncatcher, Galgos

Hank Suncatcher

Galgos del Sol is a charity that rescues Galgos Espagnol, Spanish greyhounds, and Podencos. Both breeds are used for hunting and hare coursing with betting. There is a short 4 month hunting season each year, from October to January, and at the end of the season the dogs considered surplus to requirement are abandoned in large numbers, often ending up in killing stations to be euthanised. Some are unluckier still. GdS raise money by donation and with auctions during the year. Donations have included items provided by celebrities, such as Debbie Harry of Blondie fame and singer/songwriter Sia. The money raised covers food, vet bills for injured dogs (many arrive in a terrible state), for routine vaccinations and neutering, and to build new kennels to house the rescued dogs. Hunting dogs aren’t generally considered as potential pets in Spain, an attitude charities are trying to change, as Galgos and Podencos make great pets, just like their better known greyhound cousins. GdS and other galgo charities rehome these dogs in the UK, various European countries and in North America.

Crafty Dog Cymru have provided items for Galgos del Sol for a number of the auctions they have held, including signed copies of Chris Dignam’s book “The Largest Rabbit” which raised over 200 Euros at an auction last year.  At the auction last week, Galgos del Sol sold 58 suncatchers commissioned from Crafty Dog Cymru with an image of Hank, one of the GdS real-life Galgo stars.  The suncatchers raised over 800 Euros for the charity.    Amazing to think that a small business in Clydach, South Wales, could be helping such a great cause and exporting their artwork all around the world!

Children’s Halloween Story – The Wychwood

Here is the new Halloween Story 2016 with characters from The Largest Rabbit book.  Tom, the youngest but bravest rabbit in the warren, is walking through the deepest and darkest part of the forest.  He knows he’s alone yet feels that someone is watching him.   Why is he there?   Who is cutting down trees?   Who’s living in the pretty cottage in the middle of the forest?  And what’s that overwhelming pong of pilchards and garlic?

The Wychwood

As Tom wandered further and deeper into the ancient wood it seemed to get darker and darker.  He stopped and turned, looking back along the path he had walked and it seemed to him that the brambles had started to grow across it.  It was ok, he told himself, he was a brave rabbit.  He couldn’t go back – he would have to go on.  Forward he trotted, whistling a tune to keep his spirits up….perhaps spirits was the wrong word, considering he was in the old Wychwood and it was All Hallows Eve.  But, he told himself firmly, he was not afraid.           

The Wychwood Tree

There was a scream which made the little rabbit’s blood freeze and stopped him  in his tracks – it sounded like a Barn Owl!  They love to eat rabbits.  He held his breath – nothing happened.  He whistled a little bit quieter when he started again.  The path weaved between the trees, their creaking, scratching aged branches meeting overhead like brown bony arms.  He swore that he could almost make out faces in the bark of some of the older, gnarlier trunks.

The autumn storm that had blown through the woods a few days before must have blasted most of the leaves off, which left twiggy sticks that looked like talons – they reminded him of the owl.  Tom halted again and listened.  It was odd – there was not a sound, as if he was the only thing alive in the forest.  The air despite the seasonal cold was heavy and oppressive, like being smothered in a thick woollen blanket.

Something moved.  He was sure of it – away to his left.  He peered into the woody gloom.  No, it was nothing.  He told himself again that he was not afraid…..but he was a little bit wary.  Tom walked faster; the path must come out somewhere.  He tried to whistle again but his lips had gone dry.

There it was again!  Something was definitely over there to his left.  “Hello?” he called.  There was no reply.  He drew his torch out and shone it towards where he had seen the movement.   There was nothing apart from trees, brambles and a green hat.  What?  The hat was gone.  OK, the rabbit thought, I can either run away….or see what it is.  Is it safe to step off the path?  Tom drew himself to his full height (still only as big as a tiny rabbit on tip-toes) and strode firmly into the bushes.  He pushed through to where he thought he’d seen the hat.  When he got there he looked down – Tom was sure that he could make out footprints.  They were people prints but smaller.  He grinned to himself – there was someone here.  “OK, I know you’re here,” he announced, “You can show yourself.”

It remained still and silent for a while, then a clear voice said, “Good day young Master Rabbit.”  It came from behind him.  Tom turned slowly and there in front of him was a man but he was the size of a small human – a child he thought they were called.  He wore a green jacket, trousers and floppy hat, all trimmed with what looked like oak leaves.  His belt had an acorn on its buckle – even his long boots were the colour of autumn acorns.  His face was dark, and wrinkled, like it had seen many summers and winters, almost like the bark of a tree.  He smiled a kindly smile, as he bowed and took of his hat. “My name is Derwen,” he said.

Tom blushed (as he did not know how to bow) and he mumbled a “How do you do” adding, “My name’s Tom.”

“What are you doing here in the middle of the Wychwood on All Hallow’s Eve?” Derwen asked.

“I was following a butterfly along a path but the butterfly disappeared and there was no path behind me, only in front of me.  I’ kept walking as I think all paths that go into a wood have to come out somewhere.”

Derwen grinned, “A very logical thought, young sir.”

Tom couldn’t help it, “If you don’t mind me asking, Mr Derwen – what are you?”

“I am one of the woodland folk, what you would call a Jack in the Green.  It is our responsibility to look after all things that grow, especially in the forests and hedgerows.  I am here because I am concerned about something going on in the middle of the forest.  Someone has been chopping down trees or parts of trees.”

“That’s terrible,” the little rabbit replied.

“I am going there to put a stop to it – or at least find out what is going on,” he looked at Tom, “You’re a very brave rabbit – would you help?”

“Certainly,” he answered, unsure as to how much help he could be, but determined to do what he could.

“Come on then,” the Green Man said and they strode off down the path into the trees.  He was also whistling and though Tom didn’t know the tune, he found himself joining in.  Derwen drew a little silver flute from his pocket and played the tune that he had been whistling and as he did, the branches that had seemed to be leaning low over them in a rather threatening way lifted by a few metres, and let more light in – where they walked, the oppressive feeling of the forest seemed to change.

They continued for a while (Tom thought it was all really happy and exciting) until suddenly Derwen stopped playing, raised his finger to his lips for Tom to be quiet, and popping the flute in his pocket, slowly crept into the undergrowth.  Tom followed him, keeping close.  The jolly atmosphere had changed as they had reached the edge of a clearing in the trees.  From where they stood they could see that some trees had been hacked at and their lower branches ripped away.  There were piles of twigs and leaves scattered along the edge of the clearing.  In front of them were at least six large tree stumps, and the remains of what had once been oak, elm and ash trees, now just leaves, twigs, wood chips and sawdust.  Beyond that was a cottage.  A strange cottage of pink, blue black and green with a brown roof – Tom could swear that it looked like it was made of…sweets? (He remembered Bob bringing some into the warren once – he had found a bag of them dropped by a human child, which he shared round the young rabbits.)          

The strange cottage

   “Careful, wee rabbit.  This could be dangerous,” Derwen whispered.

As he spoke, the door to the cottage opened, and a human came out.  It was a grey-haired old lady in a cloak, so stooped over that she looked like a hoop.  She appeared ever so sweet and gentle.  Tom could feel himself smiling, and he even felt his feet lifting and starting to take him towards the lady.  Derwen held him by the shoulder, “Careful!” he hissed.  Tom stopped – what had made him move?  The Old woman stared across the clearing, over the fallen trees, into the gloomy undergrowth straight to where they were hiding.

“Is there anyone out there?” she called in a frail, crackling voice.  “I won’t hurt you.  Come into my lovely warm kitchen.”  She peered towards the rabbit and the Jack in the Green.  Could she see them?

She turned on her heel – very quickly, Tom thought, for someone so elderly, “No-one there.” The voice did not sound so crackly or frail either.  She unwound her stoop, standing straighter and taller as she stomped towards the doorway which closed behind her.

Derwen breathed out, as did Tom.  “Who’s that?” he asked.

“I thought as much.  We truly are in a dangerous spot.  That’s not a dear old lady, but one of the dark spirits from the caves to the north.  She is one of the winter witches.  It’s she that’s been cutting down the trees for firewood, probably for her cauldron.  They always have cauldrons,” he grinned at the rabbit.

“Why?” asked Tom, unsure as to what a cauldron was.

“To make up foul smelling potions – or else to cook their lunch in.”

Tom felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickling as he asked, “What do they eat?”

“Anything with meat in, usually but I believe they like rabbits best of all.”

Tom had the sudden urge to run away though he managed to resist it.

Derwen nudged the rabbit and grinned again, “Come on, I’m sure you’re up for an adventure!”  He stepped out of the bushes and keeping as low and as quiet as he could, he crept towards the cottage.  When he got to the building he looked for Tom; the rabbit was right behind him, also pressed tight against the wall.  Above them was the kitchen window – too high for either of them to see through.  “Climb on my shoulders and have a look,” Derwen told him so the rabbit scrambled up.  He peered through the Glass.  What he saw made him gasp.

In the middle of the kitchen was a huge fireplace, on which there stood a large black and greasy-looking cooking pot which he assumed was the cauldron Derwen had mentioned.  It was enormous – large enough for fifty rabbits!  Under it there were twigs, sticks and coal – obviously the makings of a fire to heat it up.  The witch was filling the cauldron with buckets of water which she carried from a large hand-pump on the far side of the kitchen.  In the centre of the floor was an equally enormous wooden table and it was this that had made him gasp; lying across the table, on his side, was a great hairy dog, fast asleep.  It was Finn!  He just lay there sleeping as around him the witch was heating water.  From a drawer she took out some boxes, from which she tipped some plants which she mixed, appeared to talk to, then throw into the cooking pot.  Magic herbs maybe?  She collected a bundle of carrots from a shelf and threw them into the pot too.  All the while she was singing and chanting (Tom couldn’t hear what).  The rabbit scanned around the rest of the room before he climbed down to tell the Jack in the Green.

Derwen shook his head slowly and asked the rabbit some further questions; “Did you see anyone else?  Any signs of other witches?  Was there a cat?”

Tom thought.” I couldn’t see anyone but the far side of the room was hidden by a large chair.  There wasn’t any sign of another witch.”

“We’ll need a diversion,” the Green Man mused.  “How much noise can you make?” He looked the rabbit up and….well, not up very far as he was a very short rabbit.

“More than you think,” Tom answered.

“OK, then here’s my plan,” he whispered his ideas.  As they conferred there was a rustle in the bushes.  Tom felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle and Derwen reached for the small wooden club that he carried in his jacket.  From the undergrowth there was mumbling and some rude words and …the overpowering smell of fish – and garlic.  “It’s ok – I know who that is!” Tom beamed.  Out of the bushes fell a short fat ginger shape.  “Jeffrey!” Tom whispered.  The old marmalade cat stood up and waved. “Keep quiet!  There’s a witch!”

Jeffrey performed a silent “Aha!” and slinked (as slinky as a round cat could do) over to the low wall behind which the rabbit and the Jack in the Green were hiding.  Derwen looked at the strange figure that was shaking his hand enthusiastically though quietly.  Here stood a round ginger tom cat with an incredibly toothy smile, practically as broad as he was tall, wearing an old leather flying helmet goggles resting on his round head.  On his back he had a rucksack with various odd things poking out.  What Tom could not get over was the incredible smell of garlic that surrounded the old moggie almost like a cloud.  “How did you find us?” Tom asked.

The cat shook his head, “I wasn’t looking for you chaps – I’m looking for Finn.  It’s been a very strange day.”

Jeffrey outlined to the others what had happened that morning.  Finn had been a bit twitchy since breakfast and actually left some (unheard of).  He was really restless.  He said he had had some strange dreams in the night about an old lady in trouble.  After breakfast they had gone for a walk on the edge of the great wood and when they were walking they saw an old lady gathering kindling.  Finn had run over, and Jeffrey and Rubbish the greyhound had gone too.  The lady was ever so friendly and had offered the three friends a lovely breakfast in her cottage in the woods, if only they would help her carry the sticks that she was gathering for her fire.  Jeffrey was not built to carry, and Rubbish was too slight but Finn being Finn had offered to help.  They had walked into the woods together but as they walked the path got narrower and narrower so that they ended up walking single file.  At one point the undergrowth overhung the path.  The lady led Finn through this almost tunnel, and when Rubbish and Jeffrey went through – there was no-one on the other side.  Finn and the old woman had vanished!  The greyhound and the cat searched briefly but of Finn or the lady there was no sign.  Rubbish and Jeffrey had rushed home and told the Butler who told them that his father had spoken to him when he was a boy about an old lady in the woods who stole young animals that were never seen again.  She was a witch who visited the forest around Halloween every few years.  The Butler had thought it was a fairy story but realised now that it must have been true!  He had taken out the old Landrover and with Rubbish, Flower and some of the other animals they were searching the woods.  However, Jeffrey knew that he was facing something magical and evil so he had come prepared.  Creaking as he turned around, he untied the rucksack and showed the Green Man and the rabbit what he had brought with him,

“Have to be prepared, you know, never know what sort of evil you might encounter!”  Out of the rucksack came some sharpened bits of wood “Stakes in case of vampires,” he muttered, then a large crucifix “Ditto” he said.  From the pockets in his fur (they always amazed everyone) he pulled out handfuls of garlic bulbs “Ditto again”.  There was also a small slingshot and a pair of silver earrings, “In case of werewolves”, he explained.  “I’ve also got a small bottle of Holy Water.  That’s pretty good against most things.”

“Anything specifically for witches?” Derwen asked.

“Hmmm,” came the reply from Jeffrey, rummaging through the rucksack. “A Bible?”

“Should work,” confirmed the Green Man.

“Righto!  So, what do we do – a frontal assault?  Like El Alamein?” Jeffrey enquired enthusiastically.

“I did have a plan, but I think I now have a better one.  But it depends on how brave Tom can be,” Derwen and Jeffrey turned towards the little rabbit.

The Witch tested the water in the great cauldron; Yes, coming to the right temperature.  The carrots and the herbs (thyme, sage and parsley) were smelling nicely – really rustic.  All she needed now was some nice doggy meat to cook slowly in the stew.  She looked down at the enormous deerhound who lay snoring across the wooden table.  She couldn’t believe how gullible he’d been; she’d cast a spell in the night to find a likely dinner date and in her seeing-bowl she had found Finn.  He was so noble and kind – so easy to snare!  The witch gave him a poke in his thigh – oh, he was very meaty but also very soft and tender.  Lovely!  Now she would only need to cut him into chunks to drop into the pot.

Walking over towards the sink, she slid a large meat knife out of the knife-block.  It was heavy, and had obviously seen a lot of action over the years.  She slipped her calloused thumb along its 12 inches of cold metal.  Blast!  It was blunt!  She went in the drawer to take out a sharpening steel.  She began to draw the edge of the blade over the sharpener, and could see it getting sharper and sharper, keener and keener with every drag.  She raised it over the slumbering hound.  No, she told herself, don’t spoil the ship for a happor’th of tar…take time and make sure the knife is properly sharp.  Finn stirred slightly – the witch lifted the knife – but he slept on.  She whistled to herself and continued sharpening.  She stood to her full height now – she had looked like a bent over old woman outside but here in reality she was tall, strong, with thick silver grey hair that hung down her back.  She did have the usual witchly hooked nose with warts, and deep black eyes, as cold as the darkest night.  The water in the cooking pot popped – it was just coming to the boil.  Excellent! And just in time – the knife was now sharp enough too.

Then there was a knock on the door.  She growled, put the knife down and stooped down as she went to the door.  Turning the brass door handle, it creaked open and she peered out.  There was no-one there.  She was about to close the door when a voice below her made her look down, “Hello” said a little rabbit.  “Have you seen a big hairy dog called Finn?”  Tom smiled back up at her.

The Witch returned the smile to the lovely little, tender, sweet chunk of rabbit meat.  “Hello, little one, and what is your name?”

“My name’s Tom.  Please lady, have you seen Finn?”

“Why yes, he’s inside waiting for you.  He is my guest for dinner – maybe you would like to join him?”

“Yes please,” beamed the little rabbit.  All Tom could think was – blimey, isn’t she tall – and what an enormous warty nose!

“Please Miss, my friends are here too,” he said. “Can we wait for them?”

The Witch scowled.  More rabbits – ah well, they’d pack out the stew, “Where are they, my dear?”

“Outside – over there in the woods. They’re a bit shy.  Would you come over and say hello?”

The Witch was now growing to like the idea of rabbit as a starter so she allowed herself to follow him out across the grass.  As she walked she uncurled and got taller and taller until she got to the wall, where she stood and rose to her full height.  She glowered down at the little rabbit.

“I do hope that you’ve not been wasting my time, young Coney!”

As Tom had led the witch across the lawn, Derwen was creeping through the open doorway into the kitchen.  He found the sleeping Finn and climbed up onto the table where he stood over him and began to speak a spell to act against the Witch’s evil enchantment.  The Green Man is a woodland spirit, and has deep and ancient magic of his own.  He tried the first spell, but it didn’t raise Finn.  A second spell made the hound’s eyes quiver, so Derwen knew he was on the right track.  As he chanted the third spell, and crumbled a handful of oak leaves over Finn’s head two things happened.  He heard a scream from outside, and Finn opened his eyes wide.  “Hello,” the Lord of the Glen said.  “And to whom do I owe this honour?”

 

As the Witch grew to her height a ginger figure leapt upon the wall and faced her.  “Not so fast!” shouted the marmalade mousketeer.  The Witch took a step backwards in shock as she stared at Jeffrey.  She was astonished and was for the first time in her life, totally, speechless.  There in front of her stood a round ginger cat in a flying helmet, who peered back at her through goggles.  “Whatever are you?” she asked.

“I am your nemesis!” he replied.

“Fine words for a fat cat! “ she cackled.  “Well be quick – that smell of garlic is making my eyes water!”

“I have everything to defeat your evil ways!” Jeffrey announced as he reached into the rucksack that he’d placed by his feet.  Out came a crucifix which he waved in the Witch’s face.

“Sorry, that does nothing,” she replied.

“Ah, OK,” he rummaged in the bag again and brought out a stake and a mallet.

“I’d have to stand very still and even then, I don’t think that’d work – do you?”  She shook her head,

“Fair enough,” back in the rucksack he went.  “Bible?” he offered.  The Witch shook her head again.  “Silver earrings?”

“I usually wear gold, thank you,” she replied.

“Aha!  Holy Water!” Jeffrey declared.

The Witch stepped back.  “What?”  She looked worried.

Jeffrey was jubilant.  He pulled the glass bottle from the sack and waved it in front of her.  “Holy…” he stopped for a moment.

Tom was tapping him on the leg.  “It’s not Holy Water,” he whispered.

Jeffrey looked.  “Oh dear…” the cat read the bottle, “Wart Remover!”

The Witch screamed loudly with laughter and leaned forward with her long clawed fingers scrabbling to grab the Professor.  Jeffrey said to himself, “Ah well, here goes nothing,” and flung the bottle of wart remover into the Witch’s face.  She screamed and stopped for a second, then screeched with glee as the warts on her nose disappeared.

The Witch shrieked with laughter.  “Thank you, cat, I had been wanting to something about those!  Now cat – how would you prefer to die?”  She moved towards Jeffrey whose eyes closed inside his goggles.  He tensed for a moment.

The Witch screamed a scream of someone in indescribable pain.  Jeffrey opened an eyelid and was amazed at what he saw; the Witch was starting to smoke as the chemical in the wart remover got into her bloodstream.  She stood stock still, her arms dropped to her side and then she started shaking.  As Finn and Derwen ran out of the cottage towards them the Witch suddenly went “BANG!” – And vanished!  She was gone.

“Well bless my soul!” he said.

“Jeffrey to the rescue again, old friend!” Finn smiled as he got to Jeffrey.  The Lord of the Glen bowed to the cat, as did the Green Man.

Jeffrey beamed back, “Of course, had it all worked out!”

“What got her?” asked Derwen.  “Bible?”

Jeffrey blushed deep under his ginger fur, “I thought it was Holy Water – but I’d picked up the wrong bottle.  It was Wart Remover!”

Finn and the Green man laughed.  “As the Witch was made up of so much warty matter, it must have gone into her bloodstream and dissolved all of her.  Amazing!”

Tom clambered over the wall. “But we owe it all to the hero – step forward, Tom!” Derwen cried.  The rabbit smiled a huge smile which stretched from ear to ear.  He felt so proud.  “Young sir, I owe you my life,” Finn told him.  Tom blushed even more.

“Right! “Jeffrey smiled,  “Theres a cauldron in that kitchen with herbs in.  I wonder if anyone fancies some garlic stew?”

Tom held up a sharpened wooden spike, “What goes well with stake?”

Faces in the Bark
Faces in the Bark

Characters and story copyright Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Cymru 2016.

Help the Galgos & Podencos

Everyone who knows us knows we help rescued greyhounds in the UK, many of whom get raced and dumped like our Penny (or even worse). We also do a bit to help the Galgos, Spanish greyhounds, and podencos. These are not so much used for racing as for hunting. The hunters use them during the season and then at the end lof the year large numbers of them are taken to killing stations to be euthanised as they hunters can’t or won’t keep them over the winter. Others are just abandoned, like the one on my FB page.

algos del Sol, GDS, Galgos, Spanish Galgos, Galgo rescue,

There are a number of Galgo charities that try and rescue, treat and then home the Spanish hounds. We have done work for Galgos del Sol, and are making some pieces for them at the moment. They regularly hold auctions to raise funds and we make things for them to auction. Pop over and look at the Galgos del Sol Website or FB pages and maybe bid on something. Debbie Harry from Blondie donated some pieces in their last auction

largest rabbit, marmalade cat, mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen, The Largest Rabbit, greyhound rescue, Chris Dignam

Greyt Expectations – Rescued Greyhounds and Marmalade Cats

A Marmalade Cat?

This is a chapter from the new book just being tidied up for release in September.  It’s called “Greyt Expectations – From Rescued Greyhounds to Marmalade Cats” and is a collection of the blog posts from here and the South Wales Evening Post pages, along with some other pieces about writing, music – and a marmalade cat called Jeffrey.  I hope that you enjoy it and feel free to tweet, reblog or share.

greyhound, Penny, Crafty Dog

What a Crafty Dog does on her day off.

If reading to children is the best fun you can have, making them laugh, making them gasp or even hide behind their hands in fear of the wicked fox or nasty hunter with his gun, the next best thing is sitting with a pen and paper, or a computer keyboard and dreaming up the characters themselves. Ideas for stories seem to come at the strangest times, usually when lying in bed at night, or out walking the dog when you have the space and time to empty your mind and let it ramble. Someone has said there are only three or four stories; everything else is just a variation on that. That might be true, but there is a heck of a lot of scope for that variation.

One evening driving home from work at local authority council offices I was stuck in a jam queuing on the slip road off the M4. As I listened to music I began to run some ideas around in my head. I wanted to write a book about a recued greyhound that would appeal to children but it needed a twist. The idea then changed to an abandoned puppy being left and brought up by other animals – I guess from the Tarzan idea, or even the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. Rabbits – who had never seen a puppy, and a puppy who had never seen rabbits seemed to work. I started roughing up some ideas that evening, and from the first lines about the speeding car and the flying sack I was away.

Greyhound, Rubbish, The Largest Rabbit, Rabbit hound

The Largest Rabbit

 

Within a day or so I had the first rabbit characters and that of the little hound but I did not have a name. It was a few days into the book when the little character told the rabbits that the humans said he was rubbish and that’s where his name came from – the little puppy named himself! So Rubbish the rabbit hound was born.
I was sketching ideas for a plot, something simple with a villain – a fox fitted naturally into this – and also a hero. Someone needed to be able to tell the little confused rabbit into the great secret, that he was not a rabbit at all but a dog, but it had to be done by a special character that everyone in the book could look up to, but especially the little Rubbish. A noble beast, a great hound was obviously the person we needed and just as the character was forming in the story, the idea of it being The Mighty Finn popped into my head.

How could they meet? Where? I remember reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and also seeing Tom’s Midnight Garden when I was a kid on children’s TV. Looking back now, I guess there was also The Herbs, an animated children’s programme which used to be on Watch with Mother, where there was a wall, and a door which opened into a mysterious garden. The red brick wall and green wooden door were here.

I had a hero, mentor, villain – even weasel henchmen for the villain – but no comic character. This was going to be interesting. Who would be a heroic but comic figure? This was a challenge and I mulled this over for a few days. I was sitting in the office, looking round the room and there, sitting on the exercise bike was an old cuddly toy I had bought for Armelle years ago when I had been in university – a dusty old Garfield. That was it – a dusty old ginger-marmalade cat sprang to life. A well-bred and distinguished moggie, I christened him Jeffrey. He was going to be heroic but flawed – courageous and devil-may-care, he was also very vain and self opinionated, His age meant that he would be a bit creaky – arthritic with a dodgy back, few teeth and bad breath. I now realise that Jeffrey had a lot in common with Tiger, a ginger moggie that Armelle had when I first met her. She too had few teeth, some bald patches, hayfever and was a very good age. I think there was more Tiger than Garfield in our Jeffrey.

marmalade cat, mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen, The Largest Rabbit

The Mighty Finn and Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat

 

Of all the characters, I love writing for Jeffrey. He is wonderful and things just happen to him; he is the reason that cat-slide roofs exist, was made for flying goggles and a woolly scarf and is crying out for a book of his own. When it came to the Hallowe’en story, Jeffrey was now known as “The Professor” and it was his genius that helped turn the tables on the ghosts. When I do book readings, the kids all love to hear about Jeffrey, and when I gave him his voice, those wonderful rounded vowels of this cat, owned by a retired Colonel who lives next door, it was very easy for him to take over.
The story wrote itself once I had the cast. I just followed where Rubbish, Finn and Jeffrey led, to be ambushed by the Fox but through the bravery of a little rabbit the tables are turned and the good guys win (as they always should in a children’s book).

The next book, The Winter Hare, was going to be a bit darker. Not intentionally, it just wrote itself that way. The influence of the Green Man, the Celtic Hare and the powers of nature were going to be the main elements here. The hunters chasing the hare hark back I guess to the hunters of Peter and the Wolf, but far, far darker. There they are trying to catch the hare – but why? In the dark shed we find out – a shelf full of animal bits, wood shavings and glass domes – taxidermy!
The darker the villains, the brighter the heroes have to become. Finn is probably his most noble in this story, and Rubbish is…just himself, but even more humorous, curious and wide-eyed.

Other cast members are the hunters dogs; two equally evil and terrible lurcher dogs with huge teeth and vicious appetites and tempers to match, and the third hound, a reluctant hunter called Flower. Her role – well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what transpires.

The final set of characters are the army of black and white that is marching towards climax of the book – the great showdown. They are an army of badgers. They might hark back to my days working for the National Trust in the 1980’s at Dinefwr Parc in South Wales. There were a number of badger setts in the deer park and I was lucky enough on a number of occasions to have sat and watched them playing outside in the warm red dusk of a summer’s evening. I was roped into taking part in the local village quiz tournament in the National Trust team. We eventually won the contest and the trophy still sits on our mantelpiece after all these years. The quiz-master for the series was Aeron Clement, a self-confessed Badger-nut who loved the black and white beasts – so much that he wrote a book about them, called “The Cold Moons”. It came out a few years afterwards and became a best seller. There may be a passing nod to Aeron in my characters. He was a lovely chap but unfortunately he did not enjoy his success for long as he passed away soon after it came out. He had written a sequel which was finished by his wife and daughter and it was also successful.

The Largest Rabbit is available digitally, as is the Christmas short story.  The Hallowe’en story “The Haunted Castle or Rubbish and the Hound of the Basquet de Villes” is also available on the blog pages here, and will be out again ready for this Hallowe’en.

What’s After the Rainbow Bridge?

Greyt Expectations – What’s After the Rainbow Bridge?

          Have you ever had that feeling when you are alone that you feel there is someone watching you?  Sometimes you may even hear or think you hear something. Zoologists would explain it as those primeval nerves and peripheral senses that once protected early humans when they first came down from the trees. These can in part explain the supernatural and superstitions many of us believe in.  However, sometimes we see things that are not so easy to explain. 

          Our pets are our companions and they invest so much emotion in us as we do in them.   They can be our constant companions, and they miss us when we are gone, and get so excited and happy when we return.  It is not surprising that when they pass on they can leave ripples in the atmosphere, emotional recording so to speak. 

          Sally was our first greyhound and she was a wonderful character, so popular, and was loved by many people.  She was particularly close to my Mum.  Sal had arrived only a month after my Mum’s best friend had passed away and in many ways she filled that need for friendship that had been created.  The routine of dog-sitting on a Tuesday and Thursday became important in helping my Mum through the grieving process and getting her back in the swing.  Sally was so very affectionate and she and I became inseparable; wherever I went, so did Sally.  She would wait patiently for me to come home from work or, on a Thursday, for 2 o’clock when my Mum would arrive with a milky way and let her out the garden.  If I worked upstairs on the pc, Sal would lie at my feet, often so close to the chair that I had to watch that I did not roll over her ears with the castors.  When my appendix burst, I spent 2 months off at home with her and we had some real quality time together.  Then, two years later when I broke my leg whilst walking her, I had three months at home with her.  At this time Armelle still worked 4 days a week so Sally and I were literally on our own from morning to tea-time.  It was great being with her, and on days when I was depressed or worried, she was there to sit and listen to me, not complaining or offering any reproach.  When Sally headed towards 13, Armelle was off work for a while, and I also as I had had the metal plates taken out of my leg, so we again had some quality time together.  Fate had given the three of us a month together, and it was only a few days after we both returned to work that on a Tuesday evening she was taken ill and in the early morning passed away.  I was in the room with her at the time.

         

Sally Greyhound, Greyhound Rescue, Crafty Dog Cymru

Sally our first hound in the house

It was a year or so before we had Sammy, our next greyhound.  She was very sensitive soul herself, and within a few weeks had also grown very close to my mum.  We had only had her a few months when she started a very strange habit; she would sit or lie down and look into space, about 18 inches up, as if listening intently.  She would not just stare blindly but she was really watching something (or someone).  You could read her facial expressions as she would (usually) lie there looking and listening.  Jokingly I said she was listening to orders from The White Dog – our Sally.  This went on all the time we had Sammy. 

          Sammy grew close to our next door neighbour Betty.   Sammy began to stop by her garden gate to go and see her.  We found out that Betty had become very ill with cancer, and Sammy seemed to realise this and became more and more insistent that Armelle should call.  She would go in and sit at Betty’s feet and watch over her, and she would wait patiently as Betty fussed her.  In the September we were going on holiday and the day before we left, Sam as had become usual, insisted on seeing Betty.  They sat with each other, and as Armelle made to leave, Betty spoke to Sam, telling her that they would probably not meet again.  Sam had to be practically dragged out of the house – she even sat down in the hallway and refused to go.   True enough, Betty passed away when we were on holidays, they never did see each other again.  When we came home, Sam would walk past the gate, but never stopped to call in; she knew Betty had gone.

          We did not have Sammy two years when she was attacked by another dog and, despite an emergency operation, she died at the vets.  It was a horrible death, and she was so young – it was the week of her fifth birthday – and it seemed to me that she had never had a chance to live a full and proper life.  She had been cheated.

          I’ve never believed in ghoulies or ghosties, or things that go bump in the night, nor am I particularly superstitious.  However, I have had to change my opinion over the last few years.  It must have been about six months after Sammy died that I was in the kitchen and as I turned towards the fridge freezer I saw a black shape pass from the kitchen into the utility room; I thought it was a black greyhound.  I went out into the utility room – but there was no-one there.  I put it all down to my imagination.  A few months later I was in the downstairs cloakroom early in the morning as I was getting ready for work.  The door was slightly ajar and as I turned to stand up I saw a small black greyhound trot past the door.  I opened the door wide – again there was no-one there.  I began to believe that for some reason Sam was still about, and keeping an eye on us, as Sally had kept an eye on her.  We had no dog at that time as we were in between hounds, but even since Penny has arrived I have still occasionally seen Sam.  It is usually in the kitchen or utility room, never upstairs, and always just a fleeting glance not a good view, and always unexpected.  It has never felt frightening or spooky, just unusual.  I have sometimes even felt her brush against me.

          Since mentioning this, a number of other pet owners have talked of seeing their pets after they have passed on; they have seen them, heard them and even smelt them.  Why does it happen to some and not to others?  I would suggest that in Sam’s case, she was so young that she still wants to share some time with us and is not ready to go yet.  She has only once seemed to talk to Penny.  Armelle has never seen her (or not admitted it!).  Sal was so very close to me yet I have never seen her – why has she not made an appearance?  I guess we’ll never know. 

          At the end of the day, I find it quite comforting to think that Sam is looking over us, and even that it seems to reaffirm the idea of life after death.  As Hamlet said, there are more things in heaven and earth….

Penny, Greyhound,Bluebells, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Cymru

Sammy in the bluebell wood

Hallowe’en Story – The Haunted Castle

Ghosties and Ghoulies, Hounds and Hysterics….

Here is the link to the latest adventure for Rubbish the Rabbithound, the Mighty Finn and Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat.  It’s a free pdf to download and enjoy.  Its not too scary – honest!

Meet the phantom hound that haunts the old castle in the woods along with two ghastly ghostly knights.  

Things are never what they seem…..   Will Rubbish, Finn and the Professor  win the day – or night?

The Haunted Castle pdf

Greyt Expectations – Chris Dignam’s Rescued Greyhounds – Teething Troubles – Good Dental Health

Why our Penny was down in the mouth…

 

          We all know how important it is to look after our teeth and that we need to brush them at least once a day and preferably more.  Animals can’t brush their teeth so have to rely on us in two ways; providing the right type of food, and brushing their teeth for them as required.  This week we saw what a gum infection can lead to as our Penny had to go in for a tooth descale and ended up having teeth out.

          We brushed her teeth at least twice a week with doggie toothpaste, and would give her stick chews and dental chews to help the process.  We did this with all our greyhounds and to some extent this worked.  Sally did have to have a few teeth out, some of which we put down to her never chewing her food.  Crunching hard food is supposed to help shift plaque and debris.  However, this is not really logical; imagine you relied on eating a packet of biscuits instead of brushing your teeth – it just would not work.  Eating carrots or hard fruit or vegetables can help but not all dogs like these.  Sally would sit by the kitchen sink on a Sunday waiting for her carrot when we prepped dinner but if we gave Sammy a carrot she just looked at you as if you were nuts – “What – you want me to cook this myself?”. 

          In the end you have to use a toothbrush and doggy toothpaste.  This is usually meat flavoured (apparently but they hide it well) and you can apply it with a toothbrush or a finger brush (which looks like the finger of a glove with nobbly bits on).  You rub the paste onto the teeth and it is supposed to break down the tartar and debris.  Sally hated the toothbrush, but would allow me to use a battery powered brush (she was a strange dog!).  Sam would sit and almost enjoyed having her teeth cleaned.  Just take it gently, and get the dog used to the brush for short periods and build it up to a rub around the teeth over time.

Sally, greyhound, A Hound in the House,

Sally still had most of her teeth into old age.

Some dog owners swear by feeding their dogs raw food as this is was what nature intended.  It consists of raw meat (hearts, mince, chicken) and the accompanying bones too.  Chewing bones helps keep the teeth clean, and raw bones do not shatter like cooked ones which is why they can be given raw chicken bones.  The argument is that this is what they would eat in the wild and what they evolved to eat.  We were seriously considering this but events overtook us.

          Penny did not have an auspicious start as far teeth were concerned – greyhounds are renowned for having rubbish teeth and gums.  Many dogs have a sloppy diet when they race and due to being fed in batches they are also used to bolting their food as the slow eater will end up hungry.  Less scrupulous trainers or owners will also feed their dog poorly which just compounds the problem.  When we picked Penny up from the rescue centre she had been spayed and her teeth scaled.  In spite of this, she had bad breath which we put down to her digestive system.

          So Penny began each day with cereal and a large couple of dollops of plain yoghurt, which she absolutely loves.  Whereas Sally’s digestive system had been awful (I won’t go into the details but you can imagine the outcome or should I say output!) Penny’s has always been really good.  The outside of her teeth was always pretty good, though they would occasionally go manky so we would start more intensive cleaning.  We even tried changing her food to find one that gave her better breath which was occasionally successful.  Weirdly, she was better with human food. 

          Her breath was still not very fragrant but looking inside her mouth it was not so obvious why.  Last week she went in to have the musk glands in her bottom cleaned (never a nice thing) and in passing we mentioned the bad breath.  The vet took a look and I mean a really good look.  The outsides looked dirty but the insides which we could not see were worse.  She warned us that they needed a clean and that some might have to come out. You could see where her gums had receded due to the gingivitis and plaque and in one spot the was a hole under her roots.  We were shocked and I was mortified that I had let her get into this state.  We consider ourselves to be good and knowledgeable dog owners but even we were caught out.  The toothpaste does not get to all corners of the mouth, dried kibble is not a miracle cleaner and dental chews can’t replace a proper clean.  Maybe I had also been in denial.

          Penny went in on Tuesday.  When I rang after lunch, she was on the operating table, and I was told she was worse than we thought – she would need many teeth taken out.  In fact, most teeth.  In fact nearly all her teeth.  When I rang an hour later, she was still on the table – for nearly three hours it eventually turned out.  Penny had all but her four canines and one molar removed.

       

greyhound, Penny, Dignam,

Penny recovering at home.

She was really groggy and sore when we collected her, and she dribbled and bled all night.  She is on two different painkillers, antibiotics and a mouth rinse, but is making a good recovery.  Like all greyhounds, she can be a bit of a wuss, and she also knows how to play people and milk the sympathy.  It has to be said though that having so many teeth out must be really painful so she is also in real discomfort.  She has been very brave I guess.

          The moral of this tale (tail?) is that you need to keep an eye on your dog’s teeth, brush them at least once a week and watch their diet.  Avoid sugary food and treats (as we would do ourselves).  Apparently there is a powder which can be added to food that helps keep plaque down as well – ask your vet about it.  Learn from our mistakes and Penny’s example.  Good luck, and to paraphrase Frasier Crane – Good Dental Health!

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Download the whole story!

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas

The Whole Story!

Picture4We have had many requests to make the Christmas Story available to download – consider it a Christmas present from Crafty Dog Books!  It can be downloaded as a pdf file for you to read, already set out in book format.

 

Its free for you to download and share but not for publishing generally without our permission.  Click on the text below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Story How Rubbish Saved Xmas C Dignam

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 3 – The Conclusion

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 3

 

Rubbish and Scutter

Rubbish and Scutter

Santa Claus has crashed the sleigh; he is injured, as are some of the reindeer (including Rudolph) and the 2 helpers.  Luckily he has been found by Rubbish the Rabbit Hound who fetched Finn, the Maid and the Butler, along with Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat and together they rescued him and the rest of his crew. 

The animals and Sam the Butler have taken the sleigh on a test flight and are now planning to help Santa by doing his Christmas deliveries for him.

They can fly the sleigh, but how will they cope on the big night?

Will Jeffrey’s map-reading be good enough to find every house? 

Or any house at all?

Will Christmas still happen as planned?

  

Now read on……

 

          “Well?” Santa and the Maid both asked together.

          “Brilliant!” Rubbish beamed, stepping out of his harness and running to the Maid for a cuddle.  Finn was smiling and laughing and went over to Jeffrey who was climbing down from the high seat.  He was having problems getting the helmet and goggles off and it took Sam and Finn to help pull them off.

          “Absolutely wonderful, old fruit!” the cat called out to the Maid and Santa.

“The book worked perfectly.  I am a navigational genius””

          Prancer looked at Santa, tutted and rolled his eyes.

          “So very modest,” Brownie added.

          Finn laughed too, “Yes, never one to blow his own trumpet, are you old boy?”

          Jeffrey ignored them and went over to Trevor where they sat on the garden bench and discussed mapwork, routes and Santa-planning.

          “There’s hot drinks in the kitchen and a roaring fire so everyone can have a warm,” Kath called out. 

          Sam was in there like a shot, glugging a mug of hot mulled wine (alcohol free, of course).

          They gathered around the blazing fire in the living room, humans, rabbits and cat on the settee, elf and gnome on one armchair, deerhound and greyhound on another and the reindeer fitting in as far as they could around the room.  If anyone had looked through the window they would have thought it was a convention of hat and coat racks!  They began what Santa called a de-brief, to see if there were any problems, whether they had learnt anything new, and whether they needed to make any adjustments.

          “Lights,” Rubbish said.  They all nodded and Happy wrote it down with his one good hand. “I have my flashing collar but we need tail lights too.”

          “We did have two nice big oil lamps on the back but they were broken off in the crash,” Santa replied.

          Jeffrey leaned over and whispered something to Scutter and Scamp.  They chuckled. “We’ll sort that,” he said.  Scutter, Scamp and Brownie jumped off the settee and disappeared out the back door.  The meeting continued without them.

          “Any navigational issues?” Happy asked.

          The reindeer talked about the stars and Jeffrey’s map reading so this was covered.

          “Access for delivery?”  Santa questioned.

          “We got the guys down and up the chimney with the automatic crane,” Finn answered.  “Worked fine.”

          “I can’t do chimneys,” Santa Sam said, looking down at his cushioned belly.

          Santa shook his head and looked over to the reindeer, “Didn’t anyone tell him?”

          Donner and Prancer sniggered, Dancer also laughed, and his taped-on antler wobbled.

          “You lot are very naughty!” Santa chided them.

The rest of the crew looked at Santa quizzically, “What do you mean?” asked Finn.

          “We only use chimneys as a last resort; not if there’s another way,” Santa replied.

          “Eh?” asked Sam.

          “You know, patio doors or fire escape,” came Santa’s answer.

          Sam looked at the reindeer who were still muttering and giggling amongst themselves, “You cruel lot!”

          Prancer looked suitably embarrassed, “Sorry Santa Sam.  We just couldn’t resist playing a joke.  But we will need to use the rabbits a lot of the time where you can’t get in.”

          Santa nodded, “That’s true, Sam.  How did it go with the crane?”

          Only the big grey rabbit called Bouncer was left as the others had gone off with Jeffrey.  “It was ok.  It may take a few of us to carry the presents though.”

          Santa agreed, “You can use the hover cart.”

          “What’s that?”  Santa explained it was a small floating cart for heavy objects.

          “That sounds fun,” Rubbish said.

          “How will we get to all the homes in the world in time?” Finn asked Santa.

          Trevor squeaked, “It’s all to do with the speed of light, a time tunnel and a fair bit of magic!”

          With that the door flew open and the old cat and the three rabbits fell in through the door carrying a large bundle.  Finn recognised them, as did Sam and Kath; square yellow flashing lights – from the skip on the other side of the farmyard!

          “It’s ok,” Jeffrey told them, “No-one uses that lane, and they’ll be back tomorrow.”

          “How do we get the presents?”  asked Finn.

          Santa winked.  “That’s the cleverest part of all.  In the old days where only the rich had presents and most people had  a piece of coal or an orange we could get things in a few sacks  It would be impossible to carry all the presents in the world these days.  So, what we do is once we get to the house we have a materialiser that beams the toys from my workshop in Lapland to the sleigh.  Makes things much quicker”.

          “And it meets Health and Safety laws too,” scowled Happy.

“Larger presents can be sent straight to the foot of the tree but it’s traditional for us to hand-deliver the smaller ones.”

          “Yes, trying to deliver a grand piano used to be really difficult” Trevor nodded.

          Aye,” Prancer said, “You think you had a problem getting down a chimney.”

          The meeting continued for a while longer until the mince pies were passed around.  It was soon time for everyone to get some rest as that night, about 10 o’clock, they would have to get the sleigh loaded up and set off for real.

 

          It was a cold crisp night as the replacement crew settled themselves onto the sleigh.  This time the seatbelts were on, and at the back two flashing yellow lights glowed behind the big seat. 

          Happy and Trevor did the pre-flight checks as the moon cleared the trees above the garden wall, and shone a bright silver blue light into the garden.  It was as if she could not believe what she was seeing and needed to light it up for a better look. 

          Santa stepped forward and shook Sam’s hand.  “Well done for volunteering and the very best of luck” he told him.  He waved at Jeffrey and the rabbits, and went towards the front of the sleigh.  He patted the reindeer and spoke to them in Lapp.  “Finn, old chap, you’re a brave and loyal hound.  Have a safe journey,” he ruffled Finn’s fur and Finn smiled back, “It’s a pleasure, Santa.”

          When he came to Rubbish, he smiled a special smile, “My young pup, I am so very proud of you for offering to lead the sleigh.  The gentlest and cleverest rabbit hound I have ever met.” He leaned down and gave the greyhound a squeeze.

Rubbish was so very pleased he could not reply due to the lump in his throat.  He beamed up and could only manage, “Thanks Father Christmas.”

          “Time!” called out Happy.

          Santa stood back and gave Sam thumbs up sign.  Sam waved at Kath, as the sleigh slid off across the snowy grass.  Rubbish started to trot, then to run, and with a skip he took off and the sleigh lifted up into the air and over the garden wall.  They were away!

          “Where first?” asked Sam. 

          Jeffrey lifted his goggles and look at the list he had made with Trevor the Santa Nav’s help. “Off to the west – over the sea and over America to the Pacific.”

          The Rabbits jaws dropped, “Where?”  They were totally amazed.

          Finn shouted from the front, “Makes sense.  The sun rises out there so it’s Christmas there first!  OK Rubbish, let’s go!”

          Rubbish nodded, clicked the light on the collar with his tongue and off he ran.  The one thing in having a greyhound lead your sleigh is that they are fast – even faster than any reindeer or even a deerhound.  Away the sleigh sped out over the coast, over the sea towards America.

          It all went marvellously; the pacific islands, Hawaii, then to the USA.  They started in Alaska (it was very snowy there) and bit by bit crossed Canada and ended up at the very tip of South America.  It all went very well, with only a few small glitches. 

          In New York they flew in through the skyscrapers and landed on a balcony.  The window was open, so Santa Sam guided the rabbits into the room to drop off the presents as they materialised on the platform on the sleigh.  As usual, they checked through the window that there was no-one there – no-one awake.at least.  A little girl lay asleep, her head of blonde curls sticking out from under her duvet.  Scutter and Brownie floated the hover trolley into the room and started to unload the trolley at the foot of the little girl’s bed.  Suddenly a little voice said, “Thank you very much.”  Brownie replied, “You’re welcome” and then froze.

          The little girl sat up, “Oh, you’re little rabbits!  You’re so cute!  If you’re the Easter Bunny – where’s Santa?”

          “We’re giving him a hand this year.  He’s very busy,” Scutter said.  He gave Brownie a nudge and they moved towards the window.  Brownie and Scutter smiled and gently stepped sideways, waving as they did so, out of the window.  The little girl waved back and slipped off to sleep.

          “Blimey, that was close,” they said as the jumped back onto the sleigh and the flying machine took off.

          “Mary Donahue,” Santa ticked the list. “Been nice all year. Why – what happened?”

          “She woke up,” Scutter said.

          “Luckily she went back to sleep,” Brownie added.

          Jeffrey looked down, “Don’t worry – she’ll just think it’s a dream,” he chuckled.

          “I know, but she thinks we were the Easter Bunny,” Brownie said.

          Prancer turned and called back over his shoulder, “Can’t be – he’s on holiday in the Bahamas until March.”

          They all laughed and made their way to the next family.

 

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful.    The rabbits enjoyed the carrots they found, and, maybe because it was magic, they never felt full so ate as many as they could.

          The mince pies and glasses of wine/schnapps/brandy/beer they brought out for Santa Sam who also said the alcohol did not have an effect, again due to the magic.  The occasional biscuit or cake (but not fruit cake as that’s bad for dogs) went Finn and Rubbish’s way, and any hay or oats fed the reindeer.  Unfortunately no-one left out any cat food or even a dead mouse for poor old Jeffrey.

          Once or twice they forgot to wipe up their footprints so a few houses had sooty rabbit prints on the carpet, or little rabbit prints on the fireplace.  When one little boy opened his window in Moscow he saw a set of greyhound prints on his windowsill!  That caused some confusion!

 

          Once the eastern pacific was completed, the sleigh sped up and Rubbish led them back over the coast towards home.  As they came over the coast they hit a gust of cold air and the sleigh jumped, like it had been hit by an invisible hand.  Everything jumped – including Jeffrey.  He was tired and his paws were cold so he did not have a proper grip on his book so the atlas bounced and jumped out of his grasp.  “Hey!” he exclaimed as the book tripped over the edge of the sleigh and disappeared into the night, down to the ground far below.  He was stunned, and upset that his book was gone, but they had no time to go after it.  They did manage a stop on the way to deliver some presents to the rabbit warren where Scutter, Brownie, Scamp and Bouncer lived.  It included a new cooking apron for Bluebell and a new storybook for Bob (so he had some different tales to tell for a change!). 

          At the magic garden the sleigh landed quietly.  Kath was asleep as the rabbits sneaked in and left a pair of slippers and a little box (with a gold wristwatch inside).  The reindeer and Santa were all fast asleep, as was Happy.  Only Trevor was awake and he just waved sleepily.

          Everyone untethered themselves from the sleigh and there was a great big group hug.  They felt so happy, though tired as it had taken them a long time and yet no time at all to make the journey around the world.  It gave some of them a headache just to think about it. That’s the thing with magic – if affects everyone in a strange way.  The reindeer had been doing it for so long they were immune but the rabbits, dogs, cat and human were dazed by it.

          They all drifted off to their beds leaving Rubbish, Finn, Jeffrey and Sam standing together on the lawn under the shining moon.  It was so bright it was practically day.

          “It’s been really good to actually be able to talk to you all,” Sam said looking at the animals around him.

          “We’ve always been talking, even to you, but you’ve never understood us,” Jeffrey said.

          Rubbish thought a bit, “It might be that we all heard each other, but we never really listened.”

          Finn’s eyebrows rose, “Well said, my young friend.”

          Sam shook his head and whistled gently, “Sean, that’s really deep,” (the humans called him Sean).

          “Rubbish, young fellow you are rather clever,” Jeffrey said.

          They all said good night and Jeffrey climbed through the gap in the fence and the others went off to bed.

 

          Christmas morning arrived.  Sam was wakened by Kath giving him a kiss and a cup of tea, and thanking him for the lovely gold watch.  Sam found a new laptop computer wrapped up on the bedside cabinet – he had wanted a new one for years! 

          Finn had a lovely new day bed, on little feet so it was just off the ground.  “Wonderful!  Keep the draught off my old bones!” he chuckled.

          Rubbish pulled the gold paper off his present – a new red collar with his name in gold letters on it, and a flashing light on the front.  The card with it said “To help you guide the way.”

          Next door Jeffrey awoke to find a parcel under the tree for him; it was a small sat nav and a book of maps.  The card said “To the best navigator for Christmas.”  He was so touched he had a tear in his eye.

          Santa and the reindeer were gathered on the lawn and they said their good byes. He was up to flying home now, and the two bruised reindeer were ok to lead the sleigh home slowly.  The ground crew waved as Santa and the sleigh took off.  He circled the garden twice, and then off it went up into the air.  As he went round for the last time he called down, “If it’s ok, I might ask for your help again?  Would you be up for it?”

          “Yes!” the animals and the humans shouted.

          Santa smiled…..and then he was gone.

          Kath called from the kitchen door, “Come on everyone – dinner’s nearly ready!  In you come and wash your hands….and paws!”

          “Fabulous!” said Finn.

          “I’ve never had a Christmas dinner before,” Rubbish said.

          “Marvellous!  I’m rather peckish,” said Jeffery rubbing his tummy.  “Brussels sprouts?”

          “But of course,” said Sam.

          “What’s sprouts?” asked Rubbish.

          Finn sighed , “Let me show you..”

 

          On Christmas Eve, as you get ready for Santa’s visit, just remember that it might not be Santa and the reindeer and elves visiting tonight.  It could be Santa Sam, Rubbish and Finn and the rabbits.  Watch out for rabbit prints on your fireside rug, or doggie footprints on the windowsill.  Remember to leave out a carrot of course  (if there are large teeth marks it means reindeer, small teethmarks mean rabbits), but also a dog biscuit for Finn and Rubbish, and maybe a small piece of ham for a rather hungry old marmalade cat!

 

If you want to read more about Rubbish the Deerhound, and how he became the Largest Rabbit, look out for the book “The Largest Rabbit” available from the Crafty-Dog-Cymru.co.uk website. 

 

All characters copyright Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Books Cymru, except for The Mighty Finn copyright Kate Standing/World of Finn.

 

Illustrations copyright Jacs Little Welsh Studio/Crafty Dog Books Cymru