Category Archives: Greyt Expectations

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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.

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

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 2

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 2

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. Now they are sitting with Finn and the family in the house and wondering what to do next.  Is he well enough to fly?  Will the rest of the reindeer be able to cope with two less deer?

Now read on……

Rubbish and Scutter

Rubbish and Scutter

Santa lay on the settee and waited patiently as Kath took a scissors and cut up the length of his trousers to check on the damage to the broken leg. He grumbled that they were his best work trousers and he’d had them for 200 years or so. Where the Maid had expected to see blood and broken bone there was really bad bruising but any break was already healing. Santa smiled at the look of confusion on her face, “Its magic! I heal quickly. The bone will fix itself in a few days but the bruising and muscle damage will take a bit longer.”
Happy was sitting with his arm bandaged and Trevor with binding round his chest.
“You really do need a doctor,” Kath chided him.
“And how do I explain all this?” Santa asked, pointing to the two elves and the reindeer with a bloody nose who leaned in from the kitchen.
“It’ll be ok.” Santa added.
The elf shook his head, “I’m not so sure. 2 days to go and things are not ok. Rudolph can’t lead with his nose in plasters, Trevor has broken ribs, I have a dislocated shoulder and Blitzen is not able to pull. You really aren’t up to it either.”
Santa made to speak but Happy interrupted him, “No Santa, I insist. You are not up to it. You can heal magically but even you will not be ready.”
The Butler, Maid, Finn and Rubbish were sitting around the room, warming themselves by the fire and with mugs/bowls of warm milk. As they sat there looking at the gloomy Santa the realisation hit them. If there was no Santa there would be no Christmas.
Finn looked at Santa, “Do you have a backup plan?”
Happy tutted and Santa shook his head slowly.
The room was silent apart from the crackle of the wood burning in the fire and the loud tick of the wall clock.
There was a loud grumbling sound; everyone turned to look at Finn. “My apologies, its past my supper time,” the deerhound said, sheepishly. That seemed to break the tension that had been building.
“Ok,” Kath the Maid pronounced, “What do we have, and what do we need for a successful sleigh flight for Christmas, and how can we overcome any problems.”
“Five reindeer required, one of them leading and one of the front steering, these are the ones not available.” Happy replied.
“Hmm,” muttered Santa.
“One Santa Claus,” added Trevor, squeakily.
“One Santa Nav,” Blitzen chimed in.
“A sleigh,” added Santa.
“I might have an idea,” Santa said. They all turned to look at him expectantly.
“Finn, you’re a big strong lad – could you take a reindeers place?”
Finn nodded slowly.
“We need someone to lead,” Happy droned.
Rubbish disappeared out the kitchen, then came back with the flashing collar he had been given for his birthday, “I could do that!”
“Who can navigate?” asked Blitzen.
“Ahum,” an educated voice called from the doorway, “I have just been given a new atlas. How appropriate,” Jeffrey replied. He stood holding a large atlas of the world which he flourished unsteadily.
“The sleigh is flyable, just don’t take any chances,” Happy scowled.
“But we can’t fly,” Finn said. It was a small point but an important one, the deerhound thought.
“Oh,” came the replies from Sam the Butler, Kath the Maid and Rubbish the Rabbit hound.
Jeffrey tutted. “Haven’t any of you realised, Ladies, Gentlemen and Rubbish, that reindeer can’t fly either.”
They had not thought of that.
“Explain to them, Father Christmas, how it all works” Jeffrey asked.
Santa smiled. “It’s magic, of course. There’s no reason why Finn and Rubbish can’t fly as well.”
Rubbish looked at Finn and they both grinned at each other.
“But what about Santa?” asked Trevor.
“I’ll be..” Santa started but Happy looked over and shook his head.
“I’ll do it,” the Butler called. Kath laughed, “You’ll need some cushions up your jumper!”
“But not many,” Jeffrey giggled. The others joined in and Sam did too.
“This is all going very well but you realise that you’ll never get Sam down the chimney. And you won’t be able to get any elves in time.” Happy was actually not happy about this.
“I know who can do it,” Rubbish jumped up. “I know just the right guys to help!”

“Wow! Yes, we’ll do it! That’s fab!” Scutter beamed.
“Yes please!” shouted Brownie and Scamp. The Rabbits had been amazed when they had heard the story about Santa. Bluebell and Bob were a bit wary, and Bob had even told Bluebell about Rubbish’s tall stories, but it was the cheerful (not!) elf that had convinced them.
“One question,” a little voice piped up. It was Brownie.
Happy scowled, “Yes?”
“Getting down the chimney will be easy. But how do we get back up?”
Happy grinned back, “You’ll find out tomorrow!”

Jeffery, Finn  and ScampThe next day was Christmas Eve, and everyone assembled on the lawn in the morning sunshine within the huge garden. They had all been told to wear what they were going to on Christmas Eve; Jeffrey had called it a “Dress Rehearsal”. The audience to this spectacle was a reindeer with a bandaged nose, another with a bandaged head, a squeaky gnome with his chest wrapped in more bandages, a really grumpy elf with a permanent scowl and his arm in a sling and a fat man on crutches. None of them looked very happy. In front of them stood a slightly battered sleigh, wood chipped and split. The seat was tied in place (just to hold it more securely, Santa had already declared it safe) and on it sat a man with a cotton-wool beard, in a red suit a few sizes too big, the front evidently stuffed with a pillow (it would have been better with two). Two pairs of reindeer stood in front (one with a black eye, one with an antler held on with tape) and the front pair was a large reindeer and a deerhound, and in the very front a large young brindle-coloured greyhound wearing a red collar. In the sled sat four large rabbits in little harnesses, and beside the imitation Santa, the ancient scruffy old ginger marmalade cat wearing an even older leather flying helmet and goggles. In his paws he clutched a large atlas of the world.
Kath the Maid stood next to Santa and sighed. “Oh dear,” she breathed.
“Huh, doesn’t fill me with a great deal of confidence either,” muttered Happy.
“Nor me,” squeaked Trevor. “I went to Gnomeiversity for 5 years to learn about navigating.”
Santa had that sinking feeling inside, but on the outside he looked really confident. He smiled broadly, “Nowt a bit of good luck and a good dose of magic powder can’t cure!”
He put his hand in his trouser pocket and drew out a small leather bag. From this he took a pinch of golden sand. He shook his head and got out twice as big a handful – it would need a bit more magic than that, he decided.
“OK, just take the sleigh up a few hundred feet, test yourself, then bring her back again, nice and gentle.” He threw the handful of magic dust over the sleigh and accompanying assorted animals (and human). There was a shimmering, a slight flash and pop, and Jeffrey sneezed.
OK, thought Sam, let’s just take it slowly. He gently shook the reins.
Prancer gave Rubbish a nudge, “Righto, Rubbish, lets head on out.”
Rubbish leaned into the harness and started to walk. There was no weight to the sled. So, he started to trot. The sleigh started to slide forward and they headed across the grass towards the garden walls.
“You’d better lift up – over the wall,” Happy called out.
Rubbish was moving faster now and as he came to the wall he leapt upward – and cleared it. Behind him the others could be heard shouting “Blimey” “Watch out” or in Jeffrey’s case, “Crikey! That’s amazing!”
The audience stood with their mouths open watching the sleigh follow Rubbish across the garden and then lurch up into the air. As the greyhound stretched himself upwards and onwards the sleigh, reindeer, deerhound and the rest of the crew followed. Sam had his eyes tight shut and it was only when they levelled off after a few minutes that he dared to look. Beside him he could hear Jeffrey singing loudly and flatly about being in the wide blue yonder. Rubbish was cheering, as was Finn. Forcing his eyes open Sam was absolutely astounded. They must have been a fair way up, as there were clouds around them, and through the gaps he could see the countryside below; a long, long way below. There was nothing holding them up. The greyhound was so fast he had pulled the others with him. They were literally flying. Rubbish was really enjoying this, and as he looked back he was Finn running behind, next to Prancer. They too were smiling as they breathed in the crisp winter air and ran through the scudding clouds.
“OK Jeffrey,” Sam shouted to the old cat beside him. “Where are we?”
Jeffrey looked down at the Atlas, licked his finger and flicked through the pages. “Somewhere over the South of England” he answered.
“Can we narrow that down a bit?” Sam asked.
Jeffrey shrugged. “We are going so fast I can’t keep track of the roads. I think that’s Salisbury down there,” he pointed to the town far far below.
“It’s Devizes,” called out Donner over her shoulder.
Jeffrey tutted and rechecked the atlas, “By gosh, I think you’re right,” he nodded.
The rabbits all looked at each other, Scutter was particularly concerned. “If it’s like this now, what’s it going to be like in the dark at night?”
The very large reindeer next to Donner called back, “It’s easier in the dark. We navigate by the stars. We’ll get you to the towns; you only need to find your way through the streets.”
Jeffrey, Santa 2 and the rabbits all heaved a collective sigh of relief.
“Time to go home,” Sam (Santa 2) called. Rubbish nodded, slowed a bit and led the sleigh around and retraced his steps through the clouds.
They came down a few thousand feet and this time they did fly over Salisbury. Rubbish drew the sleigh lower and led them down until they could see the figures on the streets below. Sam and Jeffrey were calling on him to behave, but Rubbish knew they needed to practice at roof level. He called this back to Finn, who relayed it to Donner who relayed it to the crew in the sleigh.
“Just be careful,” Sam shouted back.
At that minute, Rubbish had to swerve to avoid the spire of the Cathedral. A group of crows sitting amongst the carved stone gargoyles had a real shock as a group of dogs, deer, rabbits, a cat and Santa flew past.
“Caw, what was that,” one said, pulling himself back up onto the parapet he had slid off. There was a lot of crowing and cawing from the rest of them.
“Looked like Father Christmas, caw, caw,” his mate answered.
“He’s lost weight since last year,” the first one replied.
“And that Rudolph looks strange. He really needs a holiday.”

“Engage cloaking device,” shouted Santa Sam. They had all forgotten that as it was daylight they might have been seen. Brownie looked to her left and there was a blue lever with “cloak” written on it. As she pulled it the sleigh shimmered and vanished. They were invisible to everyone, even the people below who now looked up to see what the commotion was above their heads. Rubbish led them through the snowy streets, above the people shopping below, and the cars and lorries delivering stuff to the shops that the people were then taking home.
“Ready for a test landing, old boy?” Jeffrey called out. They were out of the town buy now and there was a large redbrick and stone house ahead in a centre of a field of thick snow.
“Test landing,” they shouted down the line to Finn and Rubbish. The greyhound slowed and swung the sleigh around and downwards. There was a large flat roof at the back and it was here they decided to land. Down they flew, until they were at the same height. They approached, slowing as they did. “Careful not to overshoot,” called Santa Sam.
Donner and the reindeer shook their heads, “Don’t worry, Prancer called, “We’ve done this a few times before. You lot follow us!”
The sleigh clipped the edge of the roof and within a few yards, drew to a halt.
“Wow! That was amazing,” Scutter laughed. The others looked equally pleased by the test so far.
“Brilliant,” Brownie agreed.
“Absolutely fantastic,” the rounded tones of Jeffrey could be heard though he could not be seen. In the sudden stop he had slid out of his seat and was lying under the rug on which the rabbits had been sitting. He climbed out and straightened his flying helmet.
“Don’t forget your seatbelt.” Prancer bellowed to him.
Finn stood on the roof, his thick grey shaggy coat blowing in the gentle breeze. He felt as young as a puppy again. He had not had such an exciting time for a long time, even considering his adventures with Rubbish and the others.
“Right,” Santa Sam called out, “Time to practice a chimney.”
To their left was a large brick chimney, about four feet high. Sam and the rabbits moved over to it and looked inside.
“Will I get down there?” he asked. Even as a slimmer Santa he had real doubts he would fit.
Prancer came over and looked. “Hmmm, with modern central heating we don’t do many chimneys any more. He relies on a few elves and gnomes. In this case, the rabbits.”
The rabbits all stood to attention and saluted Santa. “Ready for action, sir,” Scutter announced.
From the back of the sleigh a long arm stretched out – it was a crane! It swung over the chimney. The rope lowered to rabbit height and hooked onto the harness. One by one the crane swung them over the chimney and lowered the rabbits down.
Scutter unhitched himself and, after looking carefully out of the hearth, he stepped onto the mat in front of the fireplace. It was a large room, nicely furnished, with a large TV and lots of Christmas cards and a vast settee and chairs. He knew what they were as he’d seen them in Finn’s house. One by one the other rabbits arrived. They had a look around the room, then made their way back to the fireplace. One by one they went back up the chimney.
Just after the last rabbit disappeared the door of the room opened and in came the lady of the house. She had just dusted and put the vacuum cleaner away. She looked at the white rug in front of the fire and gasped – it was covered in black sooty foot prints. She looked again. They looked like rabbit prints?

Back up on the roof everyone climbed into the sleigh, did the pre-flight checks and then took off for the journey home Within a few minutes they were circling Sam’s house and they could see the tiny figures of Santa, the Maid and the reindeer below. Down they swooped, over the garden wall and then slithered to a halt in front of the expectant ground crew.

Keep your eyes out for Part 3 next week;

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?

If you want to read more about Rubbish the Rabbit Hound, 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

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound saved Christmas – Part 1

The plump man in the red suit groaned as he moved in his upturned seat. He shook snow from his beard and hat. He could hear mumbling and the odd swear word from his companions in English, Lapp and Reindeer. The sleigh was on its side where it had landed in the deep bushes. As he looked back he could see the path of destruction where he had flown through ploughing into the small trees and shrubbery and where they had bounced off a small mound before grinding to a halt where they now lay.
“Well Santa, that was not much of a landin’,” the small figure said as he climbed gingerly from inside an elder bush next to Santa. “And I’ve done me shoulder,” the elf pointed to his left arm with his right. He leaned towards Santa who gave it a twist and popped back in with a plop. That made the elf scowl even more.
Father Christmas tried with the elf’s help to get up onto his feet. His right leg, the one he was lying on, was not pointing the right way and was hurting a lot.
“Hmmph,” the Elf said, “looks broken to me.”
“Think you’re right,” Santa agreed. He could not get up so just tried to make himself comfortable. The miserable elf (whose name was Happy would you believe) wrapped a fur blanket round Santa and handed him a bottle of aspirin.
A hairy nose peered from over the front of the sleigh. “Ay up, how are you doin’ ’” said Prancer. Apart from a black eye he was ok.
“The others alright?” Santa asked. Prancer shook his head. “Blitzen has a concussion and Rudolph a broken nose. It’s even redder than normal,” the reindeer added.
Happy huffed loudly. “Damage check,” he called out. There were replies of “Bruised”, “Bumped” “Twisted ankles” and “Broke an antler” from the reindeer who shook themselves out of the snow. “Where’s Trevor?” asked Happy.
“Up a tree,” Prancer pointed with a bruised hoof to where a gnome dangled from a small tree by his braces. Happy and Dancer went over and coaxed the little elf from the tree who landed in a clump of snow. “I’ve broken a rib,” he squeaked (a strange high pitched voice even for a Gnome). As he spoke his bushy beard trembled.
“All in all”, said Santa,” It could have been a lot worse.”
Happy huffed again, “What do you mean – its 3 days to Christmas, you’ve written off the sleigh, got a broken leg, we’re two reindeer down, and our Santa Nav (that was Trevor’s job) is also unworkable.”
The fat man frowned. “Well putting it that way, we’re in a bit of a pickle.”
Rudolph stuck his head from the bushes, “’Ew could say that,” he replied very nasally, holding a hanky to his very red bloody nose.

 

Rubbish, Largest Rabbit, Greyhound, Brindle

Rubbish the Rabbit Hound. Looks suspiciously like a brindle coloured greyhound….

Rubbish and Scutter had been looking for berries when they first saw (and heard) the strange something flying across the sky towards them. They could make out some of the shapes including a large man in red and two other figures shouting. They appeared to be wrestling and pulling at the thing they were riding, it had flown over their heads and further into the forest. Rubbish’s eyes nearly popped out of his head with amazement as it had shot past. Scutter had ducked even though it had been at over tree height. They had heard the shouting, and then a loud crash as it had come to the ground.

“Wow,” Scutter said. “What was that?”
Rubbish smiled and, scooping the rabbit up onto his back shouted, “Let’s go and find out”. With that he ran along the snowy path into the woods, following the trail of fallen twigs and branches and bits of broken flying machine. After a short while they came upon the scene of destruction. They could see the fat man on his side, the two little people and the funny dogs with antlers.
“Can we help?” Rubbish asked coming carefully across to the gentleman. He looked very familiar but Rubbish could not think from where.
“Thank you, Rubbish,” he said. “I’m a bit stuck here. Broken leg and some of the reindeer are also injured.”
Rubbish was surprised. How did the man in red know who he was?
“Is that Scutter with you?” Santa asked. Scutter nodded in reply, also amazed that he knew who he was.
“How do you know us?” the astonished rabbit-hound asked.
“I know all of you. And that you have been a bit naughty, young Scutter, but mostly nice,” in spite of the pain he was in, Santa smiled.
Rubbish recognised the old man – he was the same as on the cards that the Maid and the Butler put on the mantelpiece at Christmas. “Excuse me sir, but are you Father Claus?”
Santa nodded. “Can you get us some help?”
Rubbish thought for a second and then replied, “I’ll go get Finn and maybe the Maid and Butler who can help get you and the reindeer out.”
Happy coughed loudly, “Not a good idea, involving humans.”
Rubbish looked curious, “Why not?”
“They are not to be trusted, and they don’t believe in Father Christmas,” the grumpy elf replied.
At that Rubbish shook his head, “You can trust the Maid and Butler. They are not like the rest of the People. They are good.”
Santa agreed, “Yes, they are. OK young Rubbish, you may go and get them.”
The reindeer had begun to unclip themselves from their harnesses now and were gathering around the sleigh, apart from Blitzen who was still bit dazed from the bump on his head.
Rubbish turned to head back to the garden.
“I’ll stay and help,” Scutter told him. I can try and get Mr Santa comfortable and get some moss to stop that deer’s nose bleeding.”
“OK called Rubbish as he sped off, “I’ll get help!”
From where Santa lay he could see the greyhound give a stretch and fly off into the woods.
“Ooh, I’m cold” squeaked Trevor.
“Shurrup,” grumbled Happy. With that there was a shlumping sound and a dollop of snow slid from a branch above and landed solidly on his head. ”Thanks for that!”

Finn lay on his chaise longue (an old settee he had made his own) in the conservatory. There was Beethoven on the CD player and the old deerhound was chilling out nicely. He lay there, his shaggy grey coat making him look like a very relaxed old rug that had been laid out over the settee. If it weren’t for the occasional snore you would have been excused for not realising he was alive at all!

“What ho!” a distinctive voice full of polished rounded vowels called, making Finn raise his head. The smell of bad breath, liniment and tuna had already given Finn the clue that it was Jeffery. In walked, joints creaking as he did so, the ancient marmalade cat. “Another wonderful day, old boy!”
Finn stirred. “Morning Jeffery,” he murmured sleepily. “Pull up a chair.”
There was a bit of puffing and wheezing as the old cat clambered up onto the armchair next to the dog.
“Rubbish about?” Jeffrey enquired.
“Out with the rabbits,” Finn answered.

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

The Mighty Finn and Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat

These were the three musketeers, the Mighty Finn, the great big hairy deerhound, wise and as gentle as he was strong, Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat, as brave as a lion but as creaky as a very worn old door, and Rubbish the greyhound, the largest rabbit in the woods. Rubbish had been abandoned and found by the rabbits as a small brindle-coloured puppy and had grown up thinking he was a rabbit as did they. When the rabbits asked his name, he said it must be Rubbish, as that’s what the people who threw him out had called him. Only after he met Finn did Rubbish discover he was in fact a greyhound, and together they had rescued the rabbits from the clutches of an evil old fox and his weaselly villains. Rubbish was declared to be a Rabbit hound and they protected the warren and the other animals in the forest from harm.
“He left a while ago to pick berries with Scutter. They were meeting Bramble and Daisy I think.” These were two of the youngest rabbits who followed Rubbish around adoringly. Jeffrey called them his fan club!
As they sat there, the old friends just enjoying each other’s quiet company (apart from the cat’s wheezing) there was suddenly a flash of activity across the garden. The old green door swung open and a brindle greyhound sped down the red brick path towards them. Finn sat up and Jeffrey clicked upright too. Rubbish skidded to a halt in the doorway.
“Mr Finn, Mr Finn! There’s been an accident. Its Father Claus and the deers, and some elves, he’s broken a leg, the sledge too and things. You gotta come quick!”
Finn shook his head, “Young pup, slow down, take a deep breath and start again.”
The greyhound did indeed take a very deep breath and began to explain all he had seen. Finn and Jeffrey took everything in and exchanged some quick words. “OK. I will get the Maid. Jeffrey, you go back with Rubbish and I shall organise transport and medical help.” Jeffrey reached into a pocket in his fur and pulled out an armband with a red cross on it, “No problem Old Chap – I have my scouting First Aid badge!”
“Rubbish – I’ll meet you at the gate. I’ll just pop home to get my first aid kit.” The moggie trotted out the door and through a gap into the garden next door. By the time Rubbish had taken some more orders from Finn and walked to the garden gate Jeffrey was there with an old leather first aid kit. Jeffrey climbed onto the greyhound’s back and they trotted off down the path back towards the sleigh.

Finn sighed, “OK, here goes. How do I get them to understand me? Lassie time again!” He slid off the settee and walked into the kitchen. The Maid was busy baking and the Butler sat at the table reading the paper whilst waiting expectantly for a Welshcake to come his way.
“Excuse me, you two,” Finn called. They turned towards him. “Just wondered, could we get out the Landrover and take a spin into the woods? Been a bit of an accident and we need transport.”
“Aw,” said the Butler, “He wants a cake! Sorry Finn, they aren’t really for dogs but I’ll see what I can do.”
The Maid smiled and threw him a piece of broken Welshcake that had been cooling on the side. Finn sighed and shook his head, “That’s the problem with me speaking dog and them speaking human. They can be so dim.” He did eat the piece of cake, (well, it was the polite thing to do).
Pantomime time. Finn spun around to get their full attention and did an impression of Father Christmas, a sleigh, then lay on his back waving his paw in the air in a broken and painful way.
“Aw, he’s so clever,” the Butler said. Finn just rolled his eyes. “They really are thick,” he muttered to himself.
It was the Maid who got it, “He wants something,” she said. Finn nodded. “Do you want us to follow you?” Finn nodded again, and then nudged the keys on the hook by the back door. “The Landrover?”
Finn barked. The humans scrambled about to get themselves sorted and within a few minutes they were sitting in the Landrover outside. Finn sat in the passenger seat, the Maid behind and the Butler driving.
“OK, now where,” the Butler asked. Finn barked, “Follow me,” and pointed his paw towards the track leading into the woods.
“Better go where he’s pointing,” the Maid said. So off they drove, two bemused people with a deerhound navigating.

In the forest Happy and Trevor had despite their injuries, managed to get the reindeer together and, using harness as a rope had pulled the sleigh upright. Santa had managed to get clear and was now propped against a tree and looking down at his mangled leg. The magic aspirin provided by the Elf Service was working and he could not feel any pain. Even when Donner (lovely girl, for a Reindeer, bit a bit dim and clumsy) had slid on the snow and fallen over him. Trevor was really concerned that it was so close to the big night and now the Big Man was injured.
“I’ll be ok,” he kept reassuring the others. “I’ll take a few aspirin.”
Happy grumbled, “Don’t be daft! Driving a sleigh whilst under the influence… Not a chance.”
Rubbish and Jeffrey bounced into the clearing, the old cat rolling off and popping up in front of Father Christmas.
“Well bless my soul,” the ginger moggie exclaimed. “Father Christmas himself!”
Santa grinned broadly, “Ah, Mr Jeffrey Jeffrey himself!”
The cat was immensely pleased that the man in red had known his full name. “It is indeed, sir. Now what can we do to help? I have bandages!”
“Bye dose is beeding,” a muffled reindeer voice announced. It was Rudolph with his dripping red nose. Jeffrey went over and unwrapping what seemed like a mile of bandage, found a pad which he applied to the reindeer’s nose. The bleeding soon stopped but it was clear that the reindeer’s nose was broken.
“You won’t be doing any directing,” muttered the happy elf.
Rubbish looked around. “Santa, Finn is on his way, and the Maid and the Butler. They don’t speak animal but you might be able to understand them. They’ll get you back on your feet,” then Rubbish saw the twisted leg. “Or maybe not…”
They could hear the sound of an engine coming, the rough diesel rumbling and crunch of snow and twigs being crushed under wheels. In a few minutes the old green Landrover appeared and made its way up the track.
As Finn guided the Landrover through the snow along the track the Butler and Maid had been amazed by the long line of destruction, with the broken branches and bits of wood from the sleigh, “Whatever happened here?” the Butler asked his wife.
The Maid shook her head, “I’ve no idea but I’d guess it was a small plane. It was incredible that Finn knew and also knew to fetch us.”
Finn grinned. “He’s a clever old boy,” the Maid added, ruffling his head.
There was a low mound ahead and the Landrover climbed it and then dropped into a clearing where the sight made the two humans swear (in an incredulous way). They could not believe their eyes, for in front was a battered sleigh, two little people in what appeared to be fancy dress, five reindeer (one with a bandaged nose) and under a tree next to Rubbish, lay Father Christmas. Or rather someone dressed like him, but with a broken leg.
The Maid stepped out first, and then Finn trotted over to Santa. The Butler came last.
“Oh thank you so very much, Kath, and you Sam. You’re so very kind for helping me,” Santa smiled.
Both Maid and Butler were surprised to hear the old man use their names – they didn’t know him did they?
“What happened?” the Butler asked.
The Maid went across to gather the reindeer and check the one with the broken nose. Jeffrey had bandaged it expertly.
“Test flight of the new sleigh, “Santa explained. “Went really well until we hit turbulence. “
Happy called over from where he stood by the sleigh, “Looks like a duck hit us.” There was a small clump of feathers where a very large bird had clipped the sleigh.
The Butler thought that as hoaxes or tricks went, this was a really good one.
“Looks very realistic,” he told Santa. “The guys at the pub put you up to this?”
Kath was stroking the reindeer who looked remarkably lifelike and real to her, “Sam…?” she replied.
Santa laughed. Finn shook his head and tutted.
“Here, Sam, as sensible as ever. Let me prove to you who I am.” Santa closed his eyes and muttered something under his breath.
Finn looked at the Butler.
“Well?” Sam asked.
Santa smiled. “Just wait,” he answered.
“I don’t see anything old chap,” a voice said.
Sam turned to face Finn, “D..did you just say something Finn?”
Finn looked at Sam, “Yes old chap, as usual. I say a lot but you never understand me,” he said.
“You’re speaking English,” Kath added.
“No, we’re speaking animal,” a younger voice piped in. It was Rubbish.
“How can we understand you?” the two humans were amazed.
“I have given you the gift, as a thank you for helping us. And it will also make things a lot easier to organise if we can all understand each other,” the man in the red suit added. “And it may help make you believe that I am who I say I am.”
It was hard for the Maid and the Butler to believe that this really was Father Christmas, that they were helping with the real flying reindeer and that almost as amazing, their Finn and little Rubbish could talk, and the old cat Jeffrey, who seemed to have an opinion about everything.
“I wouldn’t lift him like that old boy, “Jeffrey said as the Butler got under Santa’s right arm and the Maid under his left. They carefully walked Santa to the Landrover.
“We’ll get you back to our house,” Kath told Santa, “I can look at your leg there and get a doctor,” Santa shook his head at his suggestion, “and we can get the reindeer sorted too.”
“They can rest in the barn,” Finn said.
“Okay,” Santa agreed.
“What about the sleigh?” asked Rubbish.
“I’ll bring a tow rope and drag it back to the farm,” the Butler said. “We’ll take a look at it there and try and sort it out.” He was not so sure about that though – he had no experience of magic machines. Diesel engines he could do, flying sleighs would be a bit trickier.
The reindeer climbed up (some rather gingerly) onto the flat back of the Landrover. Happy and Trevor climbed in with the humans and Santa. Jeffrey sat amongst the deer, Rubbish and Finn trotted home. They were back at the garden before the Landrover and the casualties. They were all unloaded and everyone given a bed, mattress or patch of straw for the night.

  • Will Santa be able to get the presents out?
  • Will Santa even be able to get into his sleigh?
  • Will Christmas have to be postponed?
  • Read Part 2 next week!

 

If you want to read more about Rubbish the Rabbit Hound, 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

Last Weeks South Wales Evening Post Blog – Getting It Write – How A Hound in the House Came About

Getting it write – how a Rescued Greyhound escaped into print.

Owning a rescued greyhound and being involved with greyhound rescue has been a wonderful experience over the years. We have had many strange adventures, such as trying to explain to a German couple in Bruges, in French, that Penny was not Spanish but Irish though now lived in Wales, or walking around a golf course in the middle of the night with a greyhound who wants to go to the loo but only in the right place – wherever she decides that is going to be.

I was asked ages ago to write a piece about tips and hints and lessons learned living with our hound – I think it was still our first greyhound, Sally, at that time. So, I wrote a short article in the Greyhound Rescue Wales magazine which went down very well. As time went by, I was asked whether I was going to write another piece and someone else suggested a short story. By now we had fostered some dogs and had gained even more insights into greyhound life, especially of slightly more broken ones. I scribbled a bit but nothing much as life was a bit hectic at that time.

It was Sammy’s accident that really galvanised me into writing, as I wanted people to know all about her and hopefully make people learn the lesson from her accident to prevent it happening to another dog. It was a bit cathartic too, helping the grieving process by running it through my mind and putting it on paper. Within a period of a few months I had a first draft of what was now much bigger than an article, or even a pamphlet; it was a book.

What to do next then? We decided that we needed to get it published but that was going to cost a chunk of money. Casting round for alternatives, someone suggested putting out an e-book – great idea, no print costs, and it was immediate. I did some research and decided on a format (there are so many out there, each having different outlets such as Apple, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble). Formatting was fairly easy, starting with a word document and then adding in the paragraph settings, auto-numbering, table of contents etc. This took longer than envisaged but you have to remember that first impressions count – who’s going to want to buy a scruffy looking book with awful spelling and out of focus pictures. I even designed the cover. Pitfall number one – when I tried to get it uploaded the platform was decidedly not user friendly. I tried to contact the on-line help but they always e-mailed me back in the middle of the night which was a consequence of picking a host based in the USA. I grew increasingly frustrated and so switched to another host – this time Kindle. It was very easy as I had done the bulk of formatting for the other company, and it was up and running on-line in no time. A Hound in the House was available to buy.

Pitfall number two; how do you market a virtual book that does not exist. Facebook helped but it was very difficult to promote. There are not that many outlets/notice boards, and most are full of other people promoting their own e-books. Undeterred, I waited for the money to roll in. It did, a bit, slowly. The Evening Post came up and interviewed Armelle and I and took some pictures and it appeared in the paper, which generated more interest. I now had requests to give a talk about the book and life with rescued greyhounds.
Penny, Armelle and I went along to a Library where I spoke to the audience about the history of greyhounds, greyhound racing and what happened to them after their racing days. Penny enjoyed all of this as she was always given a fuss and usually some biscuits too. It was really great to speak to people who were interested (otherwise they would not have been there). However, when they asked to see a copy of the book it was a always a bit of an anti-climax to say it was only available as an e-book. There was such an interest in a printed copy that we decided it was time to bite the bullet and publish it.

At one of the libraries we met Chris Thomas, who had been a publisher himself. He came round to the house to give us advice on what we needed to do and, on hearing I had once worked in a print unit for a local authority, said, “You know about design, formatting and layouts, and about dealing with printers – why not publish it yourself? It had never crossed our minds. We reset the book to book size and sent off to printers and got some prices back – some quotes were very expensive, as for a small print run the cost of printing plates was frightening. Academic printers offered incredible quality, with lovely bound finishes but were not really what we wanted for a paperback. Instead we had a price from a digital printing company and, after seeing an example of their work we decided that was the route to go down.

We had met an artist at a craft fair and she agreed to do some illustrations for the front and back pages and I redesigned the cover accordingly. Feeling really pleased, we sent off the artwork and the text and sat back, waiting for the finished books to arrive; when would the Hound make it to the house?

Cover Picture

A Hound in the House

I remember rushing home from work in my lunch hour to rip open a box and see my hard work finally in print. It was a wonderful feeling, to hold that book, open the pages and see the photos. There I sat, surrounded by 500 copies of my very first book. Now what? A friend of mine had told me that writing is hard, printing is easy but the hardest part of all is marketing your book. Armelle and I had to figure out how we could distribute the book and how long it would be before we would make any money back!

Our Latest Rescued Greyhound Blog – Penny the Crafty Dog

Penny, Greyhound, Crafty Dog, Chris Dignam

Penny’s heard the crisp packet…

Greyt Expectations – Chris Dignam’s Rescued Greyhound page – Penny the Crafty Dog

Here’s the latest Blog from the South Wales Evening Post.  This week’s is about how Penny arrived with us.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned our first rescued greyhounds, Sally and Sam. We have also fostered a few over the years in between dogs of our own. Our latest hound in the house is our Penny. Her story began like many other dogs but fortunately for her our paths crossed and so she came to us.

Penny is not her racing name; for reasons that will become apparent, it’s best not to share her name here. She was born in Ireland and after initial races was sold and brought over to the UK. Like all Irish dogs she has a tattoo in each ear, which shows the year of her birth and her litter, all the details of which are recorded on the Irish Greyhound Stud Book in Clonmel. Her trainer lived in the Home Counties and she raced on the Swindon dog track. She won a good number of races, had some seconds and some thirds, was a good runner and she raced until her last outing on the day before her fourth birthday.

A month or so after this race, a black dog was found in a field in mid Wales. A dog wandering in a farmer’s field where there is livestock can be shot as a potential sheep worrier – the dog disappears, no-one is any the wiser – but luckily this dog was taken in by the farmer. He contacted Greyhound Rescue and the dog found herself in the kennels at Swiss Valley. We had spoken to the kennels about taking on a new foster dog so Armelle and I came over to see the prospective fosters. There were as usual a large number of black dogs, difficult to rehome as people do not think they are as pretty as the other colours. One of these, the dumped hound who had been named Suzi by the kennels, came out and took to us almost immediately. She walked easily on the lead with me, and even reacted well to the kennel’s Jack Russell terrier. We decided that we would give her a go, but we had a couple of craft fairs that weekend. We were asked whether we minded if she went to another family in the meantime but I said no, hang on to her as she was going to be ours.

On the way home we decided on a name; Suzi did not suit her, but how about Penny – like the Penny Black Stamp? A week later we collected her and Penny never looked back.

Penny, Greyhound, Rescue

She was named Suzi when she was handed in by the farmer.

Greyhounds have their ears tattooed – Irish dogs both ears and British dogs one ear, an important means of identifying a dog to prevent racing fraud but it also means that any dumped dogs can be traced. Some have their ears cut off when abandoned to prevent them being identified. This does not always work however, as one owner found to his cost. A number of years back a battered greyhound was found alive but dying on the hillside above Fochriw near Merthyr. His owner had dumped the body before the animal was dead and his cries had attracted another dog and owner who contacted a vet. The greyhound was so severely injured they had to be put to sleep. The owner had cut off the dog’s ears but in spite of that due to the public outcry he was identified and prosecuted. This dog, nicknamed Last Hope by greyhound charities, is the reason for an annual sponsored walk at Brynbach Park to raise funds to protect dogs like them.

Penny was far luckier. She has really landed on her paws; a famous and well-travelled hound, she helps out at Craft Fairs where we sell our Crafty Dog Jams and Chutneys, or our Crafty Dog Designs hand-painted glassware or even at book readings of our books. She is such a gentle and well-behaved dog, she has been to book readings at schools and libraries across South Wales where I read excerpts from our children’s book “The Largest Rabbit” or our greyhound rescue book, “A Hound in the House”. She loves people and children, and is more than happy to have kids hanging round her neck making a fuss of her.

Penny has been a wonderful ambassador for her breed, and a number of people have said that they had never considered homing a greyhound until meeting her. In fact, after we did a book reading at Sketty Library last year one dog was rehomed by a family that met her that day, and the interest raised by her visit meant another four dogs were also given homes.

At a recent school visit we left as the children were being collected by their parents and we could hear the guys

saying to their parents, “That’s Penny that is. She’s a greyhound and she’s really lovely.” A seed planted in a young child’s mind will help change society’s attitude towards these fabulous dogs so in a few years’ time when they want a companion for their own family, they will think of adopting a greyhound after looking back on the day they had a school visit from Penny the Crafty Dog.

For more information about Penny, keep an eye out on the Crafty-Dog-Cymru.co.uk website, for information on her latest meet and greets or news on the new book.

greyhound, running, Penny, Crafty dog

Penny doing what she loves second best!

Travellin’ Light – The Travel Sick Greyhound

Here’s the second blog I have written in the South Wales Evening Post.   Pop over to their site and have a read, or read it here!

In last week’s article I wrote about how we became involved with rescued greyhounds and how Sally, our first dog, came to live with us. She was a fabulous family dog and had many adventures with us as she learned what it was like to have a family and we learned what it was like to share your life with a 40mph couch potato. Sally was a great traveller and went everywhere with us, to street collections, to visit friends and family, to the countryside or the beach. She loved it all.

We had taken it for granted that all dogs were good travellers but our next one, Sammy showed us that this was not the case. She was a quiet black greyhound girl, gentle but with an inner determination. The first signs of her travel sickness appeared when we collected her from the kennels; when I opened the hatchback to let her out she had been sick in the car. We put this down to anxiety but the next day when I took her to a street collection in the City Centre she was sick on the way there (twice!) and again on the way back.

I read up on greyhound rescue sites on the internet and found that though it is not uncommon it is unusual for a dog to be travel sick. Some said it was anxiety, and all they needed was to get used to travelling, and associate the car with good things. I tried feeding her in the car, short trips to the park at the end of the road, all ending with a good positive experience. At first she would be drooling before we had got to the end of the street, but gently over the months we managed to extend this to a couple of miles. There was no problem getting her into the4 car or out, she was not frightened of it, the travelling just made her sick. Trips to the beach or anywhere further afield were impossible.

We tried human car sickness tablets (after checking on the net to see what other greyhound owners used). Small doses were ok, did not upset her but also did not work. We asked our vet and he prescribed zylkene, a milk-derivative which helped with nervousness. These were great. Sammy started to take longer journeys but after a few miles she would still be sick. However, the tablets made her so relaxed that she would throw-up but just not care! Going to the beach was great, she just accepted she would be sick getting there and coming back. Fine for Sam but not ideal for us.

Travel sickness has 2 main causes; anxiety (fear of travel, fear of being ill) and motion sickness (the movement of the vehicle makes you ill, like sea-sickness). I was convinced by now that Sammy was ill due to the motion of the car. The question was – how could we cure it? A colleague in work had a spaniel that was travel sick and he tried a homeopathic remedy called cocculus, based on cockles. We bought some and started Sam on a small dose, checking for side-effects, and then increasing the dose. Incredibly, they worked! We could go a little bit further than before and you could see Sam’s confidence increasing. Sam would only allow Maggie at Pets at Home to cut her claws which would mean a long trip into town and back. Invariably we’d get there ok, Sam would have her claws done and a long walk, but on the way back the interminable Swansea traffic with its million roundabouts would take its toll and by the time we got to our road we would look in the back and see her shoulders going, cue to her throwing up on her blanket.

By this time we had bought a motorhome and so we wanted to be able to take Sam with us on our holidays. Larger vehicles sometimes help with travel sickness and indeed it did help but was not infallible. We needed something else. An advert in the vets recommended a new tablet called Cerenia. It was a tablet prescribed to prevent nausea for dogs having chemotherapy so was a heavy hitter. The vet agreed to try it, but it could only be used for 48 hours, which would be ideal for a weekend. The other hiccough was that it cost £7 a tablet! OK – if it made her feel ok and be able to enjoy some trips with us, then it would be money well spent.

Our first trip took us to Mumbles and where previously she had been sick as we had passed the “Welcome to Mumbles” sign, this time there was nothing. Fabulous! We even had a bag of fish and chips before coming home which we shared with her. No a patch of sickness to be seen. It had taken ages (and rolls of kitchen towel!) but we found something that worked – 99% of the time anyway.

We even managed to take Sam on holidays in the van down to Pembrokeshire and as long as we were sensible, took breaks from driving every hour or so, then she was ok. The van was something Sammy grew to love so much; when walking down the drive past it she would stop by the side door and sit waiting for it to be opened, even when we were going for a walk!

Sam did not have a long life but a happy one and her travels in the van were a real joy to her. She saw places we thought she would never get to, where once we had been resigned to her being a house dog. It all proves that with thought, perseverance and research most canine issues can be overcome. It was worth it to see her happily eating ice cream in the car park at Rhossili, not worrying about how far we would get before Sam’s blanket got to sample it too!

Greyt Expectations – South Wales Evening Post launches Greyhound Blog!

Monday this week Chris Dignam of Crafty Dog Books and Crafty Dog Cymru had his first blog published on the South Wales Evening Post website.  Its going to be a regular weekly piece about living with rescued dogs, particularly greyhounds, and tips and lessons learned along the way.  Not only will you learn what greyhounds like to do, you’ll also read about life with Penny the Crafty Dog, and also the adventures of being a jam and chutney maker, and even of how the books came about.  Wanted to know about the pet passport and travelling abroad with your dog?  One of the Greyt Expectations entries will be about that.  If there’s anything you are specifically interested in, contact us through our website and we’ll get back to you.

Heres the link to the blog;

http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Greyt-Expectations-Chris-Dignam-8217-s-greyhounds/story-23015432-detail/story.html